Even though the song came out 14 years before I was born, the Beach Boys’ “When I Grow Up to Be a Man” has always been an important song for me.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the song and even at the ripe old age of 36, I continue to wonder what will happen when I grow up – specifically, what do I want to do when I grow up?

I have had more jobs that I would like to admit, but it has definitely helped me find what does and does not work for me:

  • I’ve gone in depth with how being a pastor is not my peg.  The things that brought me the most enjoyment were not the things that categorically made a great pastor.  Talking theology with anyone who enjoyed discussion over a meal or snack is much more invigorating to me than giving me a to-do list of building a bigger church or being a better person.
  • I was a substitute teacher for awhile, and that was a great side job especially while being a pastor.  I had a chance to read books and write my thoughts down about them.  Because of the limits of substitutes, I had plenty of time for self-improvement… at least in thinking.
  • I currently work for a state government.  Overall, it is a great job, but merit is judged more through the lens of an Alasdair MacIntyre “Whose Justice? Which Rationality?” kind of way than not.  After reaching “meets expectations” in almost every category in one of my performance reviews, I asked what I could do to “exceed expectations” over the next year.  I was told that it was not a possibility.  This is still causing repercussions in my life as I search for my place in this world.
  • By accident, I became a travel agent and then a co-owner of a travel agency in the past year.  How is it an accident?  Well, I never had any intentions of being a travel agent.  My cousin owned a travel agency group, and I offered to “freely” help with any paperwork but was told that it was not an availability at the time.  When I got back from my vacation last June, he informed me, “Congratulations! You are now a travel agent in the Magical Partners Travel (MPT) group.”  He’ll probably read this and slap his head, but I was like, “Cool.  I can try this for a couple of months.”  Because of some fortunate circumstances, MPT went from being a travel group to a independent travel agency.  During this transition, I was offered to be a co-owner and my wife and I agreed this would be a good move for me.  So since mid-October of last year, I co-own a travel agency.  Yay!

The difference of me being a travel agent and a owner of a travel agency is enormous.  As a travel agent, I love helping clients plan a vacation.  I’m a minutiae kind of guy, so helping with details is a huge energy boost.  It’s also fun getting paid to provide my clients free services.  Our agency does not charge clients for our services.  The suppliers to where the clients are going on vacation provide a small commission for our services.  Most of our agents helped others plan vacations for free before they became agents.  This makes getting money for doing something that they enjoy doing icing on the cake.

As an owner, I truly get a joy of trying to help my agents reach their personal goals as agents.  I have read hundreds of leadership and management books and I get the opportunity to apply these principles several times over.  Travel agency is very different than most businesses.  Owners are not bosses.  Each agent is an independent contractor with our agency.  Outside of a few specific things, they are free to do what they want in operating their business.  We provide a platform as an agency to book clients with suppliers.  I mention this because it is really an awesome experience collaborating with my co-owner in another state to set an agency agenda for our 11 agents in 5 different states.  We provide guidance, but they generate their own business at their own pace.  How freeing it is to let people go and do a good job because they want to.

This is the kind of stuff that is lacking from most of my other jobs.  There were limited bonuses to doing a good job, but severe penalties to doing a bad job.  Even jobs that I was initially excited to work eventually got bogged down by getting in trouble for doing too much good work!  Yes, I have actually been penalized for doing my job well.  Most businesses reward the employee by how much they earn for the business, but also set limits for how much a percentage that the employee can actually earn.  Our agency has certain plateaus for earning, but the only things stopping one of our agents from making $2 million in commissions is being motivated in getting the clients to book enough trips for that to happen.

I won’t lie.  I miss being a pastor.  It is all about investing in relationships with people.  But I think the ultimate downside for me was trying to get people to realize they are better than they think they are.  That’s a very depressing thing for me to deal with.  As a travel agent, most of my clients have a specific goal in mind that I help them out with – a dream vacation for a price.  As a owner, it is to help my agents reach their travel agent goals.  Both of these latter options are measurable goals.  Getting people to believe in their potential and not limit themselves to the perception of others is very difficult even when successful.

For me, being a agency owner and travel agent lets me use my skills, training, history, and interests to help people accomplish what they have already set out to accomplish.  In this stage of my life, it helps bring meaning to my life.

 

PS

The word “up” in the title was purposefully capitalized as it fits in perfectly as the movie’s central character Carl desires to grow up in specific ways and because of life events is constantly searching for validation or meaning in his life.  Plus it is a great movie.

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