By examining my personal development and career trajectory, I hope to share some insights into life as an academic. My particular path has contained, as most paths do, twists and turns. As I look back, they all seem somehow related to each other, but they were not all planned. Design/methodology/approach I will discuss my life and career in chronological order, then reflect on my career and research philosophy. I will also discuss several of my most cited articles and how they emerged. Findings I emphasize research that is both academically rigorous and relevant to business. I also show that passion for a subject, even one that is risky and not encouraged by others, has resulted in lifelong interest and inspiration for me. While not appropriate for all because of the risk, I found it worth taking a chance, largely because I was highly inspired by the subject. Practical implications Research that is programmatic has benefits because it allows a scholar to own an area. Also, working with the right co-author teams—sometimes ones where different talents are distributed across the team–is a key to success. Originality/value The story and opinions are mine alone.