Leap of Faith
So, what is it that makes someone leave the security of a paycheck and a 401K plan to jump off the cliff into entrepreneurship? I can’t speak for others but I will give you my reasoning.
I worked for a very large consulting firm for many years and the thing I found most incredible was the environment where everyone gets a trophy. The end result in this culture is it breeds mediocrity. The person who planned a party might get the same recognition as someone who identified a huge cost savings and had the initiative to execute a solution. As a manager, we were told to “cycle” pay increases so the same people weren’t getting an increase each year. This meant I would be required to give a pay increase to someone who did absolutely nothing toward the business goals and give the slam/dunk, over-performing, stellar employee zero. Believe me, I would fight for the employee that delivered but would ultimately get shot down in the final “calibration”. Yes – all managers would sit in a room and “calibrate” each employee’s performance. I was continually astounded by what people would be rewarded for.
Every review cycle it would get more difficult for me to deliver the message “you did an excellent job and are well liked by fellow employees and clients, BUT …… “ – enter the nitpick about something they didn’t do that would contribute absolutely nothing like “you didn’t show up to the Pictionary game we had scheduled for an hour in conference room 1”. I couldn’t believe the things I heard myself saying!!!
The corporate speak was another thing that sent me over the edge into entrepreneurship. Phrases like “a peek under the tent”, “the 30,000-foot view”, “laser focused” (really, is there any other way to be focused?), “at the end of the day”, “wheelhouse”, “lock step”, “power up”, “reach out”, “buy-in”, “uptick”, “shift the paradigm” -- the list is endless! During the average meeting, you may hear several, or all of these terms, in one thought that would sound something like “Now let’s step back and take a peek under the tent. From a 30,000 foot view we can identify whose wheelhouse this would best fit and they can get the buy-in from other departments to power up the project. We need to work in lock step together and stay laser focused on the goal to shift the paradigm and see the uptick in numbers.” Nauseating! Seriously, I felt like everyone around me was speaking in tongues!!! What is the purpose of using all these terms – to sound smart?
I knew it was time to exit the corporate world when the spiral notebook I used specifically for my own thoughts (note taking in disguise), entitled “things I would say in a meeting if I won the lottery”, became full. I couldn’t take it anymore! I still have the notebook and took a pass through it not too long ago and realize this was a means of self-preservation (and it was fun!).
My father was extremely conservative and always shot down any dream I had for starting my own business. That said, it was my choice to take or leave his advice. Others too would shoot holes in my ideas and give me 1000 reasons why the business wouldn’t work instead of the 5 reasons why it would. Had I learned earlier in life to cut these people from my circle I would have been successful much sooner.
David Thomas Roberts, in his book Unemployable!, talks about the DNA of an entrepreneur and how to filter through feedback from others about your business idea. I 100% agree with his statement in the Lessons Learned section of Chapter 6 – “Your ultimate happiness is tied to pursuing your own path”.