How To Know When to Pivot

(in five minutes or less)

I can remember the moment I knew that my “dream job” was ending. 

It was then that I decided to pivot. 

I knew that soon I was going to be faced with a very important decision. I could either dig my heels in and try to make the best of a bad situation, or I could begin making moves that would put me in a better position toward a lasting career. 

I did the latter. I’m thankful I did.

I was a one percenter. Not the way the media talks about one percenters, though. Statistically, I was in the top one percent of touring bands in the world. We were thriving. We sold out big rooms, toured on a nice bus, and could afford to hire a full crew to make our road life easier. Less than 5% of musicians even make enough to earn a living, but we were doing well. 

As trends moved away from album sales, the money was made on the road. As the road grew long, not everyone in the band wanted to play the amount of shows necessary to support our overhead. There was a fork in the road.

I decided to pivot. 

My pivot looked like this... I researched careers that were creative with a lot of opportunity. While on the road, I finished my bachelor's degree in marketing. As soon as I could afford it, I earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership and strategic foresight. I took advantage of opportunities to take post-graduate classes at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management. I dove into the business world and I worked hard. 

So here I am. No longer a professional musician.

I hedged a bet. I’m glad I did.

This post isn’t meant to pat myself on the back, but to encourage you that at some point in your life, you may need to pivot, and that there can be good things down the other fork in the road. 

How will you know when it’s time? You may find yourself in a career that isn’t going anywhere. You may find yourself needing more financially. You may find that your values no longer line up with those of your employer. You might not like the people you work with. If you find yourself in one of these scenarios, take five minutes and ask yourself these questions:

What is the best case scenario if I do nothing?

What is the worst case scenario?

What is the probability of each scenario?

What is the best case scenario if I pivot?

What is the worst case scenario?

What is the probability of each scenario?

If you can see a better path in a pivot, with a more probable chance of success, it may be time to start planning your next move. I found something I enjoyed doing that would sustain me financially, enable me to see my kids every night, and fulfilled me creatively. My worst case pivot scenario was that I found myself with a good education and more opportunity than I had before. 

You may find yourself in a great scenario, but this is a good exercise to perform every once in a while to make sure you’re on top of the ever changing seasons that come into our professional lives.

I was lucky enough to experience my “dream job” for a decade and a half. But I was also honest with myself when I saw the need to pivot. Take five minutes — it could put you on a path to a more sustainable future, and help you avoid waking up one day and asking yourself, “what’s next?”


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