When I was around the tender age of 20, I plunged myself completely into the world of football, and the pursuit of a full-time, university-level head coaching position.
Back then, I had just become the video coordinator for the McGill Redmen football program. Generally speaking, my life was going through a huge upswing: my marks in class were improving, I was dating this really awesome young woman, and my side hobby of house music DJing was picking up steam. Many things in my life, at least during this brief moment in time, were looking up!
After several difficult semesters in university that saw my marks fall precipitously from the kinds of grades I’d been used to as a high school student, my attention shifted from aiming to become a doctor (still the quintessential goal of many research university science students) to becoming a paid football pro.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this career goal made absolutely no sense whatsoever! At first glance, going from seeking a job title of “doctor” to “university head football coach” may seem fairly simple, especially when you’re just in your early 20’s. However, there is a very significant difference in how one goes about attaining these roles.
These next two statements won’t surprise anyone. A doctor typically goes through many years of university-level education and practicum training before becoming a qualified, regulated professional and member of an order of physicians. A university football coach is chosen by – mostly based on their experience and how they present themselves in an interview – an academic institution to lead its football program.
What makes these two pathways so different? To me, it’s not the obvious difference in education. It’s the words “is chosen by,” in the case of the university football coach, that puts this career goal – by definition – outside of the locus of control of the individual. Put another way: it is for someone else to decide if you are a university head coach, not you.
Have I really given up on my dream of being a university bench boss?
The journey to get to where I am now in coaching has been nothing short of incredible and extremely rewarding. The experiences that I’ve lived, from getting hired into a leadership position early on, getting let go from that same position, to learning a second language and discovering a new culture, to climbing up the ranks of a volunteer organization, all while meeting amazing new friends and mentors…it has all added up to an awesome ride.
Sometimes I have been extremely frustrated with my progress. I’ve wondered why some of my peers have received even “better opportunities” to take on positions at higher levels of the game, even when they have a fraction of the coaching experience that I’ve got under my belt. “How did that guy get that gig,” I’d ask myself. Oh wait…there I go again worrying about something I can’t control. At all.
I’ve done an incredible amount of self-reflection over the last several months in asking myself some really tough questions. I’ve looked for answers regardless of how painful they may be to hear or talk about. The process isn’t done yet, but without a doubt, my self-awareness has been catapulted to new whole new level.
Do you want to know the most important conclusion I’ve come to in the last six months? Here it is:
I’m not yet a good enough coach or person to earn these opportunities.
Pretty harsh words, eh? They really aren’t that bad, in fact, they don’t even mean that I’m a bad coach or person! I’m just not quite remarkable enough to catch and hold the attention of those who choose who leads university football programs in my general geographical area.
After a couple of eye-opening years of holding down the same CEGEP coaching job at John Abbott College, I know now that there is still plenty of work for me to do on myself before even a hint of a chance to take a step forward in my coaching career will present itself.
Becoming a “Purple Cow” coach
Recently, I’ve become a huge fan of the work of Seth Godin, an American marketing and entrepreneurship expert. He has coined a concept that could apply so well to so many different things and so many different people; I’ll bet you’d get a lot of value out of watching this video of him talking about what it means to be a “Purple Cow:”
The Purple Cow concept is so brilliant! It captures some really important, nuanced elements of human nature in a simple two-word catch phrase. It combines novelty, defined by Merriam-Webster as “something new or unusual” and uniqueness, defined in the same dictionary as “being the sole one.” It adds in the idea of becoming stale, or “tedious from familiarity,” which should compel just about anyone to make sure that they keep evolving.
This is the kind of coach I’m striving to become. A dynamic, communicative person with their own remarkable coaching philosophy, effective teaching style and a drive to continue to grow and evolve is exactly the kind of guy that I really want to be. And while I can’t predict if becoming that kind of person will land me a university coaching gig or not (because once again, I’m not one of the people who would make that decision to hire me), I can be pretty sure of one thing:
I will become a truly great coach if I’m a dynamic, communicative person with his own remarkable coaching philosophy, effective teaching style and drive to continue to grow and evolve.
Guess who can make all of these things happen? Me! I can completely control all of these different aspects of my person – they are all squarely in my own internal locus of control.
Is it clear to you, the difference between seeking a job title versus focusing on becoming a person with certain qualities, even if at the end of the day, yes – I would still really like to coach university football one day?
How you think about anything in life will determine your attitude and actions taken toward it, the great lesson behind Napoleon Hill’s classic book, Think and Grow Rich. Your perspective is so key! Although I may still be wanting to head for Rome, the road I’m taking to get there is no longer the same.
What are your major career goals in life and are they within your locus of control? If they are outside of your locus of control, how could they be re-framed so as to give you greater means for achieving them?