Myths about moving to freedom via the entrepreneurship
Myths about moving to freedom via the entrepreneurship road
When I contemplated starting a business, I got lots of horrible
advice. I still refer to one advisor as "the coach from
hell." As I attended classes and talked to various advisors,
I kept hearing ten myths that were often presented as core
In my own coaching, I encourage clients to (a) use intuition
as a filter to evaluate advice and (b) be especially skeptical
of arrogant advisors who dismiss your concerns. In my opinion,
the following statements are myths that should not be trusted.
1. Career freedom means starting a business.
Often my clients assume the only way to career freedom is
through starting a business. I know dozens of people who feel
very free in a corporate setting. They swim easily in the
corporate stream. They like the steady paycheck and they know
how to navigate corporate politics without hassles. Most important,
they separate their jobs from their lives. They have regular
outlets for creativity, self-expression and close relationships.
Writer Lawrence Block once wrote (I forget where) that people
do not have an obligation to write. If you feel that you should
write but keep putting it off, he says, don't bother. The
world has enough books and writers. They do not need yours.
I found this perspective very comforting. For years I did
not try to write. When I did, I realized it was something
I truly wanted to do. And nobody has to start a business unless
it's something you truly want to do.
Marilyn began her own business when her company outsourced
its human resource function. Her boss helped her set up the
business and became her first client. She earned a good living
but, when business slowed, sought a corporate job. She has
no regrets: she likes getting the matching income from the
401(k) plan, the broad health benefits, and freedom from worrying
about her next client.
2. "Don't worry, be happy." Some advisors believe
their mission is to encourage you and build your confidence,
even if they secretly think you are pursuing a hare-brained
idea. I asked one advisor, "Do you level with people
if you think they'll never make it as a coach?" He said,
"No. I let them discover the truth for themselves. After
all, I might be wrong."
I disagree. There is considerable evidence for the self-fulfilling
prophecy effect: if your advisor does not believe in you,
you might fare badly. If your advisor believes in you, you
have a better chance. I also believe that, if you're going
into business, you need to face facts. Your advisor should
be able and willing to comment on your chances for success
or refer you to an expert in the field you want to enter.
You may want to get second and third opinions, but each opinion
should be honest.
Find at least three advisors who will help you assess your
skills and temperament against the requirements of your career.
If there is no consensus, dig deeper.
3. "Visualize success." Some advisors will encourage
you to be positive, pursue visualization and/or follow the
law of attraction: Think about what you want to bring into
your life, they say, and it will appear.
While I support visualizing and attracting, I do not believe
you can attract business from a non-existent target market.
Try to attract money and personal fulfillment rather than
success of a specific business. You might also try to attract
knowledge and discernment so you can evaluate your various
advisors. And you still need a business plan.
4. "If you can dream it, you can do it." In her
wonderful book, Finding your own north star, Martha Beck debunks
this myth with a simple example: She once dreamed she found
herself in a bathtub with ex-President Clinton and an owl.
Other people dream of meeting the Queen of England or connecting
with people who lived ten centuries ago. You may have a very
clear, detailed picture of what you want, but still fail to
reach your goal. Those who advised you to dream will no doubt
say, "Well, it wasn't meant for you." True, but
The reverse is often true: "You must be able to imagine
yourself successful in order to reach your goals." Still,
I know people who were catapulted to success far beyond their
dreams; they missed the ride but managed to enjoy their arrival.
5. "If other people can have a successful business,
you can too." Not so! You may be smarter, more creative
and more energetic than your friend James, but James may have
that special spark that makes him a successful entrepreneur.
James may have a truly supportive friend or family, a trust
fund that gives him ten years to get the business going, or
a charismatic personality that draws people to him. I once
had a colleague who would get unsolicited offers of consulting
jobs whenever he gave a talk to a group or even a college
class. He had a unique combination of expertise, confidence
and charm. Most of us do not.
6. "You will probably fail." Some advisors will
say outright, "Most people who follow the path you're
on are doomed to fail." You have to decide if they're
using a scare tactic to motivate you or if they're being honest.
There is a story, possibly legendary, about a surgeon who
encounters a famous musician. "Maestro," he says,
"I played for you at a master class. You advised me to
stop playing professionally. You said I would never be great.
I want to thank you. I listened to your advice and became
The maetro peers at the surgeon: "I do not remember
you. I tell all my students that. The great ones ignore my
advice and continue anyway."
7. If you feel energized about your goal, you will be successful.
Nonsense! I once knew a guy I will call Richard. He had a
vision of himself as an entrepreneur and consultant. Over
the years his expertise changed: he purchased a scale to measure
job stress, he kept books for a few companies, he wrote marketing
plans. He wasn't very good at any of these activities. Nobody
was interested the job stress scale, the CPAs had to save
the books from his creative accounting, and his marketing
plans read like an undergraduate term project.
Richard was rescued by interim teaching jobs and temporary
jobs, where he was on the payroll of an agency. He loved what
he was doing. Perhaps he felt truly free. But success always
eluded him. Last I heard he was renting a room and continuing
with temporary jobs, thirty years after striking out on his
Feeling energized just means you enjoy some aspect of what
you are doing. Figure out what you enjoy and then decide how
you can incorporate your enjoyment into your career -- or
your personal life.
8. You can always go back to what you were doing before.
After you spend several months or years trying to build a
business, you will be different. Your former career will be
different. Some careers operate like closed communities: If
you leave, you are an outcast who will be shunned. Truly,
for most people, "you can't go home again."
I would say, "Take a job at the start of your business,
or keep the job you have now. If your profits soar, you are
in a very strong position to bid farewell to your day job.
You can use the extra cash to grow your business faster, have
some fun or save for the next crisis. But you will be free.
If you take a job later, out of need, you will not feel as
free and you may even feel trapped."
9. You have had a successful career so far and you'll figure
out how to be successful now.
Basketball players do not always thrive on football teams
and volleyball is a different game altogether. Enough said.
10. You need to have more confidence in yourself.
If people typically describe you as lacking in confidence,
you need to explore this question before you move forward
with any career change. You may need to consult a licensed
psychotherapist. But if you are normally viewed as a strong,
confident person, your lack of confidence in your entrepreneurial
skills may be based on reality. Listen to your intuition.
Your concern should be considered a warning, not a sign of
|Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and
speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast
move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com
or call 505-534-4294.