Listen to the Podcast: The Launch of ELGL with Kent Wyatt
Kent Wyatt co-founded Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) after a difficult career transition when he relocated to Oregon. He has thrown the doors wide open and brought transparency back into the realm of local government to help others launch their careers and grow and get involved.
He shares his “launch” moment – which starts at his future retirement party. How he makes career decisions and navigates the path of career and life with Pearl Jam at the end of the line.
The Rest of My Launch Story
by Kent Wyatt, April 16, 2014
Having launched a Michael Jordan Fan Club in second grade at Westmore Elementary School in Fairfax, VA. I thought I had launched my future career. Life could not have been better — I was president/founder of the Michael Jordan Fan Club and I could wear a different Michael Jordan t-shirt each day for two weeks straight, plus I was rockin’ Air Jordan’s with checkerboard laces.
Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “Reality Bites”, and my career aspirations were thwarted. Girls stopped being impressed with my extensive Michael Jordan t-shirt collection (go figure) and college coaches were not searching for the next 5 ft. 11 in. guard with limited outside shooting ability. I knew my basketball career was over the minute that I won the “Most Team Spirit” award. I am not sure of the numbers but I guessing not many NBA all-stars won this award as a kid.
Exciting story, huh? These memories crept back into my head as a prepared to share my story on the “Launch Yourself” podcast with Melissa Anzman. The podcast focuses on career launch points and the impact that it can have in the lives of others. Previous podcast guests include: Dana Sitar – Crowdfunding Campaign, Mac Prichard from Prichard Communications, Jenny Blake from JennyBlake.me, and Jessica Williams from Mac’s List
Leading up to the interview, I was confident that Melissa’s listening audience was not interested in hearing about my basketball career that did not launch. This left me reflecting on the launch points for ELGL. Was there an “aha” moment? What was the reason for creating ELGL?
After this engaging Q&A with myself, it become clear that my career had two launch points and one of them has not happened yet. My launch points were becoming a parent and my retirement party. Both are tied together and served as motivation for launching ELGL. Fatherhood happened first with healthy daughters born in 2009 and 2011. Acknowledging my retirement party as a launching point provides a milestone that is clear and conveys the needed urgency.
(One of the joys of being a modern parent is taking a ton of pictures of your kids. Many of which will be included in the longest slideshow ever that I’ll put together for each of their weddings. The photo on the right will be in slideshow. Say cheese!)
For me, the great feeling of invisibility lasted until graduate school. It was hard not to think about the end when I was taking MPA classes on financial forecasting, long range planning, and the death tax. Until then, I lived oblivious to the ticking clock that we all are facing.
That clock picked up speed for me when I became a Dad. I was 31 years old and my wife and I were suddenly responsible for someone else besides our dog, Michael Jordan. I could no longer blare “Whoop There It Is” in the car without being judged by the eyes in the backseat.
Kids serve as the perfect daily reminder for me to “help people.” My kids think their parents “help people” when they go to work. They also think we think “drink coffee” and “eat cake.” Naturally, it’s the “help people” part that my wife and I prefer to focus on.
With regard to my retirement party, I am motivated by what I do not want. We have all bore witness to numerous awkward retirement parties. You know the deal: Costco cake, one balloon, and a card filled with a myriad of generic “best wishes” comments.
My favorite retirement parties occurred when I worked for the State of Virginia. I would find myself downing cake between awkward silences and talk about the weather at 8:45 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Why 8:45 a.m.? It allowed more time to jockey over the office equipment and office furniture of the person retiring. Nothing says, “good luck with retirement” like “can I have your desk chair and stapler?”
For my retirement party, I am aiming for genuine compliments. I began identifying compliments as genuine or not-so genuine compliments while growing up with a dad who was a city manager and a mom who was a nurse. I began to recognize when my parent’s colleagues were truly touched by their work or whether they secretly held a grudge. Tip: the more specific the comment, the more likely, it is genuine. For example, I enjoyed being around your Dad (not a genuine compliment). I enjoyed being around your Dad, he knew everyone by name and always asked about my two sons (genuine).
My career did not haphazardly launch into the public sector. Similar to my OCD-type fascination in wondering where each passing car on the highway is headed, I also desire a career in where I know my efforts are headed and who they are helping. In my mind, the only place to gain this fulfillment is in local government. We know who we are helping and we know what we need to do. How we do it? That’s another story.
With my old Air Jordan’s in the background, I continue to launch forward with the joys of two young daughters in my head and thoughts of making a lasting impact for them and others.