I once dreamed of climbing the corporate ladder. The idea of going to college for 7-10 years to earn a 6 figure salary greatly appealed to me. I thought all those years of learning, working tirelessly, and fighting my way to the top would make me into a smart, savvy, cutthroat asset for a firm.
The vision held strong until I became an employee. For years, I ran through jobs (and careers) like it was a marathon. There was no difference between quitting and being fired – if I got fired, it’s because I wanted to quit.
To clear up any confusion, I was an effective worker. It wasn’t uncommon for me to go from new-hire to management in less than six months. But, I put the businesses that I worked for in tough positions. While my effectiveness increased the bottom line, I was a consistent rule-breaker.
I don’t like admitting to failure, I try not to dwell on what I’m not good at. But the truth is I’m a terrible employee. Horrible.
I wandered through different industries, different career paths, different employers — feeling like everyone else had a gene that I didn’t have. I’d meet people who worked for the same employer for 20+ years and I would stay awake at night trying to figure out… HOW!
Why couldn’t I just go with the grain like my co-workers? Why couldn’t I just complain with my friends and go back to work the next day without trying to fix their screwed up business model? Why was I so intent on finding out who the boss of my boss’ boss was and how I could contact them directly?
Everyone I knew was perfectly fine with being an employee and I was the odd man out.
I started building businesses just to have an escape from the places I worked. OK, maybe I didn’t want to escape. I craved being in control of my own future. While my head was in the sand (succeeding and failing with different business ideas), the popularity of entrepreneurship exploded! By the time I looked up, almost everyone was either:
a) an entrepreneur
b) wanted to be an entrepreneur
The Rebellious Trait
I’ve never liked taking orders. I’ll take suggestions, I appreciate criticism and feedback, but don’t try to control me (or disrupt my workflow) because I WILL rebel against you. I can’t help it. This character flaw always got me into trouble at work. Even though it never cost me a job, it kept targets on my back.
No one wanted to see me win and for every step I took, there was someone at my ankles trying to make sure I couldn’t take another one.
“If you haven’t pissed someone off by noon, then you probably aren’t making any money.” – Dan Kennedy
— NiaSweetz @ SIPBLACK (@SipBlackdotNET) February 23, 2016
Entrepreneurs make terrible employees because we don’t like being micro-managed. Tell us what to do and we’ll get it done. If you try dictating how you want tasks completed… well that’s when you’ll run into problems.
Naturally, we think of the most efficient and accurate way to complete a task. We live for that feeling of euphoria the moment we cross out an assignment or finally mark it as “Done.”
If you want to know how we did it, ask us when we’ve finished and you’ll get the play-by-play. But don’t break our pace just to ask, “What are you doing?”
It’s My Way or the Highway
The employee infrastructure is founded on the idea of placing workers in a box and never letting them out. Questions like, “why” are frowned upon in the workplace. If I ever get a just because kind of answer, I’m doing it my way.
I’ll perfect it when you’re not looking then, I’ll do it when you ARE looking. But, why? Why couldn’t I fall in line and do what I was told?
Entrepreneurs like doing what works for them – which is often in direct conflict with the methods they’ve been taught.
Have you ever hired a consultant or a crisis management specialist for your business? They don’t ask you what you want them to do, they ask you what the problem is. Then, they fix it.
I Needed Satisfaction…
No matter how high I climbed up the ladder, it was never high enough to satisfy me. I tried to outclimb every boss in the chain and I couldn’t. So, I’d move on to the next company and try again.
Then I realized that no matter how high I reached, someone else would always own the business. Being an employee felt a lot like being on a leash. The higher the pay grade – the more leash length I was allowed.
I felt trapped and frustrated. I didn’t want more freedom… I wanted total freedom. The freedom to make my own decisions, to set my own prices, to invent my own business model. The freedom to test out my theories, tweak them and try again.
As an employee, I never got that. So, I rebelled, I toed the line, eventually I was in HR’s office twice a month.
Entrepreneurship beckoned at me, called for me, tapped me on the shoulder and I didn’t notice.
There Was Nothing Wrong With Me
For years, I beat myself up for being a quitter. My self-criticism was so loud, I couldn’t hear what I really wanted – I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to start a business. There was another way.
Back then, entrepreneurs were created from upper-class kids with wealthy parents. I never heard success stories of your average, middle-class employee quitting their job and starting a new company. I assumed new companies cost millions to start (millions I didn’t have).
Trust yourself and trust the process. You don’t have to justify your decisions for anyone.
— NiaSweetz @ SIPBLACK (@SipBlackdotNET) February 9, 2016
But, the devastation of never finding satisfaction pushed me to start my first business with less than $1,000. Then my second business with a little more. My third business, I started with NO money at all just to see if I could do it (it thrived).
Entrepreneurship has become a “thing.” Teenagers are making millions a year pursuing their passion. The majority of millennials are experiencing the exact same feelings I felt when I floated from career to career.
If there’s one thing I learned from my failure as an employee – it made me a damn good entrepreneur.