Bad Choices, Mistakes and Failures | Career Angles

I was 21 years old in my first job out of college. My boss was taking me to lunch at a Korean restaurant in midtown Manhattan that, I’m sure, disappeared way before the pandemic. He was trying to get to know me because I caught his eye. I didn’t understand that at the time but later understood that what he was trying to do is to figure out whether or not I should be groomed for something more than what I was doing.

He asked me questions designed to find out whether I thought I would have a career in this line of work (recruiting). I don’t think any 21-year-old has ever gone to sleep at night thinking to themselves, “I want to grow up to be a recruiter.” I was no different.

So I told him about my dreams and aspirations as they were at that time. I remembered seeing the surprise on his face but thought nothing of it at the time. He was talking to me about a promotion and I was shooting them down.

18 months later, I was leaving with someone I met there to start my first business. He is the wrong partner but so was I. I was immature quite obviously and nothing more than a salesperson. He was less than that.

I was unprepared at that lunch to think of my career and advancement . . . But that’s okay. I could’ve spent years being a lieutenant to the owner, being his puppy dog. I would’ve hated that even more that I grew to hate the choice I made going into business with someone as I did.

The same was true when I married my first wife. I was unprepared for what a marriage is and that led of course to divorce. As did my second marriage. As did my first business. As did my second.

I went to work for someone and tried to excel but always felt like the third fiddle in the orchestra there. The same was true of the next two companies I went to work for. Try as I might, although I advised other people on their lives and careers, I was not particularly good at taking care of my own life or career. I chose the wrong people to be married to, the wrong companies to join, as well as the wrong career. Along the way, I also filed for bankruptcy.

Eventually, I got it right. I married the right person. We adopted a child at an age, unlike so many couples who are already done with their family. It was the right thing to do for us. We moved away from New York during the beginning of the Great Recession and eventually to a place we like even more.

Our son didn’t like it so when he graduated high school, he moved back to New York where he’s been riding out the pandemic, making mistakes, and, hopefully, learning from them.

There’s an old saying in sports that the game lasts however many minutes it’s supposed to. In football, basketball, and hockey, the game is 60 minutes. In baseball, it lasts nine innings.

I made mistakes early in the game but I’ve come from behind to win by all the important benchmarks that I used to calculate victory. It hasn’t been easy but I’m late in the game and ahead on the scoreboard despite having made many bad choices, mistakes, and failures

You may feel like you’re losing now but get in the game and stop being a spectator. What are you hiding from? What are you afraid of? What have you got to lose?

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The ForbesCareer Angles | Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter Coaches Council.

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