When I was just starting out my career within the Intelligence Community, I was fortunate to have several experienced CIA mentors provide me with direction. The tragic events of September 11th had just occurred and the world was in a state of disarray and paranoia. It was not dissimilar from the uncertainty we see today - but, at least back then, the United States was completely "united" (at least for a little while).
During these early days, I had an old CIA bomb tech for an office mate. "Mikey" was a great guy, with a wicked sense of humor, who had been around the world and back. Whether it was an African coup, a terrorist attack in the Middle East, or a revolution in Latin America, he had been there, done that, and had gotten the t-shirt.
One day while recanting a funny war story in the office, Mikey gave me a piece of advice that I never forgot. It's a slice of wisdom that I try to adhere to even to this day. He simply said, "Whenever they ask for volunteers, before they ever tell you what the assignment is going to be, put your hand in the air and say, 'I'll go.' The reason being, some of your most exciting adventures in life will come simply from stepping up and being the first guy through the door."
Mikey was 100% on point. I took his advice and had a truly amazing time criss-crossing the globe, having unforgettable adventures during my IC career. Sure, some jobs were dangerous. Some were boring. But most were a blast. I got to meet world leaders, was privy to highly-sensitive information, underwent extremely cool training, and most importantly, I got to work with numerous outstanding patriots.
For some reason, especially as we grow older, we become so afraid of taking risks. We wait for others to go first and test the waters before us. We live in constant fear that we may put our careers in jeopardy if we don't toe the company line. We forget to follow our dreams.
Honestly, I could have easily stayed back near the "flagpole" (i.e., headquarters) and become the proverbial "company man." However, that was never my style. I did the fun stuff for nearly a decade and then decided that I wanted to grow up and be an entrepreneur... probably the riskiest thing anyone can do for their career.
Now, being a small business owner hasn't been easy. In fact, there have certainly been more ups-and-downs and sleepless nights running my company than there ever were traveling to over 100 countries for Uncle Sam. But the truth is, if I hadn't taken Mikey's advice nearly two decades ago, I may still be stuck in some drab cubicle today. I would have climbed the corporate ladder, but I would have been miserable.
Therefore, please allow me to say to Mikey, who recently passed away, "Thanks for the great advice, buddy."
May you, too, always benefit from seizing undefined opportunities.
Stay safe and vigilant,
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