This is something that has been on my mind for a while. Trying to figure out where I fit…
Been an American football fan for a long time, and I have learned over time to appreciate athletes at the pro level. Success goes beyond just skills — everyone around you has almost equivalent height, speed and strength. Listening to a recent NFL podcast, a former player said what separated him from others was his mentality. He had a willingness to sacrifice his body and to carry the team on his back knowing it was their best opportunity to win.
Honestly, it’s borderline psycho what pro athletes do to themselves. But it is something I definitely have respect for. Because… it’s borderline psycho. It requires an immense amount of self-discipline and drive, almost to an obsessive degree.
Then the greatest of athletes find a new level when the lights are on. They strive under pressure, performing at their best when the moment calls for nothing less.
And when these players win, the payoff looks wholly fulfilling. It seems almost spiritual in nature. That championship moment brings physically imposing players to weep on their knees. That win is validation of their hardship, and appears to be the most ultimate of relief.
That leads me to the opposite of delusional confidence…
Let’s go back to the athlete analogy. The personal window of opportunity closes swiftly and its closure is often self-inflicted.
Athletes who are valued find themselves at a major crossroads when contracts end with the team that guided them from amateur to professional. In the NFL, it is rare for players to have achieved their goals in that time.
Hence the two choices that lie before them:
- Do they stay with the team they found success with, staying loyal and trusting the opportunity to achieve their goals will come?
- Or do they risk breaking from the familiar and move to the team that presents better circumstances to achieve their goals?
It’s fascinating to see players decide between the two, because it can often be a moment to measure themselves. What do they believe they are worth? What really is their ultimate goal – to win or to earn? The latter two can complement or they can conflict.
Ultimately future success is all in a coin flip anyway, often decided by something out of their control. But they accept that risk by choosing the play. Thus, what should help most athletes decide comes down to determining their goal.
Some athletes find greater long-term satisfaction in earning money. Maybe providing for themselves and loved ones — possibly for generations — is their most fulfilling objective. Other athletes would find more content in winning, to achieve the ultimate goal of the entire sport. Among dozens of others scaling the mountain, earning a championship is truly rarefied air.
Those generational athletes in their prime can be lucky enough to accomplish both. Others can make disastrous decisions and achieve neither.
However, this analogy so far has just evaluated the two extremes. The reality is many athletes, like people, find themselves in a middle ground. They are talented enough to find opportunities, but must earn every scrap along the way with little ease. That means no next step is safe, whether you can stay with the familiar or move to the new.
This can be potentially trapping because of two looming questions:
- Do they believe their self worth is only valued by their current team?
- Will they have to sacrifice tangibly better circumstances to achieve their ultimate goals?
Pick your poison
If you have wondered where all of this is leading, let me spill it.
Those same crossroads athletes face I explained before, I am right there. Obviously I am not a ripped athlete performing at the highest of levels ready to cash in for millions. I work in sales behind a desk, making calls and sending emails all day.
Thus far, my career has been successful. I can comprehend what I am worth in the context of my current role. Finishing towards the top of my ranks routinely for almost a year now gives me an estimate.
This position is comfortable and familiar; I perform at a high level. I am also genuinely eager to represent the organization and impart my wisdom gained to others. The ceiling is high for this company, giving some hope for personal career paths yet to reveal themselves.
Yet somehow, all signs and rational thought tell me things are coming to an end — possibly very soon.
This is terrifying because of what I mentioned before about being in the middle. My performance so far shows I am talented where I am. But I have turned down opportunities to move up because they were not in line with my ultimate goal. I would be happy to share what that ultimate goal is, if I only knew it. The rough direction of my compass is towards product marketing or sales enablement. (Right now it really feels more like process of elimination than anything.)
At these crossroads where I only see my value in one spot but not the next, any step I could consider feels unsafe. Feels like walking the plank — mutiny behind you, vast ocean beneath you. Pick your poison, either way you’re fucked.
Where to go from here?
Wish I knew. The uncertainty is killer but I remind myself why I turned down previous chances to move up. Actions don’t lie. I found some semblance of clarity in those moments I had to decide.
Had another moment today where I was practically backing out of a promotional offer that was a compromise — earning more and adding responsibilities while continuing my day-to-day sales prospecting. Did I mention I already verbally agreed to the offer? That’s going to be an awkward conversation down the road…
Right now, my heart just isn’t in what this company needs me to be. The words “this is a sales office” will probably echo in my head for a while. Feels like those hopeful paths just had their doors boarded up.
I could use some delusional confidence right now. The self sabotage has been laid on pretty thick lately…