Friday, July 16, 2010

The Personal Strength of Decisiveness: Consider the Consequences

“You’re about to make a career-changing decision.” Have you ever heard that warning?

Not every decision has enormous consequences. And with some decisions, the consequences aren't clear.

I earned my Ph.D. in English midway through my career as an Army officer. I was a captain about to be promoted to major. But I considered walking away from that career to start a new one as an English professor. It was a momentous decision. A whole new career teaching literature seemed exciting. I loved poetry and fiction and had established myself as an authority on the contemporary American novel. There were job openings. I could pay my dues, and my work ethic would help me move up. The prospect of working in this area sounded like a good way to make money while having fun.

On the other hand, I knew about university politics. If anything, they were nastier than politics in the military. Also, in the beginning I’d have to teach a lot of mandatory basic writing courses to kids who didn’t want to be there. In order to advance, I’d have to publish—or perish. And I knew what kind of esoteric nonsense got published.

Also, I’d have to give up my pension. Of course, that would be replaced by another pension. But I knew that this was the time to decide, because each year going forward I’d have more time invested and it would be harder to give it up. The two paths led to radically different futures.

In the end I chose to remain in the Army.

Why? Because along the way I had discovered a fascination for the topic of leadership. Working in this area was a way to make a difference. I imagined my future as an expert in leadership, teaching managers how to get the best effort from their people. Teaching an appreciation of poetry and fiction didn’t have the same kind of impact, not by a long shot.

Also, I had to admit that so far every assignment I had in the Army had enriched me. I felt sure I could keep this going for ten more years. Surely I could get assignments that would continue to build on my experience and knowledge of leadership. I had to admit that my love of literature was satisfied by reading it, not by writing about it or teaching it.

I never regretted the decision. My assignments during the second half of my career included director of human resources for an organization with 20,000 employees, program manager for developing doctrine for Army training, director of personnel management for the Armed Forces Staff College, and teaching leadership as head of the ROTC program at the College of William Mary. These jobs were a fantastic preparation for the consulting business I started after I retired 

Here's another Fortune Cookie for you...

Consider the consequences, for they will surely fall like dominoes.

The story behind the Fortune Cookies...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Sarcastic Bastard said...

Wow, Denny, it's quite a career you've had.

Anita Sanz said...

Denny...what a career you've had, with interesting choices to make. I've always been a believer in that adage "Do what you love, the money will follow." I found my passion, went for it (even though at the time everyone told me I'd be poor and struggling), and I'm so glad I did. I'm happy, fulfilled by what I do...and I'm not poor and struggling! Loving what you do drives you to be more creative, more invested in learning how to be the best you can be...and it pays off in so many ways!
Thanks for the post...Anita Sanz