From The Bronx to Ithaca, Ithaca to Columbus, Columbus to The Bronx, The Bronx to Atlanta, and Atlanta back to The Bronx, my path was always nebulous. I moved five times in the past three years, but I am happy to say that each move was a blessing. However contradictory, until recently, I was risk adverse and complacent with the traditional corporate ladder structure.
As a first generation college graduate, I lacked a precedent for higher education and post-higher education vigor. I thought, along with my family, that earning a degree would unlock the door to a plethora of lucrative dream-worthy opportunities.
I entered college as an economics major with the intent on becoming a Wall Street banker. The lure of the lavish lifestyle and high compensation really intrigued me. I thought that a career on Wall Street would have meant that 'I made it'. But then I had the opportunity to visit and get a glimpse of an investment bank and quickly thought, no! The structured, sterile, and unimaginative environment, with a bombardment of computer monitors, and 80-hour workweeks was not the life that I had dreamed of. It was time to pivot.
Growing up as a "sneaker head", I always thought the world of fashion and retail was fascinating. How did trends come and go? Why did people perceive certain brands to be more luxurious than others? Since I had always been on the consumer side, I decided that I wanted to explore the corporate side. My first summer internship involved global marketing strategies to maximize market share and developing innovative ways to connect Millennials to a product. While my second summer internship granted me the opportunity to build strategic partnerships with small businesses and find innovative ways to streamline and maximize efficiencies. After the second summer, I came to the conclusion that I would pursue full-time opportunities in the sector. The people that I had worked with those two summers made my experiences rewarding, encouraging, and challenging, which inspired and motivated me to continue my pursuit. This sector was business-oriented and had high growth potential.
It was time to graduate and I took a corporate retail job in another state. The opportunity to learn project management, product development, management of cross-functional teams, and ability to adjust strategy to maximize profits was exciting! But I was working in a very hostile environment where company culture and personal values misaligned. It was time to pivot again.
I have always had an innate drive to learn and I believe that a quality education is a necessity to succeed regardless of your path. The educational sector always seemed appealing, but how would I make such a transition? I would have to leverage all of my experiences to make my passion a reality (at this point I knew I didn't want to be a teacher because I lacked the patience). Fortunately, someone took a bet on me and I landed a job in another state working with high school students and educators from around the world. The feeling of getting up for work became pleasant and I was in a role where I was working towards positive impact. Life couldn't get better! Or could it? After learning about some family situations and further reflection, it was time to make another big decision. Ultimately, I decided to pivot once again...
At this point I took time to reflect on my life and where I would want to be in 10 years. My next move would be one that I could never have imagined. I was passionate about helping youth and loved having ownership over the trajectory of a business, which involved strategizing, planning, and executing with very little structure. For me, the answer was the start-up world. I had to be willing to endure all of the risks, trials, and tribulations that come with such a life. During this time a friend had approached me about helping him build, refine, adapt, execute, and scale an educational model that he had created. I was afraid, but quite passionate about the vision and potential that unfolded in front of me. Initially I leaned towards the safer option of working at a smaller company that could pay me decently, but later capitulated to my passion. I am now working with a friend and college classmate serving inner city economically disadvantaged youth, which is where the pivots have ended. What a great feeling!
If you would have told me three years ago that I would soon be an Edu Entrepreneur, Chief Operating Officer, and Tribal Leader of a company, I would have laughed knowing that I had a predisposed reluctance to taking risks.
My journey has taught me the following and I hope they inspire you to pivot into your passion:
1. Let go and let whatever spiritual being or lack there of guide you. Relax and respond to the environment, allowing life to take its course, instead of always trying to control it.
2. Don't allow fear to hinder your success. Take risks and leaps of faith because you can do so with little consequence.
3. Don't let money dictate your happiness. This is tough to act on, but trust me money is not the end all be all. I know a lot of people who have an abundance of money, but are miserable.
4. Be happy and never settle. If you have a goal, be sure that every experience brings you closer to that goal. Life is too short to spend time doing something you hate.
5. Cherish the simple things, the things without a price tag. When you live life with this perspective, you can truly thrive, be happy, and accomplish your dreams.
6. Seek advice from others with more experience regardless of age. Focus on knowledge and wisdom, not age.
7. Work hard and give 100 percent to whatever you do because people will notice. Learn as much as you can no matter your circumstance. You will be more capable of pivoting if you have acquired certain skills.
8. Give back and mentor. Lift as you climb. Pay it forward. It is our civic duty to pave the way for our descents as our ancestors collectively paved the way for us.
9. You never know how people will enter and leave your life so treat everyone kindly and with respect. Karma.
10. Enjoy the journey! Have fun! Life is a marathon not a sprint, so cherish the moments.
These 10 lessons have allowed me to stumble upon my passion and pivot my way into a career that is truly rewarding. Each pivot in my life has allowed me to assess my desires and what I have learned in order to be adequately prepared and aware of what I wanted out of the next endeavor. It is never too late to start pivoting.
So the moral of this story is not to resign from multiple jobs in search of your dream career, but rather to be flexible, so you can live a meaningful life with a rewarding career. Your time is now, so pursue your interest, that thing you want, but do not believe you can achieve.
Follow Brandon J. Espinosa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BranEspinosa