You've Got 25 Feet To Save Your Career

You’ve Got 25 Feet To Save Your Career

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Kenneth Aronoff is a drummer for John Mellencamp. He’s also part of a documentary, The Untold Stories Of Your Favorite Musicians. He talks about the early days with Mellencamp when he was asked to come up with a drum solo of sorts for a new song, Jack & Diane.

When I first heard him say it my mind went into a few different directions.

One, being good under pressure. Not everybody is. How can we improve that skill?

Two, being good on your feet. That is, being able to figure it out in real-time, with the clock ticking. Again, how can we hon that ability?

Three, knowing you’re at a pivot point that could (no guarantees) change everything. How can we recognize the importance of this moment?

Aronoff had enough of all three to handle this moment.

“It’s kind of funny…the moments on which life hinges. I think growing up you always imagine your life–your success–depends on your family and how much money they have, where you go to college, what sort of job you can pin down, starting salary…But it doesn’t, you know. You wouldn’t believe this, but life hinges on a couple of seconds you never see coming. And what you decide in those few seconds determines everything from then on… And you have no idea what you’ll do until you’re there…”
― Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics (a novel)

Pessl is a novelist who has crafted some great lines. Truthful lines. This is one of favorites. Life often hinges on a couple of seconds we never see coming. More accurately, it hinges on what we do in that moment. In those seconds. And while you have no idea until you’re there, all the things we’ve done up that moment prepare us.

I will prepare and some day my chance will come.  – Abraham Lincoln

That line speaks to our ability and our optimism. The belief that we’ll put in the necessary work and in time, we’ll get an opportunity.

I often wonder if we knew in advance of that moment, would it help us or hurt us? Might we live in constant fear and anxiety if we knew? It may be a blessing that when those moments arrive, we had little or no warning.

In the last episode I talked about how special forces train so when the battle erupts, they react wisely (and well) automatically. So much so, they describe their reactions under fire as “it just happens.” That’s the value of preparation. It’s the value of focus, intensity and dedication to constant improvement.

It’s also the quest to learn what we don’t yet know. Ignorance isn’t bliss. It can be disastrous when we act based on it. Many dramatic stories prove the point. Mostly, tragedies prove it. Hamlet. Romeo & Juliet. Stories where people lacked knowledge, but took actions based on it. Stories where they had 25 to save themselves, or somebody else…but they got it wrong.

Tragedy has visited each of us, partly because of actions taken based on our ignorance. We thought something, but without full knowledge, or understanding, we got it wrong. The result was tragic. Maybe not life and death tragic, but some version of tragic none the less.

25 feet to get it right. Or to get it wrong.

I began to consider the journey to those 25 feet, wondering how important those feet are. And how we might influence them.

Reminiscing of my 25-foot-moments I tried to remember what led me there. What happened and how did I get it wrong? Did I get it wrong? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

Randy Cantrell

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