So tomorrow I’m honored to be speaking to members of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University from noon to 1 p.m. It’s going to be fun; it’s always nice to be among young, eager folks looking to get their foot in the door and build a profile in an exciting industry. I haven’t actually put together the nuts and bolts of what I’m going to tell them yet — I’ll be speaking about making a career in football — but here are the central themes whenever I speak to a similar group.

1. Think long and hard about whether or not you want to do this or not. The odds are long that you’ll succeed, and it may take years for you to see any real gratification from things. I remember during the first six or seven years of Inside the League I contemplated whether or not I’d made a mistake, and didn’t know if it was a service that really had a market, had legs. Finally there came light at the end of the tunnel, but it was a long time arriving. It took real stamina and lots of trial and error.

2. Understand that the career you set out for might not be the one you wind up with. When I launched ITL, I envisioned a service that was equal parts fan site and business site. I actually did mock drafts, rankings and the like, just like all the other websites, but didn’t realize that trying to do what others did was the surest path to failure. Maybe if I had really doubled down on that path I would have found success, but I’m convinced that what makes me different is what makes me successful(ish). I had to be willing to dump my old ideas and strike out in a different direction to really get traction. Good thing my wife offers good advice, and good thing I’m willing to listen to it.

3. Find a mentor, find competition, but don’t necessarily grade yourself strictly by others. Look, finding someone who will help you, who will open doors for you, who will share your vision and will encourage you when you need it is critical. It’s also good to find someone like you who’s having success so you can gauge your progress. However, realize that you are not a carbon copy of anyone else, and your success may come in spurts that don’t exactly mirror the success of others. Realize that if you’re truly dedicated to this business, there will be stops and starts. You have to be in it for the long haul.

So, these are some of the themes I’ll be emphasizing tomorrow. I see them as a common denominator for success in this corner of the world. Got other ideas? Let me know in the comments section. And if you’re in the neighborhood tomorrow, I hope to see you at TSU.