As a member of Generation X, better known as the lost generation, I love seeing successful Gen Xers in the spotlight. While we're a small generation (there are only 46M Gen Xers, as compared to the 70M+ each in the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations that sandwich us), I'd like to argue we know exactly where we're going. One of the most visible examples of this is baseball's Theo Epstein. What's his claim to fame? For those who don't know, he's broken two franchise curses, leading them to win a World Series after many decades. This major league accomplishment (yes, pun intended!), got him named one of Time Magazine's most influential people in 2017.
Recently, Epstein was asked to give the commencement speech at his alma mater, Yale. In it, he offered some of the most sound career advice you can use when in a professional rut.
"There will be times when everything you've wanted, everything you've worked for, everything you've earned, everything you deserve, is snatched away in what seems like a personal and unfair blow...What happens next is what matters...A player's character matters. The heartbeat matters. Fears and aspirations matter. The player's impact on others matters. The tone he sets matters. The willingness to connect matters. Breaking down cliques and overcoming stereotypes matters. Who you are, how you live among others, that all matters...Please remember that even though so much can be quantified these days, the most important things cannot be...And finally, when things go really, really wrong, and then when it rains on top of everything else, fingers crossed for tomorrow, I ask you to choose to keep your heads up, and come together to connect and to rally around one another, especially those who need it the most. It is likely to uplift you all."
Smart words for sure. Here's why I think Epstein's advice is so on point...
Your Darkest Hour Is Really Opportunity Knocking
As someone who's company has worked with thousands of people in career ruts, I can tell you Epstein's advice is powerful for two reasons:
- He focuses on the upside of a career rut. You might be thinking, "What upside?!" But, anyone who has survived a career rut will tell you: you have the ability to use the set-back to your advantage. It's a moment when you can publicly define your character and show people who you really are. Do you plan to quit, sulk, and feel sorry for yourself? Or, are you the kind of person who chooses to keep going so you can write the ending to your career story on your own terms? The message you send to the world is up to you.
- He stresses the importance of taking action. Epstein talks about the need to keep going. He emphasizes making good choices. But, more significantly, he singles out the need to connect with others. Instead of locking yourself away to cope with your pain in silence, he believes you need to step out into the light and bond with people. So true. Your actions have an impact. Not just on your career, but on all those you come in contact with. You add value to the world just by choosing to not let the career rut get the best of you.
If you are feeling stuck in a career rut, I challenge you to take Epstein's advice. In short, stop sitting on the bench. Go out and play ball!