I recently made a decision. A decision that ultimately put me under much scrutiny and criticism. I effectively shut down my successful business and went back to working for the man. I gave up a life of freedom, control and creativity for a life of timecards, accountability and creative boundaries.
I’ve been asked “the question” too many times now. I’ve heard it from my fellow designers, entrepreneurs and general creative pioneers.
Why the hell did you sellout?
Why did you give up something that was yours? Why did you choose to work for someone else adding to someone else’s dream?
Well here’s your answer. Are you listening? Lean in close and pay attention.
Success is not measured in dollar signs.
I essentially made a course correction mid-flight that allowed me a few things I was missing in my entrepreneurship adventure.
1. I had an opportunity to work elbow to elbow with a respected peer and successful entrepreneur.
This in of itself should be enough of a reason. Most aspiring athletes I have met would not only give up their current career, they would even pay to learn from a professional athlete or be directed by a professional coach. So why wouldn’t I take the same opportunity in business?
2. I wanted to be part of a team.
My biggest struggle running my own business was working alone. Humans are not made to function alone. I wanted to have people I could talk to, run ideas by and make jokes with that understood the ins and outs of my projects. I am thankful for the best team in the world.
3.Because I didn’t like where my business was headed.
This is the most difficult point to explain. I had built my business based on necessity. I had to provide for my family. In turn this meant I did not moderate, filter or vet clients to see if they were a fit. I was just thankful I had clients at all and got the work done. I began to resent my work. I was unhappy. Like Reel Big Fish said,
I don’t think it’ll be so bad,
I know it won’t be so bad,
cause the man said “that’s the way it is”
and the man said
“it don’t get better than this” no no no no
Somewhere in the middle of all this I realized this wasn’t all there is. That giving myself to a cause that wasn’t my own could be a good thing. It could allow me to gain valuable skills, methods and insight to grow myself as a human rather than a mindless designer. Here, stop and enjoy Reel Big Fish’s song Sell Out.
Here’s what I learned from being a sellout.
1. I didn’t actually sellout.
A sellout can be defined as “a person who compromises his or her personal values,integrity, talent, or the like, for money or personal advancement.” I didn’t compromise anything. In fact the only things I even came close to compromising were my freedom and my ability to have no cap on my salary. Those I will freely give if it means I can empower others to grow. This transition has given me that opportunity in my team and in the community.
2. It’s not about me.
Learning to transition your entrepreneurial mindset from a selfish mindset to a machine for community growth is the most rewarding thing a business can do. Shutting down my business gave me the opportunity to start fresh, to think how I would do it again. Moving to elevate allows me to help the community and the members within it.
3. Street Smarts.
Nothing is better than education than learning while you’re in the trenches with people who are smarter than you. Running my own business meant that I never had time to connect, let alone learn from, peers who I felt were more learned/experienced/mature than me. Instead I was left with a particularly shallow viewpoint. I only had the time and resources to think about the project directly in front of me. “Selling out” meant I could begin to think further than now.
If you want to call me a sellout, so be it. I don’t regret my decision. I am a better designer/businessman because of it. The journey to discovery often looks like stepping off the path and walking into the great unknown.
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