In a past life I was an aspiring jazz trumpeter. While I’ve since chosen a different career path, I refer often to the experiences I garnered as a teenager whilst traipsing around downtown Denver for various and sundry gigs (often in connection with the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts).
One memorable night I was traveling in our family’s ’86 Landcruiser to the 89.3 FM KUVO studios for my first radio performance. After briefly studying my trusty Mapquest printout, I noticed that the route negotiated some areas where the “grid” of Denver’s roads switched from north-south to northwest-southeast, creating a maze of tricky one-way streets. However, instead of planning out my route carefully, I was more nervous about the songs we would be performing and spent more time practicing than charting my navigation.
Things started out okay as I ventured out from the ‘burbs to my target destination, which should have totaled about one hour of driving time. But my trip slowly unraveled as I missed one turn, and then another. Finally, I believe I was trying to turn onto Welton Street, which is where KUVO makes its home. The only problem with this course of action was that Welton is a one-way street, and I was going the wrong way. On top of that, a light rail train was speeding right toward me! That’s right: I had turned onto oncoming traffic, with train cars thrown in to boot.
With the warning bell (and horn) of the light rail ringing in my ears, and in full adrenaline, I luckily was able to maneuver my Cruiser into a parking spot on the side of the road (facing the wrong way, of course). After asking a lady on the street for help, I was able to turn around and make it to the studio. Despite the near-death experience of the drive, I played some of the best, most inspired trumpet I had up to that point.
All right. Let’s get into what I learned from driving into oncoming traffic!
- Big opportunities will push you outside of your comfort zone, often forcing you to travel roads you’ve never encountered before. In my case, I literally was driving through locales I hadn’t visited previously. But metaphors aside, you may need to learn some new skills, network with some new people, or just do stuff differently to move your career forward. As Tony Robbins said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
- Anxiety and failure can spur you on to greater things, if you let them. My harrowing encounter with oncoming traffic put me into a state of nervousness and fear I hadn’t really experienced before. But it was that same emotional upheaval that inspired me to play my instrument with greater passion, determination, and creativity. In fact, if I had reached the studio without any incident, I’m sure I wouldn’t have performed the way I did.
I’m not advocating driving into oncoming traffic as a catalyst for your life dreams, but I am saying that a positive outlook on setbacks will help shape and mold you into something more than you are right now. You may be coming off a crushing failure, or even a string of unfortunate events. Channel your feelings of frustration into your greatest performance ever!
- Reaching your full potential will usually involve some detours and potholes along the way. We’re accustomed to thinking that there must be one easy path to success. In reality, the majority of us will make some wrong turns, just as I did going to my gig. If you’re feeling lost, focus on your destination and get there! Don’t worry about what’s prevented you from succeeding in the past; you’re in control of your life’s destination right now.
And if I was able to figure out a way to get to Five Points as a gangling teenager from the Colorado ‘burbs, I’m betting you’ll have what it takes to find and capitalize on your next big break.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.
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Justin Scoville's unique adventures in project management have spanned international volunteer opportunities in Mexico and Israel, complex government grant programs, and more recently education technology implementations in the private sector. Proudly bearing the battle scars of initiatives both small and large, Justin enjoys exploring the frontiers of project management, particularly its intersection with process improvement methodologies, strategic planning, and product management.
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