Have you ever read any of those choose your own adventure books? I’m probably dating myself, but when I was a kid there were books that let you make a choice at some point in the story. For instance, your character comes to a door in a castle and then you’re offered a choice. If you choose to go through the door, turn to page 109. If you choose to keep going down the hallway, turn to page 95. This would go on until you get to a resolution, typically I died a lot… However, I would usually go back and read all the different choices to see what various outcomes I had missed out on. Too bad you can’t do that in life, but it’s moving ever forward and ever onward. A favorite blog of mine Our Next Life wrote about this referring to it as “Sliding Doors”, while other folks may think of it as a butterfly effect.
Like those choose your own adventure books, have you ever looked back and identified key points in your life where a decision you made seemed to greatly affect your life’s trajectory from that point forward? I have a couple pretty significant ones, but I was reminded of one recently that put me where I am today in SO many ways. This one began on a Monday night, but not just any Monday night; a Monday Night Football (MNF) night.
I love watching football, especially at the beginning of the season, when you’ve been starved of football action for months, so I was excited there was a double header that night for MNF. I was in grad school and still working full-time as well, so I was pretty beat, because I’d been at work from 6am until 2, then school from 2-6 pm. As I was heading out of the building a friend asked if I was sticking around for a talk by a recruiter from one of the major oil companies. I told him, “Nope, I’m going to watch some MNF, have some beers, and relax.” He asked if I could help get it set up at least, since I was also a fellow officer in our American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) student chapter. Reluctantly I agreed, and set everything up and then ultimately decided to stick around for the talk. Little did I know how much that seemingly small decision would affect my life.
Afterwards, I noticed some people talking with him and another company rep about setting up interviews for the next day. I had looked at their online interview schedule previously, and it had been full, so I considered it “taken care of”. However, I went to stand in line to ask if I could get an interview spot, when I heard 3 different people in front of me mention the online scheduling system wasn’t working right for them and didn’t allow them to block out an empty spot. The recruiter said she would open some more interview spots to accommodate that, no big deal, so when I got to her, I also mentioned I couldn’t get a spot booked either. Of course, I didn’t mention it was because they were full, but I got an interview slot just the same.
The rest of the night was spent watching MNF in the background and totally reworking my resume. It was a nightmare because I hadn’t updated it in what seemed like years… Years! Plus I needed to get it in a good state to highlight how I could be an asset for this company even though I had zero Oil and Gas experience. I highlighted all my work experience with managing projects, drilling crews, reports, new bid proposals, and more to get it into decent shape for my “early” interview at 10am. The interview went well, and a few months later I got an internship offer for that summer which I accepted. Woohoo!!
My internship was in New Orleans, and they put us up in a hotel near the office since the company figured this was easier than having a bunch of interns in sketchy housing they found themselves. There were only 3 Geologists in the whole group of ~30 interns, and we were the oldest of the group by far. When we heard another geologist would be joining us in a few weeks, it was exciting to have the prospect of someone else older than 25 that we could hang out with. I remember the first time I saw this geologist, she walked into the lobby to meet us all for lunch, and I remember thinking, “Why can’t I be with someone like that?” Little did I know this was the future Mrs. SSC.
We hit it off that summer, and spent most of our free time together; at work, outside of work, duruing lunch at work, and we realized we wanted to be together. Then the internship was over and I returned to Denver and she returned to Chicago to finish up school. Booo, long-distance. We talked daily, and traveled as much as our schedules would allow, and I proposed to her that following Spring when she came to visit. She said yes, and we started our lives together that Fall. It was a pretty short engagement, and yes, we ultimately married within about 15 months of meeting each other – long distance no less, but I wouldn’t change anything for the world.
Just that small decision to not go watch MNF changed the whole trajectory of my life. Had I gone home, I wouldn’t have gotten that interview slot, nor would I have gotten that internship with that company and never met Mrs. SSC. All stemming from a decision of “Fine… I’ll stick around and listen to the talk.” I would’ve accepted a different intern offer, and I’m sure my life would be pretty different. Mrs. SSC helped me realize how to not spend all the money you have. She’s showed me how to be more financially responsible and the power of investing. She’s done a lot for me on the financial side of life that helped get us where we are today, but even more she’s showed me a lot about how to be a better person for her, for myself, and now for our kids as well. She’s been a great friend, supporter and confidant, and added so much positivity into my life, and it all started because I decided not to be lazy and go watch MNF. Amazing…
Looking back I had no idea of the power of that decision, even though now it reads like a choose your own adventure book type of decision point. I chose something atypical for me, and my life literally changed paths from what typical Mr. SSC would do. I can imagine had I not made that choice, I’d still have credit card debt, school loan debt, car loans, probably a boat loan, home loan, and wondering why I am still struggling with money even though my salary had more than doubled. I’d complain about how it’s tough to make ends meet, and be oblivious to the fact it starts with me and my spending habits, and has less to do with how much you make than how you allocate it in your life.
I learned that if you keep doing things the same way you’ve always done them, they will stay the same they’ve always been. I made another decision that night and that was to do something I typically don’t do. It’s like the Seinfeld episode where George decides his inner voice has been wrong his whole life, so he does the exact opposite of his inner voice. He becomes wildly successful, gets a hot girl, everything changes for the best starting from that decision. I made a similar choice, and that was if I wanted things to change, I needed to start making different decisions than I would normally do, and for me it all started on that night.
Have you had any seemingly small decision affect your life in a big way? I’d love to hear your stories!