Should you stay on your career path or risk everything to follow your passion?
This question is not an uncommon one for students and adults alike, but it is almost always a complicated one to resolve.
Whether it’s expectations from family, friends, or society or the very real concern for how leaving a stable job could impact your or your family’s future, abandoning a career to pursue a dream venture, while appealing, can be frightening and challenging.
But Daron K. Roberts did just that.
We interviewed Roberts to learn more about his story.
After three years as a law student at Harvard University, Roberts made a big and unexpected pivot in his life plan: from lawyer to NFL coach.
According to Roberts, the shift happened after a friend asked him to go with him to a football camp. From that moment, Roberts knew that coaching wasn’t just something that it was passionate about. “I immediately knew that coaching was my purpose, and that’s what really compelled me to leave Harvard and pursue it.”
For Roberts, that was enough.
And the decision for him wasn’t a difficult one –– though it also wasn’t one his classmates immediately understood.
“I think it surprised a lot of them,” Roberts recounts, “they would kind of say ‘hold on, we’re at one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, why would you throw all of that away to coach football?’ But for me, I went to Harvard Law School to be able to take chances like that. I didn’t go to a place like Harvard to box myself into a profession.”
For Roberts, taking that chance was worth it. After throwing all his efforts at finding a coaching internship with NFL teams, he finally landed one with the Kansas City Chiefs and worked his way up to being an assistant coach for a number of years.
Now, in Roberts’ new book Call An Audible he’s passing on that resistance to being boxed in and using his own experience to help people make that big life pivot.
“The context is football, but the learnings can apply to anyone looking to make a big pivot in their life to help them navigate and find success in that space.”
And that includes entrepreneurs.
For most aspiring entrepreneurs, there will be a moment where they have to look at their diverging paths and say “Do I go on to grad school or try to start my venture?” or “Should I quit my job?” or “Is it worth the risk?”
According to Roberts, when it comes to your purpose, it’s always worth the risk. But when people gear up to take that risk they can find themselves on the fence for months or even years trying to figure out what pivot points they need to make or how to get started.
“There is really a gap in the literature that I’m trying to fill. It’s easy to find motivational books or articles that tell you to follow your dreams, but it’s harder to find resources that tell you how to implement a strategy to get there.”
And some ways for them to start?
As part of his blueprint for successfully following your purpose, Roberts laid out some practical ways to get started and reduce risk:
“In my book I really talk about how, as you’re entering a new sector or a new work environment, what the tools are that you need to gain a competency in that chosen area in a very short period of time.
I personally didn’t have much of a grace period because there were a lot of coaches who were skeptical of me going into my internship with the Kansas City Chiefs.
I had to learn very quickly the ins and outs of the NFL and coaching. And that kind of learning curve exists in almost every transition that an entrepreneur is trying to make. Entrepreneurs should be prepared for that and they should take advantage of resources that would help them through that process to become experts in their own right.
From a financial standpoint, all the research tends to support the belief that it’s actually better to moonlight for a period instead of quitting a job cold turkey and just moving in another direction. I think there are many benefits to moonlighting and fueling your desire while working.
Because over time you can track the time that you spend on the outside venture to find out if it’s something that’s fleeting or is it something that is purposeful and that you can’t get enough of.
Tracking that time –– whether it’s for six months or a year –– to see if it is consistent and sustainable helps you know whether a venture or enterprise is something that you think is important and want to devote time to. I’m also a believer that you have to save six months worth of expenses to float you through that period in which you quit your job. There are a lot of people out there who say ‘quit your job and pursue your passion’ I think people really need to deep-dive into the granular steps that you need to take. I believe in a six month cushion. And that includes all the fixed costs associated with your life. I think this is also a test of commitment for people, and shows how badly they want to make this venture to work.”
But none of that is to dissuade people from going out and take the risk.
“I actually want to be able to help get people off the fence and onto a path towards action. Get them from that state of equivocation and uncertainty.
I know that mortgages and children and car payments complicate the matter, but the one commonality we all have is that we are going to die at some point. And it is going to be sooner for some of us than others, so I think there isn’t much time to waste. I’m a fan of picking smart gambles in the short term and doing everything we can to realize the goals we want now vs. later.”
And, at 3 Day Startup, so are we.
Taking that leap can be difficult, and it isn’t for everyone. But if there is an idea you can’t stop thinking about or a passion that gets you out of bed and working everyday, even when you’re tired or busy, then maybe it’s time to bring it to the forefront and start making it your path for the future.