The Blueprint For Success Is Different For Everyone

What did you want to be “when you grew up”? Most of us probably had aspirations of playing professional sports, while other wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, etc. Regardless of our  career goals, the common thread is usually striving for success.

The definition of “success” varies for each person. For some, being “successful” could mean earning a certain amount of money each year, while for others, it could mean seeing a number of new patients. Just as each individual’s definition of “success” varies, so too does their path to get there – there is no one blueprint.

I have conducted numerous informational interviews in which I ask the individual advice for someone looking to one day be in his or her shoes (job position). For every question asked, I received a different type of response. The responses included:

  • “It [the job] kind of just fell into my lap so I ran with it. It was either this or a career working for my dad in insurance.” – a prominent NBA/FIBA sports agent
  • “I interned during college and they offered me a job upon graduation.” – an employee in a NCAA athletic office
  • “After clerking during law school, I was lucky enough to have an offer before I graduated contingent on passing the Bar.” – a first year attorney

When looking for your first internship or job, say as a college senior or graduate student, a common piece of advice is to just “get your foot in the door.” When embarking on your career journey, sometimes all you need is a start, just like the three aforementioned individuals. Sometimes getting started can be the most difficult part of finding your fit, since many entry level jobs require some sort of experience. The age-old question becomes, “How do I get experience, if no one will give me the opportunity to gain it?” One answer is through internships, but one can also gain experience through volunteer opportunities and freelance work.

Getting your foot in the door is the first step, but staying there takes hard work, determination and resilience. In Darren Heitner’s latest for, he highlights Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown and Dallas Mavericks owner and business extraordinaire Mark Cuban who both back up this notion.

When reflecting on the 2010 NFL Draft, in which he was selected 195th overall, Brown tweeted “100 picks into the NFL Draft 8 years ago, I woke up still waiting on my phone call…Remember you just have to get in the door.” Not only has Brown gotten his foot in the door, but he’s made sure to leave an impact on the game. Cuban followed up with his own thoughts, “This applies to all jobs. But AB [Brown] left out how hard he had to work to be able to get someone to open the door. When everyone wants that same job, there are no shortcuts. There is only knowledge and effort.”

Think about it. When you’re applying to jobs, albeit sometimes aimlessly, you are competing with maybe hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants. How are you going to stand out? Whether through your networking efforts, knowledge, or tailoring your resume and application to stand out to the ATS, it takes hard work to make this happen. In terms of the NFL, there is a limited number of players who have the chance to make it on the game’s biggest stage. The Draft might be the first chance they have, but those fortunate enough to get drafted must maintain their work ethic and continue striving for success.

For those who did not get drafted, they must work even harder to make an impression on teams in the league. A perfect example is new Miami Dolphins wide receiver Danny Amendola, who went undrafted out of Texas Tech in 2008. Entering his 10th NFL season and first with the Dolphins, Amendola is now a two-time Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots and was a highly sought after free agent this past offseason. He highlights his determination and motivation from being undrafted and offers advice for those in a similar position after last weekend’s 2018 NFL Draft in a recent piece for The Players’ Tribune.

Wrap Up

Regardless of whether you are looking to make it in professional sports or as a business professional, there is no “one size fits all” plan on how you are going to get there. You can seek advice from mentors for different situations throughout your career, but what worked for them may not necessarily work for you. In order to be the most successful “you,” the first thing to do is define what success means in your eyes. From there, your hard work, determination and ambition will take over. Maybe one day you will find yourself in a position where someone is asking you for advice.

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