As anyone who reads my article knows, I'm an avid reader. I truly believe that no one can lead if he or she doesn't read often. Experiences are very important, but so is reading. Too often, I've met people who have thoughts on a particular subject but haven't finished a book in ages. This is a problem in our society.
One of the more influential books that I've read in the last few years is Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman. This book discusses how to know that what you're doing is wrong, cut your losses, and get out. I still remember where I was when I read this book. It made me look at my life and decisions.
Hopefully, everyone has heard of the 80/20 rule. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s simple. Spend 80 percent of your time with 20 percent of your clients. They are the ones who make you money and keep you in business.
As a young strength coach, I would've read this and said, "Why should I care about this? I'm a strength coach, not a businessman." I was so very wrong. When looking at how we can do our jobs, we must spend the bulk of our time with the people who can make and break our jobs for us. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself how many tennis teams have a strength coach traveling with them.
Now ask yourself how many strength coaches travel with football. Clearly, your employer is investing more in the sport that has you on the road. Don’t take this the wrong way but some of the hardest working students I've ever trained were part of “non-revenue” sports. Still, we must realize that rarely does the swim coach get a strength coach fired. Often, basketball and football coaches get strength coaches fired.
Now that we're clear on where we need to be investing our time and energy (and as we know time equals love), we had better make sure that we're prepared to give our time to that activity. Our time is our biggest asset and we're investing in ourselves with each and every moment.
We all make mistakes in life and in our careers. I'll share with you what I think my biggest mistake was (and yes, I had many): I didn't know when to get out of my investment. I was still spending time investing in something that wasn't going to pay off in the long run. Much like lifting, if you're doing a lift and seeing little or no return to your end goals, why are you still doing that lift?
I should have quit my job years ago. With distance from the field, I can now look back at my career as a strength coach and question what was right and wrong. I can clearly tell you that when I was the strength coach at Robert Morris University, I should've quit and found a new job.
I know people will say that it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. I don’t believe this is 100 percent accurate. When you have a job, you may not be on some people's radars. I was investing my time and energy in a department that had a hole in the top with its leadership. I very much respected both of the presidents I worked under, but my direct supervisor was clearly not a strong leader who had the best interests of the people under his tutelage.
I'm not writing to complain about my boss or tell you how bad I had it. I actually had a good job. I was pretty much left alone, but I had zero support. So, I should have walked away and found a new place to work, and it may have helped me find new perspective sooner.
My mistake doesn’t define your career though. Before anyone goes out and quits his or her job, make sure that you know what your options are. I'm smart enough with my money that if I quit, I wouldn’t go broke, and I would probably find a new gig prior to going to the poor house. Also, my wife works. So, if you don't have any support system, that will have a huge impact on how you can make your decisions.
Here are some things to consider about your job before you make any big move:
- Is what you are frustrated with a temporary issue or a long-term issue?
- Do you still believe in those above you?
- Do you trust those above you?
- Do you like where you live?
- Is the salary worth the job?
- Is your boss going to take your place?
This is a short list that I use after working for two decades. Most of what these questions are asking is do you trust your boss, and will he/she help you climb the ladder. I once heard someone say work for a boss, not a company, as you will only go as far as your boss is willing to take you. This is very true.
I also know many strength coaches are uncomfortable talking about number five. As my good friend Brett Bartholomew has written about, you need to know your worth. Too many of us are afraid to admit that this is a business. I once got a job offer and I remember telling the athletic director, "I love the school, I love the area, and I hear you're an outstanding person to work for, but I need another 20K to come work here." I wasn't 100 percent comfortable saying those words, but guess what happened? I got offered 18K more than the original offer.
Now that I'm no longer a strength coach, I have an opportunity to sit back and look at my career to see where I made the right or wrong moves, and I definitely know that I did some things wrong. I'm happy with where I currently am, so I guess I should take my mistakes and be happy about my experiences. But this doesn't mean that we can't learn from the errors I made along the way.