A-list Los Angeles real estate broker Kofi Nartey works with top athletes, celebrities and wealthy individuals, including Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant. Earlier this year he founded his own agency, Society Real Estate and Development, based in Beverly Hills.
Yet despite his success, Nartey does not believe he was "born" to be a real estate broker.
“None of us are born to do any specific thing," he explained. “The idea is to keep searching until you find out how you can apply your gifts and talents to carve out a path to success."
In fact, it was his meandering career trajectory that led him to what he's most passionate about: helping celebrity and high net worth clientele unlock the full potential in their portfolios and subsequently in themselves.
“Your purpose may change over your life span," said Charles Frazier, a team leader for sports and entertainment banking with City National Bank in Los Angeles. “One of our goals at City National is to help clients create a life of value while managing the change that is to come."
Whether it's in banking, sports, entertainment or any other industry, successful leaders learn that the journey can be long, and you can't believe everything you hear along the way.
So how can you start and successfully navigate your own career trajectory and find your passion? First, it helps to figure out what not to do.
Below are three misconceptions about how to create a life you value, along with some insider tips about how to fund your meaningful journey.
While some people carve out their career paths in childhood, others keep going until they stumble upon the right stepping stones.
Jini Thornton, experienced in providing financial services to entertainers, falls into the latter group. She moved to Atlanta when she was recruited by accounting firm KPMG in 1993, but she had no idea that her meaningful path would begin there.
“It was a time when women weren't even allowed to wear pants to work," said Thornton. “I was thrust into adulthood early when I had a baby at 21, but I was able to stay in college with tremendous family support. By the time I was at KPMG, I was married and had another baby. I had no intention of defining professional purpose for myself at the time. I just wanted to find a way to work part-time so I could be with our children more."
A life-changing moment came when Thornton began to host a daily personal finance radio segment for a hip hop radio station, where she made friends with an intern who said she could be his accountant once he became a famous rapper.
That intern was actor and rapper Ludacris, and he kept his promise.
“God sent me Ludacris," said Thornton. “I didn't know much about the music business, but I'm a CPA, and accounting is accounting. I was able to work from home for him until my youngest child went to middle school."
Thornton, who still works with Ludacris, never intended to build a business, but her early work with him set her on a successful path. She now has about nine clients, most of whom manage multiple businesses.
Randie Brooks, a City National entertainment banker in Atlanta, also worked her way up by trying on a variety of financial service roles over the years, starting with a job as a file clerk at an auto finance company when she was a community college student and single mother and later working at an investment firm.
“The key when starting out is always to ask questions and to try touching all the moving parts in a variety of businesses," said Brooks. “Eventually I got married and began my career at City National. After about three years the bank offered me the opportunity to work with the entertainment banking division in Atlanta, and so my family agreed to make the move because they knew it was the kind of work I wanted to do."
When entertainers, athletes and other professionals receive a big award or appear to have achieved their dream promotion, it's common to hear others say they can finally relax and live a little.
Brooks does not believe that. “Actually, once someone has achieved their dream, the real work begins," she said. “To be a success you have to stay on the rails and continue to do the same thing over and over again. Believing in the vision is important, but you also have to know how to float that vision and achieve solid financial success."
Knowing what you want to do with your life isn't the same as being fully prepared to do it, added Nartey. There's a funding and stability aspect to dreaming that very few people talk about.
That's why Frazier encourages his clients to understand that the money they're earning while they're young can give them the best opportunity to fund their purpose in the next chapter of their lives. It can also provide a runway until they find their next purpose after their playing career is over.
“It's important to have a team you trust working on the financial side and teaching you financial literacy," he said, “which can provide you with more bandwidth to focus on what you love."
Just as careers evolve, so does the meaning people find in their work. For Brooks, working in a variety of financial institutions helped her understand the whole financial picture for people at every income level and to realize that she wanted to help others achieve stability and success.
You may start your career with passion, but at some point you have to move on to the operation of things, she said.
"It's important to focus on the big picture, such as how to structure your business, how to protect your wealth for the future and how your family fits in with your career planning," explained Brooks.
For Thornton, whose children are now 26 and 30, succession planning to keep her business running for future generations is top of mind right now. But Thornton remembers the ups and downs of career planning and advises young people to remain open to new directions and unexpected opportunities.
“There's no straight line, so it's smart to have an openness and flexibility to embrace change," she said.
If there's one piece of advice that ties these successful leaders together, it's to meet new people and ask lots of questions. Finding and funding your life purpose, they agreed, is limited only by the myths one chooses to subscribe to.
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