Over dinner the other night my friend Adrianna and I were talking about how we sometimes wonder what life would look like if we took a different path. If, when at a crossroad, we went left instead of right. What would our lives look like? Where might we be today? Would it be better … worse … or about the same?

Chance Crosses A Path

In Adrianna’s case, she had graduated uni (love that her European perspective is different) / met a gentleman with ties to the entertainment industry / who then offered her a job as his personal assistant in LA. She would have access to a whole new (and influential) network … would have housing paid for as part of her compensation … and would have an opportunity to live in the entertainment capital of the world. The idea was exciting – living in America … working in entertainment … and exploring all that is LA?! What’s not to like?!

But as alluring as all of that was … she wanted a family. She wanted children. She chose love. Adrianna’s mother lived on a small island and invited her to visit. And as chance would have it, she met someone … and that started a chain reaction. She left London to move to that little island. She started a family and taught music – all while learning a new language and culture. No small feat so not for the faint of heart.

Making the Choice

I imagine the decision was not an easy one. Putting her career first could have opened many doors and exposed her to unimaginable adventures. Putting love first gave her the family she wanted and all the adventures that come with being a mom and expat. Would one path be “easier” than the other?

In either scenarios she would need to learn a new language and culture. LA is a beast of a city – I know … I grew up there and saw many chewed-up-and-spit-out by the machine. Life on a small island can be insular and so to accept “outsiders”. In both scenarios she would be faced with challenges and many unknowns. But what I admire is: she made the choice and committed. Wherever the path might go … she was all in.

Seeing It Through

Listening to her story, I thought: there’s a leadership lesson here. Reflecting on my career evolution I remembered how – early on – I felt there was a specific path … and it was straight. As long as I worked hard and kept on that path, I would achieve financial security and career fulfillment. What my early-career brain didn’t anticipate well were the moments of chance that brought me to forks in the path. Suddenly there wasn’t a way to just “go straight”. Now, it’s complicated. I had to make choices – none of them easy or with guarantees.

But one thing was certain: if I didn’t make a choice, I’d be stuck at the crossroads. I wouldn’t know or even have the chance to experience whatever adventures / learnings / challenges might come with a given path because I was being “safe” and staying put.

As a manager or leader your job requires you to make decisions. Some are pretty easy – you see a huge cliff just steps ahead on one path – so the choice is made and we move on. But when the paths seem similar, what’s next? Gathering additional information? Could be a good first step. Just don’t get stuck in “analysis paralysis” – that’s the fastest way to getting nothing done. Choosing not to choose leaves you and your team stuck. At some point take a lesson from Adrianna: make a choice … jump in … and see it through.  

A choice followed by action gets things started. As you progress, you may need to backtrack … step off the path momentarily … or completely change course. There will be many more choices ahead. So take that leap of faith. Gather the information you need and/or follow your heart – either way, make the choice and move forward. You never know the greatness that could be ahead!

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