We all experience turning points in life. The decisions we make (or don’t make) can take us from one path to another, sometimes in an instant.
Turning points can be positive or negative. But they always reveal something important about ourselves to ourselves. So 24Life asked some of our favorite experts to explain the inspiration and impact behind the turning points in their lives.
Former NFL Player, Playwright, Motivational Coach
“By age 9, I knew what I wanted to do with my life—I got some crayons and paper and I drew up a 20-year plan to be the best NFL safety ever. While other kids slept, I woke up at 5 a.m. to practice.
“Flash-forward to college, and when no one recruited me, I showed up at the University of California, Davis, and played my way onto the team—literally. I switched places with another player, without the coaches knowing, so I could get on the field and show them what I could do. Later, I made it to the NFL as a top draft pick in 1984. For the next five years, I played with some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game before a knee injury changed everything. As I was being wheeled off the field, I remember looking up in the crowd and thinking, What am I going to do now?
“I eventually moved to New York City and put together a new 20-year plan—to be the best stage performer of our time. Fifteen years later—with a little advice from Al Pacino—I wrote and produced a successful play called ‘Runt of the Litter.’
“In both those experiences, there was a point where it looked like there was no way in heck that could possibly happen, but it did. And now my whole life is based on these 20-year plans. The discipline is you have to show up.”
Intuitive Counselor and Sacred Space Designer
“I always thought I was going to go into psychology. It was really something I kind of built my life on. So I went to NYU, and I studied psychology and English. But as I got into my studies, I discovered that what I was learning was very boring and I was kind of lost. I thought, OK, my whole life, this was what I was going to do, and I hate it.
“Shortly after I graduated, an uncle left me a small sum of money and it gave me the economic flexibility to explore different things. I got a job in PR and marketing, but on the second day, I decided to quit. My boss asked me why, and I basically just told her that all the interpersonal dynamics I was seeing between the people who were working there just wouldn’t work for me. And surprisingly, she actually convinced me to stay. She said, ‘You should be helping businesses and people connect better with each other because I don’t know how you knew all that within two days.’ I didn’t know it at the time, but her observation planted a seed within me.
“A couple of years later, I came across a place called the Omega Institute that had a lot of different holistic offerings, and I decided to take a three-year feng shui course. Within the second year, one of my teachers kind of made this joke and said, ‘You’re going to have to come out of the closet at some point; you do realize you’re psychic, right? You can go into a space and you know everything that goes on and all the stories behind it.’ I thought back to what my PR boss had said earlier, and it gave me so much clarity and validation—I decided my life’s work was to create harmony between people and their spaces.”
Author and Entrepreneur Coach
“I went to college, and I followed the traditional path—I’m a CPA by education. After I graduated, I went to a big accounting firm, with the goal of becoming a partner. And I spent a good five years there until I was working late one night, and I saw the partner who I was working for in his office. He was probably 30 to 40 pounds overweight, stressed out and probably close to a heart attack. In that instant, I saw my future. I thought, I can stay on this path, but I’ll end up like that.
“And in that moment, I said to myself, ‘That’s not my life.’ I know this probably isn’t the best way to do things, but I walked into his office and I said, ‘Hey, Tom, I’ve got to quit.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy. ‘What are you talking about? You’re on a fast track to partnership, you’re doing all the right things,’ he said. And I said, ‘I just realized I’m not living my life. I’m living the traditional accountant’s journey. I want to have a bigger impact. I want to do things that are more meaningful and more energizing for me.’ He said, ‘Well, when are you going to quit?’ I said, ‘Tonight. I’m not coming in tomorrow.’
“And that was it. I was done. And I left. And a week later, I was in Japan, which is a whole other story, but I ignited that entrepreneurial journey.”
Author, Motivational Speaker, Creator of Functional Life Coaching
“I always wanted to be in the music business, but my parents wanted me to go to college. USC had a degree in the music business, so that’s why I came to Los Angeles. Amazingly, within about a year and a half of coming to LA, I got my dream job behind the scenes in the industry.
“The music business is an interesting place because when you look at entertainment in general and even behind the scenes, there’s so much celebrity worship. But what I really fell in love with was just the idea of creating a phenomenon, something that would be larger than life. Our clients would literally sell out 30,000- to 40,000-seat arenas and venues. It was fascinating, and I was amazed at how the agents, the managers, the label and the promotion team all worked together to create a band, or celebrity, or an album release.
“But I got into drugs and became addicted. After only two years in my dream job, I wound up jobless, in my ex-girlfriend’s parents’ pool house and with a case of gout. With nothing left to lose, I asked myself, ‘Who am I, and what’s my purpose?’ That was a turning point, and I began the hard work of quitting drugs and finding a healthier lifestyle. And that led to my career in personal development. By hitting rock bottom, I found my new dream job.”
Photo credit: Todd Cribari, inspirostudios.com