At the age of 21, I had three career offers that would each take my life in a different direction. My sports agent was working on the possibility of me playing football for a year in Canada to prepare for the NFL. A sportscaster and a businessman offered to pay for me to train to become a boxer. My football coach asked me to be an assistant coach. As part of that offer, they would pay the costs for my master’s degree, which would allow me to pursue my passion for the FBI (I wanted to help people). I wondered, How do I figure out what I am going to do?
Then one day, I was sitting at my grandmother Nan’s kitchen table. I had the Canadian Football League information laid out on the table, along with the boxing agreement and the grad school application. My grandmother came into the kitchen as I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the next stage of my life. She listened to me and then said, “Well, honey, I think it’s easy. I think what you have to do is grab the opportunity and avoid the chances.” In the back of my head, I thought, What is she talking about?
Chance vs. Opportunity
I stayed at that table trying to figure out what she meant, and then it hit me: A chance is 50/50, like a coin toss—could be heads, could be tails. An opportunity is different. It leads you somewhere. Even if everything doesn’t go perfectly, an opportunity still moves you along a path that takes you further than where you are right now. A chance might not do that.
The football gig was a chance. So was the boxing contract. I declined those two offers, called my college football coach, and started filling out the grad school application. I knew once I got that degree, nobody could take it away from me. It was an opportunity that would take me somewhere in the end.
My grandmother’s advice will work for you, too. No matter your role in business—whether you’re the CEO or the summer intern—you’ll face your share of choices versus opportunities. When all of the options seem good, ask yourself, Which one of these is an opportunity and which is a chance? Which choice will move you closer to your goals? Which will benefit, grow, or strengthen you and your team? You can’t take two paths at the same time, so grab on to opportunities and avoid the chances.
P.S. The Rest of the Story
Once I took the assistant coach position in Pennsylvania, I met with an FBI agent who became my mentor for a while. As he began to share more of the nitty-gritty details about being in the agency, I knew I couldn’t live by the demands and secrecy it would require.
But my dream of helping people still came true. I get to protect people—on the financial side of things. I’m helping people dream about the future, watch their dreams take shape, and protect their dreams by taking the right steps with money. I’m doing what I always wanted to do, just in a different way. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping people find financial freedom and the dream retirement they’ve always wanted!