Today is the anniversary of starting my business. 15 years ago the company where I worked was sold, and I was out of a job. Getting another job was an option. That would have been the path of least resistance. I probably would have found something I liked and perhaps have even thrived in the new environment.
The problem was an idea I had a couple years earlier. I had begun to imagine starting a consulting company. Even put together a business plan just like I was taught in B-school. And now I had arrived at the proverbial fork in the road. Option A: Polish off the resume and find a job. Option B: Add a few details to the business plan and see if I could make it work.
While on June 1, 1996 I made a commitment to Option B, I would never have guessed that 15 years later I’d be writing about that experience. And yet here I am. Loving (almost) every minute of it. 15 years from now, I’m feeling confident that I’ll be reflecting on doing 30 years of this work. But then again, maybe a new fork will appear, and I’ll choose a path that at this moment I can’t even imagine. One never knows.
The very best thing about running my own business is having the power and control to continually re-create it to exactly fit my talents and preferences. There is nothing better than waking up each day knowing I am going to do the work I love because I’m in charge of deciding what that is. Just to be clear, it’s not that this work doesn’t come with its share of less than pleasant tasks that need doing. The point is that when I keep focused on the big picture those activities just don’t seem that bad.
Create Your Perfect Job
How about you? How do you feel about what you do? I believe for each of us, there is some work that fits us perfectly. Our goal should be to discover what that is and then figure out how to start doing it. And yes I know that earning a living at the same time makes this goal a particularly challenging one. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Maybe your ideal is really close to the job you currently have. A little creativity and a conversation or two with the boss just might create the change that makes it perfect.
Maybe there’s something else within your organization that’s a better fit. Nobody knows you want it because you haven’t said so. Make a plan for moving from where you are now to where you want to be. Talk it up with people who can help you get there.
Maybe it will require jumping to a new organization. Don’t let an extra week of vacation or the loss of seniority hold you in place. When you retire, will you look back satisfied that you built up a big vacation package or that you figured out how to do what you most wanted to do? Go for the big prize.
Maybe you need more education, a different degree, a specific certification. So what’s stopping you? Go get it and then use it to help you get where you want to go.
Maybe your own business is waiting for you. Take the skill or skills you most like using and figure out how to sell them directly to people who will value them. They are out there. It’s just a matter of helping them find you.
Go for It
When I was laid off from my job, most people talked to me like I just acquired a terminal disease, offering condolences and cheerful expressions of hope. While comforting at the time, those words weren’t particularly helpful. What was helpful came from a consulting friend who greeted me after learning I had been laid off with “Congratulations Tom. I heard a whole new world of opportunities opened up for you the other day.”
She was right. They did. 15 years later I am happily living one of those opportunities. Now go find yours and grab it.