I was struggling with a career decision. I explored every option but couldn't choose one. Either option would have a big impact on my life and my family's life.
I sat down with Russ Riendeau, a longtime retained search professional and a behavioral psychologist to explore my options. A 30-minute coffee meeting turned into 90 minutes of note-taking and life-changing advice--because he told me a story that not only changed his life but also changed mine.
He looked at me and said:
"Robbie, I'm going to share with you a piece of advice that I got from Quincy Jones that changed my life.
"Seven years ago, I had the chance to meet the legendary, Quincy Jones, at a global conference in California. As we talked privately in a crowded conference room, he was gracious enough to spend ten minutes with me, talking about a wide range of topics.
"He told me one thing that immediately jumped out at me that has helped me grow as a person and as a professional. 'You've got to go to know,' Quincy told me, his voice rising with emotion. 'You can just read about something, or listen to a speech or watch a show. You have to experience something with your hands and feel what they feel--experience what they have to deal with to overcome or achieve something. Then you will really know what you can do.'"
You've got to go to know. Jones's sincere suggestion to Riendeau reinforced the importance of trying new things in life, and was also exactly what I needed to hear. I was too busy reading and not enough time doing--so I decided to take action and jump into a brand new industry. I picked an option and told myself to not regret it.
The moment I chose entrepreneurship over a high-paying job, everything around me changed. I learned how to sell services on my own without the luxury of a salary waiting for me. I learned how to do marketing and had the luxury of failing without getting a bad performance review at the end of the year.
Most importantly, I learned that doing is the only way I know what I want to do with my life and also what I don't want to do with my life. That's an invaluable lesson I learned from just doing.
After jumping into entrepreneurship, I knew more in three months than I thought I would ever know. Doing is knowing. It's my new motto.
I asked Riendeau how it affected the decisions he makes in his career and he shared another interesting story:
"What's interesting about this advice from Quincy Jones is that it made me a more empathetic leader at my company, Jobplex. I'll give you a great example of something that happened earlier today. One of our employees was close to not receiving his bonus due to a client not paying by the agreed deadline.
"I could have easily let the deadline expire and invalidate the bonus he would have made from the deal. But, I've experienced this situation plenty of times before and I knew how much it meant for him to get this settled before the deadline. I got on the phone, called the client, had an honest discussion about the situation and was able to get the client to FedEx the check to our office.
"It was a win-win for everyone. Empathy always wins."
I truly believe empathy isn't taught in the classroom. It's taught by doing. So go out and do something.