It’s been 6 months since I announced my departure from 3Pillar, the product development company I founded in 2006 and led as CEO through the end of 2022. As I’ve been reaching out to respected contacts and reengaging with old friends and colleagues, I’ve heard 2 questions far more frequently than any others: “What have you been up to?” and “What’re you going to do next?”
I’ll take the easier of the two questions first, because it’s the only one that I can concretely answer at this point.
What Have I Been Up To? R&R + Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
I spent the first three months of the year focusing on the 3 Rs: resting, refreshing, and recharging. I also traveled quite a bit and spent more time with family and friends than I have in at least the last three years combined.
Travel and new experiences always have a way of giving me fresh perspective, so here’s a quick rundown of the travel itinerary the first few months of my sabbatical.
Immediately after I stepped down, Teresa and I visited the Holy Land, which had been a life-long desire for me and was a truly life-changing experience on a number of levels: spiritual, emotional, and yes, even marital.
Getting to travel together to the holy sites where Jesus’ life both began and ended turned my faith from what felt like a believable dream to a tangible memory. The trip helped me make a hard reset, transitioning from consumed by business to consumed by faith and family. It strengthened my faith, my marriage and my conviction to spend the first part of this year focused on my faith and the relationships that I’d underinvested in while building 3Pillar.
Over the course of the first four months of the year I continued to travel. I took a guys trip to Ireland for St. Patrick’s day and attended the Final 4 in Houston with my sons. Walking away from work and spending time with family and friends was refreshing. I was able to decompress and gain perspective. It was good for my soul.
I capped off my “time off” by going on an 8 day silent retreat. It sounds scary, but, it was fabulous. Silence is a lost art. I was able to get away from the noise, spend significant time in prayer and really ponder and begin to frame what is next.
Reflecting on Where We’ve Been & What’s Next
As we’ve settled back in from all our travels and prepped for a summer full of family activities, I’ve been slowly reengaging with the market as I begin to ponder that 2nd question: “What are you going to do next?”
To get there, I’ve been reading voraciously and meeting with contacts whose opinions I value and respect to get their input. I’ve also been doing some consulting for fellow executives to help them hone in on things like their company’s core values, purpose, vision and strategy. This work has not only been energizing, it has proved insightful and helped uncover what I think are potential opportunity spaces to help companies improve operations with the right mix of technology, human insight, and ingenuity.
Now, I’m a firm believer in the Kierkegaard quote that “Life can only be understood by looking backward, but it must be lived looking forward.” To that end, here are some of the overriding emotions I’ve been feeling and the biggest takeaways I’ve had after spending several months reflecting on my time leading 3Pillar and thinking about what’s next:
- Gratitude. I had an amazing run at 3Pillar and was able to work with some supremely talented people. I’m grateful for the support I received in making my transition and for what I look back on fondly as an amazing ride. I was truly blessed.
- Rest. Over the course of my 16 year run, I underestimated the value of rest. I did not realize how exhausted I was until I was able to step back. While I will always believe in hard work, in my next chapter I will elevate my focus on making sure that I also take the appropriate rest.
- Perspective. I’m amazed to realize how the focus I had on 3Pillar prevented me from thinking about most anything else. While I desperately miss working with a team to build something great, I’ve really enjoyed and been refreshed by having a blue sky and the ability to think about things outside of 3Pillar and the Product Development space.
- Clarity. Clarity may be the most underrated aspect of business. I’m increasingly surprised how few people are able to explicitly describe the most basic business fundamentals (or even align around what certain words mean) — ideology, strategy, operations and management system. Growth businesses especially would benefit from being more deliberate, and in my consulting I’ve been able to witness the power and momentum that’s created by creating clarity and alignment around what may seem like the basics.
- Market Trends. Like many of you, I suspect, I’ve been reading and thinking a LOT about AI. It seems to me that this trend is significantly different from the more recent trends of mobile and blockchain. It is unquestioned that AI is a breakthrough that will undoubtedly prove more transformative than the internet itself.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that AI will become the most transformative breakthrough in the history of the world. But to what end? For what purpose? ChatGPT and Midjourney, as mind-blowingly amazing as they are, only begin to scratch the surface of what AI can help humanity achieve. We’ve been talking about AI for years and years, but its moment has truly arrived. I suspect that its impact is right on our doorstep, if not in our living room.
In this AI world, we’ll need to understand the human person at a much deeper level. Basic knowledge and intellect aren’t what make us human, and culture and clarity will matter even more to businesses than ever as we navigate through the next great economic transformation. We’re moving from a Knowledge Economy, where companies differentiate based on what the people in their organization know, to an Ethical Economy, where companies will differentiate based on their commitment to people and ideals.
What does all this have to say about what’s next? Well, for now, I suppose it says that the wheels are turning about what shape my next great adventure will take. As I have more specific news to share, I’ll do so here on the blog and in my usual channels like LinkedIn.