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Getting That Big Break

Inc.com columnist Steve Tobak recalls a big break moment. Are you open to change?
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Back in the day, the editor-at-large for CNET, a quirky but loveable guy named Michael Kanellos, gave me a call. That wasn't an unusual event. As a relatively high-profile marketing veep, I was often asked to comment on goings on in the industry.

But this call was different. It was timely. It was prophetic. And it would change my life.

You see, I had recently gotten fed up with the corporate world, so I quit to start my own management consulting firm. I was looking for a way to get the word out. Granted, I had two decades of contacts, but they were all in the high-tech industry. I needed broader exposure.

After the usual pleasantries, Kanellos got right to the point.

"We're putting a sort of blog network together," he said, "and I was wondering if you'd be interested."

"In what?"

"In writing a blog for us."

"What's a blog?"

I really had no Earthly idea what the heck he was talking about. I know it's hard to believe, but it wasn't that long ago when "blog" was a word few had heard of.

After explaining what a blog was, Michael reminded me how many of our conversations over the past decade--especially those involving alcohol--had deteriorated to whining about work and some of the dysfunctional characters we had to deal with on a daily basis.

"People spend their whole lives bitching about work and yet we never read about it," he said.

I was intrigued, but not yet convinced. We emailed back and forth for the next few months, throwing out ideas and brainstorming them. Then, in a subsequent email, Michael wrote something that, looking back on it, was so prophetic it floors me, to this day:

"Focusing on career and management might be a payoff. You know the topic, could put out a lot of stuff on it, you can be funny about it, and people care about it (yet mainstream media pays almost no attention to it). You could even rip on insane bosses you have known."

"Climbing the ladder sucks and everyone is obsessed with it, yet few speak out on it."

So that was it, Michael's vision for my "blog." A few months later, CNET's blog network was born--and so was a blogger.

Today, mainstream media outlets from Forbes to the Wall Street Journal pound out terabytes of content on the subject of careers and management. Bad bosses are all the rage. And you can probably fill a sizeable library with all the leadership stuff that's written, posted, and Tweeted all day, every day.

But once upon a time, a quirky but loveable reporter got my blood pumping on a topic I'd been passionate about my entire career and didn't even know it. For that, we all have Michael Kanellos to thank. Especially me.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jan 28, 2013

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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