In the time I’ve been away from corporate, I’ve seen the absolute best in people and I’ve seen the absolute worst. From being rescued from an imminent beat-down and kidnapping in Dongguan to having my shirt inexplicably burst wide-open while negotiating trade terms with a rather fetching trade commissioner in Hong Kong. From working with entrepreneurs who mortgaged everything to create something, to enduring sycophants who talk a huge game but have never risked anything in their lives. From being asked to join a company after a bar fight in Toronto to negotiating safe passage for an American tourist with a gang of 30 Chinese sanitation workers in Hong Kong who wanted to pummel him.
When you’re on your own, without rules or restrictions, you find yourself in situations most would never imagine.
Money becomes secondary to the things you experience and the lessons you learn.
Here are 5 things everybody must take my word on.
1. Your time is so very precious. Not everybody wants to own a business. Many of us just want to have a comfortable existence doing meaningful work in exchange for a fair wage. If you’re trading your time for money, make damn sure it’s something you absolutely want to do. Don’t do it for a title or money. Titles mean nothing. How your time is used is everything. Every moment you give to someone, is a moment you’ve forfeited to create something for yourself. Make sure that you’re forfeiting that moment for something you find meaningful or useful. That moment is gone forever. Forget industry or product – think task. What ‘task’ do you want to do everyday? Is it laying brick, coaching a team or coding an app? What do you want to think about every day?
2. When you know you can create income out of nothing, nothing scares you anymore. If you return to corporate or start something new, all fear is gone. Everything will seem slightly more manageable. Failure or mistakes do nothing to kill enthusiasm and you embrace it. You find yourself asking, “Really, this is what they’re worried about?”. It’s like someone who learns how to ride a bike and wonders why he thought it was hard in the first place.
3. Know when to say ‘No’. If you’re good, you will be invited to join all sorts of things. Be humble and flattered but never forget that saying ‘Yes’ to the wrong thing might be more painful than saying ‘No’ to the right thing. Always have your end-game in mind. If you don’t have one, you will be dragged in all directions, none of them leading to where you might have wanted to go.
4. The power of attraction is absolutely true. There are a whole bunch of sayings, all of them true. “Thoughts become things”, “You become what you think about all the time.”, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” etc. I’m not one to believe in any sort of airy-fairy explanations but I do know for a fact that when you focus on your endgame all the time, you become hyper-aware of all the opportunities that bring you closer and you just blur out everything else that doesn’t.
5. Analysis paralysis kills opportunities. Few things require days or weeks to decide. If you are self aware, you’ll know exactly where your mind is and how far you are from your goal. Things will never line up perfectly so don’t wait for them to.
The endgame is not how much money you make or how your career turns out. The endgame is being able to say “I chose this life.”