When things aren’t going as planned, a few months can seem like an eternity. Just ask Courtland Bragg. After landing his dream internship at NFL Films straight out of college and being hired for a contract position for a few months, he found himself out of a job and substitute teaching to make ends meet.
“Imagine working your dream job,” Bragg said, “You’re around Roger Goodell, you’re around Sterling Sharpe. Imagine that rug being ripped from you. I had to become a substitute teacher. Humbling.”
With the taste of his dream still fresh on his tongue, Bragg was not willing to compromise. In the six months he worked as a substitute teacher, he applied for more than 80 jobs before returning to NFL Films for another contract position, and then getting hired on full-time as the youngest full-time producer at NFL Films.
Only 10 months had elapsed since he graduated from West Chester University, but while slogging through days in the classroom and facing rejection after rejection in his job hunt, it had felt like 10 years.
Standing in front of a group of University of Texas at Austin students three years later, giving a talk on November 14, 2017, as a guest of the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation, Bragg encouraged his audience to identify their purpose and not get discouraged when things don’t work out right away.
— UT_CSLi (@UT_CSLi) November 15, 2017
Bragg experienced the ultimate moment of redemption in 2015, when the HBO series Hard Knocks, on which he was a producer, won an Emmy.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Bragg’s talk:
1. Find your purpose.
“There’s a saying,” Bragg said. “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
Bragg identified his purpose when he saw a fellow student shooting a segment for the campus news station in college.
“It was like I was in a movie,” he said. “Everything stopped and right then and there I told myself, that’s what I want to do. I’m going to put TV and sports [together] and I’m going to become a sports reporter.”
Free yourself to find yourself. What’s your purpose in life?
— Courtland Bragg (@CourtBragg) February 13, 2018
The key, he said, is figuring out who you are and then identifying a career that allows you to do that thing, and make money doing it.
“All you guys are some talented students,” he said as he looked around the room. “Every single one of you guys has a gift and a talent. You’re here. You’re at the University of Texas. You guys are cut from a different cloth. But what are you going to do with it? Only you are gonna be able to find that out.”
2. Your breakthrough is right in front of you.
“For six months I was a substitute teacher,” Bragg said, “but in that same year, 2015, the same year I was unhappy, the same year I was flirting with depression was the year I became the youngest full-time producer at NFL Films. It was the same year I became the youngest Emmy-award-winning producer at NFL Films.
“I didn’t even know what an Emmy was in college. But in 2015, it all happened. And what does that say? That your breakthrough is right in front of you.”
Use your struggle or let your struggle use you.
— Courtland Bragg (@CourtBragg) August 7, 2017
3. You only need one yes.
Bragg applied to over 80 jobs after he left NFL Films following the end of his first contract and was rejected or simply ignored by all of them. But in the end, he got a yes from the job he wanted the most.
“I faced so many nos, but it took one yes,” he said. “Guys, it takes one yes. That’s all you need. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been rejected. How many times that door was shut. It doesn’t matter how many times someone said you weren’t good enough or whatever rejection obstacle you’ve faced. It takes one yes. One breakthrough, all you’ve gotta do is be ready for it.”
One day it’s all going to come true.
— Courtland Bragg (@CourtBragg) April 2, 2018
4. Bragg achieved his dream and so can you.
Bragg was adamant that he didn’t land his dream job because he is inherently smarter or more talented than anyone else. Anyone can live their dream, he said, as long as they identify it and keep working towards it.
“Anything that you want is possible,” he said. “I know that’s cliche, but you know why it’s possible because you’re looking at a living example. And what makes me different than you? I’m not the most smartest, I’m not the most intelligent. I’m not the best director, the best producer, but I’m there. I do hard work.”
You just have to keep fighting, keep believing.
— Courtland Bragg (@CourtBragg) April 15, 2018