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Why I Love Being a Boundary Crosser

Dan, Carol, cropped In my recent interview with Dan Pink for the Northwestern Club of Colorado, we covered a number of topics: from why persistence trumps talent (to which I chimed in that persistence/commitment also trumps passion), to why an education guru under the older Bush administration reversed her stand on ways to improve schools, to what Dan believes now, ten years later, after finishing his fourth book. (He's more optimistic about people and their desire to do good in the world.)

One of my favorite parts of the interview was when he talked about how new constructs emerge, because reality no longer fits how we previously defined the world. It made me think of boundary crossers and how the interesting stuff comes from "the third way," the hybrid that no one has previously thought of or maybe even needed.

I asked Dan what he saw on the horizon that will change how we think about careers. He provided statistics on the aging baby boomers– never before in the history of the world, are so many people turning 60 years old, every day. What's amazing is this pattern will continue past 2020.

Turning 60 years old is a milestone for most people. Not ready to retire (if there really is such a notion anymore), yet clearly over the hump of building a career.  Dan talked about how this situation pushes aside all the old boxes that we use to put people in and calls for something new to emerge. 

Encore book That led me to bring in the idea of "encore careers", coined by Marc Freedman, author of the book, Encore, and founder of Civic Ventures. Freedman shows that there is a new chapter of our lives that didn't exist before–one where people are focused on giving back to society, after having had a "traditional" career in which experience and expertise accrued for decades. Neither retirement, nor straightforward job, this is "the third way."

Which is where boundary crossers come in.  The third way is probably more natural to boundary crosser than others, because we can see beyond an "either/or" model to a "both/and" paradigm.

Oh boy, now we are getting into juicy territory! Reminds me of the "yes, and" of improv.

This is all to say that innovation happens in the white space between worlds, and that's exactly where boundary crossers can thrive.

My thanks to Dan Pink for his generosity in sharing his wisdom and engaging so thoughtfully with the audience.  Here's a quick visual and audio wrap-up of the evening:

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  1. JamieReverb on March 24, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Carol – Looks like you had a great event! Love the video and the discussion of what people got out of being there. They seems motivated to experiment with creativity.
    Great job – wish I could have been there!

  2. Carol Ross on March 24, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Jamie–Thanks for your comments. Wish you could have been there as well. The conversation about education is something you would have enjoyed.

    BTW–I’m getting ready to write a post about online video so your comment is timely. It’s a powerful medium that hasn’t been fully realized.

  3. Josh Allan Dykstra on March 30, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    Hi Carol, I was referred to your blog by Ellen Ingraham. I’ve become a big Dan Pink fan after reading DRIVE, and love what I’ve read so far about your boundary crossing mentality. A large part of the new book I’m writing is about the ways leaders can learn by studying how things connect across disciplines and industries, which I think is somewhat on par with your thoughts…? In any case, pleasure to meet you. P.S. My wife and I lived in Denver for many years before moving to LA! Miss the Rockies.

  4. Carol Ross on March 30, 2010 at 10:19 PM

    Thanks for checking out the blog, Josh. If you haven’t already read Dan Pink’s second book, A Whole New Mind, get a copy soon! You’ll love it. That’s where I first learned about boundary crossers. Curious to hear more about your book, as it sounds like it reinforces the benefit of being a boundary crosser. Yes, right in line with my thoughts.

    Denver to LA: was that a hard move?

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