Last week I wrote about how I’ve tried to seize new opportunities, believing that reaching for whatever is offered, as long as it doesn’t violate some core principle or value of mine, it could be valuable. Even if that opportunity doesn’t pan out or isn’t exactly what I want to do, the experience will either help inform my decision-making more fully the next time around or add a valuable tool to my skill set. It’s the improv rule: Always say “Yes” and then figure out how to adapt to the situation you find yourself in.
It’s something I’ve done most all my career but with a very different mindset and for very different reasons.
I took my first job out of college because it was the first one that was offered to me. That wasn’t because I had thought long and hard about the opportunities it might afford me or because it was the first step in a career I had mapped out in my head. No, it was a panic move. I didn’t believe I would be offered anything else, at least nothing else anytime soon, and so jumped. I’d had a few rejections from the kinds of places I felt I wanted to work and so when an actual job offer came through I grabbed it because…here’s where it gets a little fuzzy.
To some extent I took it because that’s what adults do. They have jobs. I was done with college and was therefore an adult and so, because adults have jobs, I took the job. It was kinda sorta in the PR industry I felt I wanted to be part of so sure, why not.
To some extent I took it because the rejections I’d received to date from PR firms had confirmed the narrative that played in my head regularly during that time: Who did I think I was believing I’d have some exciting, creative career when all I was destined for was a desk job pushing papers and numbers from one place to the next. Get over yourself, went my internal monologue, and stop thinking you’re destined for glory.
There were undoubted good things that came from that first job. Over the years I was able to evolve my own role to include more marketing responsibilities, especially as “new media” began to emerge and evolve. That afforded me opportunities to get more involved in an area that was increasingly interesting to me. I wrote a couple white papers on various issues and started the first blog for the company (but was disheartened when it was shut down within weeks of my leaving).
Still, I wonder what path might have been available if I’d not taken the job in what amounted to a “Well I have to do *something*” mindset and kept working toward something that seemed more in line with what I wanted to do at the time. As I wrote about a year ago, “regret” is something I’ve only recently come to accept as a constructive emotion. But it’s not even regret that I feel, it’s more wonder at what might have been. Would my career have unfolded in a similar but different way? Would I have had the same opportunities and challenges? Would I have met the same people?
Of course it’s impossible to know. Improv is, of course, a series of micro-decisions that ideally takes you somewhere new every time.
Again, it’s not that I regret my chosen career path. There have been ups and downs and some decisions I’d certainly like to have a second crack at. But, when I settle down and stop panicking about having done this whole thing wrong, I know that’s the same emotion many of the most successful people also feel. No one, I remind myself, is completely happy with every single moment in their past.
So I embrace it. Things might have been different, but they may not have been better. And I’ll drive myself crazy mulling all the scenarios that were possible but which were cut off because of some decision I made. This is where I am, so the best thing I can do *now* is to run with it and make what seem to be the best choices in this reality, not the potential but unrealized one.