At least it seemed so at the time. A year earlier, I decided to return to college for an MBA.
I had pre-course work, entrance exams, and the application process to do, but surprisingly I was admitted to Cal Poly’s MBA program.
After I was accepted, I asked for a leave of absence from my detective position. This was uncommon for cops. In fact, it had never been done at that police department. However, I was eventually encouraged to go.
I started classes and things went well at first…
…and then I was blindsided.
During the fourth week of school, my wife announced she was pregnant. That surprised me, but not nearly as much as the phone call I got later that day. The police commander asked me to drop in for “paperwork.”
It turns out that paperwork was my resignation letter. After four weeks of the MBA program, they decided to deny the leave of absence they previously granted.
If I wanted to continue college I would have to resign my position as a detective. They were afraid that granting my leave of absence for college would encourage other employees to do the same.
I had minutes to decide if I would leave my “secure” career, with retirement and benefits, or pursue a Master’s degree.
It was the beginning of the “great recession,” and jobs were hard to find. I had a financial plan for school, but I was counting on a guaranteed job after graduation.
“What would you do?” I asked the commander. He was far from a mentor, but there was no one else in the room.
Before he answered, I thought about his own career, and those similar to him. He had time, rank and more pay, but I wondered if he was fulfilled.
At that time, the police department was led by the likes of the “Emperor who wears no clothes,” which I imagine is common in large organizations. As commander, he was the number 2 employee in an unchecked autocracy. Seems like a miserable position.
Then he gave me the best advice of my life.
“If I were you, I would not take that kind of risk,” he said. The commander explained how he was about to retire. How he played it safe and did NOT take chances, and NOW, after 30 years, he was going to reap the benefits of playing his cards right.
“Thank you VERY much, I would like to resign,” I said without a second of hesitation.
Perhaps it worked for him, but I saw an unhappy man, trapped in a job that existed only to serve the bureaucracy. If his job were eliminated, absolutely no one would notice.
To be so afraid of risk that you do nothing exciting is insanity.
Taking that leap was not about a Master’s degree. It was about gaining the confidence to pursue my passions without feeling compelled to listen to “authority.”
The authority figures who push us along the safe path really wish they had the courage to pursue their own dreams.
I wasn’t sure I made the right choice at the time. But, many years later, I have no doubt. I absolutely made the right choice.
Now it’s your turn.
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