June 18th 2010

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The thread that holds Howard Esbin‘s career together is “visual literacy” — left art school, got into the jewellery business, became a teacher, did a masters and a PhD, researched stone carvers in Africa, led two non-profits, and finally returned to education in the form of a pro-social game called Prelude promoted through his company Heliotrope.   Thing is, he wasn’t able to connect the dots and tell himself what his career theme was, until he was 55, and had a larger perspective on the twists and turns in his career. His story, like others, illustrates the difference between two kinds of genius. Howard told listeners: “There’s the 25 year old who turns math on its head and is a prodigy, and that’s what society looks at in terms of genius… but there’s another kind of genius that’s uncelebrated, unknown, takes years and years of the person doing the work and doesn’t know quite where it’s going maybe questioned about their sanity… this other kind of genius manifests in middle age,  when there’s a breakthrough, Brahms didn’t write his first symphony until he was in his forties, … slower organic nonlinear non rational approach.”

Ryan Doucet took leave from his Ottawa-based job to open a lobster pound in rural PEI. He spoke to us from his new career locale, Richards Fresh Seafood, right on the wharf in Stanhope PEI. When asked what he’d learned about making career and life choices, Ryan said: “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

CareerCycles asks: What’s the thread that holds your career together? If you look back at your own twists and turns, and all the things you’ve done, what word or brief phrase knits them together? Are you like Howard Esbin, whose theme is “visual literacy”? “Building models that help”? “Serial entrepreuneur”? “Planning and reliability get the job done”? “Learning through play”? With so many of us looking for meaning in our careers and lives, naming our theme can bring relief and provide a sense of meaning and purpose, for the present, and as a compass to direct your next move.

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