(The following is the Introduction from Journal of a Fast Track Life. Enjoy!)
Life is a source of many mysteries, perhaps none more puzzling than why some people make it to the top of their professions while others, who appear to have all the right stuff, try but stumble and fail along the way.
This mystery intrigued me more and more as the years of my life passed and my career ascended to totally unexpected heights. If life is an adventure, as many observers have written over the years, I have had one heck of a ride – county newspaper editor at age twenty-one, press secretary for the Democratic nominee for governor of Tennessee at twenty-nine, chancellor of a university at thirty-five, editor of a major metropolitan daily newspaper at forty, state commissioner of education at forty-seven, chancellor of the nation’s seventh largest system of higher education at fifty-four, candidate for governor at sixty-two, and chief executive of a major federal agency at sixty-three.
Why me? How did a shy, introverted, small-town kid with average intelligence and no “silver spoon” make it to the top in three different professions? That question is ever on my mind, and the conclusions I have reached are the focus of this book. I write this in the hope that in some small way, the lessons I have learned will help other young men and women find the way to success in the wonderful game of life.
A word of caution: Living life as an adventure is not for everyone. In fact, history has shown that the vast majority of people are perfectly content to take the safe pathway and go from birth to death without ever experiencing the joy of victory or the agony of defeat. Early in my career, I was among that majority, and I honestly believe that had circumstances, opportunity, and preparation not converged in my life, I could have found happiness and contentment on the safe route.
That circumstance, however, was not to happen in my case. So while the lessons of this book target people who have the ambition to reach as high as they can, perhaps even those individuals who are pursuing the safe pathway will find herein the inspiration to swap a planned life of comfort for a life of adventure.
Obviously, luck and fate play major roles in the successes and failures of human beings. But I am convinced that the end game is matching preparation with opportunity. Over the years, I have seen many people who had opportunity but were not prepared and, of course, many others who were prepared but never got the opportunity. The former have no one but themselves to blame, and the latter are simply the unlucky ones.
This book is organized in a way that gives prominence to the key lessons in my life that enabled me to be prepared when opportunities arose. The lessons presented are the result of hundreds of hours of reflection on my life and career. The “why me?” question is at the heart of my inquiry, but it is my belief that the lessons of my life have relevance to every young man and woman who wants to succeed in his or her chosen profession.
I truly believe life is an adventure and should be experienced to the fullest. That has certainly been my motto over the years. The lessons that follow may help others shape their lives in ways that will make the adventure exciting and fulfilling.
© Charles E. Smith. All rights reserved.