I can’t say as I’m a big follower of professional football, but one of the news items that I heard about close to a month ago was the resignation of Andrew Luck, the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. In his seven seasons, he’d had multiple serious injuries. Despite the pain he’d been through, he was amazingly successful. He had a record of 53-33 and threw 171 touchdown passes in his first 100 starts; only three other quarterbacks had ever done better in their first 100 games. He also lead the team to the AFC championship game in his third season and was in the Pro Bowl four times.
However, the injuries took their toll on him, and at the age of 30, he had had enough. Choking back his emotions during his announcement at the end of August, he said, “I haven’t been able to live the life I wanted to live. It’s taken the joy out of the game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football and this cycle I’ve been in.”
He left without a plan moving forward, but did not have any regrets about the decision. “It felt like a weight was lifted. Part of my journey going forward is to figure out how to get out of pain.”
His decision to leave the game he loved at the age of 30 is very unusual. He essentially left in his prime. Several sportscasters derided his decision, even calling him a coward. Others were stunned at how much money he decided to walk away from. Some didn’t like that he made his decision so late, not giving the team enough time to form a Plan B.
From my perspective, in your career, there may come a time when you have to decide whether or not to walk away from your job or the career you’ve been in for years. So here are the lessons I think we could all take from Andrew Luck’s story.
1. No job is worth forgoing your well-being.
In Luck’s case, it was primarily his physical well-being that he was most concerned about. He probably wanted to run and play with his kids when he was 40 and this repeated injury thing was getting in his way. There are plenty of examples that he could look to for athletes who stayed in their profession far too long.
There are a lot of non-football related careers that also have a limit to the time-span you can do them. A few years ago, I had carpet laid in my home and while watching these young men slam their knees against the carpet spreader, I could only imagine what their arthritis was going to be like 20 years from now. Roofers, landscapers, carpenters, and even positions in manufacturing, where you’re doing the same task over and over again takes a toll on the body. I can empathize with people who feel like they don’t know how to do anything else, but if the job is truly causing you physical pain, it may be time to look for other avenues to earn a living.
Likewise, a job shouldn’t be emotionally painful either. You do not have to work in a toxic environment with a terrible manager who gets pleasure out of sucking the life out of you. If you have found yourself in a job where your blood pressure goes up when you’re there, it spills over into your life at home, or you feel miserable just thinking about having to go back to work the next day, I would strongly suggest you consider leaving a job like this before it gets worse.
In the end, no job or career is worth going through this. It’s time to step away.
2. Don’t let others' opinions affect your decisions.
I am guessing that almost everyone has your best interest in mind when they say something like, “Are you crazy to leave that job? It pays so well!” or “You’ve got good job stability, why leave?”
I’d be willing to bet Andrew Luck got the same advice from his friends and family. He didn’t listen to them and you shouldn’t either. Your life and your career are in your hands. If they don’t have to go through what you’re going through, why are you giving their opinions credence? You have to weigh out the pros and cons of your decision for yourself and then make the decision that’s right for you and your family.
3. Your job or career does not define you.
Finally, we tend to put way too much emphasis on our job or career. So much so, that when asked to introduce ourselves to someone new, we start with our name and then our job title and employer. When you really think about it, that seems so bizarre. While you spend a lot of time doing your job, it really shouldn’t be your defining characteristic. I say this because even though you might be 100% committed to your job and the company you work for, they aren’t nearly as devoted to you.
Part of what people go through when they lose a job is something akin to an identity crisis. They struggle knowing how to describe themselves now. Yet, they are exactly the same person as they were the day before they lost their job. Part of what you do is the job you hold, but you’re so much more than that. Try not to forget that fact.
Andrew Luck didn’t. He was aware that he was more than just a quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. He was a whole human being who was sick and tired of being banged up. So he hung up his cleats for the last time and walked out of the locker room, never looking back.
You can too.