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  • Brett Zalaski

Was vs. Is/Am/Are


About 16 months ago, near the start of the site, I received the following note from a rep who had been dismissed from an NBA's inside sales team and had struggled, but finally found a new job with an MiLB team:


...My goal is to work and become a President in the NBA. I have to take this job because I have to have the money, but I feel so far away from that goal. And I know was closer. I just got caught up in the internal politics and living in a city with a lot of friends. Is my reputation shot in sports? Should I start the job I got, or go back on the NBA market?


The ellipses show there's more to the letter, and I'm running this with their permission, but any more info might divulge who they are...and this site is always anonymous.


I've talked to dozens, if not hundreds, of reps in similar situations. I was in a similar situation. My first job after the NBA league office was to work for an indoor lacrosse team.


As much as we want to make it, at times, growth and trajectory are not linear.


Some take the direct path. Crush Inside Sales -> Top Performing AE for 2 Years -> Crush Senior AE for 2 Years -> Manager -> Director -> VP -> SVP -> President -> Collect your tickets and exchange them for an overstuffed Giant Panda.


Most don't. Most fall on their face in one or many of those. For example(s), on top of the NBA to NLL I mentioned above, I was awful at my inside sales role for my first 3 months. I was not NEARLY as good a Director for the Boston Blazers as I was for the Washington Freedom. And right before I started this website, my VP run was only one year. I was also hurting deeply in my personal life in some places.


I bolded the word 'was' for a reason. As much as sports business can seem very small at times, you are not ultimately defined by your was'. As long as you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and work your butt off to fix your current role, or find your next opportunity, you will be defined by your is, am, or are. Is my effort to make myself better today good enough? Am I making the most of the opportunity directly in front of me? Are my experiences being used to shape myself into the person and professional I want to be?

The quote on the right is the one I've often turned to in my career. It might have been during a particularly bad sales day. Or when I was feeling overwhelmed in a new role. It might have been when I lost a job I knew that I could have crushed. Or when my anxiety knocked me down, personally, to a person that I knew I wasn't. I'm really proud that I've got up those eight times...and my resiliency is one of my favorite character traits. I've known who I want to be, and found what I want to do, and I'm really happy for it.


What about the person in the note above? We've exchanged notes asking my continued advice over the past year. The reason for the article today is that, just last Friday, after a very successful 16 month run in MiLB, this rep just received a full-time AE role with an NBA team.


Who you are is always more important than who you were...but only if you know who and where you want to be. That doesn't have to be an answer you know right away, but keep searching for it...you'll find success if you keep getting up.