We use the words Journey and Adventure quite often when we talk about life. Some people use them as synonyms but they aren’t. A Journey is an act of traveling from one place to another. An Adventure is an unusual and exciting experience or activity. Last week, one of my proteges reached out to me to discuss his next assignment, so I asked him to adopt the mindset of seeing his career as an adventure and not a journey. That he should only consider jobs that would provide an experience he truly wants, that will allow him to grow in ways he truly desires and contribute in a manner that he truly wishes. To me, that is a career of adventure. All too often, people want to talk about the next job they should take on the journey toward promotion.

Earlier in the week, I had reached out to a teammate to share the fact that I had decided to retire and I was a bit surprised by his response. In his mind, I have been on the “fast track” for Admiral and that this seemed like an abrupt stop to a promising career. He went on to explain that in his mind my wife and I had invested 26 years in my career so far and that it was odd that I would give that all up. I was perplexed by that statement since I view my naval career as but a part of my overarching professional adventure. The reality was that he, like so many others, sees a career as a journey toward a specific objective and not an adventure to be enjoyed.

My protege, after thoughtful reflection, sent me a list of his desired jobs, and the list made it very clear to me that he was able to frame the career ahead as an adventure. The list of jobs he wants are in fact ones that force him to grow and afford him opportunities to benefit from experiences he has yet to enjoy, as well as allow him to contribute in ways that he finds truly exciting. Promotion may or may not result from the adventure he is attempting to create, but he understands that many who pursue the journey to promotion don’t arrive at their destination, and they almost surely don’t experience the adventure the rest of us do.

Yes, I have decided to retire. And though it has been a 26 year adventure to date, my adventure is far from over. In fact, I would say that it is the sense of adventure that was the biggest driver in my decisions to both stay as long as I have and leave after this tour of duty. The ongoing adventure continues to meet all my professional critieria, allows my son to close out his childhood in a place in which he has become invested, and allows me to focus on my top priority…my family.

  • Is your career a journey or an adventure?
  • Do you live in a way that shows you understand the difference between the two?
  • How might you bring more adventure into your life?