To understand who I am is pretty simple, really. There aren’t a whole lot of layers to this onion. In everything I do, I subscribe to a very simple idea: if you want something, go get it.
I wish I could come up with something more prophetic—that I am who I am because of a collection of incredibly varied life experiences. But, that wouldn’t be true. I’m sorely lacking in the “I’ve done a lot of cool sh!t” category.
I only wanted to do one thing as a kid: play college baseball at a big time Division I school. From eight to eighteen, I traveled around the country nearly every weekend playing baseball. The routine was simple—pack, drive, play, repeat, year round, year after year.
I’ve played baseball in more states than most have visited, destroyed more continental breakfasts than even the most fearless business travelers and routinely made road trips that would make a trucker’s cross-country trek look like a quick jaunt to the grocery store.
But, a talented, yet undersized and defensive-minded catcher, I was never “the guy” the scouts came to see. More often than not, my last name gave me a better chance at landing on a scout’s radar than my 5’11′, 165-pound frame.
Yet, by the time I turned 17, I had made enough of an impression to earn a few scholarship offers. Rather than accept a scholarship at a smaller Division I school, I chose instead to head to Lubbock, Texas, and attempt to walk-on at Texas Tech University.
The Red Raiders had never once recruited me, and I had no idea whether or not I’d even be given a chance to crack the roster. But, Tech checked all the boxes for me—big school, Big 12 conference, in-state, far enough away from Mom and Dad, etc.
When I arrived on campus for freshmen orientation, I sent my parents to check-in, and I walked straight to the athletic offices (unannounced) and requested to see Larry Hays, former Red Raider baseball coach and the fourth-winningest baseball coach in NCAA history. Somehow, he agreed to see me.
This is how that meeting went, verbatim:
“Coach, I’d like to tryout for the team.”
“Sorry, our fall roster is completely full. There’s nothing I can do.”
“Thanks for your time,” I replied.
Meeting adjourned. Dreams crushed.
Four, long hours later, my phone rang. It was Coach Hays.
“Did you bring your gear?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, somewhat confused.
“Be at the field tomorrow morning, and you’ll get your shot.”
I still don’t know why he made that phone call. But, for whatever reason, I got the opportunity I wanted.
After four months of grueling 5:00 a.m. workouts, little sleep, class, tests, two-a-day practices and weekend scrimmages, I made the team. Just a few months later, as my freshman season wound to a close, I appeared in my first college game against Oklahoma State. I singled in my first collegiate at bat and scored a run moments later. I came up again in the eighth inning and struck-out.
That was the first and last college game I ever played in. When I realized a 5’11″, 165 pound catcher with a mediocre bat wasn’t exactly the prototypical player scouts were looking for, I decided to stop playing baseball. It was over. One year, one game, one hit. That’s all I really ever wanted to do.
Until I was almost 20 years old, baseball defined me. For the past five years, it’s directed me. When you put that much effort into anything—for that long—it stays with you. I’m now 25 years old, and I sit behind a desk rather than behind the plate.
Here are four simple principles that got me onto the field at Texas Tech, and ones that I apply to my own life on a daily basis to make sure I maintain control over where I’m headed:
Don’t psyche yourself out. It’s not worth it.
Second guessing yourself is part of the process, but it shouldn’t deter you from going after what you want. I could name a number of reasons why walking into that office unannounced probably wasn’t the best decision, but it didn’t matter to me then, and it certainly doesn’t matter to me now. If an awkward conversation is enough to keep you from going after that thing you want, then that thing isn’t that important to you.
Don’t bullsh*t. It’s harder than being honest.
Tip-toeing around what you’re really after doesn’t benefit anyone. Always be direct and to the point. Don’t be insensitive or disrespectful, but clearly state what you’re after and why you want it. If you want a promotion, ask for it. A second date? Ask for it. You’d be surprised how many people don’t get what they want simply because they can’t clearly communicate their intentions. Don’t leave room for interpretation.
Don’t apologize. Stick to your guns.
I’m guilty of this more often than I’d like to admit, but constantly apologizing when an apology isn’t necessary makes you look weak and foolish. Don’t feel like you need to apologize to anyone for your decisions—whether quitting a job or leaving a relationship. You don’t owe anyone anything. Don’t attempt to rationalize your decisions based on what you think others want to hear. Apologize only when it’s warranted.
Get after it. Accept responsibility.
When you make a decision, you have to deal with the consequences. Be brave enough to accept the consequences of your decision—whether positive or negative. Bust your a** and get after it. Most people don’t expect to be handed opportunities. When you get them, be prepared.
In case it isn’t clear, I’m a pretty black-and-white kind of guy. I take it upon myself to create my own opportunities and I believe that what I do with those opportunities is almost entirely up to me. I think many of us—especially the Under30 readers—share the same “me against the world” mentality. Though the drive may be the same, it’s born from our own, unique experiences.
Sure, doors may unexpectedly swing open for each of us every now and then, but we still need to make the decision to walk through. If I want something badly enough, I’mnot willing to sacrifice and/or work for it.
I don’t completely understand why I’m wired this way, and I probably never will. But, I know that I’m blessed to be where I am, and I’m confident about where I’m going. When that starts to change, so will I.
John Schnettgoecke is a 25-year-old ad agency veteran now trying his hand at software development. He’s spent the last four years acting impulsively, taking chances, and simply figuring things out along the way. He shares what he’s learned in a brief, albeit action-packed climb up the corporate ladder, hoping in earnest that others may benefit from his on-again, off-again rides on the “Struggle Bus.”
Image credit: CC by Björn Burton