Story: I have personally been involved with a professional sports franchise that brought current players and alumni together. When you put professional athletes from multiple generations in the same room, one sees the difference. The guys in Armani suits drinking fancy martinis look very different from beer drinking men in baggy old slacks. Virtually all current tier one male professional athletes are multi-millionaires. Their brothers from the past are starkly different. And many who starred in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s are below the poverty line, some even on welfare, with lousy health to boot. Lots of retired NFL players make the past athletic landscape even more ugly with serious opioid addictions that often lead to detrimental and painful outcomes. Read this Sunday NYT article for a staggering description of this NFL situation.
Key Point: Pro sports provide a poignant micro picture of what happens when people leave the spotlight. It is less dramatic in corporate life. However, I can assure you that people who wrap up their entire sense of purpose and well being into their work will be disappointed in a somewhat similar way. Executives will find that their “email prestige” stops almost overnight, and the loss of an executive assistant, expense account, and a full calendar of meetings leaves a world potentially more empty than anticipated. People at other levels will be surprised at how replaceable they are and the promise of staying in touch with most teammates inevitably fades, regardless of how well intended the commitment.
Actions we can take:
- It is vital that we keep developing ourselves. NO ONE else owns your career development. Do not depend on anyone waking up thinking about what your next steps are going to be, or how your personal equity is increasing.
- Remember that your job is usually NOT your life’s purpose. Hopefully it is a medium to act that out, but it’s generally NOT why you are here. You can lose a job, a career even, yet always retain your purpose and values. Discover that personal purpose. Be intentional about your values.
- If you are doing anything that brings so much pain that you find yourself with an addiction, it is not worth it. No amount of money can ease that kind of pain.
After the spotlight,
One Millennial View: I remember being fascinated by an up-and-coming comedian telling a story on a podcast where he opened for a larger comedian at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. One minute he’s performing in front of 20,000 people at a legendary venue, and then when the show was over, he returned by himself to his quiet apartment in Queens. The next weekend, he was performing the same material for an unenthused gathering of 20 people in a small club in upstate New York. The giant contrast is a blunt reminder of the ups and downs we can all experience in our careers. Still, whether it was for 20,000 people, or 20, the purpose and values underlying his job remained the same. In this case, it was to spark laughter, but even with an enormous contradiction of audience size, he never asked that funny question, “what am I doing with my life?”
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis