I had just graduated from Utah State University, and I was at the first major crossroads of my career; where should I go to work? I had several possibilities, and each one had its own unique advantages, but I didn’t know how to choose. So, I sought the advice of a mentor of mine, someone whose opinion I valued greatly. I told him all about these great opportunities that I couldn’t decide among, and he looked me directly me in the eye and said something I’ll never forget:

“Brady, you are trying to convince me that your thumb is bigger than the moon.”

There I was, looking back at my mentor, hoping he would explain what he just said because… I was totally lost! How could I think my thumb was bigger than the moon? It made absolutely no sense. And then he did what any good mentor would do—he explained what he meant. And like any good protégé, eventually, I saw the light!

If you look at the moon and hold your thumb up in front of you, yeah, your thumb looks bigger. Of course, the only way you could think your thumb really is bigger is by forgetting that the moon is over two hundred thousand miles farther away. But as my mentor and friend explained, that’s exactly what I was doing with my career.

I was thinking about my employment choices in terms of very short-term gain. Things like which offer gave me a car allowance, or which company had the best health insurance. I remember one company seemed very attractive to me because they offered slightly higher overall compensation. These issues seemed much more important to me than they should have, because I had forgotten that my really important goals involved gains I might realize only 10, 15, or 20 years down the road. The big goals seemed smaller only because they were so far away.

With this realization, I started to look at my decision differently. I started asking myself which opportunity would allow me to reach my fullest potential, not only as a professional but also as a person. Which company would give me exposure to the kind of good men and women that I wanted to emulate? Where could I bring the most value to my employer, while staying true to my own core principles?

Looking back now, 13 years later, I’m thankful that I followed my mentor’s great advice. I can see how short-term sacrifices in compensation or benefits have paid huge dividends in terms of professional development and experience.

Another article you may enjoy reading on a similar topic is Choose the Company, not the Culture.