Having a good job is apparently no longer a cool thing.
Especially among millennials, entrepreneurship is being heavily glorified these days.
There are countless blogs, Facebook groups, websites, mailing lists, seminars and retreats all around the same topics.
“Quit your Job and be your own Boss!”
“Start your own Internet Business in just 24 hours!”
“Buy my course and I’ll show you the secrets to Independence!”
It sometimes reaches the point where you might start feeling like a loser if you are NOT an entrepreneur. Having a good job isn’t enough. And each day that you aren’t one, you become more of a loser.
Allow me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment.
1. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.
It is difficult. It takes a lot of work.
Most of those I know who are successfully running their own businesses full time have put in a LOT of hours to get it there. They will have spent many years working 12 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Sure, they loved what they were doing.
But they also probably missed out on a few things, such as time with loved ones, beach vacations, ski holidays, dating and sex, movies and books… the list goes on.
I am not suggesting that these individuals viewed this as a sacrifice. They were driven and received a lot of pleasure from their work.
However not everyone is built that way. Some people just like to enjoy their leisure time. Which as an entrepreneur, you will likely have to forego.
2. Most entrepreneurs fail.
7 out of 10 businesses close during the first year of business.
2 of the remaining 3 hang on for a while but eventually also fail.
I am a member of 3 Facebook groups dedicated to finding your passion or starting an online business. There are over 6,000 combined members in all these groups.
Of these 6,000 members, I have seen about 12 real “success” stories.
So, it can happen. But the odds are clearly against you.
You can see this as a reality check, or use it as motivation.
3. You won’t really be free anyway.
The idea that you will only really be “free” once you start your own business is largely a fallacy.
In your business you will probably have clients or paying customers. You need to deal with them and do what they say.
Customers can be irritating. They have many demands and can be unreasonable at times.
If you are running a startup, eventually you will seek out investors. Once you sell off parts of your company/soul you will have increasingly less input over its operations and you will be beholden to the shareholders.
4. Passions change.
The idea that you need to “find your passion” can be problematic.
What if you don’t have one clear passion?
What if your passion changes 3 years from now?
You may start by loving something, and then not enjoying it anymore after a few years. What then?
You have invested so many years in a business already. Now it bores you. Do you want to do it all over again?
Ideally, you have a passion for business and entrepreneurship that will keep you going.
For most people, it is much easier and likely more profitable to just change jobs as your passions evolve.
5. Entrepreneurship is not strongly correlated with happiness.
Some rich and successful entrepreneurs are happy.
Others are not.
Most entrepreneurs and advice around this emphasizes setting clear goals and then achieving them.
So the majority of entrepreneurs are always setting and looking for new goals.
And that’s great! Setting and attaining goals are important to satisfaction in life.
But you need to be careful with attaching your happiness to the achievement of goals. This is like attempting to fill a bucket with water that has a hole in it.
If you’re not happy now, you’re not going to be happy “sometime later” when your goal is achieved.
Because after that goal there will be another. And another.
Happiness comes from within and results in happiness without. If you are looking for an exterior catalyst to bring your internal happiness, you will be forever lost.
The goal is not entrepreneurship. The goal is to be happy.
You can be completely happy with your current job situation. I have met plenty of people who love their jobs.
I used to love my job. At some point I stopped loving it, so I left.
The extent to which you love your job depends heavily on how engaged you are. Engagement is a measure of intrinsic motivation, i.e. the higher your motivation, the more engaged, and the higher job satisfaction you have.
According to Gallup, about 1/3 of US employees are engaged in their jobs.
When I read that statistic I thought, “hey, that’s not too bad”.
Using simple math, you have a greater chance of finding a job you will enjoy (33%) than of becoming a successful entrepreneur (~10%).
Why isn’t employee engagement higher? Why aren’t people happier in their jobs?
In my opinion there are three main reasons:
1. Most employers have not evolved enough to meet peoples’ changing values.
Most jobs are designed around the carrot and stick, “extrinsic motivation” philosophy. A higher salary equals more status and greater job satisfaction. Which, they believe, motivate you to work harder.
For some people this may be true. It was true for our parents and grandparents, many of whom grew up in poor environments and recently immigrated from somewhere. They wanted job security and status.
However this does not hold true as much for our generation.
