What lies around the corner? What danger lurks ahead?
If only we had a crystal ball to see, right? The truth is, we never know…but just because the road may flood ahead, doesn’t mean that it has. Truly, the only way to find out what lies ahead is to go around the bend with a healthy mix of courage and caution.
My mom lives in Ormand Beach, Florida – about 30 minutes north of Daytona Beach. It is a wonderful place to visit…and one of my favorite places to photograph.
Just up the road from mom’s place is High Bridge Road along Bulow Creek. It is a very narrow, two-lane road with tight turns and narrow shoulders. One night at sunset, I decided to set up and capture the tightest of turns on High Bridge Road. Little did I know, that a few years later I would look at the above photo and find the inspiration to finally start the blog I’ve been thinking about for so many years.
Stay still or move ahead?
Here’s the thing about the night I took that picture, the road was not flooded ahead. In fact, it was a beautiful Florida evening. That night, you could drive around the corner and two miles ahead you were rewarded with the famous A1A Highway along the Atlantic Ocean.
You know what you don’t see in this photo? The huge spiders hovering in the trees above me, the rustling in the brush across the road, the narrow strip of shoulder for me to set up my tripod as cars flew by, and oh yeah…the alligators and snakes in the creek alongside me.
The most dangerous place to be at that moment in time was right where I was standing still. (But hey! Anything to get the shot, right?)
Should I stay or should I go?
How often in our careers have we asked ourselves this? How many days while driving into work have we sat and felt the anxiety of the day ahead wash over us?
Twice in my career, I’ve had the feeling I needed to make a move. My gut told me it was time. I saw signs cautioning me of what might be ahead around the corner. But I stood still, I stayed loyal, I remained a leader who didn’t want to abandon my team, I told myself I was being paranoid…I lost my job.
As I start the journey of writing this blog, I am also figuring out my next move. The creative director position at my company was eliminated when a new leader came in overseeing the marketing department. At the age of 42, I find myself trying to figure out what the next step in my career will be.
Is it scary? Yes.
Was I sad about having to leave the company I love and the amazing team I built? You bet.
Was I hurt that the new leader eliminated my position before he knew who I was, what I bring to the company, or how our department worked? Of course.
Do I believe it was one of the greatest gifts, giving me the chance to reexamine my career path, setting course on a new adventure? Absolutely.
When all available choices are good ones, pick one and go all in.
Three years ago, as the big 4-0 was on the horizon, I was talking to a friend about the branching options I saw presenting themselves for my career. I was questioning if the corporate path was still the one for me. Should I stay a creative director and keep climbing the ladder?
At the same time, I was returning to the beginnings of my career path as an educator, this time as an adjunct professor at MIAD (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design). Should I become a full-time professor?
And while both of those questions were circling my brain, I felt the call to something higher, a calling I’ve heard since I was a young man. Should I go into ministry or missionary work?
Did I mention I was turning 40? Apparently, this was the beginning of my mid-life crisis. But where’s my fancy sports car?
The questions were loud, the voices were strong, and for each one there were equal pros and cons. And that’s when my friend gave me this great advice: When you’re presented with all good options, you will never be able to decide by a pros and cons list. You’ll spin forever because there’s no right or wrong decision. When all available choices are good ones, pick one and go all in.
Great advice! It was wise and insightful. And I thought to myself if I have to pick one, let’s pick the path I’m already successfully on. I was re-energized and dove into my work while the company came under new ownership, brought in new leadership, and went through major changes. It was an exciting, but exhausting time full of rewarding work.
But we never know what lies ahead around the corner, sometimes the road ahead is flooded.
A fork in the road.
Let’s see how far we can take this road metaphor inspired by a photo, shall we?
As I find myself once again faced with the same questions I had three years ago, I must decide what I am looking for from the next leg of the journey. But still, they are all good options! How amazing is it to have options? How exciting is it to daydream of what might be around the next corner?
Yes, the road may flood ahead. But you know what? I’m a damn good swimmer.
A dead end? Or merging paths?
The truth is, we can’t know what lies ahead, and that is what makes the journey exciting and worth taking. Sometimes you choose a path and it might feel like a dead end. But from my experience, nothing is a mistake, nothing is wasted…every step, every turn, every choice leads you to where you are supposed to be.
When I left the University of Iowa School of Education, I thought I was leaving that career behind me. But as I’ve moved through my career as a designer and creative director, my background in education has been one of the keys to my success.
As a creative director, I’ve developed the skills of the designers and writers on my team. I’ve educated clients on why a certain solution was good design. As a creative mentor at Islands of Brilliance, I’ve taught children on the autism spectrum graphic design. And as an adjunct professor at MIAD, I’ve helped students prepare for the start of their professional journeys by teaching them life skills while developing their portfolios.
At the time of leaving Iowa, my education career felt like a dead end…but look at how that knowledge merged into every aspect of my career today.
My road may be winding, but it is the road I’m meant to travel.
I know I can rest assured, no matter what path I choose, it will be the path I’m meant to be on. There will be detours, scenic rest stops, bumps, pot holes, hills, a few traffic jams, historical landmarks, and much more.
Of course the road may flood ahead…but I know in my heart I’ll not just be ok, I’ll be better than I was before.
Each leg of the journey is a part of the roadmap that has been drawn for me. Knowing that makes this the most exciting adventure I could ever take.
What floods have you encountered in your own career or life? Have you found yourself at a fork in the road, unsure of which direction to take? How did you pick the path? Please share in the comments below!