Greetings one and all in the land of Off Course; On Target. (OCOT for short) After several months of deafening silence, I’m delighted to let you know, and warn you that I’m back. Hope you enjoyed the break! <g> For those who are still checking in here (thanks for your patience and perseverance) you are no doubt wondering what happened? Evidence to the contrary, I have not literally sailed off the edge of the earth, though figuratively I’ve come close to it.
In this post I’ll do my best to summarize what’s been happening for the past few months and what’s coming up in the future. I struggle to walk the right line between personal and professional when it comes to my OCOT postings and will do my best to maintain the best balance between these; however they are so intertwined they are impossible for me to separate. In shortest form, after taking several months off to try out “retirement”, stepping back to take stock of my future personal and professional voyages, being back in California long enough to help launch a new company and most importantly for me, to have the honor of being the Father of the Bride for my daughter Lia’s incredible wedding two weeks ago, I’m now back aboard the good ship Learnativity in Polynesia, and back to the future of a new life professionally and personally. Below is the slightly longer and more detailed version.
END of ONE ERA:
Back in March this year I officially retired from Autodesk after almost 25 phenomenal years with this truly great company. I first started working with Autodesk as a teacher trainer and speaker back in 1984 and then made the big leap from education to business to join Autodesk in 1988. My wife Diana, daughter Lia, and son Skyler moved down from the Vancouver area in British Columbia, Canada, to the San Francisco Bay area in March of 1999 and our family agreement and commitment to Autodesk was that we'd try it out for a year. I guess we forgot to clarify what year that would be as they are still all in California and loving it, and I equally loved my jobs and roles as both Autodesk and I evolved them continuously over the years for maximum mutual fit and benefit.
With Diana, Lia, and Skyler independently moving on with their own next journeys in life, and Autodesk equally transforming itself into the company it needs to be for the next era and economy, it was an opportune time for me to do likewise. I’ve written and talked quite often about my strong conviction for the use of serendipity and synchronicity as a strategy in life and do my best to practice what I preach, and so it was clear that this was the time for me to put these to use and make my next major changes. I’m not the brightest mast light in the harbor, but I was smart enough to decide to give myself the gift of time and space to decompress from over forty years of a life of non stop work. I sensed the need to step back and see where serendipity and synchronicity would guide me next. So, back to my sailboat I went, in Costa Rica at the time, took up learning as my full time job, jumped into the deep end of the pool of ignorance having not sailed previously at all, and continued to wander and ponder the world one nautical mile at a time.
LIVING & LEARNING @ SEA
And so it was that I sailed along, making my way from Costa Rica down the West coasts of Central and South America as far as Ecuador, then over to Galapagos, South to Easter Island, West to Pitcairn, on to Mangareva and through the Tuamotu’s to Tahiti where I’m anchored this evening typing this update. Should you be interested tracking my locations and the more personal and sailing side of things, you are welcome to join me in my journeys on my personal Learnativity blog.
The luxury of taking these past few months to reflect on where I'm at, where I see things going and where I'd like to go next afforded me the opportunity to realize that I still very much want and need to stay engaged with the overall fields of learning, education, training, technology and human performance. Sailing along, acquiring more and more sailing, navigational and other skills, concepts and techniques by the minute just to survive, I realized that necessity is not only the mother of invention but the father of experiential learning. And as I acquired this nautical knowledge I found myself simultaneously following my previous habits of removing context from the patterns I recognized, expanding them into broad, general concepts and seeing how powerful and applicable these are to so many other domains.
For example, I came to learn that when sailing, rather than going in a straight line directly to your destination point, you often need to “tack” back and forth in a zig zag pattern because there are winds and currents coming at you, opposing progress to your intended destination. It surprises many for instance that it is even possible to sail into the wind, which is now common practice by using the sails and keel to provide lift and “pull” a sailboat through the water rather than the more commonly assumed physics of being “pushed” by the wind. It has been fascinating for me to realize that until we understood lift and how to apply it to sailing, ships were only able to sail “down” wind and why the worlds sailing routes were so common and consistent as ships literally went only where the wind and currents blew them. I therefore realized, that much as in the way I originally came up with the notion Off Course - On Target upon learning how the Apollo space missions were similarly always weaving back and forth along their ideal trajectory path. This means that when sailing you are usually “off course”, NOT heading direct for your destination, but you are very much “on target” to get there the fastest way possible. (for a more detailed explanation see my previous OCOT posting “VMG”)
BUT, if most of the time you’re headed away from your destination by some angle, then measuring your actual speed and direction is not that meaningful. What you really want to know is your rate of progress to your destination?
Said another way, how fast would you be traveling if you WERE going in a straight line? Of course it is a relatively simple bit of vector based mathematics to figure this out, and because it is needed and used so often it has a name; Velocity Made Good, most often simply called VMG, and there is a gauge on my boat that continuously reports my VMG. As I sailed along, I quickly came to understand and apply VMG as I used it to help determine the optimum angle to sail, especially when sailing “up” or into the wind, calculate how fast I was progressing towards my next way point and calculate my ETA. (Estimated Time of Arrival)
Additionally though what I noticed was that as quickly as I was learning and applying VMG to my sailing, another part of my brain was instinctively processing VMG, removing the context of sailing, synthesizing the fundamentals characteristics and seeing VMG as an extremely powerful conceptual model that could be applied in SO many other contexts. Think about it; are there not usually forces opposing your progress towards a destination you have set for yourself at work, home or play? Do you often notice that the path you took to successfully deal with these opposing forces and arrive at that destination required you to “zig zag” your way along? Have you noticed that you most often and easily measure your actual speed and direction at any point in time and are therefore mislead as to your true progress towards, and arrival at, your stated goal or destination? I certainly have and thus find great value far beyond sailing for this concept of Velocity Made Good or VMG.
