This post was originally published on October 1, 2010 on andyellwood.com.
Sitting on the deck of my hotel atop Snowmass Village, I can see all of Aspen below. The heights of Aspen are an inspiration to me every time I come. There's something about this place that makes you aspire to more. That something was a reason for a big career change for me a few years back.
The last time I was in Aspen was in 2006. It was my second trip to Aspen that year and this time, Annie was with me. She had a couple work-related things she had to do, so I had a little bit of time to explore. The more I explored, the more I found excitement and motivation in the views from the peaks and in the incredible town below. I made a note in my journal that I wanted to aspire to having a place to call my own in Aspen one day.
When I got back from that trip, the excitement and motivation from that idea fueled some impressive results at the office. I knew that if I was ever going to have a shot at an Aspen address, I'd have to hustle. Even if it meant hustling and not quite reaching the goal, I'd be so much further along because of my stretching for something beyond my reach than if I'd settled for something I knew was attainable.
At that point, I had a professional coach that I worked with. He had been the source of some great insights and held me to the goals that I laid out, the short term and the long term. We met about once a month for a hour and went through the results I'd achieved and the goals that I had in place. With his motivation and coaching, I'd hit some huge milestones and launched my career the right way. So, the next month after my trip to Aspen, I shared with him my new long term goal. His response was shocking.
"You probably shouldn't add that one to the list. That is a goal that will just end up frustrating you in the short and long run. If you look around the office, even the most successful guys here probably wouldn't be able to achieve that."
I left that meeting without the excitement and motivation that I'd carried with me from Aspen. I left with a big question mark about my career, my coach, and the trajectory my current position had put me on. I pondered what he had to say, evaluated the trajectories of my role models, and then envisioned my life 10 years later. Even if I was 25% better than everyone who'd ever come before me, would that give me enough room to run?
I left that job less than a year later for the unpredictable professional adventures that have come next. I left that job and the business I'd built for the chance at something bigger. I wasn't ready to know what the ceiling for my career would be. I wasn't ready to believe that there were certain aspirations that were already unavailable to me. I wasn't ready to give up on the heights of Aspen.