Nick Saban did something truly remarkable on Monday night: He benched his starting quarterback and brought in a backup for the second half of the National Championship football game.
It's hard to describe how crazy this is - it's never happened before.
Football coaches are notoriously stubborn. They learn a system that they like, and they hold onto that system at all costs. And this often gets them fired as they start losing games to newer coaches who have figured out how to beat their go-to system.
But Nick Saban isn't an ordinary coach. He's probably the best college football coach ever because he's constantly evaluating the situation and looking for opportunities to adjust.
In this game—the most important game of the season—he evaluated his game plan, said THIS ISN'T WORKING and switched to a completely different game plan at half time.
I call this "optionality" - maximizing the number of options available at any time, and having a plan to choose and execute the right option for a given situation.
This wasn't some sort of knee-jerk reaction to falling behind: They had practiced for this, and they ran a totally different offense with their backup quarterback in the second half.
AND IT WORKED! His team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, came back and won the game!
Optionality and your career
You knew this tie-in was coming, right?
We can all learn a lot from Nick Saban's strategy in the National Championship. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say...
Always keep an eye out for new options and have a plan to take advantage of the best options when your current plan isn't working.
An easy way to increase your career optionality is learning a new skill—a programming language, software tool, or soft skill—so you're ready for an opportunity that might be available soon. A harder way is to earn an advanced degree (like an MBA) or certification.
This is a big shift in thinking, but it's worth it: Instead of just waiting for new opportunities to present themselves, you can proactively look for new options to take advantage of them.
That's how you improve the trajectory of your career.
Fearless Salary Negotiation will show you how to proactively pursue raises and promotions using methods that work. Check it out if you're due for a raise!