Rating: ••• (Recommended)
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For an offbeat take on following your bliss, pick up a copy of Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard’s new book, Life 2.0.
Other writers have explored achieving a work-life balance, but no
presentation is as enjoyable to read as Life 2.0,
in which we follow Karlgaard as he heads from place
to place across
Would you have made this
trade? You get to pocket millions of dollars before the age of forty. But you
pay a high price for your financial success—your marriage fails. Worse, the
person you most care about, your daughter, now lives
on the opposite side of the country. Rick Randall knows the difficulty of
explaining this kind of psychic torture to the 99.996 percent of people in
So when Rick married for the second time and embarked on a new set of entrepreneurial adventures, he struck a far better trade. He has learned how to combine work and family in an incredibly creative way. Not only that, but thanks to technology he and his family live and work in captivating places and own two splendid homes for the price of one executive-style house in Boston or Southern California.
Let’s find out how he did it.
I departed the western
George, a writer, economist, and
futurist—a famous one for having written books such as Wealth and Poverty,
The Spirit of Enterprise, Microcosm, and Telecosm—is
my mentor. We became friends shortly after I cofounded
a technology business magazine called Upside during the late 1980s.
Then in 1992, at the beginning of the Web revolution, we convinced Steve
Forbes to launch Forbes ASAP’ and in those pages George did some of
his finest work. As we drank coffee and watched the dairy cows outside of
the Gilder farmhouse, I marveled at how George was able to pull off writing
about developments in
It is nearly noon by the time I pull
the Skyhawk’s nosewheel
up and allow the miracle of air traveling fast over the wings to lift the
plane over the Berkshires. Hard, jolting turbulence over the peaks somewhat
wrecks the picturesque flight, but not completely. This is indeed lovely
country. I would prefer to fly as low as possible over the Berkshire ridges
I had e-mailed Rick Randall that
morning from Gilder’s office. Rick agreed to meet me at
Where is it?
Not having the New York Sectional map
is a bit of a worry. That it is illegal is of minor concern. The bigger worry
is that my onboard GPS map shows
PRETTIEST VILLAGE IN
Rick picks me up in his Range Rover. Fifty
years old, he talks in that quick caffeinated patois common among people in
bigger cities. We drive through the village of Lake Placid, a stunner if
you’ve never been there, a jewel of a Swiss-like village, nestled up to a
small lake, which is not Lake Placid at all. “It’s
Soon we are driving along the village’s
We grab Cokes and head for his
I immediately like Rick Randall. He
describes his childhood growing up in
“The best business education I had was working on the GM factory floor,” Rick tells me. “It was very alienating. You’d ask yourself: ‘What does this part mean? Where does it go? What happens if it breaks?’ But you’d never get any answers from the foreman. It was a stupid way to run things. I could see the Japanese invasion of the auto industry a mile off.”
After college, Rick got a job teaching
high school biology in
Around that same time, Rick’s first wife to be, Janice, was scheduled for a medical sales job interview. The job, if she got it, would put Rick’s teacher’s salary and ice cream truck driver wages to shame—$30,000 plus bonus! The day of the job interview, Janice was sick with the flu, so Rick asked if he might go to the interview in her place. During the interview Rick told the story about changing the jingle on the ice cream truck and was hired on the spot. Janice’s reaction? “She was pissed! I don’t think she ever forgave me.”
Rick is now remarried to a woman named
Lori, and they have two children, Alec, nine, and Hailey, four. An hour into
our interview on the back porch facing
Lori and kids have planned to watch a movie that night with another mother and children, leaving Rick and me to fly solo. We decide to walk into town. I don’t want to exaggerate, but Rick’s rustic/modern lakeside house, the sumptuous guesthouse where I have tossed my bags and will be staying tonight, his pretty wife and two children, the village of Lake Placid, the 75-degree light mountain air—the whole package—are as close to perfect as you can get on this mortal coil. Rick has really made it. At dinner, I hope to get the rest of the story.
BIG PROFITS FROM SMALL HOLES
The walk into the village from Rick’s is half a mile. We settle on an outdoor café called The Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood Co. Ah, cold beer; at last—more precisely, a dark brew called Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, which the menu calls strong. Ah, that’s the ticket! While I tipple my ale, Rick continues with his story:
After cheating his first wife, Janice,
out of her medical sales job, Rick rapidly climbed up the medical sales rung,
but soon topped out on commission. One night over drinks, he pressed a colleague
for career-move tips. The guy told Rick, “If you get on the ground floor of a
paradigm shift, it’s an elevator ride up.” Rick began poring over magazines
and journals, looking for that paradigm shift. One day in 1979 he found it in
angioplasty, just then getting approval from the Food and Drug
Administration. Rick switched employers, joining U.S. Catheter and Instrument,
which brought the angioplasty balloon to market in 1980. Within four years,
the procedure took ofi and Rick got a sales manager
position with U.S. Catheter in
Not excelling was Rick andJanice’s marriage. They divorced in 1984. Rick says
his ambition-fueled long hours at work and the traffic-snarled commutes of
“A year later I got headhunted to
American Hospital Supply and I moved to
Single and focused, Rick thrived in
Rick moved back to
AN ANSWER TO BABY BOOMERBACK PROBLEMS
Rick was now rich enough to retire. But
the working-class kid from
To get at this market, Rick started Incumed in 1998. Its purpose is to incubate single-product start-ups, get the product through FDA approval, and then sell the start-up to a larger medical device company. One of Rick’s Incumed start-ups is called TranS 1. It makes catheters that permit high-tech spinal surgery done through tiny holes.
