Today I had a chance to have lunch with an old friend today. He’s a pretty key person in my life, because if it weren’t for him, there would never have been a small draft publication that led me to start Inside the League. Ultimately, any measure of success I ever achieve is at least in some small part due to Troy.

At any rate, our conversation turned to old times, of course, and more specifically, the time my friend dallied with working for Phil Steele, who publishes Phil Steele’s College Football Preview every year. At the time about 15 years ago, Troy and I were both devotees of Steele (still are), so Troy reached out to gauge interest in working for the publication.

Troy got a legitimate response. Though I can’t remember details, I think Steele wrote him a letter back, and the substance of the letter was that his people work very, very hard, and are required to relocate to Ohio, where he offices. He also wrote that his employees are paid, of course, but that there’s a long dues-paying process and that his employees work harder than any other out there.

At this point, Troy was married with a young daughter, and after taking the full measure of the opportunity, he opted not to pursue it further. I can’t say I blame him. It had become clear to him that he’d have to work long hours, perhaps give up his family time, and relocate just for that opportunity, with no guarantee of advancement or great compensation.

As we discussed his decision today, he casually mentioned that he looks at the masthead every year and notices that the names there are constantly changing. There’s obviously a high burnout rate. The magic wears off pretty quickly when demands are high and rewards obscured and distant.

As you know, I’m always encouraging you to be entrepreneurial if your aim is to work in football. My goals, as I grew and came to know I wanted to be involved in the game, were to be first an ESPN broadcaster; then a scout; then an NFL beat writer; then scout again. At other times, I’ve probably entertained being an agent, a coach, and all manner of other things, but I never was able to put things together until my wife encouraged me to find a small corner of the football world everyone else was ignoring. I’m far from a big success, but I’ve at least established a toehold, and I’m excited about our growth and our direction.

I encourage you to do the same thing. You’ll need to pay your dues in this business — I don’t in any way mean to downplay this — but ultimately, you won’t enjoy your time in the game if you’re breaking your back for someone else. Your best bet is to develop something you can take ownership in, and really fight to take it to the top. If I can do it, I guarantee you can, too.

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