If you’re in the dark about Eddie George’s story—as I was—here’s the short of it:
Eddie George (pictured right) won the coveted Heisman Trophy in 1995 and went on to play nine seasons in the NFL—most of them with the Tennessee Titans. As he was retiring from football at age 30, George struggled with the question so many of us do in our own careers: “What’s next?”
What did Eddie George end up doing after playing professional football? As improbable as it sounds, he wound up playing the high-profile role of Billy Flynn in the Broadway musical Chicago.
Think of your career journey as a road trip
I like to think about my career journey as a road trip. And when I apply the metaphor to Eddie George’s career journey after professional football, I think of his as a trip for which he had to figure out what direction he wanted to drive and then see where the road took him.
Looking at George’s “road trip,” I identify three lessons that we can apply to our own career journeys.
Lesson 1: Aim the car somewhere and start driving
Eddie George asked himself “What’s next?” He knew his football career was coming to an end and that continuing to play football was not an option. Applying the road trip metaphor: He could not stay put; he had to get in the car and drive.
Because he was interested in broadcasting and commentating—as former athletes can be—he took acting lessons. He thought they’d help him with his commentating.
In terms of his professional road trip, George picked a direction and just started driving.
Lesson 2: Be open for an unexpected and amazing turn
George admits that the acting lessons didn’t actually help him with his commentating. However, he inadvertently found an outlet to express himself—something he felt he’d been able to do quite well as an athlete.
So he opened himself up to new possibilities. Despite never having been in the arts or theater before, one thing led to another, and he ended up auditioning for the role of Billy Flynn for the Broadway production of the musical Chicago.
Though extremely nervous about auditioning, he thought to himself, “Here we go… Whatever I do, it’s going to be an amazing story, one way or the other.”
What a great attitude! Are you living your work life like it’s an amazing story you could tell one day?
Lesson 3: Your road may not be on the map
While George embarked on his Broadway career, he also studied to be an investment advisor because he felt a calling to help young athletes make better financial decisions.
Something he said in an interview really resonated with me:
“There’s no blueprint on what I should be doing and how it should be done. … You can’t really follow a blueprint of somebody else’s success. You have to create and write your own blueprint along the way.”
What does this mean for your career journey? It means that the road for your unique and amazing road trip may not be on the map. You may need to discover it!
So, if you’re an athlete, don’t just do what Eddie George did. If you’re in corporate America and you know my story of how I left to become a coach, don’t just do what I did. Create your own blueprint based on the things that call you. Travel your own road.
Start your road trip
Need to start the next leg of your career road trip but are feeling apprehensive about it? Pick a direction, be open to unexpected turns, and start filling your waking hours with the things that will make for your amazing career journey.
Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achievers communicate with Purpose and get the career results they want.
[Credit where it’s due: The photo in this article is from the 2/9/16 People Magazine article about George. My understanding of George’s story comes mostly from the 4/2/16 edition of NPR’s Only a Game podcast. Go to these two sources to learn more about Eddie George.]