Well, you get the point (hopefully) and can see why I realized that while I very much want to continue my new personal nautical lifestyle, I simply can not, and do not, want to turn off this “professional” part of my brain or life. Furthermore, it is my personal belief and hope that I have a purpose and value in life by sharing these conceptual models and applications with others such that they too can learn and apply them beneficially in their contexts and lives. In order to do so with any significance and reach however, I need to have ways and means to share and transfer these ideas and I will need all the help I can get from others to do so with increased effect, relevance and scale.
I therefore came to realize that just as I had long suspected and spoken of, retirement in the traditional sense of “not working” is a single generation historical anomaly of my parents generation, and not something I am capable of nor wanting. With this new clarity that I wanted to continue to learn and see the world from the perspective of the ocean, yet also very much wanted to get “back to work”, my next challenge was to figure out how and with whom to do so.
BEGINNING of the NEXT ERA:
I am self aware enough and smart enough to know that I'm a lousy entrepreneur and businessman so it would not be smart for me to set out to go it alone as a consultant and speaker. Once again, as it always has in my life to date, serendipity and synchronicity intervened and guided me by providing a series of connections that lead me quite naturally in a new direction. As usual it involved an eclectic and wandering path, very much in keeping with the Off Course – On Target model and here’s how it played out this time.
All my professional life I’ve been exceptionally fortunate to consistently have the opportunity to work with phenomenal people and forge a relationship that is so much more than “just” professional. In this most recent example I have worked with Glenn Oclassen and John Hathaway for almost 15 years and in that time we have realized how deeply and strongly we share a vision of the future. A future I’ve covered extensively here on OCOT postings and podcasts which I most frequently refer to as “The Snowflake Effect”. This is in reference to a future of mass personalization, matching not only our uniqueness as individual “snowflakes” but the context that makes every situation, every project and every group unique. A future where the focus is on having everything be “just right” such as just the right content, for just the right people, at just the right time, in just the right way, and so on.
Glenn and John and I go way back to the early days of the dot com boom when they were silly enough to take some of what I was saying at the time on stages around the world about this conceptual model I had for what I was calling “Learning Objects”, quit their regular jobs at the time, and form a new company called Headlight.com. Frankly, they scared the #$& out of me when I first learned this, as I had no idea that people were listening THAT seriously to what I had to say and making such life decisions upon it! From that point on our paths crossed again and again, both John and Glenn worked with me at Autodesk for several years. More recently (last year) John and Glenn went back to working together as a two man consulting team and were doing very well, in spite of what would have seemed like difficult timing with the whole US and global economic downturn going on at the same time. Glenn had been talking to me for the past few years about his desire to work with me again (we all have momentary lapses of judgment) and he was the first one to call me up when he heard I was retiring from Autodesk. Glenn, John and I had several conversations after that, mostly via satellite phone, Emails, Twitter and the like, given my remoteness and wandering lifestyle, and we advanced the ideas further each time. But, it was still too soon for me to immediately switch from one job and company to the next. I had too many questions and once again the undeserved great gift of time and the equally great challenge of an “embarrass de choix” of rich choices as to what I wanted to do next in life professionally.
As you will have guessed by now and to make a long story a bit shorter, I ended up deciding that joining forces with Glenn and John was the right thing to do. They know me well, wanted me to continue much as I have in the past and "just be Wayne" as they put it. They accepted that I was going to continue to pursue my sailing and learning adventures and therefore would only be available to do in person engagements whenever it was hurricane season and I could leave Learnativity docked somewhere for a few weeks or months each year. And they somehow think that they can build a practice around more of my ideas and my work. What particularly excites me personally, is the opportunity to go beyond my global story telling and sharing all these grand ideas and visions of the future with others, and be surrounded by people who can enable me to respond better to the growing requests I’ve been receiving for the past few years from my audiences on how they can implement these ideas and transform them into reality. I’ve always been clear in my own mind and to others, that until they are put into practice and to good use, all my ideas and concepts are simply a lot of hot air. I’ve now had the opportunity to help others not only see the future more clearly but to help them design their own future and implement it. Who could ask for more than that?
VMG = Velocity Made Good: A Concept and a Company
And so it was that June first marked very big milestone for me as I joined forces with Glenn and John to launch a new company , which we are calling, guess what; VMG which as you now all know stands for Velocity Made Good. In this case VelocityMG Inc.
It feels particularly surrealistic for this transformation to be happening as I sit here typing and bobbing up and down in the undulating swell of this impossibly immense indigo world I currently live and work in. Synchronicity also showed up as I needed to put my VMG knowledge to use to make a major change of course two days ago as I sailed to Tahiti, mirroring similar changes of course in my personal and professional latitudes and attitudes.
In addition to Glenn, John and myself, we also have two other extremely talented people forming VMG; Beth Chmielowski and Jon Lloyd. Learn more about each of us here and I’d be most appreciative of your comments from your review of VMG Inc. at http://www.velocitymg.com Stay tuned for more as this all takes off, and thanks to all my VMG colleagues for this great new opportunity and adventure!
Finally, my sincere thanks to ALL of you reading this for your patience and perseverance with me as I’ve been making this latest transition and for the passionate pursuit we share for a future of dramatically improved life, learning and performance.
Between now and the start of hurricane season in this part of the Pacific, which starts about the beginning of November, I’ll be getting back to more regular postings here on OCOT and back to pursuing new opportunities for keynotes and speaking engagements around the world from about November through April next year. I could not be more excited about being back in this context and to reengaging with all of you both here in OCOT and hopefully in person at events that we might be able to meet at between November and April.
Wandering and pondering the world one nautical mile at a time.