The Choices That Drive Success

There’s plenty a person can purposefully do to be professionally successful: work hard, network, keep learning, be open to change, etc.

But… what less intentional choices have you made during your career that have significantly impacted where you are today?

As I settle into my 7th year at Defy and my third decade (?!) of executive experience, I gave this question some thought. Here are three elements of my career that I didn’t consciously chase after, but have played a bigger-than-expected role in my professional evolution:

Finding a home at smaller companies.

In college and grad school, my initial goal was to latch on to a global brand – Sports Illustrated (RIP), the NBA, etc. Instead, I ended up making a career working for boutique agencies… which gave me unfettered access to leadership basically from Day 1. The result? I had a huge head start in understanding how executives operate and why key decisions were made (and a shortcut to getting my voice heard by people with the power to turn my ideas into reality).

Working with friends.

I started my first job on the same day as my grad school buddy; another classmate joined us a year or so later. Spending the early days of my career working side-by-side with people I already respected and trusted, and who cared as much as I did about doing the job right, made me comfortable… and (I’ll speak for the group) enabled us all to brainstorm, collaborate, and confidently share ideas more than we otherwise might have.

Landing at companies that value fitness/well-being.

This is a weird one, but stick with me. Over the course of my career, I’ve regularly participated in races and competitions – triathlons, adventure races, last year’s Philly Marathon (definitely calling that out specifically), etc. During that time, I’ve been supported by, and literally trained with, colleagues and bosses. They cheered me on and supported my goals, rather than raising an eyebrow when I joined a Zoom sweaty after a lunchtime workout, or requested post-race PTO… and that’s been game-changing. It’s made me a healthier person, obviously, but also a happier and more committed colleague.