Every employee flirts with the idea at one time or another of divorcing their employer for greener pasture (read: entrepreneurship). So what holds them back?
''I feel it's time for me to leave employment and pursue my dream, follow my purpose, start doing what I was uniquely created for. Should I do it?''
That's a question I encounter almost everyday. I actually just encountered it today morning before writing this.
My answers are usually two-fold : I first ask them why they want to leave. This usually leads to the expected responses: 'the hours are long', 'I lost my passion', 'I'm underpaid', 'I hate my boss' (this is the main one), '..they are firing everyone, I don't want to be next..'...and so on and so forth. Secondly, I respond matter of factly and tell them it's not such a good idea to leave employment, they should perhaps get another job and honestly, it's just a dream..they are probably not going to be Africa's Mark Zuckerberg. Cold, right? Who am I to build or destroy people's dreams at a whim? And this is where the whole crux of the matter comes to play: I am nobody.
If you have to ask me or anyone else for approval on whether you should step out to live your dream, you probably are not worth that dream yet.
Think about it: buying your first car, mortgaging your first home, getting married, getting a baby...most of these milestones you got to with minimal consulting. You felt it, you needed it, you went out and got it - hell or high water. Following your dream gung-ho is no different...it has to come from your gut. I know this...I left employment after 13 years to follow a dream I didn't fully understand. I didn't care - I had found my true North!
There's a lot of talk on unlimited potential, law of attraction, divine love and purpose going on. It's fuzzy and cute. It adds much needed positivity in an already tough World. What it doesn't do is tell the audience how much work is required to follow your dream. And if you can't be real on that front, you leave a lot of broken dreams on your motivational-rant path.
My personal approach is I put reality ( long nights, skipped meals, self doubt, failures, debt, empty halls, poor social life ) before you and then if you can stomach that and still step out, then chances are good that entrepreneurship is for you. It takes a certain level of crazy to pursue your dream and if you have a family it isn't fair to take them on that financially risky journey in the hope that they'll reap the fruits when 'you make it'.
So against what barometer should one predicate their decision to leave the employment grind?
Who are you, really? What drives you and what keeps you up? What do you love at par with life itself? Self awareness is a continuous journey. Most of all it's individual. Before you step out try and understand the reason behind the reason that you're leaving your job.
2. Understand your Space
Businessman, entrepreneur, operator, self-employment. These terms are used interchangeably but are not exactly the same thing. What determines each is 'motivation' or 'intent'. What are you in it for? To make money, change the World, change your life, a bit of all? A real entrepreneur in my view cannot have a business and be employed at the same time indefinitely. The split loyalty will crush his/ her spirit. So know who you are and be at peace with that. Nothing wrong with running a side hustle as long as you are clear why you are doing it (to make some extra quid, not become the next World billionaire).
3. Understand the Game, play for the Long-Term
Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls -Maya Angelou.
You need to balance your desire to 'blow up' with practical action and the best way to go about it is develop a long-term mindset as an entrepreneur or businessman. That means you're looking at a 10-15 year window minimum to start reaping big rather than looking at a 10-15 minute gap to being the next Oprah.
A lot of your World view around work, money, success and fear has been hard wired into your brain through spending hundreds of thousands of hours at tables within academic, religious and corporate walls. The internet is telling you that you can be the next Beyonce or Snapchat. You believe the hype, you step out, you fall down. Face flat. Part of the process of self awareness is challenging who you currently are and not being afraid of who you know you were meant to be. Look at it this way: stop defining yourself by what you do: accountant, doctor, engineer, and start defining yourself by who you are: artist, wordsmith, connector, author. A lot of the 'who you are' cannot be learnt, it's not a competence...it's a gift. Sometimes finding your gift means learning yourself afresh.
The first and greatest victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is of all things the most shameful and vile - Plato
The author, Jan Okonji is an entrepreneur, speaker, coach, and Founder of the Pan-African accelerator BGS – Business Growth Solutions.
Jan is passionate about helping employees transition safely into entrepreneurship whilst turning their great ideas into profitable businesses and has helped entrepreneurs collectively grow their revenue to over $ 10 Million in the course of running BGS.
Get in touch with him and book a personal session HERE
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