On a recent trip to Poland I packed a book given to me by a friend (seems to be the way I get a lot of books these days) Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  A writer for the NY Times, Gladwell has written a number of national bestsellers and it's easy to see why.  His storytelling is brilliant, utterly engrossing. The way he weaves a narrative adding layers upon layers can capture the imagination. Perfect for a 9 hour flight and a long layover in Frankfurt's Flughafen.

Some of the people in this book we all know. The Beatles, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. Many people, geniuses in their own right, we don't know at all. But this book isn't about them. It was about the circumstances that allowed them to be lawyers, authors, garment workers, mathematicians, The Beatles, Microsoft and Apple. Gladwell filled the book with stories of inspiration of uncommon people and links the sequence of steps that allowed for each improbable story. It was about the opportunities, the cultural implications of people's ancestors and, in many cases, luck, that allow for individual success.

I was particularly struck by the improbable success story of a Jewish immigrant family in turn of the century NYC. The evolution of an idea on a street corner to the development of a small company selling aprons left me inspired.

"When Borgenicht came home at night to his children, he may have been tired and poor and overwhelmed, but he was alive. He was his own boss. He was responsible for his own decisions and direction. His work was complex: it engaged his mind and imagination. And in his work, there was a relationship between effort and reward. Those three things- autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward- are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It's not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine to five. Work that fulfills those three criteria is meaningful."

This passage struck me and made me pause. My roots are Polish, as you may have guessed by the last name. And here I was, on board a plane to the land of my ancestors reading about how my cultural roots may determine who and how we are today. How did the lifestyle of the generations of Krzyzkowski's living in rural Poland affect my life, my father's life, his father's life? I couldn't help but think about my own circumstances: my upbringing, the values instilled in me as a child, and the kinds of opportunities that helped shape my current experience.

This story, and the others like it in Outliers made me take account of my own place in the world these days. Working with people is complex, at times, challenging. Yet, it provides a rich and rewarding experience, day in and out. I feel very fortunate to have found a profession and work that I find truly meaningful. I learn from my clients, my students, my colleagues...it's the nature of my business.