It’s said that various adventurers and conquerors throughout history have used the “ship burning” method to motivate their troops to do their best in the adventure/fight that lie ahead of them because, basically, “there ain’t no goin’ back!” Well, rhetorically speaking, I’m about to do the same thing to myself here in this post…that is, I’m going to burn the metaphorical ship that is my career!
How? By telling any would-be employers of the future the simple truth about me: That is, I’m a GREAT worker but a HORRIBLE employee!!!
In the past, I’ve said this about myself to other people and most of those people have looked at me sideways like I was a bit crazy but a small number of them have looked at me with empathy and understood exactly what I was saying…no surprise that those people were all entrepreneurs.
For those of you who are reading this and aren’t quite on the same wavelength about what I mean here I will elaborate a bit: Specifically, I would say that starting from my very first job in the fast food industry (shout out to Carl’s Jr.!) many years ago up to the last job that I held before starting Redshift Consulting that I was a VERY hard worker…I put in long hours on the occasions that required it (though, never simply for the sake of putting in long hours); I stayed on top of the latest trends in my industries; whenever I managed people I did as much as I could to help propel them just a little bit further along in their careers (though, I have no delusions that everyone that ever reported to me would see me in such a light but at the very least I think that just about everyone would say that I treated them with respect if nothing else), etc.
I don’t say any of this to pat myself on the back – I’ve known many people who worked just as hard as I have (if not more so) and, of course, I’ve made MANY mistakes throughout my career – I say this because I’ve always taken great pride in my work and also because I think that I’ve always known (more or less unconsciously until recently) that I AM my work. Hopefully, most of you are still with me so far.
So that’s the “great worker” part but what about the “horrible employee” part? Well, let’s just say that I’ve never been the most “politic” employee…I’ve never been great at “toeing the line,” etc. I don’t mean to characterize myself as some kind of rebel per se but suffice to say that my “big mouth” has gotten me in trouble at work on a number of occasions and indeed was likely the cause for at least one of the three layoffs that I’ve experienced in my long career. I’m putting all this “out there” because as I’ve said…I’m burning the “metaphorical ship that is my career!” In a word: I am UNEMPLOYABLE.
(All that said, I don’t think that I was ever disrespectful to past managers – respect is important to me – but if I’m being honest with myself there were a number of conflicts with past mangers that I SHOULD have handled better than I did. We live…we learn…hopefully.)
Why am I unemployable? Because like most entrepreneurs I’m stricken with the belief that I can do things just a bit better and in particular that I can run a business just a bit better than any that I’ve ever worked for…and I’ve worked for some very good companies/people in the past. Is this crazy? Possibly. Hubristic? Definitely…but in the last year (2016 is about to be closed out as I write this) I’ve met some very sharp, interesting and successful small business owners who are indeed a bit crazy and certainly a TINY bit hubristic in character because this is part of what it takes to live an entrepreneurial life.
(Don’t confuse “hubris” with “conceit,” by the way. The former denotes exaggerated self-confidence while the latter denotes simple vanity or narcissism and while there certainly are some narcissistic entrepreneurs out in the world the vast majority that I have met are just very confident in themselves.)
Bottom line: While there are no guarantees in business (the odds against small business success are cliché at this point) I can honestly say that with 2017 just around the corner that I’m grateful for whatever comes in the year ahead because, at the very least, I have a toasty bonfire burning right behind me so I’m unlikely to freeze to death!