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My husband and I recently went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History to meet his great-uncle and his girlfriend, Tina, for lunch. I had only met them once before, briefly, over the Christmas holiday. My expectation for the day was to eat lunch, get home as fast as possible, and work on this project: read, write, brainstorm.

While my husband’s uncle dispensed paternalistic career advice, Tina and I struck up a conversation observing all of the polite norms.

“How long are you visiting DC for? Is there anything special you want to do while you’re here?”

“Have you seen the new WWII memorial? So you are here on business? I know that you explained it to me briefly over Christmas, but would you tell me more about what you do?”

As always, when people start talking about their careers and the journey they took to get there, I was immediately hooked. Tina is a consultant who works with small businesses interested in increasing their exports. She helps them build capacity and get insurance to provide payment for when foreign vendors don’t pay their bills.

“I love what I do. I took all of the things I liked to do from previous jobs and created this, my last job. It’s like a tapestry, now that I look back it all fits together.” She is of the school that thinks things happen for a reason.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how old were you when you started your business and all the pieces came together?”

“55.”

Which prompts the question, how long should we expect to wait before the pieces come together and we figure out our fulfillment?