07 Sep 3 Lessons to Cut Your Own Path at the Fork in the Road

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During my career, I’ve tried a number of different jobs. Unfortunately, I was frustrated working in a factory, selling beer, coaching basketball, and selling nutrition products. As time went by, it became harder and harder to try new things. Thankfully, I kept experimenting and now I’m very satisfied with leading an athletic club, speaking, teaching, writing, and coaching. As I grew and progressed, I learned three valuable lessons.

Lesson #1: Don’t Wait for a Raise or Promotion

Take a look at the job you are comfortable in now. What opportunities are within your reach in your current organization? For me, I raised my hand one day and offered to lead a key section in our new-hire orientation. After speaking at my company’s national conference for a couple of years, I asked to have the role of Director of Training and Development added to my leadership position, initially with no additional compensation.

You might be asking yourself, “Why in the world would anyone agree to accept more responsibility without additional compensation?” It brings to mind something I once heard… that Seinfeld did over 1,000 free shows before he made it big because he loved what he was doing. Similar to Seinfeld, my passion for training and development was bigger than money. I’ll be forever grateful that I traded some time and money to further develop what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Today I speak nationally.

Can you try new things in your organization? If you’re stuck, be the team member always looking to help others. Know when to be flexible and take on an internal project that aligns with your passions…even if you’re very busy, won’t be paid, and “it’s not your job.” Stay hungry, smile, introduce yourself to others, and always be on the lookout for projects that stretch your skills. In your current role, always give it your all and exceed expectations. Maybe one day you’ll create the job you’ve always dreamed of doing inside or outside of your day job. You never know who might be watching.

Lesson #2: Be OK with People Making Fun of You

Are you holding back because you don’t want your peers to make fun of you? If you’re one of those people who do everything that you can to grow and advance, people will poke fun at you to your face and possibly even talk about you behind your back. I’ve learned to be ok with that. I’ve had my share of times when I’ve had colleagues approach me after a meeting and say, “Your preparation makes us look bad.” If you’re one of those people who try to hold others back, change your thinking. Instead, see if you can’t be the guy or gal who comes most prepared at the next opportunity.

Lesson #3: Keep Your Heart AND Your Options Open

No matter how amazing you are or the organization is, sometimes there aren’t any opportunities. It is therefore always important to keep your options open. If you do, you may end up on a path that takes you to places you never dreamed possible. Legendary baseball player and manager Yogi Berra said it best: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Life flies by, and sometimes, an opportunity will only present itself once. When I heard about the opportunity to be the Director of Player Development for the University of Utah while I was at the 2007 Final Four in Atlanta, I stayed in my hotel room for three straight nights while everyone was out celebrating. During this time, I scouted the previous year’s team, wrote my cover letter, and updated my resume to ensure that I’d get the position.

I was pretty much stuck in the role I was in at the time, so Rachel and I took this once in a lifetime fork in the road that led to Utah. At the time, it was the hardest decision of our lives. We cried over leaving our families behind in Wisconsin, not knowing if or when we would return. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been such a difficult decision to make. We were newlyweds with no children or mortgage. Our families were the only thing tethering us to Wisconsin. Do you have an opportunity calling you that you should consider, seeing as it may never come back?

It’s ok to keep juggling all of the aspects that will help you to figure out what you truly love. If you try something and love it, stick with it. If you try something and don’t enjoy it, learn from it and make a change. If you do move on from something that you didn’t enjoy, look at it as an opportunity that helped promote more clarity in your life.

ACTION: What task or role do you want to try that syncs with your personal values, visions, and passions? Want to know if you really love it?  Raise your hand and volunteer for the opportunity that you might just end up loving and doing for the rest of your life.

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