13: Time of Possession

13: Time of Possession

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Time of Possession

When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments: tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.

~Louis Pasteur

I loved my job in corporate America. I worked for a Fortune 500 company, the market leader in our industry. As a creative writer and incentive travel planner in the marketing division of the firm, I was traveling the world, having fun and doing what I loved most — writing. Well, at least, part of the time.

Like every job, there was also a mix of stuff I dreaded or downright loathed. After fourteen years, that got me thinking. In a perfect world, wouldn’t it be nice to design a job around what you enjoy most, where your greatest strengths lie, and where you possess optimal potential? The theory being that you should spend your career doing what you love most in life.

Was this possible or was it a pipe dream? I started to research the feasibility of becoming a full-time freelance advertising copywriter and executive speechwriter. Much of my educational background, professional training, and work experience were in these disciplines.

I began talking to freelance copywriters and speechwriters. I read books by the most successful among them. I got on the phone with them to discuss how to directly apply their ideas to my situation in my marketplace.

I looked into self-employment insurance, income taxes for sole proprietorships, and personal property taxes. At first, freelancing fulltime with a family of four on one income seemed like a leap of faith. In time, more information meant less fear and freelancing became a viable career option.

Since my wife, Karen, was a stay-at-home mom with our two young sons, there was no margin for error. I had to succeed. I set a launch date a year out. My preparation included setting up a sole proprietorship, creating a company name, finding an accountant, designing and printing business cards and letterhead, purchasing state-of-the-art computer equipment, software, a printer and office supplies.

Next was the hard part — testing my talent by writing for a broad clientbase. I started to write for local design firms and advertising agencies to prove to myself that I could write successfully on virtually any product, service, or subject. The criterion for success was simple — obtain repeat business.

As I built a reputation for myself, I expanded my portfolio and earned repeat business with every client. I continued my day job and freelanced at night. My days were long.

Launch day finally arrived. I had practiced my resignation speech a hundred times. Still, I felt the full weight of my decision. I set up a meeting with my boss and gave him notice. He was not surprised. He knew I had a dream to chase. He congratulated me, and we set my departure date.

I was never so excited. At thirty-seven, I was building a business around my strengths and the one thing I was most passionate about. Soon, I’d gained a few large clients and won several advertising awards.

I cherished the best fringe benefit of the freelance life — extended time with my wife and kids. My sons, six-year-old David and four-year-old Mark, watched me write from home for almost a decade. We played touch football in the back yard and baseball in an adjacent yard. We took short ice cream runs and long nature hikes, complete with walking sticks. I made up my time away from my business by working late after the boys were asleep.

It was a time of building family traditions. Football became our trademark. We teamed up with the neighborhood kids. I was the steady quarterback on both teams so I could play offense with each of my sons. I knew their skills so I could pit them against each other and still keep the score even until David would make a leaping catch in the corner of the end zone near the fence and evergreen tree. Or Mark would run for daylight and dive head first into the opposite end zone near the rotted willow tree stump.

At bedtime, as I tucked David in, he asked, “Dad, do you think I will ever be good enough to play in the NFL?”

“It depends on how hard you’re willing to work.”

“Do you think I will ever be as good as Joe Montana?”

I wondered how I would answer. Joe Montana, the San Francisco 49er quarterback, won four Super Bowls and was a legend in his own time. He was destined to become a NFL Hall of Fame quarterback. Yet, I wanted to keep the dream of my then nine-year-old alive.

“If you keep practicing, there is no telling how far your talent will take you,” I said as I pulled the covers up to his chin.

Ten years after that conversation, David called me from his college dorm room late one night. We talked about his freshman classes, his desire to study journalism, and his hope to someday become a writer. And we talked about football.

“Pops, do you remember when we used to play football in the back yard?” he asked out of the blue.

“I sure do.”

“Do you remember how badly I wanted to be like Joe Montana?” he said with a laugh.

“I remember.”

“Do you remember how important it was for me to play football in the NFL?”

“Yeah. How could I forget?”

Then there was a long pause and I wondered where the conversation would go. The next words out his mouth were magical.

“Dad, if I could choose only one or the other, I would rather have played football in the back yard with you all those years than to play in the NFL.”

This conversation is permanently etched in my heart.

In football there is a statistic called time of possession. The team that possesses the ball the longest has the best chance to win. Looking back, I realize by choosing to freelance, I won something in this game called life; time of possession with my sons.

~James C. Magruder

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