Career Success Advice From a Final Four Coach

Have you been watching the NCAA men’s basketball championship?  Butler is in the Final Four once again.  There is some career success advice in their coach’s story.

Butler is a small independent, liberal arts school in Indianapolis.  The school’s website says, “Named ‘Best in the Midwest’ by U.S. News & World Report, Butler University emphasizes a liberal arts-infused education that develops engaged citizens committed to making a positive difference in the world.”  And their basketball team is pretty good too.

I always root for the guys in the dark uniforms in the NCAA tournament.  They’re the ones who are the lower seed.  Butler was in dark blue against Florida on Saturday.  I like this team.  I like their young coach, Brad Stevens.  He loves basketball.  As a career success coach, I always advise my clients that the first step in becoming a career success is to clarify your purpose in life.

Brad Stevens was born to be a basketball coach.   He figured that out early in life.  When he was 5 years old, he spent each morning watching videotapes of basketball games before attending afternoon kindergarten.  His mother bought him a basketball hoop for his eighth birthday.   He says…

“It’s so much fun to dream in your driveway. I had an old wooden backboard in my driveway. That’s where my friends and I hung out. It was a lot of fun to grow up in that era.”

 He played Division III basketball at Depauw University and was beginning a successful career at Eli Lilly when he quit the pharmaceutical giant to become a volunteer basketball coach at Butler.  His two mentors, Thad Motta and Todd Lickliter moved on to head coaching jobs at bigger schools.    And so at age 30, Brad Stevens became the Butler head coach.  The past two seasons his team are 9 — 1 in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Brad Stevens is a living example of clarity of purpose and direction.  He loved basketball as a child.  He loved it as a player in college.  He loved it so much as an adult, he quit a good job with a good company to become a volunteer coach.  He knew that basketball was his purpose in life; and he went for it.  As a career success coach I applaud that.

Many people thought Brad Stevens was a little nuts for giving up a good, well paying job with Eli Lilly to sign on as a volunteer assistant coach at Butler.  Yet here he is, coaching in the Final Four for the second season in a row.  He has figured out his purpose in life, followed his passion and is a career success in the field he chose.

Brad Steven’s success reminds me of a column I saw in a Wall Street Journal Sunday about a year ago called “Go Your Own Way.”  It made a great point about the problems that come up when you don’t clarify your personal definition of life and career success

“First, you must determine if you are indeed stuck in a career because of what others think.  Did you, for instance, become a physician because your parents had that dream for you since you were born?  Did you go to business school and pursue finance because you want to have more money than your neighbors?  People who give more weight to external beliefs than their own often lack confidence.”

The column quoted cartoonist, Hugh McLeod, who says he “has built a career on ignoring everybody…Avoid people who are constantly negative about your career choice, even if they are your best friends.  Instead, seek out people who inspire you and share your point of view.”

Brad Stevens had to ignore the advice I’m sure he got from his friends at Eli Lilly.  Instead, he sought out like minded people, basketball junkies, who thought his decision was pretty cool.  As a career success coach, I advise my clients to not only clarify their purpose in life, but also to surround themselves with positive people who will support them in their quest for career success.  Mr. McLeod, the cartoonist, suggests the same.  

 There will always be nay sayers in your life.  People who tell you that they have only your best interests at heart who advise you to stay safe, stick to what you’re doing – especially if it comes with a good pay check — even if you’re miserable.  The first words out of my mother’s mouth when I told her that I had resigned from a good job with a very large company to start my own career success coach business were, “Oh my God, no!” 

 My mother loved me, but she was worried I would fail in business on my own.  Truth be told, I was too.  But my passion for my purpose was greater than my fear.  I created a support system by finding a new set of friends; independent professionals like me.  These folks thought it was great that I had the courage to go out on my own.  Remember though, years before I made the jump from a corporate employee to a small businessman, I had decided that my life’s purpose was to work independently helping people achieve the career success they want and deserve.  Brad Stevens always knew in his heart of hearts that he was meant to be a basketball coach.  I always knew in my heart of hearts that I was meant to be an independent career success coach.

What is your purpose in life?  What is your passion?  Are you working on it, or are you letting what you could become slip through your fingers because you’re settling for what you are?  I hope you’re actively working on it.  Don’t go to the grave with your song unsung.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people clarify a purpose and direction for their lives – and then they pursue it with passion.  Butler is in the Final Four for the second season in a row.  Butler coach Brad Stevens found his passion for basketball early on.  When he was five years old he used to watch videotapes of basketball games in the mornings before he went to kindergarten.  He quit a well paying job with Eli Lilly to become an unpaid assistant coach at Butler.  He was named Head Coach four years ago.  His small college team has reached the Final Four for the second season in a row.  This is an amazing story.  However, it illustrates the power of clarity of purpose.  What’s your purpose in life?  What are you doing to pursue it?  Watch the games next weekend, and you’ll see four coaches whose passion for basketball and teaching young men is a testament to their personal clarity of purpose and direction. 

That’s my career advice based on Brad Stevens and the importance of clarifying the purpose and direction for your life and career success.  What’s yours? Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading my musings on life and career success.


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  1. I found this very helpful. I agree that the most important thing is to surround yourself with posoitve people in your life that support you. And try to weed out the people that are negative and remind you your decisions are wrong every day.

  2. Right on Kim:
    The more positive people in your life, the more life and career success you’ll create.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Good luck.

  3. hello bud,
    it’s really good article because your article changing negative thinking person mind in to positive thinking.

  4. Thank you Jacob:
    What in particiular did you like about the article?

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