image by Cyberslayer, flickr artist

at the beginning of the summer, around graduation, time i came across a link, which — if you can spare the 3 or so minutes to give it a read — i think is certainly a valuable message. erica goldson graduated top of her high school class and, rather than laud either or her classmates’ accomplishments or talk about how important or fun the last 4 years of their lives have been for them all, she took a bit of a different approach to her valedictorian speech.

it’s easy to get wrapped up in erica’s speech. it has a certain kind of romance to it; an underdog vs. the world mentality that really makes you want to join the cause. i think that i especially got caught up in it because i see a lot of myself in her.

aside from being named “class wit” in my 8th grade yearbook (which may be, to this date, the most appropriate title ever given to me), i was always “the smart one” in school. and, like erica, i didn’t get good grades because i enjoyed learning; i got good grades because that’s what people tell you to do. i got into “computers”because i recognized early on that technology was going to become so vitally important in the world of the future — a future i was going to have to make a living in. do i like information technology? knowledge management? web 2.0? sure i do sometimes, but i can’t say that’s true all the time.

so here i stand, looking at a fast-approaching 26th birthday, and i have no clue what i want to do with my life. and that’s the rub. you follow the rules for so long — “do well in school.” “get good grades.” — that when it comes time to make decisions for yourself, you’re not quite sure what you should be doing because you’ve missed out on so much.

in many ways, your business can easily fall victim to the same symptoms.

why do you follow the same business processes that you’ve always followed? when you deal with your customers, who do you really have in mind: your client, or your shareholders? if the entire market starts to push towards a certain direction, will you follow because everyone else is?

you organization may be young, it may be in its mid-twenties, or it could be one of the older — more established — organizations around. but no matter how young or old we may be, every day we have to make choices about our future.

as for me, i’m hoping that the choices i make are good ones. i hope that yours are too.