Championing the crooked path

Last week I attended a talk with British Robinson, CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and general all-around legend and visionary leader.

She described her career as a “crooked path.”

This caught my attention.

So often we worry about the narrative of our career.
We want a straight, linear path, all tied up in a beautiful bow.
We think we’ve done it wrong if our path has twists and turns.
We think there’s a right next step, a wrong next step, and we spend lots of time fretting about which one is which.

So I asked her:
How did she navigate her crooked path with confidence? 
And what advice would she give to anyone who is concerned about having a less ’traditional’ trajectory?

Here’s what she said (paraphrasing):

I didn’t worry about the narrative of my path while I was carving it. Instead I: 

  1. Listened to my inner voice. I paid attention to what was calling me and followed it.
  2. I also was clear that impact was important to me. I had a broad thread of being purpose-driven that was my mission / brand.
  3. cultivated mentors along the way to give me guidance - today I have 4 mentors I regularly talk to.
  4. And finally, I think you have to get comfortable with some level of risk. This is what leads you to interesting places.

British’s advice falls into the same categories that comes up time and time again - whether you’re on a straight path or crooked path.

Your Brand 
Your People
Your Mindset

And this is why I’m such a big fan of crooked paths. 
Crooked paths are a great way to tune into your brand. You figure out what you like, what you don’t like. And ultimately triangulate towards the best fit for your strengths, interests, and priorities. 

Crooked paths help you cultivate your people. You'll build a wide network, meet interesting people, ask some of them to be your mentors, and generally get comfortable talking about yourself, asking questions, and discussing your ambitions. 

Crooked paths create flexible mindsets. You have to take risks. You’ll have to network, interview, on-board and leave organizations multiple times. This creates resiliency. 

There are only a few things to focus on to build a rewarding career you love. And diverse career experience gives you the tools to master them.

Embrace the crooked path.

PS. I work with my 1:1 clients to pull their brand narrative out of their crooked path and use it to direct their career. They learn how to confidently ask for help and guidance, cultivate mentors, manage their mindset, and master their rhythm to optimize their energy. Schedule a Strategy Call to find out how this would work for you.