“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
I was 23 years old when I first heard this from the then SVP of Business Development at the company he and I used to work for.
I would often go into his office and pick his brain on all the insight I felt I could glean from this individual.
I wanted to know how he gained so much success and respect in his field.
I wanted to know how he overcame the struggles of his days as a young male professional.
I wanted to know of his failures and how he overcame them.
I wanted to know a bit of how I could someday sit where he was.
I was fresh out of University and I was “chomping at the bit” to take my piece of American Corporate America.
This man, who I still have a marvelous relationship with and consider a friend and a mentor, saw the embers smoldering in my belly. For hours we would talk about ambition and perseverance in our endeavors.
He saw a bit of himself in me.
He made it part of his duty to take me under his wing.
He started providing me a roadmap of where I could go in life.
He did also offer me a piece of honest advice that completely changed my paradigm of how I was to get to this “promised land” of success.
He saw that I was like a puppy chasing a bone: if I ever got that bone, I wouldn’t know what to do next.
I didn’t know what I wanted.
I didn’t know what I was passionate about.
I didn’t know what I was doing in life.
It sounds hyperbolic, but I really had no idea what I was doing and where I was going. Having this mentor tell me that and saying it in such a clear and eloquent manner really made an impact for me.
When he said those words to me,
“Jon, you’re an ambitious person, I see that clearly. The business sees that clearly. I know you are capable of great things, however, what are those ‘things’ that you want? If you keep drifting through life without a star to follow and guide you, you will end up being taken away by the currents of other people. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. It’s time for you to carve your own road. Think about what excites you in life and follow that.”
I couldn’t respond in words.
I remember sitting in his office with a blank stare on my face. It was if I saw my whole world flash before me and I saw myself as a 45 year old with no family, a body I didn’t feel comfortable in, working at a job I hated and with no hope for the future and a resentment for the past.
In that moment, I woke up.
I began taking improv classes- I had always had a love for comedy and acting.
I bought a journal- writing had always been a passion of mine.
I asked the girl I had a crush on in the office out.
I essentially took life, what ever it was then, and made it my responsibility.
I wasn’t going to talk about my ambitions or what I wanted to do, I was going to make my ambitions a reality.
Though I don’t always see an immediate impact on the pursuits of my life, I know what I am doing, I am doing for me. I have seen that after taking the responsibility to go down the road I am carving, good things have come.
My writing has improved over the years.
I started a blog and have gained many followers.
I had my first article go viral on Quora.
I have had relationships come and go and learned from each and everyone of them.
I learned, after taking for improv for three years and moving to LA, that a life in entertainment was definitely not for me.
All of this was a product of looking inward and reflecting on the road that I wanted to carve out for my life.
I realized then, and so much of the credit goes to this mentor, that it is foolish to be swept away at the whims of life rather than take up sails and navigate onward following your North Star.
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