Lucky (3)

This is the last of a series of blog posts on how luck shaped my life:

I had a natural talent for leadership, not management. Leadership felt normal to me. Management felt foreign. In other words, I knew instinctively that my job was not to manage—that is, control—my subordinates but to uplift them and give them all the support they needed to do a superior job. They loved me for that and rewarded me with astonishing achievements. As a result, I moved quickly through the executive ranks until I was an SES-04, only two steps down from the top civilian rank, SES-06, given only to the deputy director (the director was a lieutenant general or vice admiral).

Meanwhile, I wrote stories. I’d learned at age six that I was born to write. Writing didn’t pay. I had a wife and four children to support, so I continued to operate as a spy to earn a living. And my writing didn’t sell. Nearly all of it was about Vietnam, for decades considered a dirty war. The less said about it, the better.

Nevertheless, I retired as early as I could to write full time. Because I had been promoted to a high executive rank, my pension was generous. I didn’t have to get another job to survive. Luck was with me again.

Then the American attitude about the Vietnam war changed. A new generation of Americans wanted to know what happened in Vietnam. Gradually, my writing began to sell. I now have four books and 17 short stories in print with two more books to be published early next year. Once again, I was lucky.

Through it all, I have consistently sought to do what interested me, not what might profit me. I never considered how to get ahead. I worked as hard as anyone I know, but I did it because I loved what I was doing.

In other words, I didn’t plan and pursue a career. The career came to me unbidden. I was lucky.

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