“This is a great, great field!” Rick
shouts above the din at The Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood
As baby boomers age, and begin to lose their golf swings to stiff backs or their ability to pick up grandchildren from deteriorated disks, they will flock to surgery, Rick believes. . . but only if the surgery is quick and relatively risk free. It can be, says Rick, if the surgical hole is small. Rick describes a small area of the body located between the tailbone and the anus, a perfect place to go in and relieve pressure on a nerve root from a compressed disk. Only the tiniest surgical instruments are capable of doing this.
I listen and order another draft of Wee Heavy Scotch Ale.
What about location.
. not your tailbone-anus
thing, but where you chose to live and work? Rick says he and his family
spend the school year near
“But,” I asked Rick, “if you like the
piney woods and sea breezes of
“Not for me. It feels too much like
couple of superb catheter designers I work
with. The rest of the work we outsource. What I want is a high
revenue-to-head count business. And I want my family by my side. And I can
have both in
Six months later I caught up with Rick by e-mail. He was effusive. Things were humming.
“The new Start-up, TranS
1, is cooking. We just returned from our first spine trade show (North
American Spine Society) in
I asked Rick about his family.
‘Alec is in fifth grade and Hailey is
in pre-K at Cape Fear Academy We love
After graduating from
The update from Rick inspired me to dig
out the notes I had jotted during our dinner at The Great Adirondack Steak
& Seafood Co. Alas, some of the notebook pages were blurred and gave off
an odor like ale—the pages were unreadable, in other words. So I asked Rick
to clarify his back-and-forth life between Lake Placid and
He wrote back:
“You asked about the size of our
properties. We have two acres on
“The family still goes to
Rick’s typical working day in
Rick travels the world preaching the TranS 1 gospel. The technology meets a huge unmet need for a minimally invasive approach to resolving lower back pain, he says. The current form of surgery is so morbid that when polled, most spine surgeons say that they would not have the surgery performed on themselves. They would rather live with the chronic pain.
Early tests of TranS 1 have gone well.
“We have performed lumbar fusion of
diseased disks with three patients in
I remind Rick of his previous
observation that living in
“We are living it at TranS 1,” says Rick. “We find ourselves tapping into more paid consultants than I have in the past. The Internet makes this a more viable option. We have acquired specialized laboratory equipment at tremendous savings on eBay. Monster.com has been a source of finding and networking with quality people.”
Digital photography, procedure
animation, CAD design drawings, literature searches, pre-op CT imaging
assessment— all are communicated and manipulated over the Internet. This lets
Rick and his TranS 1 team work effectively and
efficiently from remote destinations. Rick says he doesn’t think he could
have pulled this off in
FINDING THAT ELUSIVE WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Finally I ask Rick if he has at last found that elusive work-life balance. Managing a successful career in balance with being a dad is perhaps the most difficult thing he does, Rick says. There have to be sacrifices; there is no way around it. When employees and shareholders are betting their livelihoods and personal wealth on you, you must be there and accountable. Being there for the family is not just a question of physical presence but of being focused and tuned in to the family members when you are together. This is what Rick says he struggled with in the past. When he lived in California or suburban Boston, the fast pace of the environment combined with long working hours and commutes made it very difficult for him to decompress and connect with the kids. He usually ate dinner after the kids and found himself putting them to bed before he had time to completely unwind from work.
“It is hard to explain, but there is a
distinct difference in the environmental pace that helps to refocus my mind,”
he says. “I feel more connected to the community and friends here than I have
elsewhere. I still at times struggle with the transition but it is an easier
environment in which to do it. Obviously, in
“Obviously maturation has helped as well. Having been through this before, I am somewhat more comfortable with the appropriate management of my time. I am more able to accept that it is okay to have a personal life and devote some time to it. My wife would assert that I am not completely reformed. . but. . . even she would admit that time, experience, and location have made me a better dad and partner.
“In summary I think technology allows us to reassess how and where we do things. We do not need to be geographic captives to the industry in which we work. Stay tuned as we continue with the grand experiment.”
For some readers, the stories of personal migration in Life 2.0 will mirror known experiences. For other readers, new ways of thinking about job location will emerge, following reflection about places to live that may have never been considered. The people Karlgaard introduces us to on the pages of Life 2.0 listen to drumbeats that may be silent for many readers. Whether you live in the location that’s best for you or not, reading Life 2.0 and reflecting on people who have selected places to life that you may never have imagined will help you define what living large or living small means to you.
Steve Hopkins, October 25, 2004
ã 2004 Hopkins and Company, LLC
The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the November 2004 issue of Executive Times
URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/Life 2.0.htm
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