Critical Path

At a recent industry conference, a few separate conversations I had that week touched on the same topic.  Multiple people asked me, “How did you get to where you are today?”  It’s an interesting question to reflect upon.  The answer comes with a few unplanned turns.
My dad was a coach and administrator, and I had always planned to be a coach and then an athletic director at the college level.  My entire education game plan and my growing coaching experience was based on this pathway.  However, things changed along the journey.  To borrow the title of a popular 1960s movie, “A funny thing happened on the way to the forum”…..
In 1996 I went to work for Ray Hoyt and the National Senior Games.  Ray would eventually blaze a trail for himself in the sports tourism and events industry, which would open doors for many of us on the Senior Games team (four of us are still active in the industry today).  From that position, here is what transitioned:

  • I was hired by the Tulsa Sports Commission when I didn’t really know what a sports commission was (hard to imagine, but true).  In the 4-plus years I was there, I had the opportunity to completely revamp the organization, which proved to be great experience for the future.

  • This opened the door to work for Pop Warner Football and Cheerleading as the first COO for the organization.  This was under a seasoned and proven leader, Jon Butler, again a great opportunity to build for what would lie ahead.

  • When the Denver Sports Commission was formed, I knew some people involved and wanted to get back West.  This was a great opportunity to start a brand new sports commission from scratch.  In Denver, I got to work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever come across, and we did some phenomenal things there, much of which we use in our consulting practice today.  I also met my wife in Denver, another life changing event from our time there.

  • An opportunity came to move back to my home state of Arizona to rebuild the Phoenix Sports Commission.  All of the experiences outlined above played into our success in Phoenix.  We had a five year plan to completely reset the organization and put it on stable financial ground with a specific mission.  In year four we won the NASC Large Market Sports Commission of the Year.  Without our experiences in Denver and the other stops along the way, and without a great group of people in Phoenix (including my family), we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we did in such a short period of time. 

  • The summer of 2012 we went in an entirely new direction and started the Huddle Up Group.  To go out on my own was a scary concept to me, but a path that my family was confident would be a successful one.  We have had some great victories these past few years, largely due to the great people around us, and the unwavering support of family and friends.

If you have read this far, first of all, thank you.  Thank you for your friendship and support of this epic journey so far.  But now, back to our story…..
You may ask, “What does all this mean for me?”  Great question.
I will tell you this.  There is no set pathway to get where you may think you want to go.  The journey often will involve a unique turn of events that will change your trajectory – a chance meeting that changes your career, a job break that gives you the opportunity to show your talents, a person (or people) that comes into your life to help build you up into something greater than you could ever be on your own.
Sometimes these events go unnoticed at the time.  Down the road, when your journey is playing out, I bet that if you look back you will recognize some of the great things that have happened to you even when you didn’t think so back then.  Like getting hired to work at a sports commission when you didn’t know what that meant.  Or working on an Olympic bid that one day would be the basis for your new consulting firm to land one of its first clients to help them with theirs.  Or attending a social mixer that you didn’t plan on going to and meeting your future spouse that would encourage you at every turn and change your life forever.
Your story isn’t yet written, neither is mine.  Always remember that the journey ahead has numerous pathways that you might not see today.  The end game may also be one that you hadn’t planned for.  That big job you have always wanted my not be your highest calling, there could be someone or something out there that is far and away a better plan for you, personally and professionally.
Mine started with one plan, and was changed by answering a job posting in a newspaper.  There were several more of these chance occurrences that have helped forge my pathway.  Honestly, I never thought I’d be where I am today, and I know there is more in front of me personally and professionally that I may not see right now.  Thank you for all you do every day, for us, and for the industry we all love.
Keep an eye open for that critical path changing event.  It’s right around the corner.