This article originally published on Inc.com
If you wanted one election outcome last week--but got another--you were reminded that the world is an uncontrollable place.
And that can be a hard thing to internalize.
If you thought you signed up for a good job, for lifetime employment in a factory, only to find that regardless of how good of a job you do executives still outsource you--well, you are again reminded that the world is an uncontrollable place.
And that can be a really hard thing to internalize.
But while most of us can't shape world events, we can exert some level of control over our own lives.
1. Define your worth by what can't be taken away from you. Growing up, my family struggled economically, but they did have their moments, and they always validated those moments with things.
The new Jeep with big tires and a lift kit that my dad always wanted.
The new, bright red car my mom always wanted.
Cool shoes--finally--for my brother and me.
My parents were no different than the rest of us, and I'm glad they got us better shoes. Trust me: Kmart made a poor imitation of a Reebok Pump.
But all of that--the Jeep, the shiny red car, the house, even the shoes we outgrew--was all temporary, and everything but the shoes was taken back by a lender. Each of those losses wounded my parents and left scars that never healed.
Don't define yourself by material goods, no matter how hard you worked for them, and no matter how much you think you deserve them. Anything material can be lost or taken, or simply will decay with time.
Instead, define your worth by the things no one can take away from you.
Like what's in your heart.
And what's in your brain.
Compassion and knowledge can never be taken from you, and having something that can't be taken from you is the definition of control.
2. Take as much of your own destiny into your own hands as possible. Every time I read one of those "Global Economy Faces Impending Meltdown" articles, I have two immediate thoughts.
First thought: "Oh no, this was a horrible time to start a business!"
Second thought: "I would rather die in a fire that I lit than die in one someone else lit for me."
In other--less melodramatic--words, as an entrepreneur I feel like I have a hand in shaping my own destiny, even when things look bad. I can create a new strategy, develop a new product or service, or try something different.
It may not work out, but at least I'm not a bystander to my own success or failure.
And that's the best part of being an entrepreneur: having some control of your own destiny.
3. Remember that while the past is set in stone, the future has yet to take shape. You can't exert any control over something that's unchangeable, and the only thing that's completely unchangeable is the past.
It's already happened.
But you can learn from the past and use it to shape your future.
If four years from now you want to be a business owner or a doctor, or spend your days lying on the beach in California smoking legalized recreational marijuana, that's up to you.
It's up to you to find an entrepreneur who will mentor you.
It's up to you to figure out what it takes to become a doctor.
It's up to you to figure out how you can spend your days on the beach and still afford California real estate and legal weed.
All of those might be difficult--especially the third one--but if you want something for yourself, you can figure out how to make it happen.
And that's the ultimate form of control.
This article originally published on Inc.com
About a year and a half ago I quit a six-figure job, gave up a pretty sweet office space and a lot of perks, and decided to make it on my own.
At points it's been terrifying.
But I can say, without a doubt, that if I had to do it all over again there is only one thing I would change:
I would do it sooner.
And I would go back and share some of what I've learned with my past self.
Since I can't do that, I'll share it with you:
1. Don't panic--or at least let your panic motivate you. I started my business with two large clients. One was my former employer, and the other was a business I had a longstanding consulting relationship with.
Then in the same month they both left me.
One was unexpectedly (at least to me) acquired, and the other decided to go a different direction and bring the marketing and public relations services I was providing in-house.
The result was that I was left, at that moment, without a dependable income--for the first time in my entire adult life. I grew up poor, and I know what government cheese tastes like. I've always managed my career with one overarching objective:
To make sure my kids never know what government cheese tastes like.
I panicked. I applied to be an Uber driver. I started contacting anyone I had previously worked with who might be a potential client. I became much more flexible in the type of clients I worked with.
Most people would tell you not to panic--but panic can be incredibly motivating. It was for me.
If you become an entrepreneur, you will have moments where panic is the only sane response.
Just make sure your next step after panic is action.
2. Focus on what you can control. The entire lifespan of my company has occurred during the most tumultuous and uncertain presidential election in recent history.
Entrepreneurs and the economy in general do not like uncertainty--and regardless of your opinion on the outcome of the election, the one thing all of us can agree on is that we have entered an uncertain era.
But you know what?
Uncertainty is a part of life and existed long before this election.
And the future is always unknown.
Besides that, there is little I or you can personally do to unilaterally change the course of world events. We can vote. We can have a voice.
But ultimately the world is beyond our control.
However, we can control the decisions we make.
Beyond your control, start creating a business that can navigate--or even thrive in--uncertain times.
3. I could never, ever go back. At one point during these 18 months I had an opportunity to leave my company and join another firm. They were and are a rapidly growing company, with a culture I like. This firm is also led by people I admire and respect, and they offered me a well-paid leadership position.
That offer came during one of those moments when I was a little nostalgic for a bit more economic security than entrepreneurship offers--particularly during the first 18 months of a new company.
In the end, I couldn't take it.
I love what I'm doing now too much.
I love that I get to decide the direction of our company.
I love signing my paycheck--and signing the paychecks of others.
I love that I get to plan our first company Christmas Party, for our tiny staff of three.
I love that there are some things I can control, even if there are a lot of things I can't.
And I could never, ever go back.
This article originally published on Inc.com
In 2015, during his tumultuous tenure as Speaker of the House, Ohio congressman John Boehner left us with this thought on leadership:
"A leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk."
In that one quote, John Boehner:
· Demonstrated why so many people have lost faith in all politicians.
· Gave his own party a reason to reject his ideas on "leadership."
· Justified the existence of the roughly 8,000 books published every second on leadership.
What would the world look like under Boehner's view of leadership?
For one, Jerry Maguire would have never walked out on his job, and embarked on one of the greatest love stories and entrepreneurial journeys of the 1990s.
(If you don't get the Jerry Maguire reference, you should stop what you're doing right now and get to the nearest Netflix subscription.)
(And you should be ashamed of yourself.)
Under Boehner's definition of leadership, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would have never become "Gandhi" by fighting racism in South Africa. He would have asked, "Who's with me?"
And heard nothing but crickets.
Martin Luther King Jr. would have never become The Martin Luther King Jr. Instead, he would have sent out a poll to determine what level of support the Montgomery bus boycott had amongst soccer moms age 25-49 with a college degree, and realized that he didn't yet have the support of a key constituency.
Lyndon Johnson would not have demonstrated the type of leadership that could have made him a great president when he stated that Democrats had, "lost the South for a generation" upon signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But he would have gotten Boehner's approval when he demonstrated the type of weakness that ultimately ruined his legacy when he tried to appease multiple competing political factions during the Vietnam War.
And, closer to home, how many entrepreneurs would be where they are today had they waited for others to get onboard the train before it left the station?
I know no one was knocking down my door to be part of yet another consulting firm.
Here are two truths:
If all it takes to be a leader is to have followers, then anyone with a Twitter handle is a leader.
And, if I want to be even more of a leader than I already am, all I have to do is take up that woman or man wearing next-to-no clothing on the offer they sent via DM to get me thousands of additional followers for just $14.99.
At that cost, by the end of the day I can be five times the leader I was this morning for the same price I paid to take my whole family to see Finding Dory.
Leadership doesn't require having 12, 12,000, or 12,000,000 followers--in fact, real leadership often begins with 0 followers, and a whole lot of people telling you that you're an idiot.
But leadership does require courage.
And the willingness to take what might be a very lonely walk.