This past weekend I spoke to a group of professionals of all ages on the topic of career transitions. Mark Goldston, CEO of an extremely successful internet company kicked off the event with his biggest "pearls of wisdom" and there was one particular metaphor he used that I want to share with you.
He asked us all to envision our career as a mountain and ourselves as the skier. We have choices when it comes to which path we want to take down the mountain: green, blue, black, and double black. It is up to us to asses what kind of skier we are before we head down a path. Those who head down the double black prefer a faster route and are willing to take on more risk. While those who head down the green slope prefer to feel a little more in control and enjoy a slower, smoother ride. Mark stressed the importance of knowing what kind of skier we are when navigating our career path.
What type of skier are you? Are you someone who is willing to head down the double black in order to reach your destination faster knowing that your risk of getting hurt may be higher? Or do you prefer taking your time on the easier and gentler green slopes? Or perhaps you are somewhere in the middle. Before heading down any mountain in life, it is helpful to be honest in our assessment of our experience level and preferences. Rather than force yourself to head down a path you are either unequipped for or terrified of just because other skiers are barreling of in that direction, can you accept where you are? You wouldn't tear down a double black diamond run if you were a fairly new skier, would you? No! You would head in the direction of the green knowing that the only way to become a better skier is with some experience. But in order to become a better skier you have get off the chair lift that feels safe because all it does is continue to go around in circles.
My initial decision to leave my previous job felt like a double black choice. I was terrified AND it was exhilarating. At the time I was ready for that kind of leap and I needed the adrenaline rush to get me out of my career funk. Then there were several big moguls I encountered along the way that were tougher to navigate than I had thought that left me with some cuts and bruises. So when I embarked on the career path I am on now, I became more of a green skier. There were new skills I needed to develop as I built up my courage to get back on the mountain. I allowed things to build slowly, I invested only what I was comfortable with, and I made gradual rather than drastic changes. Eventually I progressed to more blue and black runs in terms of my career decisions and ways I stretch myself.
If there is any mountain in your life you are currently facing, you do not have to be paralyzed with fear. Just choose the route that feels most right to you right now rather than forcing yourself into something you are not ready for. And know that if you do face plant, that's part of the journey. And not only will you survive but you'll discover that the ski patrol (God, the Universe, your support system, etc) will be quickly at your side. You are never on any mountain alone. Now go catch some air!