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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: Sidetracking

Archive: Sidetracking

July 29th, 2009

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Sometimes you might like to believe your career is a straight-line proposition. You start here, put in hours of work and you will eventually end up over there, at your goal. In the distant past, this might have been true, but today your career is filled with dead ends, mistaken shortcuts, detours and uncompleted roads that can leave you feeling trapped. Despite these fear-inducing possibilities, though, I think that these detours, these aberrations, these deviations from the norm are actually the underpinnings of a great career. Chance and happenstance might feel frightening when you are in their midst, but they can often bring you the greatest rewards.

20 years ago today

Looking back on my own freelance consulting career got me thinking about the important role that chance plays in our lives. While we shouldn’t rely on chance to provide all the answers, we all have moments when chance seems to push us in the right direction even before we know where we want to go.

Back in 1986, I moved to Los Angeles with my wife, our marriage only 7 days old by the time we arrived in a 24 foot moving truck packed by the wedding party. In a large way, chance led me to Los Angeles as my wife wanted to work in television and I had no objections, so off we went. Although I had a degree in theater, I already knew I would be working in some high-tech job. The opportunities were better, as was the pay. After a month of searching with no results I came across an advertisement, oddly enough in the Administration section, for a computer savvy person to work for a small entertainment-related online service. Remember, this was almost a decade before the Internet was part of the language, outside of universities. It was here I got my first taste of “Hollywood”, visiting star’s homes, working events at the famous Whiskey-a-Go-Go and training various pop musicians how to use our systems.

To take this job, I had turned down an offer to work with a stable software retail company that had stores all over America at the time. It certainly would have been a safer choice, but for any number of reasons, chance won out and led me down a path that enhanced my life in ways I could not have imagined.

The truth is, my career has been filled with such occurrences and almost every time I allowed myself to take the road less traveled it has been a positive experience. Sure, there have been odd moments, the unfulfilled promises, the failed startup company, but overall, the benefits that chance has brought to my career have far outweighed the problems.

Take a chance

This is why I urge all of you to take a chance whenever you can. If you are choosing between a stable corporate position and the wild world of freelancing, give freelancing a try. I believe you can always find a stable position if you want one, but chance only enters the picture at infrequent moments. Why not take the plunge? If you are already in a corporation and a new position opens, at least think about taking the job that scares you a little. You shouldn’t be paralyzed with fear, but the job that makes your knees shake and your palms sweat might just be the better choice. Fear tells us we are stepping outside of our comfort zone and that is where you always want to be. It is at the edges of fear that we grow the most.

Reaching out for more, challenging ourselves to go farther than we think we can, is how we achieve great things in our lives and our careers. You don’t want to miss the opportunities that chance provides. It is here your career is made, broken or stalled. If you decide early on in your career to only take the safe routes, stick to the main highways, avoid the small towns, you may find yourself wondering, in later years, how you got to your final, possibly dreary, destination. Too often, we can end up at a place that is so different from what we wanted, what we dreamed about, that it stuns us. I don’t want any of you to look back on your careers and wonder what it was all about. I want you to seize the opportunities that chance provides and make decisions instead of letting life push you from job to job, company to company.

Right this moment, and every day from now on, be aware of how chance effects your life. Be aware of the good things that stumble into your path time and time again. Then, make a conscious effort to exploit these opportunities and let them lead you into new thoughts, new jobs and a new, challenging, high-tech career.

Question of the Week: How do you react when chance places an opportunity in your path? Do you seize it or run away? Do you have some recent examples of missed opportunities?



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