Recently, I’ve had the privilege of talking with some young, bright minds in the world of sports. With an emphasis on social media and marketing, it’s refreshing to talk with those who have shown great enthusiasm and smarts for their chosen lines of work.
Our conversations have me thinking of others that may be like them. A little uncertain as to why they chose me, but I guess I have something to offer. I started writing this on Monday during my lunch break. I’m not one to go looking for signs, but I recognize them when I see them. When I saw this tweet from @SportsTao, I knew I was on the right path with this post:
1 thing that bugs me about some folks - they don't jump on their passion & take chances - things don't come to you - you have to run at it.—
Troy Kirby (@SportsTao) January 27, 2014
It’s okay, you can laugh if you want to. However, a short while later Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner confirmed it:
You can hope your dreams come true or make your dreams come true.. It's your choice.—
Bobby Wagner (@Bwagz54) January 27, 2014
Even if this post is only for one person out there, it’s worth writing, so here goes.
1. Never be afraid to try something new
You know that saying, “You can never teach an old dog new tricks”? I think I fit that description to a “T”. Through my blog, I am a writer. Through Twitter, I am a reporter. But, that hasn’t always been the case. Working since I was 16, I spent the better part of my life in a job that had nothing to do with sports. There was always a part of me that believed I had something to offer the national sports conversation. I just never had a means to express it. With the rise of Twitter, came my reporting skills and the creation of my blog. No formal training. Just a voice inside me that I believed in. If I didn’t have that voice, I’d be too afraid to ever try anything new in this business.
2. Create your own path
The beauty of living in this day and age in sports is there are no limits to what you can dream. There is no single right way to make it in your chosen career in sports. Internships and “networking” (I don’t like that word, by the way) are always helpful. But, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. When I started this blog in 2011, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone writing about sports-social media, specifically, sports-Twitter. Today, everybody and their brother is writing about it (sarcasm font). But, not quite like I do. At my core, I’m a sports fan. I’m not a marketer. I’m not an athlete. Yes, I’m media now, but I haven’t forgotten what it means to be a fan. I’m holding on to that when I write, speak, tweet, post, or whatever in sports-social media. A member of the media that’s still a fan? Impossible, some might say. My voice says otherwise.
3. Go outside of your (Twitter) comfort zone
For those who have worked in sports for any length of time, we know that Twitter is king of the social media platforms. Some may argue that it’s been television that’s given rise to Twitter, I would argue that a big chunk of that is owed to sports journalists. Sports journalists and Twitter are like peanut butter and jelly – they just work. Unfortunately, few in sports media (or marketing) are given to think beyond Twitter or tweets. Be open minded when it comes to social media. That doesn’t mean you need to adopt the next newest social media fad. It does mean don’t just do what the “experts” or “gurus” say in their books and seminars. Find what works for you – even if it means “not on Twitter”.
For many college graduates or young entrepreneurs, it’s all about getting ahead or making their mark. Full of fresh knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm, it’s understandable how they just want to get going. If there is one thing I could tell my younger self, it would be to find a balance. That doesn’t mean you have to settle down, get married, buy a house, have kids and increase your debt. Does it mean disconnecting from this ever-connected world we live in? YES!!!!! It also means make time for you whether it’s through spending time with family and friends, self-improvement/exercise or, best case scenario, giving to others. Clear your head from the clutter of getting ahead and refresh yourself with balance.
As I stated in #1, I had no formal training to do what I do. No college experience. What I lacked in schooling I have more than made up for with life experience. And, a little bit of common sense. Okay, a LOT of common sense. I made sure to throw in hard work, humbling experiences, new perspectives, even brokenness and I’ve wound up with some perseverance. I got knocked down more than once just like you will. Pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and breathe before you take a step. That’s the key. Most people will just try to go-go-go again after falling (failing). You need to take a breath and relax – recognize why you were knocked down so you can “go” in the right way next time. Taking a breath may mean stepping back to re-evaluate. Whatever the case may be, that will be your key to perseverance.
FINAL THOUGHTS: At any time, I could have quit. I had to forge my own way which was extremely difficult in the circumstances I was in. I could have told that voice inside to be quiet, that it was over and I needed to provide for my family by getting a real job. I tried to get those real jobs, but those doors, for whatever reason, closed. My voice wasn’t ready to trail off in the distance of a broken dream.
If you find yourself as someone looking to make their mark or is facing an employment challenge right now, don’t give up. There is a voice inside of you that is waiting to be heard. Start a blog or video blog. Create that new app. Find people to connect with both online and in your city. Even look outside of your chosen field – you may be surprised what insight can be found outside of your sports community.
My story isn’t finished yet. Each day, I’m writing a new page in that story. The advice above isn’t the final say in how to make your way in sports. But, it is a reference point among many others. Not just in sports but in life as well. Surround yourself with people you can trust and who genuinely care about you enough to give you truth when you need it most. And, who want to see you genuinely succeed. In the meantime, I leave you with this tweet I just was from Jarrett Payton:
Have a dream & follow it. Have a plan & stick to it. Have a goal & achieve it. Good morning & #BeGreat today!—
Jarrett W. Payton (@paytonsun) January 28, 2014
Oh and one last thing: be genuine, be kind, and be thankful. Hat-tip (h/t) someone who has tipped you off to some news or a job. Recognize those who have helped you along the way. It’s amazing how those qualities can earn you respect in the industry.