Sometimes, You are Already on Your Island…
OCTOBER 4, 2017
Before there was Hamilton, the amazingly successful musical written by the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda, there was In the Heights. It was another amazing musical written by Miranda and while it was successful in its own right – it won the Tony for Best Musical in 2008 – it didn’t seem to become the phenomenon that Hamilton has become. And in some ways, that’s too bad – because the story is worth knowing.
Here’s the quick synopsis:
The story is set in Washington Heights, the northern-most neighborhood in Manhattan, historically settled by individuals from places such as Ireland, Greece, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. As the story goes, the neighborhood is gentrifying and many people are being forced to move to other neighborhoods as the ‘hipsters’ and ‘rich folks’ are moving in. The main character, Usnavi, spends much of the musical planning to go back to the Dominican Republic (his deceased parents’ homeland) which he believes will be where he finds his ‘home’. After a heat wave causes a black-out and individuals he loves most are affected, he decides the time has come to move. However, just as he is about to leave, he is reminded of the things he loves most about Washington Heights and the life he can lead there. In the final song he sings: “…I found my island, I’ve been on it this whole time – I’m home!”
“…I found my island, I’ve been on it this whole time – I’m home!”
Photograph by Frank Winkler via Pixabay
This part of the musical always brings tears to my eyes because it’s so powerful. This idea that even as he dreamed of finding home somewhere else and had the opportunity to go seek it – he realized he was actually already there. He just needed to embrace it and make it his own.
The ‘What’s Next’ Part of the Journey
Earlier this year, I found myself in the somewhat unusual position of considering ‘what’s next’. I had an opportunity to reconsider where my ‘home’ would be from a career perspective. My organization, the one that had supported me for almost two decades and provided me with ample opportunities to grow and develop, the one that had given me experiences with some of the strongest and most challenging leaders of my life, was giving me yet one more opportunity to grow and develop – and this one would mean leaving. I wondered – if this place where I’ve been for so long isn’t my ‘home’ – then where is it? And what is it?
When I was a manager, I often talked with my teams about the ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’. When the team would be feeling stuck, wondering how to get out of a current situation or how to address a particularly sticky problem, we would often take a step back and revisit ‘what’ we were trying to accomplish. Often, we would find that we were so focused on ‘how’ to get something done, we would forget exactly ‘what’ we were trying to do.
As I reflected on this, I realized that I was doing the very same thing. As I was thinking about starting over somewhere and finding a new home, I was focusing only on the ‘hows’ – how to prepare for college, retirement, etc. And all the while I was forgetting the really important work of determining ‘what’ it was I would do. So, for a brief moment, I stopped trying to answer all the questions and tried to be open to the possibilities of what could be.
This idea that even as he dreamed of finding home somewhere else and had the opportunity to go seek it – he realized he was actually already there. He just needed to embrace it and make it his own.
It was during this open reflection that I realized I would need to look no further than myself and my experiences for the next step of the journey. My early days of working as a therapist and the later days of working as a leader within the corporate world serve as the basis for my new career focus:
Transformative Leadership Services (TLS)
TLS is the company I have created that offers Executive Coaching and Leadership Development services to individuals and organizations. It represents a blend of my interests in working with individuals and my commitment to supporting leaders and their teams. It will entail applying a coach’s solution-focused approach to finding success in a sometimes-challenging and always-changing environments.
So, the next part of the journey begins. And while there are still many ‘how will it work’ questions to be answered, I am clear on the ‘what’. Like Miranda’s Usnavi, I do think I’ve found my island, I have been on it the whole time and I am home.