A Simple Pivot

BARRETT O’NEILL

Co-Founder & CEO – ON DEMAND STORAGE

W

hy would you leave UVA to go to Babson College? This is a question I’ve answered a million times…

As a seventeen-year-old, I accepted a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Virginia, a top academic institution and the number five ranked baseball program in the country. I had my future mapped out – win a national championship (or two), get drafted by an MLB organization, and compete for the chance to make it to the show!

Unfortunately, my story is not even close to that cool. But instead, I can give insight into making agonizing decisions that are not easy and ones that many others may not understand.

Fast forwarding through a couple of good (and some lousy) outings, I’m on an operating table having “Tommy John Surgery” on my throwing elbow. Not good, but nothing devastating. Many pitchers have it and come back to achieve enormous success.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy for me. I developed Heterotopic Ossification (HO) in my elbow, which locked my elbow at 90 degrees for 4 months. I literally couldn’t move it. My case is published in the medical literature because until me – HO had never been seen in an elbow as a result of Tommy John Surgery. If you’re not first, you’re last!

A hard truth was emerging: My dreams to be an impact player on a top collegiate team and a professional baseball player we’re over. No matter how badly I wanted my arm to be straight enough to throw effectively at that level, it was not going to happen, my functional range of motion was forever severely diminished.

As you’ve probably heard repeatedly, businesses need to pivot to keep up with changing times. It’s a theme that transcends any specific industry. Something that isn’t talked about quite as often is pivoting in life; When it pertains to your own life it becomes uncomfortable, and it can make you feel like a “quitter.”

Sometimes it’s not about how hard you work. Washing machines work hard – but they go in circles. Quitting and pivoting are not the same thing even though from an outsider’s’ perspective they’re easy to confuse.

Nearly no one understood my rationale behind leaving a top D1 program in the country to play D3, but those same people didn’t understand what I was going through and the hand I had been dealt.

“Sometimes it’s not about how hard you work. Washing machines work hard – but they go in circles.”

Nearly no one understood my rationale behind leaving a top D1 program in the country to play D3, but those same people didn’t understand what I was going through and the hand I had been dealt.

I was unhappy in my first job out of college at a very reputable company, so I pivoted and started my own company, On Demand Storage, with two fellow classmates. I’ve never been happier and it lends credit to the idea of taking the information and feelings you have and making decisions based on logic and emotion, but never one or the other in isolation.

It’s okay to look back and reflect on what could’ve been, but only for a quick second here and there. If you focus on it too much then you’re living in the past. Is there anything worse than someone who lives in the glory days?

Everyone has had their version of HO, an unfortunate and unplanned road block that alters the course of their life. What I have learned is to keep moving forward, not feel sorry for yourself, know when to pivot, and you’ll be surprisingly happy.

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  • Barrett received his Bachelors of Science from Babson College in 2015. After concluding his career as a standout pitcher, he worked for a highly sought after financial firm. Unhappy with the day-to-day he decided to pivot and found On Demand Storage with two classmates from Babson.

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