The Suggestion Bachs

Robbie-49I thought we should begin with an important question: “What do you do when you are done?” Of course, I don’t mean “done” in a grave-in-the-cemetery sort of way – but “done” in a time-to-do-something-new sort of way.

To help figure that out, I decided to go home. Back to where I grew up. Back to high school friends and my college campus. Back to siblings, nieces, nephews…and their kids too. Back to my mom, who will turn 90 this year and still plays golf and bridge. Back to things that bring comfort and familiarity. And I suppose what I found by going home should not have surprised me, but it did somehow hit me right between the eyes.

Amidst all of the turmoil I see in our country and across the world…amidst the sadness in Syria, the conflict in the Ukraine, and the tragedies and suffering I see in our own neck of the woods…amidst all these things, going home brought me tremendous hope. Hope in the eyes of those nieces and nephews as they marry, build careers, and start families. Hope in a warm sunny day and a gentle jog around the campus at the University of North Carolina. Hope in the inspiring thoughts and words of new students interviewing for the Morehead-Cain scholarship at my alma mater. Hope in the simple idea that we can all make a difference – in fact we all must make a difference to leave the world a better place for the next generation.

So in the way off-Broadway play that is my life, I’ve begun a personal Act II. After 22 years at Microsoft, years filled with interesting work, plenty of challenges, some meaningful successes, and some whopping failures, I’m shifting my emphasis from professional success to social impact. I call this new role “civic engineering” because it focuses on rethinking the way we approach social issues in non-profits, community organizations, and government institutions at all levels. How do we reshape our civic institutions to create a better future? How do we bring hope?

A big part of my Act II commitment involves writing, speaking, and teaching – all of which I’m pursuing in various shapes and forms. Naturally, in a social media world, this means creating a web presence which led to the inevitable suggestion from my web guru (and nephew) Matt Brown – “hey, you need to start blogging”. While this wasn’t obviously necessary to me, I do love to write and I certainly have strong opinions – and so today we begin “The Suggestion Bachs.” Each week I hope to post some thoughts on civic issues, current events, or other points of interest that hopefully will engage you in a healthy debate about the quality of civic life in America.

And I hope to hear back from many of you – together we can make this an interactive conversation. One that sparks differences of opinion, constructive dialog, and new ideas.

So Act II begins – please join me as the script is written…