When 'Two Steps Forward, One Step Back,' Really Works
BY Elle Kaplan
Sometimes, even entrepreneurs need to put their ambitions on hold. Just for a little.
To the untrained eye, it seems counterintuitive to cut back a growing plant. Won't this damage it? Why cut it back in its prime?
Yet a seasoned gardener knows the importance of pruning, and pruning well. From fruit trees to topiaries to rare blooms, pruning helps ensure that a plant stays healthy and vigorous. Every would-be entrepreneur could stand to take a leaf from this book.
Entrepreneurs already have the ambitious, dream-bigger mindset. We are constantly looking to reach higher and push harder, and we want everything to be done five minutes ago. But sometimes you have to take a big step back before you can take a massive leap forward.
One of my classmates from Columbia Business School took a position as an executive assistant at American Express after earning her executive MBA. She got a lot of push-back from our fellow newly-minted EMBAs who considered her choice a serious step back. Actually, it was a well-calculated step back in the short term that propelled Jan into a very successful career in the long term. She worked directly for one of the global heads, and the fast visibility combined with her Ivy credentials meant that she was promoted after just three months and now runs that entire group.
Grow Your Own Unique Vision
Throughout my finance career, I worked toward an overarching goal: fiduciary-level wealth management. [A fiduciary standard legally requires the advisor to act in the best interest of the client, which is not the way the major Wall Street firms are set up.] My path was paved with experience in private equity, fixed income trading, investment banking and private wealth management before I finally become a financial advisor. That, in the world of Wall Street, was actually considered a step down. Being a -- excuse my French -- broker isn’t considered to be anywhere near as prestigious as my previous work in finance.
My peers scoffed at my decision to take the position, but the training I received was critical in learning how to run the client-facing end of institutional investment management. My experiences as a rank advisor in the brokerage realm honed my determination and vision to create something better. I learned first-hand about the games, commission payment structures and training programs on Wall Street that promote the interests of firms over clients -- the very aspects of wealth management that I now work to change. That step back helped me take the leap forward into what is now Lexion Capital. The position was seen as one (low) rung in the ladder, but I would have stumbled had I not climbed it.
Step Back to Leap Forward
The key in my story and in that of my friend from business school is that we had two essential elements: personal vision and a specific goal. We were headed, ultimately, for something bigger and better, so we weren’t afraid to veer from "path of least resistance forward" in order to get there. Most people do pursue paths that are more linear, and there is nothing wrong with reaching success that way. Unless you have full faith that your step back will absolutely propel you in new, exciting directions, don't do it. It is your determination and belief in your own success that will make the difference in uncharted territory.
If you do have big entrepreneurial dreams, know that it's okay to prune your own career branches for the sake of better things to grow in their place. If it makes strategic sense for your overall career vision, don’t be afraid to cut back. Strategically prune yourself. Bloom into something even bigger.