getting into consulting

Raffi Aftandelian raffi at
Sat Jun 19 01:38:11 PDT 2004


This was Harrison's response to the message I wrote him offlist. 



Raffi - thanks for your confidence, and while I certainly understand your hesitance in putting all this up on OSLIST, perhaps you might reconsider for two reasons. First, your experience is not unique, although it is obviously unique for you. That being the case, a discussion online could be helpful to many others. Secondly, there are multiple folks on that LIST with a great deal of experience, and they might be very helpful to you. But it is your choice.

And now to the substance of your note. Finding your way in the world is always exciting, never secure, and rarely, if ever, follows whatever sort of plan you may have created. Speaking just for myself, I can honestly say that I never had a clue where I was going and how I might get there - at least not in specifics. 40 years ago when I more or less finished my academics, there was nothing on my radar screen that predicted the future course of my life. It is a fact that I never had a job that I sought, and every job I did get came entirely out of the blue. It is also true that every job I did, nobody had ever done before. I guess maybe that is the secret strand - follow your nose into the unknown, always being ready to be surprised. There may be another point here - when the surprise is over and learning stops  -- follow your nose one more time. In a word, I always had an intention to be useful and contributory to the world in which I lived. I never had a plan, or at least a plan that worked out the way I thought it would. At this point in my life, I can say without reservation that I do not regret a single thing that I have experienced or done. There are more than a few instances that I would just as soon not repeat - but regret, Never. I would guess that it is all about the journey and not the destinations.

One thing I have learned is to be a fully open and available to whatever is happening. This can get scary, but the opportunities are everywhere, and they become obvious as long as you don't blind yourself with an artificial plan.

And experience is certainly useful. In fact it is what you are getting now. Being a manager in some company might be helpful, but is by no means essential. My father was a consultant for 50 years. Never once did he hold a management position, but he was well respected in his field. Certainly he had technical expertise, but most importantly he had genuine authenticity. Every day 24/7 he was Ray Owen, and you could count on that. I guess he did have one management position - When he was 70, he retired, and as he was making a final visit to his major clients, he stopped in the office of a CEO with whom he had worked for years. The CEO said nice things to the effect that my Dad had always done what he promised to do  -- except once. Dad had promised the CEO to find a General Manager for one of their plants, but that hadn't happened. Dad didn't miss a beat - he said he had found the General Manager: Himself. At 70 years old, never having a run a plant (but having worked in hundreds of them) Dad took on the job of general manager with the understanding that he would stay a year, find and train his replacement, and make the whole operation profitable (it had been losing money for years). One year to the day later, his job was done, and Dad went to Florida. 

I never quite thought about it - but Dad has been a major role model for me. Our areas of interest were vastly different - but he taught me in many subtle ways to be myself. I have tried.

As for Open Space - it certainly can be a tool - but for me it is ultimately a way of life. It is not so much a matter of what you do, but how you do it that counts. I find that I am fully myself, and most fully effective when I begin every undertaking with an invitation. Invite the folks who care. Bring them into a circle (virtual or real) where each person stands equal to all others. Make sure they come as whole people with all their passions - even when those passions conflict. And don't forget responsibility - pure passion is great, but it is just a flash in the pan without taking responsibility for the impact and outcomes. The Four Principles seem keep you on-track, and never forget the Law of Two feet. You and you alone are responsible for your experience - and when it is time to move on  -- Do It!

Last but not least - always be prepared to be surprised. Never get blindsided by your plans and all those should-have-beens, could-have-beens and might-have-beens. Just have a ball. I have.

Good Luck


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