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It feels like forever since I posted to this blog, possibly because I’ve had so much I wanted to say, but didn’t feel I could in a public forum. I’m on vacation now, through the first of October. The job with which I started the year is now over. On the whole, I think it will be a good thing for me, but it’s not been easy.

I’ve known since a conversation in early June that this role was coming to an end, but it took nearly 2 more months to get to the point where I could begin to talk about looking for the next opportunity. Even then, I was so busy I could hardly begin to look for another job. That was one of the challenges, of course. I’ve been running sprints and dealing with too much stress since February. Of course, I lost Phoebe at the end of June, and continue to miss her, particularly when I came home after a rough day. Despite her failing health, she was always a source of comfort, and distraction to take me out of myself. In particular, it was emotionally draining to experience the culmination of 9 months of work, then say goodbye to my staff and colleagues last week.

Now, I’m headed for a short, much-delayed visit to Indianapolis, to see Mom and other family. Hoping for some time to reflect, re-engage with what’s important, and recharge for the next steps on my journey.

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I’m working from home today, and it’s nice to exercise at my own pace, with views of the sunrise and garden, and coffee and stollen mixed in with the stretching routine. Since my new “office” is a busy co-working space, working from home makes a nice change. I can spread out and think in peace, with my dog beside me and have music or the washing machine as background noise if I want it.

My work today made me think about what I need to do and hope to accomplish in the coming year. With the coming of 2014, I am officially making a big shift in my life – one that has been struggling to be born for at least 5 years, and likely longer. As of January 1st, I am officially in my new role with the Mission Hub organization, leading the content team for both Social Capital Markets and our Impact Hubs in San Francisco, Berkeley, Philadelphia and New York City.

My work is to connect dots about ideas and enterprises and people, both to help catalyze positive change and to enable greater impact through those connections. It is also to create programs and events that highlight those changes and impacts and powerful connections, so that others can learn about them and be inspired to join, invest and support, or be inspired to take their own initiatives to the next level.

Part working a global puzzle in space, part doing really basic blocking and tackling, the work is both intellectually and emotionally stimulating and enormously challenging, but I believe it’s the right way for me to contribute to a better world, at least for now. I am working for an expanding startup, with attendant challenges. There are more ideas than I can possibly execute on at present, particularly with a tiny team. Part of my challenge is to drive revenue so that we can grow the team and expand the impact we make. The work is a combination of ideation, working with ideas to craft programs, and execution. Some days, that means a combination of efforts that makes my head spin, as I may need to shift from talking with a thought leader in impact investing or social enterprise, and brainstorming potential content ideas, and move from there to figuring out a pro forma budget for an event.

I am working at a salary that sustains me, albeit at 1/3 what I made 5 years ago. I will continue to live without first world luxuries I’d been used to, some of which I miss dearly, particularly being able to gift travel to my family and pay for a regular cleaning service.

All that said, I am looking forward to an exciting 2014, having officially crossed a bridge in my career trajectory towards values alignment.

Here’s to a 2014 filled with making the world a better place for all!

On Eureka near 22nd.

On Eureka near 22nd.

Yesterday, I remembered the wishing tree. I was thinking about whether to walk home from my appointment near 18th and and Eureka and it clicked – the wishing tree would be on my way home. That clinched it – I was walking. I wanted to see the tree again. Then I started to remember what I had wished for last year, and my spirits lifted.

Welcome to the wishing tree! Please make a wish and place it in the jar with a slot on its top. In the next days your wish will be on the tree. Words of gratitude are also welcomed. P.S. something happens when we all wish in one place.

I have been frazzled, with multiple projects going at work, trying to wrap up my teaching assistant responsibilities, finishing a project for a Christmas gift, and wanting to enjoy the season – the parties and the quiet joy of a walk at dusk when one can see decorations on the exterior, but also sometimes see into homes with parties and lit trees. Anyway, with all the have-tos, I’ve feeling squeezed on the fun and joy parts over the past couple of weeks. Thinking about the wishing tree is one of those quiet joy moments.

At dusk on my walk home.

