Just about two years ago I found myself emerging from what could have been a very depressing and stressful change that I was able to convert into something very lucky and joyful just by looking for options I’d been blind to before. On the eve of a two-week European vacation, I found out that the workgroup I built from the ground up was being dissolved as part of larger structural changes, and I was basically told to enjoy my vacation because I wouldn’t like the work that was there for me when I got back.
The funny thing was, in the face of the corporate quasi-apology I was receiving, I didn’t get angry or disappointed; actually I couldn’t stop smiling. After making sure that all of my subordinates were going to be adequately taken care of, it was clear to me that I could either do what they wanted, or I could believe in myself and the intangible values I provide. Within hours, I’d found another opportunity that I would have never imagined I could land, and ended up heading off for holiday with on a huge high; excited about the kind of life I could begin once I got back.
As I reflected later on it, I realized that this great opportunity (which became my current position in Online Marketing & Strategy) was available to me for a while, I’d just been overlooking it because of my sense of responsibility to the team who worked for me and trusted me to lead them. Freed of that obligation, I was suddenly able to see a better path and take the leap.
Of course, not all leaps are so easy to make. Mine was the sort where you’re running from a mob and come to a sudden cliff, and the only choices were to jump or be eaten alive; luckily there was a rope swing below the cliff that took me to the next level. This is hopefully not a situation that many folks have to find themselves in, and most career/life-changing leaps are at your own pace.
That pacing, however, is often times our own worst enemy. You’ve got a job, so what you don’t love it? You’ve got bills to pay, pets to support, family expectations, society telling you to be a responsible adult and “act your age”…the list could go on and on. And yet, when we look at our idols and role-models, how many of them are people who did a job they didn’t like and just kept at it for 40+ years? I can’t think of any myself.
Jobs? We all know that guy’s story.
Buffett? Basically hustled his way to the life he wanted.
Caesar? Untested general, but Gaul wasn’t going to conquer itself.
With inspiration like this, what is it that holds so many of us in places we don’t necessarily want to stay?
…How often do we say, “three months from today, I will be doing something totally different than I’m doing now?” How often do we look at an asset (an organization, a source of income, a technology) and acknowledge that it’s our past, not our future?
A generation ago, you might be able to go forty years without being forced into a leap like this. In many industries, though, it might even be forty weeks (or forty days).
Not something to be avoided. Something to initiate.
So, a little bit of a teaser for the future:
I started school this month, changing majors and putting my energy towards finishing something I should have gotten done a decade ago. On top of the idea of finishing something I started, is also the desire to be prepared for my next leap. I’ve got some ideas of where I want to be, both professionally and geographically, and this is an important step towards getting there. So even when we’re not at that decision point, we can still have one eye on the future and configure ourselves for the next level.
Let’s see if I can’t look back at this post in two more years and tell you about how my plan worked…
(If it did, you’ll know by how much flannel I’m wearing. Or all my chatter about my oyster card. )
- How long between leaps? (sethgodin.typepad.com)
- When Your Future Self Says thank You! (iamkrista876.com)