If someone asked you what your dream job was, would you answer with the one you have now? Would you wholeheartedly answer yes or no, or would there be a tugging within you, a slight feeling that something is not quite right? Have you felt this way since your first paycheck, or is the longing for a change relatively new? Really, the question that matters is this: Are you brave enough to listen to your heart and do something you love?
Alex Grovenstein left his office as the director of Annual Giving at Georgia Southern University for the last time after over a decade on the job.
“For 14 years I sat behind a desk and wore a tie most days. That’s not what God created me to do. It only took me 14 years to figure that out. So, the question became, what’s next?” he said.
Grovenstein found his answer in auctioneering as he “had always been enamored with the auction business,” but how, I asked, and why?
“How and why?” he answered with a familiar smile on his face. “I knew I would not have to wear a tie every day. I felt it could be a lucrative business, and I knew that no two days would be the same. Those three together, I figured if I could have fun and I would make money out of it — perfect career option for me.”
I was practically baffled by this notion of a mid-life career change, especially into a field as rare as auctioning, yet as I read more on “The Excellent Adventure,” as Grovenstein entitles his one-man, 10-day camping trip while at auctioneer school (yes, you read that correct) on his old blog, I found that the notion was more and more plausible. Grovenstein wrote, “After spending most of my adult life firmly entrenched in the rat-race, I've decided to ‘back 'er down’ and focus on the more simple, important things in life.”
What better way to start than camping alone and going back to school? An experience that Grovenstein says he “would not trade for anything, in [his] opinion that was the most amazing experience so far, just 10 nights camping, [going to] auction school. It was great. It was awesome.”
After 10 days of battling the South Georgia elements and experiencing information overload at auctioneer school, #AuctionAlex was born, and Grovenstein’s life was officially disqualified from the rat race.
“My perspective just changed. Call it coming of age, growing up, whatever, it’s not uncommon for everybody, but I realized it, and it was like ‘Man, we need to focus on our children, we need to coach T-ball and baseball, we need to plant a garden. And we just need to pour our heart — my life — into my wife, my children, and my church and my community, rather than pouring it into status.’ Going into the auction business was the culmination of three years of figuring that out.”
Before auctioneering, Grovenstein was already involved in the community as a member of Kiwanis, a Boy Scout troop leader, and was heavily involved in his church, but auctioneering “opened the doors to meeting new people, and the more people you meet, the more people you find need help, and the more people you can help, and that’s what I like [about auctioneering]. At the end of the day I think I’m more of a problem solver and a helper than an auctioneer, it just so happens that auction is the method by which I can help people.”
Helped, Grovenstein has. Each year, sometimes twice a year, he facilitates auctions for Georgia Southern University’s athletic department, which as an alumnus, former employee and a True-Blue die-hard fan, is especially close to his heart. Grovenstein has also helped raise $100,000 for Low Country Dress for Success, an organization that helps to raise funds for school uniforms for children in need, and continues to seek out opportunities to help his community in any way he can. Grovenstein says that he volunteers because “God told me to help other people. God called me to help other people.”
Since becoming an auctioneer, Grovenstein has been successful in forging a new path with employment at South Auction & Realty, his own hashtag, ample community involvement, and a true love for auctioneering. To keep up with Grovenstein’s journey as #AuctionAlex and all your auction needs, follow his blog at auctionalex.blogspot.com.
As our interview wound down, I was still intrigued by the thought of a complete 180 after 14 years on the job. In my world, it seems as if we’re supposed to have everything figured out as soon as and as young as possible. In fact, if you’re younger, the better, more prepared you appear to be in the world of college applications and internship interviews. I’m reminded of something Grovenstein said earlier in our interview: “When I got out of high school, it was: you go to college, you major in finance, and you go to work in a bank. That’s what people like you do, so this is what you do. Then my buddy next to me: you go to tech school, you learn how to weld for the rest of your life, that’s what people like you do. For 14 years, I fell right into it. I finally realized one day ‘Eh,’” He commented with a shrug of his shoulders as if to say, it doesn’t have to be that way.
To us out there who may not have it all figured out, Grovenstein gives some words of solidarity: “We all go through the same stuff, it’s just different adjectives, different circumstances, and different noise. We all go through the same stuff.”
To those who want to pull off the nearest exit of the rat race and just back ‘er down, he says: “The advice I would give somebody on that is, you know, do what you love and love what you do. It’s got to be real though… you [have] to make some money. But if you do what you love, and you love what you do, and you do it better than everybody else, the money will follow. That’s what I’ve figured out. If you truly enjoy what you do and you truly love it and you truly pour your heart into it, the money will follow.”
Grovenstein’s story shows us that a life is not set in stone. Our futures are malleable —unpredictable. We can change the course of our lives at any moment, we can take the road less traveled and form our own paths. We do not have to have life all figured out because perhaps what we are “meant to do” is not where we are most happy. Yet, as much as we like to dream, Grovenstein also allows us to see that we must be practical in our pursuit of the unknown, and we mustn’t forget the community which helped to make us. Giving back is essential to helping other’s grow around you and helping them pursue their future and exit their rat race — if only for a moment. Grovenstein is a statement to a great American life: a leader in the community and an inspiration to any small-town heart which yearns to follow its dream and live the simple life.
Do you know someone who is an Everyday Hero?
E-mail our editor at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us all about him or her…we’d love to feature your hero in an upcoming issue!