At dusk on my walk home.

Although I discovered the wishing tree last year, it has been going on much longer, according to comments I saw on social media last year. It’s at the opposite edge of my neighborhood from my home. Anyway, as I climbed the hill, I was hoping it would be there again, and thinking about what I would write this year. I was also reconnecting to a nugget of joy from earlier in my day – a conversation about employee benefits I can expect to take effect come January.

To some of you, this might seem puzzling. It represents a milestone to me. I spent much of 2009-2012 looking for work. Even though I’ve been working full time (and more) for most of 2013, I was on contract. No benefits, and always knowing I needed to keep looking for work, even when there was no time to do so. Even with this job, which is formalizing the work I’ve been doing full time for the past 3 months or so, there are no guarantees. But roots are important to me, and being officially part of the team will feel good. It still hasn’t happened yet, officially, and I still hesitate to say it out loud, for fear of jinxing it. Four years of almost continuous job searching, whether for full time or consulting roles, takes a toll. For each one, I have to get excited about the possibility of the role in order to write a convincing cover letter, or do well in the interview. Then, if I am not selected, having convinced myself they’d be crazy not to hire me, the letdown is rough. I’d learned to try to gear up for the pitch, then detach from the role and assume it wouldn’t happen. That was necessary to keep looking for other things, too. This role is different. I’ve been doing the job for a while, so I can’t detach from it. My work requires me to assume I will be there next year, to deliver on the commitments I am making now. I am not built to promise what I can’t deliver.

So, back to the wishing tree. When I visited the tree, I was approaching the end of graduate school, with no income for a few months, and knowing that I really needed some solid work. So, my wish last year was for a full time job that sustains me – both spiritually and financially. As I walked over the hill yesterday, I was thinking that last years wish was almost true. The serendipity of talking about benefits that morning, when I would revisit the wishing tree that evening, put a smile on my face.

Written by all ages, wishes range from peace on earth to the latest toy.

As I approached the tree, others were leaving. I don’t know whether they had written their own wishes, or just paused to look. I read some of the wishes hanging from the tree: for peace, for a pony and some special toy, for something about middle school. Then, I looked at the jar – were there tags left? Yes. I picked a green marker and a tag, and wrote my wish. I put it in the slot in the jar, so that it will be laminated and hung from the tree with the others.

What did I write? I said thanks for the help making last years wish come true. As for the rest, I’ll check in next year.

May your heartfelt wishes come true for you.

P.S. The tree is located on Eureka near 22nd Street in San Francisco.

I am saddened by the news that Geoff Penney has died. I worked at Schwab with Geoff from 1997 until his retirement in 2004. I thoroughly enjoyed working both with and for him, and valued him so much for what I learned from him. I watched him develop as a leader, and one who was willing to share with me from his experience. Some lessons were on the order of what not to do, but many were things he coached me on in our one-on-one interactions.

Geoff was direct – sometimes abrupt – but I always knew he had good intentions, and there was never a question of where he stood on a topic. He challenged me from the start, even calling me on vacation to make sure we were aligned on something my team had to deliver for his project. Whether as a peer or my boss, he made his expectations clear, but gave me the support I wanted and room to deliver.

He clearly loved technology, and it was a joy to see him wade in to technical detail with staff at all levels, even when he was CIO. I’d see their faces light up, knowing that this very senior person valued their work.

We had our share of laughs, and experienced occasional cultural and language differences – like when he had to spend quite a bit of time describing the significance and context of the “broad, sunlit uplands” to us – necessary, in his view, for us to create our team vision.

Geoff gave me an enormously challenging assignment with the instructions to “do whatever I needed to do to make this happen, but don’t slow down”. I had the feeling he was Henry V and I was one of the soldiers headed to battle on St. Swithin’s Day during that conversation. He retired during that assignment and it was my last role at Schwab. I missed him a great deal, but learned in the years since to enjoy his annual newsletter about things he was learning and doing, and trips he and his family were taking. His version of retirement seemed to me the right way to go about it. I hope to continue learning from him.

My condolences to the whole Penney family.