Innovation As A Lifestyle #52 #cong17

By Kelsey Roberts.

It all began with an introverted, sentimental, but determined me beginning a job with a big multinational that I knew would require me to move to four different locations for six months each, changing jobs within the company at each new site. The thought of this both scared and excited me, I knew I wasn’t fully comfortable with it and I set out to attempt to increase my personal tolerance for change. I put on some sappy songs on the car stereo and cried throughout the drive leaving my then home, Atlanta, Georgia, and driving away from the closest friends I had made thus far in my life (and fortunately many of whom remain that to this day, even many miles and time zones apart).

My first new home was Columbus, Ohio – a place I knew little about other than the religious-like following of their prized college football team, Ohio State, fresh off the win of a national championship the year before. That excitement aside, it took me months in Ohio to figure out how to not only support a college football team that wasn’t my own, but also find and create friendships within a working life structured with defined hours and business trips. I spent months being lonely and missing Atlanta, but over time I found some groups to fill my time and that void with. I learned how to be content with loneliness and gained the self-awareness to acknowledge that it’s a natural feeling, and I innovated to find coping techniques to deal with it.

Only a few months of finally getting settled in to Ohio and my next move was sprung on me – I was given about four weeks’ notice that I would be moving to Chicago, Illinois. The next challenge to tackle in this move was finding housing. Even though I knew the neighbourhood of the city that I liked, seeking out a stranger to live with was a new experience for me, and made me test out a new skill of quickly analysing a personality over a 10 minute chat and making a decision about something as big as who to live with based on that brief analysis. Over my next months, I re-created a new life for myself by making new friends, discovering a passion for tutoring kids, and even learning from some mistakes that involved a few too many pints (well, the American-sized pints). I had not created the perfect concoction of a life yet – but I felt steps closer in my journey by finding and recognising passions and people that made me happy.

As in any true innovation process, my life was iterated and changed as soon as I began testing out one version of it and I was off to a new place – this time to the small town of Altavista, Virgina, a big change from the urban cities I had previously called home. Altavista is filled with Southern hospitality and strong family values, but when it comes to religious and political standings it has a vastly different environment than I was raised in. Coincidentally, this move came in the fall of 2016, just in time for the gearing up of campaigning for the U.S. Presidential Election. A true fish out of water, my political beliefs differed from most of my colleagues, and this time innovating my life meant finding ways to connect with people when you come from a different background. But, this process grew to feel natural quickly and became incredibly impactful as I formed some of the most inspirational connections of my life here. I also fell in love with the job I had here - another piece of my life that brought the greatest professional challenges I had faced to date, and subsequently gave me the greatest reward through a true sense of fulfilment in mastering new solutions to those challenges each day. The changes I went through in my attitude for empathising with others, my ability to relate to and connect with new people, and the revolution of finding happiness in an unexpected job made this stop in my life a true example of innovation hard at work.

Now leaving Altavista was one of the hardest experiences of my life, a new feeling of being utterly unprepared to move on from a phase but being ripped away regardless. But the innovation of life does not stop and my journey was still ongoing – so I grabbed my passport and headed across the ocean to move to Ireland. Clonmel in Tipperary was the last of my four assignments with this multinational company, and met me with another new job role, new colleagues and friends, and a new side of the road to drive on. After making improvements finding personal hobbies and creating friends through my last three moves, the thought of meeting new people was no longer scary and I was ready to embrace creating a new social life in Ireland. What I honestly didn’t expect was to have my accent recognised for American so instantly (shocking that I thought it would blend in, as I now know). Here, no amount of relating to or connecting with the people and culture would hide my forever obvious accent. I had to restructure my own expectations for my identity, again adapting my innovation process and to meet the needs of this new country and how I saw my life here. At this point the challenge of changing my perspective and strategies to fit a new situation was familiar and ultimately enjoyable and fulfilling. I began seeking out new ways in which I could change my life to continue developing and growing in the fastest way possible.

My sixth and final move that I will share with you today (although by no means final in my life), came when I left the multinational I was working for and changed my career to move to Galway and pursue entrepreneurship and innovation research at NUI Galway. Until sitting down to write this post, I didn’t fully realise how fitting it is that my new work involves studying innovation full-time, when innovation has become the biggest hallmark of my life over the past few years. I could not have gone through as many life changes as I have without adopting a mindset of continual innovation on a personal level, and I would not have developed this mindset in the same way without the repeated changes that my life was thrust into. At this point, making changes has become almost addicting in a way, and I know my life is a journey ripe for innovation at every corner. I’ve learned countless new skills and developed my personality along the way, but the greatest way in which I have adapted is simply by embracing innovation as a lifestyle and all the challenges and thrills that come along with that. Here’s to the next changes we will all make in our lives, both big and small, and to keeping the mindset that life is meant to always be innovated!

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie