In a stunning postgame press conference this weekend, 29-year-old Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck officially announced his early retirement from the NFL.
Luck, formerly one of the highest-paid NFL players, was “mentally worn down” and constant injuries have deteriorated his love for the game. He suffered torn cartilage in two ribs, a torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney, a concussion and a torn labrum. This pre-season, Luck missed parts of training camp due to an ankle injury.
Jim Irsay, the owner of the Colts football team, claimed that Luck earned almost $100 million over his seven-year career and could be walking away from about $500 million.
In what seemed like an impromptu news conference, Luck said, “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game…the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football. He emotionally added, “This is not an easy decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.”
This is a cautionary tale for all of us. In our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, they found jobs, trades and professions and stuck with them for their entire working lives. You put in your time, were loyal to your company and after 30 years, you retired with a gold watch and a decent pension.
We don’t have that luxury any longer. This is a new era of dramatic change. Automation, artificial intelligence, globalization, nearshoring and offshoring jobs, the gig economy and other factors strip away any sense of permanence in a job or career. There are no guarantees that the job you hold now will even exist in 10 or 20 years. The company you work for may be taken over, their products rendered obsolete or the jobs have moved to other countries. There is no loyalty to their employees—on the part of the companies—any longer. If you are of value today, they love you. If you don’t produce to their satisfaction or management can find someone cheaper who will work longer hours, they’ll let you go in a heartbeat without any regrets.
It’s a free-agency economy for everyone in the corporate world. You alone are in control of your own destiny. No boss, manager or mentor will save you. You can’t solely rely on a company for a safe and secure future. This sounds cold and harsh, but it’s not. There is a zen calmness when you come to terms with the fact that you’re the quarterback of your own life. It is all up to you—fail or succeed.
You need to prepare every day for being called into the human resources office and given a pink slip. However, you can also prepare every day to lead your best, most rewarding life on your own terms. Think of what you really want to do and achieve in your career and go for it. Don’t let anything hold you back. Give it your all. Some people deride Millennials, but there is validity in their ethos to move on if they’re not appreciated.