Last month, I had the pleasure of traveling to my alma mater – the University of Alabama – for the College of Communication & Information Sciences Honors Day, a time-honored tradition where both students and alumni are recognized for contributions in their various fields.

It was truly wonderful to be back on campus – catching up with old friends, making new ones, exploring the old haunts I used to frequent as a student, and humbly receiving an alumni award for my work in communication. My time in college holds a special place in my heart – evoking a feeling of nostalgia for that meaningful life experience that helped facilitate my creative and analytical thinking and shape me into who I am today.

As I wandered around campus, I thought about an important, ever-relevant piece of advice I received from one of my mentors on the eve of my freshman year. I was sitting in Burbank, Calif. – where I grew up – with my high school speech coach who had helped me earn my spot on the University of Alabama forensics team, and who 25 years later remains a guiding voice in my life. I was expressing to her my fears of failure. Would I be good enough to maintain my scholarship? Could I really compete at the collegiate level? Could I develop a taste for sweet tea and grits? Could I really go so far away from home? Maybe this was all just too much. I had cold feet and was ready to back out.

She shared with me that afternoon one of my favorite life lessons that I have recounted many times since, “Angela, playing it safe is for sidewalks and swimming pools. Take the risk – what do you really have to lose?”

My life and career have taken many twists and turns. Through epic failures as well as incredible successes, I credit this one piece of sage wisdom that has gotten me through. And along the way I’ve learned that there are SO MANY benefits of taking that risk:

  • It helps you clearly define what you want and what’s most important to you.
  • It empowers you to push the proverbial envelope and establish new boundaries you didn’t think you were capable of achieving.
  • It inspires creativity and rouses some pretty amazing problem-solving skills.
  • It enables you to gain the confidence needed to embrace new opportunities.
  • It can, and many times does, result in a positive outcome.

Whether you are a recent college graduate, a seasoned professional, or simply someone who wants to – but hasn’t taken that next step… albeit a scary one – you will find yourself having to make this very decision over and over again throughout the trajectory of your career and your life. Will I play it safe or will I take the risk? I hope you choose the latter… to be brave, be bold and take that big chance on yourself. This is where you will find the defining difference between having a great career vs. having an exceptional one.

At W2O, we are looking for exceptional leaders across all marketing and communication specialties across all geographies. Are you ready to take that next step? Take a look at our open roles here. We’d love to have you!