“Optimistic people play a disproportionate role in shaping our lives. Their decisions make a difference; they are inventors, entrepreneurs, political and military leaders – not average people. They got to where they are by seeking challenges and taking risks.”

– Daniel Kahneman

Great leaders have clear vision.  They stay alert to more than just what is in front of them, of potential opportunities on their right and left.

While I have often been overly focused on the path straight ahead, my greatest experiences were realized when I made a turn.

My left turns have turned out to be right.

At some point in our lives, we each will face a choice of staying the course or straying off course.

Staying on course means proceeding straight ahead – a comfortable, steady path with few surprises.  We can resign ourselves to believe our imperfect career is good enough.

Straying off course, taking a few left turns, is where our skill sets and behaviors are challenged.  For example, taking on a new role beyond our expertise.  Deciding to become self-employed.  Our turns enable us to discover the leader we are, and what is needed to become the leader we aspire to be.

The left turns in my life have made me who I am today.  One of my major career turns was deciding to move from human resources to operations management.  I was on a great path and really enjoyed being a HR Manager.  But I realized I did not understand much about the business.  I had the option of staying the course or making a career change.

My transition to operations was humbling and gratifying.  I had to reprove myself to a new set of people, learning the business from the ground up.

My new world was learning how to follow, asking questions to deepen my growth as a leader.

My career turn proved to a long-term investment.  I developed a broader understanding of the organization, which benefited the company and myself.  The outcomes were greater job satisfaction, increased productivity, and promotions to new responsibilities.

My new mindset also built my confidence to continue to take left turns – and encourage others to do the same.  A single decision to change my career direction turned out to be right.

Three keys to straying off course:

Your Career GPS
As we travel in our vehicles, we set our GPS to move us straight ahead from point A to point B. Our career GPS puts us in control of our path – no destination or ETA required. The focus is a journey of turns that may not appear to be efficient yet are highly effective.

Peripheral Vision
Peripheral vision is the ability to see straight ahead yet being alert to opportunities on your left and right. In your career, this requires greater awareness of the path you are on. Point A to Point B is not always the direction to what we aspire to.

Seek Out Strangers
Too many of us limit our growth through what is familiar – we need new voices in our lives. Your career is dependent on inviting strangers into your development, to learn new perspectives and challenge your thinking.

Is your career or life on cruise control? What are you missing as you accelerate straight ahead? Press the cruise switch off and retake control. When you stray, you stay on course to where you need to be.

All the best,
Todd

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