People make choices every day, some consciously, many automatic, as we respond to our daily challenges. Most such choices have little impact beyond getting us through the day. Even others that we agonize over, in the long run, have very little to do with who we are or where life will take us. We worry about picking the right color car or model, whether to buy a new suit or not, what color to paint the living room and a host of other choices. But in the end, they don’t really change our lives very much.
On the other hand, life-changing choices happen sometimes when we don’t even realize it. This can come about as a result of little or no forethought or even be forced upon us by events beyond our control.
One of the great examples of this is the story of a 9-year-old Jewish immigrant who came to this country from Russia in 1900. At age 15, he had to go to work to help support the family because his father had become disabled. With little or no experience or education, he answered an ad for a job as an office boy for a New York City bank. When he arrived at the bank, he was intimidated by its imposing front entrance, so went around the corner where he found a side entrance which he felt more comfortable entering.
He was interviewed and hired. However, after being hired, he learned the door he entered was not to the bank, but a small company called Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company. Too embarrassed to admit he made a mistake, he decided to stay. General Electric soon purchased the Marconi Company and changed the name to Radio Corporation of America (RCA).
And thus the career of General David Sarnoff was launched. For 60 years he was the dominant figure in radio and television communications. An accidental choice gave the world an industry giant. Sarnoff would no doubt have done well at the bank, but the person he became at RCA would have been hard to top.
I sometimes think back over my own life at how many times my life has changed because of a choice that seemed insignificant at the time. When I joined the Army Air Corps in 1941, the recruiting sergeant said to me, “Where do you want to go–Tampa, Florida or Tucson, Arizona?” Without a moment’s hesitation I said, “Tucson.” What would my life have been or what would I have become if I had chosen Tampa? There have been hundreds of such choices since that one that have had a similar effect on who I am.