It has now been a week since I parted ways with a profitable business, after spending almost two years building it (read more about it here). I came across this quote earlier this week and I think it resonated with me because of what’s going on in my life. I don’t usually care for quotes like this one that, on the surface, are strong on clever, but weak on wisdom. But my current situation helped see deeper into the meaning of this:
If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
– Yogi Berra
Depending on where you find yourself, this could mean that, whichever way you go in a fork on the road, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you don’t know where you’re going, so it makes no difference. Like I wrote a while ago (and a million coaches, writers, and other experts would agree), it helps to have clear goals. But, if you don’t have goals set, it is sometime best to keep moving, rather than stop at the intersection of life and getting stuck there. Which brings me to another possibility…
It could mean that the choices you make are informed by something larger than your awareness.
As I look back at my life, I see clearly the building blocks that make up what it is today. The successes and the failures all offered lessons that helped me put together what I did for the last two years. To the uninformed, it would seem like it just came to me. But the reality is everything I applied into building the business was a long way coming. Of course, I couldn’t see it then, I was only taking the fork on the road.
From basically being forced into freelancing in the early 90’s recession economy, and then growing my work into a thriving business, I got to experience the full entrepreneurial path. I learned about the value of bookkeeping, the importance of cash flow, customer service, under-promising and over-delivering, hiring the best one can, organization and workflow systems, and sticking to good ethics, whatever the price.
I broke with my life to move to the U.S. and work as an entry level employee at a place I could have run from day one, but I learned the hard way how to climb through business bureaucracy (oh yeah, bureaucracy isn’t a monopoly of the state) based on the merits of my work, not politics. I learned about manufacturing, and was personally responsible for increasing productivity 400% just by improving the processes in my department at the time. Later on, when promoted to head another department, I started best practices that would eventually become validated years later at other jobs.
When I took another risk to move again, again I did it all. And when I broke with the industry I had been a part of for a decade, I started again at the bottom, this time at a much better environment, where everything I had learned made me a valuable contributor, while I learned even more about the subtleties of presentation, management for really big projects, and better systems for doing better creative work. I was also privileged to work with a fantastic group of professionals. I should have paid to work there.
But when recession came knocking again on January 22, 2010, I was shellshocked. After surviving three rounds of layoffs, I thought my job would survive it. A little reluctantly, a little resentfully, I jumped into the entrepreneurial path again.
And so, when I started a new business two years ago, I had under my belt two decades’ worth of in-the-trenches business, design, and marketing education. It was a matter of bringing it all together.
The bad news is wherever you want to go, whatever you want to achieve, it is probably going to take a life’s worth of work to get there.
The bottom line is what Mr. Gladwell writes is not that doing 10,000 hours of anything will make you an expert at it. What he says is that people who become masters in their fields have usually spent 10,000 hours practicing their craft. So…
The good news is wherever you want to go, whatever you have done is probably going to help you get there.
And that is why I write that maybe the choice you make is informed by something larger than your awareness. It is the very path that you have chosen that helps. Your instincts, honed. Your expertise, developed. There is no “fake it ‘til you make it” for you. You have been building foundations on top of foundations, you’re ready to build something big.
Patañjali said it best:
When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
Until the next time,