Bill Simmons And College Grads, There’s A Lesson To Be Learned


As the news about Bill Simmons and ESPN parting ways broke, I couldn’t help but think about all of the lessons that could be learned from the greatness, and great failing of their relationship. Like any relationship, it had its ups and downs, and it certainly benefited both parties a great deal. When Simmons first started as a guest-contributor, he was nothing more than an occasional columnist. Fast-forward a decade-and-a-half later and we see can see just what both have morphed into. While ESPN continued its growth throughout the last dozen years, Simmons became a household name. He has morphed into a king of digital media, and as many have pointed out – the ideal balance between content, reach, and management.

It’s graduation season though and that means commencement speeches, job-hunting, and life planning, for a good chunk of twenty-something’s for the next several months. ESPN and Bill Simmons will spend the next several weeks, and months analyzing their partnership. They’ll spend millions probably, if they haven’t already, trying to figure out how to avoid the exact situation they just exited. Just form evaluating things at surface-level there are a lot of lessons to be learned here from the situation. Many of those are lessons that fit perfectly in with the life of a college graduate who is looking to find a job in this overwhelming world, or just simply looking for the starting place on the map of life.

Here are the best lessons learned from Simmons v. ESPN (right now):

You might not love your bosses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

Bill Simmons was potentially the best example of someone who was able to put aside his distaste for his employer, and really maximize the exposure that his employer gave him. That’s an invaluable trait and really speaks to the amount of dedication that every college graduate should try to apply, within reason of course, to anything they try to tackle.

Oftentimes, it’s about timing of opportunity – rather than quality of opportunity.

Bill Simmons started out as a guest-contributor for ESPN. He was a columnist from Boston, who literally wrote under the pen name “The Boston Sports Guy,” and gained notoriety from simply taking the right opportunity at the right time. Obviously, his ability weighed into his success, but timing is an important factor that really shouldn’t ever be dismissed.

You might feel smarter than everyone else in the room, but you’re all still members of the same team.

There will undoubtedly be moments where you are the smartest person in the room. Hopefully, those moments will outnumber the moments where you are the least intelligent person in the room. That being said though, like Simmons learned the hard way, everyone is a part of the team – and no matter how smart, or stupid we may feel in one moment – that isn’t necessarily a reflection of the entire picture. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone is valuable in their own regard, if you’re working on the same team.

Money is important, but what you do with your job is significantly more important.

You can make millions, thousands, or pennies, but above all other things your job has to be “mutually beneficial.” ESPN President John Skipper called Simmons’ relationship with the sports giant “mutually beneficial” and that is really the best way to put it all in perspective. A paycheck is required, but if a paycheck is all you’re getting out of your job – then it’s really not doing enough for you.

Love your job but more importantly love the process.

This is simply a bit of advice that is truly invaluable when it comes to finding yourself outside of the confines of colligate life. Shortly after Simmons began writing for ESPN he took a job writing for Jimmy Kimmel. He took the gig writing for his late-night talk show because he was burnt out from writing his column.

Understand that your degree isn’t a 100% definitive career path.

This is to simply say that what you’re doing today might not be what you’re doing tomorrow. Finding and keeping a career you love is about evolving. Simmons started out as a columnist but became so much more than that as his career with ESPN developed. His position started as guest-contributor, evolved into full-time columnist, and developed into a mix of management, content curator, and much more by the time it ended.

Bill Simmons column started as a fun, personal gig that evolved into much more.

Your day job is important because that’s how you’re going to pay your bills, but if there’s something more you want – make it happen in your free time. There isn’t any limit to what you can, or can’t do when you’re on your own time, so make the most of it. Whether it’s writing, working on boats, painting, or whatever you might enjoy – take advantage of the time you have to do that. There is even less restriction on where that passion could go, if you really embrace it and try to make the most of it.

Being true to yourself should be a priority – but it should be a priority within reason.

You obviously have to be true to yourself throughout the process of life. However, life is full of compromises and from time-to-time they have to be made. The key is to not take a compromise as a defeat. Instead, take it as a shared victory and an experience to widen your horizons a bit. If you feel that your personal morals are being overridden or compromised to that extent, then perhaps a change of scenery is necessary to fix something of that magnitude. At the end of the day though, it’s about maintaining perspective, as well as your own person.