Making It Up As I Go 

As fans of the action-packed 1981 film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, may remember, when asked what his next crucial decision would be, actor Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones character appropriately said, “I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go.”

Now, normally that approach isn’t prudent when faced with major choices about lifestyle and career—just ask anyone who doesn’t have enough saved for retirement or has their 30-year-old still living with them.

With that said, I’m clearly making all adult life up as I go. But it seems to be working because my Indiana Jones moments have brought positive results, even when it took not-so-positive circumstances to precipitate them on occasion. It all started in 1980, when I no doubt became the only guy ever to get laid off by his own father. Really.

With no prospects to utilize my journalism degree, I took a job right out of college in 1973 as a bookkeeper in one of Dad’s businesses. After earning a second bachelor’s degree, this time in accounting, I became the corporation’s controller. However, after seven years, dear old Dad began divesting himself of that business as he transitioned into retirement. Pink-slipped by my own family, I had to find another occupation, which started a chain of fortuitous employment circumstances and other rewarding engagements that continued to this day.

Thinking I’d delay the inevitable job search, I made an appointment with the assistant athletics director for finance at my alma mater, West Virginia University. I wanted to learn about the new sport management master’s degree program, from which he had recently graduated. The day of my appointment, two of his assistants quit, and he offered me a salaried position in the athletic business office on the spot. He also guided my admission into the graduate program and paid the entire tuition, provided I also apply my competitive distance running experience and coach the women’s cross country team.

On only my second day at the business office job, I discovered a major accounting error that subsequently earned the athletics department hundreds of thousands of dollars. When I completed my master’s degree two years later, the grateful director of athletics helped me land a job as assistant athletics director for financial affairs at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University.

After 11 years and 2 promotions at BGSU, an athletics administration acquaintance at nearby Eastern Michigan University recruited me to head that program’s business operation—a better job in a more desirable locale. And four years later, when the EMU athletics director took the same job at Colorado State University and found himself again needing a business officer, just like that, I had an even better job in maybe the best place to live. 

After nine years at CSU, I retired from intercollegiate athletics administration, fully intending to work no more. However, just two weeks later, the University of Northern Colorado made me the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse—special assistant to the president for intercollegiate athletics.

Two years hence, now again ready for retirement, along came an incredibly flattering offer from an athletics consulting firm, referred to me by an acquaintance whom I’d not heard from in 25 years. Again, I changed my plans. And when that company was sold to an executive search firm, I was coaxed to stay on, where I remain to this day. I assist in the hiring of college and university presidents, vice presidents, deans and directors. 

So, after 48 years, I’ve had 10 different but progressively more rewarding jobs, none of which did I apply for in the traditional sense. My resume has never even seen an envelope.

Rewarding extra-curricular activities also seem to happen gratifyingly but humbly unsolicited. First came a position on the Town of Timnath Planning Commission—recruited by Council to fill a vacancy. Then, I was asked to lend my executive search experience to the hiring of town police officers and apply my fiscal management expertise representing our little town on two non-profit boards. Next, I was offered the opportunity to promote the town with a monthly column in a Timnath publication, which led to writing articles for two more town-only publications, which happily then brought my writing to all Northern Colorado in print and online, here in North Forty News.

In the movie, Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones also memorably said, “It’s not the years, (honey). It’s the mileage.” For me, maybe the miles haven’t always been planned, but it’s sure made for increasingly rewarding years.

Oh yes… thanks Dad. It all worked out just fine. And I’m finally using that journalism degree as well!

Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is an 11-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 48 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.

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