What can I say of the dearly departed 2010? Thousands of others have picked apart it's remains to create "Top 10" lists. By now we've got more than enough predictions for 2011, so I'd rather spend my time focusing on what 2010 was in the microcosm of my own life.
2010 was a year of massive, earthshaking change for me. True, selling my agency in 2009 was a pretty significant event, but as President, I was still as much a part of it as I had been for the previous 15 years. When I decided in late summer of last year that the time had come for me to move on, that's when things really got weird!
I was faced with the emotional and logistical challenge of separating myself from an entity that I had been inseparable from for almost half of my life. For a decade and a half, Jeff Greenhouse was Singularity, and Singularity was Jeff Greenhouse. My personal and business communications, and my identity in general, was interwoven with my business persona like spaghetti. I had to unwind each thread to sort it out, and there is still the occasional personal email that my former colleagues have to forward over to me from my old account.
When all was said and done, I reached a truly surreal moment of handing over my keys and walking out the office door. The thing is, my body left more easily than my mind. After so many years of constant attention to every aspect of the business, I would say it took 3-4 weeks for the "buzzing" in my head to fade. I had four or five work-related dreams in those first weeks (let's call those the "ghosts of workdays past"), but I finally got to the point where I could feel the space between me and my old identity.
"It's quiet. Too quiet!"
That line describes the next stage of my transition. I was finally JUST Jeff Greenhouse, for the first time in almost 16 years. But who IS Jeff Greenhouse? It wasn't some huge metaphysical question. I know who I am on a personal level. This was a question of brand and professional identity.
I have to admit, even after 15 years of experience with branding, I struggled with this one. One of the things that has made me successful is my ability to live in, travel between, and speak the language of multiple worlds (business, design, technology, food, entrepreneurship, etc) at the same time. That ability also made developing my personal brand a real challenge Branding yourself is a lot easier when you only do one thing.
There was temptation to just pick one area of expertise and be done with it, but I realized I'd be doing myself a disservice if I took the easy way out. The fact is, we have to recognize who we really are and embrace it if we want to be truly successful. I am an entrepreneur and an interpreter. My ability to understand and traverse diverse worlds supports my passion and drive to create new things. That's who I am. Although there may be parts of me in hundreds of business books out there, I doubt there is a single one that describes me completely, and I'm fine with that.
So here I am, entering 2011 with a clean slate, a renewed sense of self, and a ton of enthusiasm about what this year will bring. It wasn't easy to take that big step in 2010, but it was completely worth it. I'm challenging each of you reading is post. Are you embracing who you really are? Are you finding your own future, or sitting in a pool of your past?