If we’re lucky, all of us reach a moment when an opportunity is offered. Maybe that chance is something you planned and built toward for years—the outcome of calculation, investment, and initiative. It might also be that an astonishingly perfect opportunity arises basically out of the blue—that you are offered some position or experience that you never quite dared to dream you’d have.
However you get to that moment, through luck or hard work, you will be made an offer for something that you desperately want but aren’t quite sure you deserve or are capable of.
When that time comes, I hope you say “yes.”
There are examples beyond counting of people faced with this exact moment of decision-making, and taking the plunge. My favorite example I’ve read about recently was Tina Fey in Bossypants, saying “yes” to Saturday Night Live and the launch of an entire career for which she felt unprepared and underqualifed. She was asked, she said “yes,” and then threw herself entirely into making that “yes” happen.
This exact situation has come up for me many times over the years. Sometimes it’s been travel opportunities or the chance to do something amazing that I didn’t feel I deserved, could afford, or was prepared for. I said “yes” to the adventures, and that led to more adventures.
In other situations, this has been a case of saying “yes” to jobs or internships beyond my wildest dreams. It took me to Guatemala to pursue my Spanish language goals. It took me to the Oregon State Penitentiary, where I was a student and later a teacher for classes with prison inmates—an experience that changed my life. It propelled me forward when my advisor suggested that I apply for the Mitchell Scholarship and spend a year studying in Ireland.
Most recently, it brought me a freelance job project beyond my wildest dreams.
I like music. I always have. I love live concerts and have always been interested in the process of creating music, of building a band, and of performing day after day.
This past year, I was offered a job as the writer, editor, and project manager for a book of photography for the band BASTILLE.
This involved going through over 4,000 photos by Gregory Nolan, taken over the past four years, and selecting and organizing the images into a story. It meant doing interviews and coordinating artistic ideas between the band, their management, the design team, the book printers, and the photographer. It had me discussing distribution and marketing plans and paper quality, showing up to the headquarters of Virgin Records in London and catching quick interviews between the band’s radio performances and live shows.
It was a project far larger in scope and broader in audience than anything I had worked on before. I had never created a book before. I had never worked primarily with images before. I had never done anything like this before.
But I said “yes.”
It turns out that my experiences up until that moment—as a student, intern, traveler, researcher, reader, writer, and program coordinator—all added up to most of the necessary skills I needed to make the book possible. As the project unfolded, I found myself thinking about experiences and advice that I had received in my past.
I drew on my conflict resolution master’s degree in ways I never anticipated.
I taped interviews with the band members in the same style as my interviews with Honduran deportees for my thesis.
I broke the project down into manageable parts, working quickly before editing extensively, just as I would for any essay.
BASTILLE: The Bad Blood Tour is in its final days on sale now. It is something that is an enormous, overwhelming source of pride. I’m glad that I said “yes” when the moment for “yes” arose. I’m proud of the work I did, and of the product that has resulted.
The book arrives in people’s hands this week. They’ll see the way I put Greg’s photos into a narrative: how they show the band from its first cramped pub performances to crowds of 15,000 and more. People will read stories accompanying photos of backstage shenanigans and exhausted post-performance moments. They’ll get to see the band as they are—four guys working really hard and creating music that people love.
I guess what I’m trying to illustrate with this little personal story is that it’s worth taking the risk on “yes.” The things you work on now, as a student, can lead to future opportunities you’d never imagine.
So get to work. And go to concerts. And throw your passion at whatever arises for you, because every once in a while something awesome will come your way.
Please leave comments, questions, personal experiences, and feedback below! If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read about my experiences inventing an internship with a photojournalist or a fellow Mitchell Scholar's experience leveraging liberal arts skills into a STEM job post-graduation.