There have been several studies which show that employee engagement is very weakly correlated with salary; and in some cases, an increase in salary can actually decrease motivation! (source: Harvard Business Review)
More than ever, people are motivated by their values. They want a space to be creative. People stagnate in an environment where all process are standardized and workers have no flexibility or room for creativity.
Salaries are secondary.
I posit that the seeming rise in entrepreneurship among Millennials is a direct result of the slowness of company cultures to evolve to meet their needs.
Values are not being met, intrinsic motivation dies, and people leave. Better to make less money doing what you like as an entrepreneur or freelancer, than spend miserable days on a high salary.
Better management is needed to understand how to keep people creative and happy, and feel that their work is in alignment with their values.
2. Your colleagues suck.
The more I reflect on it, the more I have come to believe that it doesn’t matter whether you are employed by yourself or someone else, or whether you work in a large corporation or a small startup.
The important thing, it seems, is to be around people you enjoy.
Positive and happy people will motivate you. Negative and miserable people will bring you down.
You will know soon after entering a new job which type of environment it is. In toxic environments, people complain about petty bullshit that has nothing to do with work or the business. They will gossip endlessly and complain that they don’t get the same thing that someone else does.
It is still possible be happy in such an environment, but you need to make sure you only spend time with the non-toxic people and ignore everyone else to the extent possible.
I’ll let you know what a positive corporate environment feels like when I find one (I’ve only been in one).
3. Your boss sucks.
A great boss will listen to you, allow you space to solve work problems your own way, trust you, value your opinion, communicate goals and strategy to you, fight for you, give you credit and help you learn and advance in your career.
A bad boss will take all credit, won’t stick up to his superiors to enact necessary changes, can’t/won’t devote time to your professional growth, and micro-manage you.
As long as your boss is also an expert in your area of work and is someone you admire, you will have no problem following him or her.
People want to be led, but only by those that they respect. Having a great leader for a boss can make your work very enjoyable.
So where do we go from here?
1. Know Yourself
Spend some time discovering your strengths. Try Gallup’s Strengthfinder 2.0. It is an excellent resource.
You should also focus on identifying your values.
What do you agree with?
Which leaders do you look up to?
What things tend to make you angry?
If something makes you angry, it’s a strong indicator that it goes against your values to some degree. Focus on your feelings about this and you will discover that you have a strong value attached to it.
2. Try to like your job.
Try hard. Make sure it’s not you yourself that is making you unhappy. Try to practice being grateful for what you have.
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you are living in the developed world. Try to remind yourself that your living standards are higher than that of 80% of the rest of the world, and higher than what a King in Medieval times enjoyed.
It’s still quite possible that you are totally a happy person and are just in the wrong environment. In which case…
3. Look for work that is in line with your values and strengths.
People thrive when they feel that their strengths are being used.
If you love client contact, then make sure you are client-facing.
If you are a whiz with numbers but shy, then don’t work in a customer service role.
If you are a constant learner, make sure you are in a role with an ever-changing environment.
If you value honesty, ensure that leadership is conducting business in a fair way.
4. Surround yourself with great people.
Environment is everything.
Your relationships with others are the key to long term happiness.
Ignore the haters and focus on the players.
Your mind is a powerful tool. For the most part, you can imagine that the toxic people don’t even exist!
If you can’t find them at work, then make sure you are actively looking outside of work.
5. Look for a great boss, or make your current one better.
Communication is everything. If your boss is not managing you in a way agreeable to your working style or strengths then you need to communicate this to him/her.
You should be able to find an arrangement that works for you both. Hopefully, your manager will be sufficiently mature to accept critical feedback as this assists his/her own development.
However some managers were promoted into management at too young an age/maturity level.
If – and only IF! – your boss does not listen or treats you poorly out of pettiness, then you need to go to your boss’s superior and let them know the situation.
But if you do this, make sure you have your CV ready because your workplace may become unpleasant afterwards.
There are TONS of bad managers that go unidentified because none of the staff speak up about it. The people under them stay in their jobs out of fear, that manager is promoted to ever more senior levels, and the cycle of bad management continues.
6. If none of the above works – then leave.
The job market is like any other market. A company has no incentive to change their ways if people remain in their jobs. When enough people leave, management will realize that they have a retention problem.
If they are good managers, they will take measures to change it.
If they still don’t change it, eventually they will train and hire good managers.
“Quit. Keep on quitting, until you don’t want to leave” – Bobcat Goldthwait