Each of us probably has a moment of truth in their career when harsh but true words are sent our way.

In the lead up to this year’s AFL Grand Final, I’m sharing my own personal experience. I was a 17 year old kid up from the country, drafted to the Melbourne Football Club. At the same time, I was on a Traineeship with Mobil Oil Company. At Melbourne FC, I was understudy to Ron Barassi and given his pedigree, I knew it was going to be a long time before I gained a place in the seniors.

My coach was the legendary Norm Smith, who had coached Melbourne to five Premierships – he obviously knew his stuff. We all knew he was tough, but I didn’t realise just how tough – I was about to learn.

At 17 I was a sponge; stretched and learning during working hours and being developed and pushed at training. I didn’t exactly relish training, but enjoyed pushing myself and gaining skills as part of the senior squad.

So it came as a surprise in my third year at the football club to be hauled aside by Norm Smith and given my career-first kick in the guts.

“Son,” he said, “your legs are two inches too short for your trunk.”

There was nothing I could do about that. It sat like a heavy weight in my stomach for weeks.

He then followed up a month later with, “If you really want to make it, you’ll need to spend more time on your footy. It’s time to give up your job.”

Smith was tough. He could have just exited me out at the end of the season, but he gave me the home truths. He was tough, and I thought unfair, but in reality he told me a harsh truth. It still troubles me that my younger self had to hear and deal with the brutal facts. But in hindsight he did me a favour. I didn’t quit my day job, I ‘quit’ the Melbourne Football Club and went on to play and then coach for another 35 years in regional and local football clubs, including juniors with my own sons. I went on to create my own recruitment and HR consultancy and continue to enjoy the satisfaction of that work.

Maybe a watered down version of the truth would have been kinder, but in the long run it would have paid me no favours. (With modern Fair Work legislation and the threat of stress, harassment or bullying claims, many truths now remain untold.)

What’s been your uncomfortable moment of truth as you’ve built your career?