Reinventing Nashville

11 May 2012 01:08 PM CDT

I moved to Nashville from New York a bit over three years ago.  The time had come to leave, but it wasn't an easy decision to make.  I had dreamed of living in the big city my entire life and thought no where else could offer an environment so full of energy and opportunity.

I worked on Wall Street at the investment bank Lehman Brothers.  More specifically, I traded emerging market repurchase agreements in the capital markets division of the bank.  That means I made short term (under one year) collateralized loans (money lent vs. the debt of emerging market sovereign countries).  At Lehman there were only two people who did what I did, me and my boss.  Globally, there were under 20 people.  It was a highly specialized and very specific role in the financial services industry.

After roughly six years at the investment bank I decided it was time for a change.  Having been born in Nebraska and raised in Colorado I started to long for a more rural landscape and access to green grass, blue skies, and open fields.  I figured my experience in New York, both personally and professionally, would make it possible for me to start a new life practically anywhere.  Fortunately for me, my wife was also ready for a change.  Her passion is songwriting and there is no place on earth like Nashville for a person fascinated by the art and craft of storytelling via song.  Five minutes into our first visit we were both convinced that Nashville would be our new home.

Remember that part where I said there were under 20 people globally who did what I did?  None of those positions are in Nashville so the move meant it was time for me to reinvent myself.  I'm fascinated by lots of things and love learning.  With the gates wide open regarding what I would do next I found myself open to all kinds of opportunities and events.  While in New York I had slowly worked on a massive family history digitization effort.  Once in Nashville I dove into that project head first.  I'm also fascinated by all aspects of the financial services industry.  Having worked in capital markets I never really had an opportunity to learn about private capital, wealth management, or traditional investment banking.  Once in Nashville I started seeking out individuals involved in these other aspects of banking.  I've been a huge user of technology my entire life and quickly found an enthusiasm for technology startups doing their part to change the world.

Suddenly, some of my interests started bumping into one another.  I found myself at events led by the Mayor discussing his ambitions for the future of Nashville. I heard about the Chamber of Commerce and their desire to make the city a startup friendly town.  I sat in on events at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and learned about various efforts to build a community of mentors, investors, and entrepreneurs.  Out of nowhere my interests in finance, technology, and entrepreneurialism had found a comfortable and welcoming home in Nashville.  The community of individuals bent on ushering in a new era of growth and change here is huge.  It's a potent mix including the Mayor's office, the Chamber of Commerce, the academic world, the investment community, and a slew of ambitious entrepreneurs.

I've been busy networking in all of these communities for the past couple years.  Earlier this week I had an experience that put a smile on my face and deepened my respect and appreciation for Nashville.  This past Wednesday I attended a networking happy hour at Flyte.  My friend Alison Lynch is a power networker and has been orchestrating these events for the past four or five months.  She's an inspiration.  She arrived in Nashville just one year ago and has already managed to meet, interact with, and start working with a gigantic community of Nashville's finest.  Her happy hours are a testament to her networking prowess; the event on Tuesday easily had 40 attendees.  I'm fascinated by the community of people who attend these events.  As evidence, I arrived at 6PM and was one of the last to leave at 10:15PM.  I had over four hours of incredible conversation and networking.  It was awesome.

The highlight of the evening for me came from a conversation I had with a woman named Debra Fish.  Debra is a psychologist who works with corporate teams and individuals.  She is a Nashville native and has witnessed the city grow and change.  She had never been to one of these happy hours before and I told her that one of my favorite things about this group of people is that they genuinely feel like they are personally responsible for creating a new future in Nashville.

I told Debra that everyone there has a dream of making Nashville an entrepreneur friendly city, a city dedicated to re-inventing the music industry, a city focused on technology and technology startup companies, a city with a strong investment community, a city that will continue to innovate and grow and build a greater future here in America.  But I'll never forget what she told me.

Earlier that day she had attended an event in the healthcare community.  For those of you that don't know, the number one industry in Nashville is healthcare.  She said that many of the attendees at the healthcare event had the exact same desires back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  They had a dream of making Nashville a healthcare centric power.  They dreamed about it, they did it, and now they live in the wealth of their own success.  She looked around the room at everyone busy networking and said that these people would do the same thing.  They would further define their dream of a different future for Nashville, they would work hard to make that a reality, and 20 to 30 years from now they will live in the wealth of their own success.

The road ahead has many twists and turns, but the people building that road and ushering in a new future are fully capable of navigating towards success.  It's an honor to be part of a city and community that is reinventing itself while I do the same.