At this point last year, I had hit rock bottom in my career. I was extremely unhappy with my career path and knew I needed to make a change. Through this experience, I learned a lot about overcoming low points in my career and I hoped to share some of what I learned.
1. It's VERY NORMAL to have low points
Most people don't know this, but Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a star football player at the University of Miami. In fact, he was on the 1991 team that won the national championship. When it came time to graduate, Dwayne Johnson was the only one on his defensive line unit that didn't get drafted into the National Football League. He was given an opportunity by a Canadian Football League team, but was cut by them as well. He admittedly went into depression for almost a month because his goal of becoming a pro football player was coming to an end. It was at this moment he decided to become a pro wrestler and The Rock was born. What made an impression on me was what he said in his interview with Oprah about that rock bottom point in his life and the depression he suffered:
"One of the most important things you can realize is that you're not alone... You feel like you're alone... and you're in your bubble. I just wish I had someone at that time... who... who could just pull me aside and say 'hey you're going to be ok.'''
2. Start with SMALL GOALS -- and don't expect everything to happen at once
In his amazing book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg told the story of Lisa Allen who turned her life around by changing one small habit. Lisa was an overweight smoker who had difficulty holding onto jobs. When her husband left her for another woman, Lisa went into a depressive state. On a whim, she maxed out her credit card to take a trip to Egypt. It was in Egypt she made a goal of visiting the pyramids the next year and that in order to do it, she would give up smoking as she was physically not capable of visiting the pyramids at that point. What's amazing is what happened afterwards. Once she gave up smoking, she started going to the gym. When she started going to the gym, she started eating healthy. One habit change led to another habit change. Eventually, she went back to school to get her degree and was physically and mentally a completely different person. In fact, her entire brain was rewired and she completely turned her life around because she decided to give up smoking to see the pyramids.
Charles Duhigg called this a "keystone habit" -- a small habit that leads to many changes. Rather than focusing on colossal changes in your life, what's a keystone habit you change today?
3. ACTIVATE i.e. start doing stuff NOW
The Marshmallow Challenge is an exercise that's been conducted hundreds of times across various demographics and it's lessons are priceless. Each team is given spaghetti noodles, tape, string, and a marshmallow. Their goal is to the build the highest freestanding tower (with the marshmallow on top) within 18 minutes.
Guess who did the worst consistently? Recent business school graduates.
Guess who did the best consistently? Recent kindergarten graduates.
What happened is the business school graduates spent too much time planning and not enough doing. In fact, they don't build their first prototype until it's much too late. The kindergartners jump almost right in and fail repeatedly but succeed in the end before the time runs out.
In life, time is not our friend. It's imperative that we act now because the clock is ticking and the Marshmallow Challenge is a great example of that.
4. You're just one event/decision away from rock bottom to sky high
I still the remember the date: December 23, 2014. That was when my future boss at Ferrazzi Greenlight emailed me back saying she'd like to interview me for a role on her team. I had emailed her firm out of the blue because it felt right. The company was different from my previous jobs, this one seemed to play to my strengths and I had always wanted to return to Los Angeles where my family is. After months of internal struggles on where to land next, my stressful career crisis was at an end from this one email.
All it takes is one yes. So every time I feel low about something, I know that sometimes it literally takes one yes to go completely 180 to the other extreme end of the spectrum.
Our society tends to focus only on each person's successes but we don't like to acknowledge that there were many mistakes, failures, and moments of self-doubt along the way. I hope you realize that it's normal and that there's always a way out of the low points in our careers. If there's ANY way I can help YOU, please reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.