The British Prime Minister, the Chairman and the Astronaut
Corporate executive and business dean David Heenan knows about leading a double life: He has spent his career straddled between the business world and academia. This is the kind of life he profiles in Double Lives, a book which profiles ten exemplary individuals who explored other worlds while maintaining successful careers. Throughout Double Lives, Heenan describes how people like British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Sony Chairman Norio Ohga, and astronaut Sally Ride were able to keep their side interests alive while exploring satisfying and often extraordinary careers in the limelight.
Double Lives works to "demonstrate that pursuing multiple interests contributes to happiness and personal fulfillment." According to Heenan, anybody can live a double life, not just the high-profile characters like the ones he has assembled in this book. He says imagination, drive, and a few tools along the way are all anyone needs to reach new levels of personal satisfaction.
To prove his idea that there are many ways to lead a double life, each of his examples is unique. But, he says, all of them chose one of three paths to another life. They are:
- Parallel paths: These are the paths that are followed by people who give separate but equal treatment to both lives. These dualists don't give up their day jobs although they are drawn to another activity. People who pursued parallel paths include Wallace Stevens, a renowned American poet who made a living as a vice president at an insurance company. Similarly, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Charles Ives kept his day job as an insurance salesman and executive. Although those who choose to follow parallel paths might sometimes hide their second lives with pseudonyms, they also understand the value of developing secondary interests.
- Convergent paths: Those on these tracks take part in activities that are mutually dependent and feed off each other. One example of a man who combines his two lives is Thomas Lynch, who is a small-town mortician who has written three collections of poems and two books of essays. His award-winning writing explores the relations between the "literary and mortuary arts." Lynch says, "Being a writer helps me be a better funeral director because it makes me think in language about what I do."
- Divergent paths: These routes are the roads taken by double lifers who eventually quit their day jobs. Michael Crichton is a perfect example of someone who graduated from Harvard as a medical physician, but abandoned the role for that of a prolific writer and film producer. Robin Cook is another example of a doctor who stopped practicing to become a popular writer. Heenan also provides a list of lawyers who have stopped practicing law to pursue writing on a larger scale. Each of these people chose a risky path to a new self, and he says that most of them are on a continuous quest for a personal makeover.
Keys to a Double Life
The reasons why people should develop double lives, according to Heenan, are numerous. They range from keeping burnout at bay and reducing stress to better mental health and marital stability. Explorers of double lives share a clear sense of what makes life enjoyable. Along with exhibiting tremendous drive and confidence to leave a conventional lifestyle and head into uncharted waters, those who seek double lives must be highly motivated and determined. Curiosity is a trait that serves these people well.
Along the way to understanding those who lead double lives, Heenan develops a list of 20 keys to a double life. The top ten are:
- Listen to your heart.
- Define success in your own terms.
- Aim high.
- Take one step at a time.
- Deliver daily.
- Learn from failure.
- Ignore the naysayers.
- Maintain a maverick mind-set.
- Focus, focus, focus.
- Avoid distractions.
Heenan writes from the heart, but backs up every one of his assertions with historical facts, quotes from those who have either lived or are living double lives, and numerous examples that solidify his theories. His historical and contemporary examples provide intriguing tales of alternative perspectives while offering inspiration for those who are looking for the encouragement to push them into the pursuit of their own dreams.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
While extolling the virtues of the people who turn their imaginations into action, he also offers some sound business advice. "Smart leaders create a corporate culture that unleashes, not stifles, human creativity," Heenan writes. He also writes that "a second life can enhance on-the-job performance." One of the "greatest rewards any organization gets from da Vincian personalities is their diverse perspectives and points of view," Heenan explains, adding that their fierce independence can be a vital check on executive hubris.