It's a familiar scene. Guy sitting in his cubicle, pissed off at the review he just got. Only this is different because all the ratings were four or five out of five. All except one. Human Resources had come up with an acronym to describe the values that they rated us on: The ACTION values. I don't remember what the first five values were, but I excelled at them. I taught myself new systems, missed my girlfriend's birthday and went above and beyond whenever it was asked of me.
I do, however, remember the what the last letter of the acronym stood for. "Now." Apparently I wasn't very good at that. I don't even know what "Now" means and to this day I still don't know how to be good at "Now." But this was the reason I couldn't get the maximum raise allowed or a promotion. Because I suck at "Now."
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed working for corporations both large and small over the years. I still miss the corporate Christmas parties, the random encounters with a friendly co-worker, the company meetings and award ceremonies. But at the end, each time I handed in my resignation, it always came down to what I thought was right.
Often people would question my decisions: "Wow, you had a good thing going" or "Don't be rash, it's the same everywhere you go." And then there were the idiots. Almost straight out of a Dilbert cartoon or worse. I couldn't believe these people were making decisions that would have an effect on my life. As a production assistant in Los Angeles, I once got yelled at for not taking the plastic holder off a six-pack of Diet Coke. I've been criticized for staying until 2:30AM to teach myself how to edit video. I had a boss who, even though I ran programs like auto-CAD and built the company store database, insisted that she always had a better computer on her desk with more RAM and better processor. I was once even physically threatened for escalating a request to attend my mother's wedding. This was not at a construction job or an auto shop where macho behavior is prevalent -- it was at a Silicon Valley information company. After quitting on the spot, and a series of exit interviews over the next couple of days, the icing on the cake was a vice-president telling me, "We would have really appreciated a two weeks notice."
Around the early 1990s, video technology was changing. Tape-to-tape editing was disappearing as computers became fast enough to record analog video onto a hard drive. BetaMax, which was still used widely in professional video, was quickly being replaced with digital technologies. It was around this time that I decided to make video production my future.
After trying to move up the chain through the production assistant route and being unsuccessful, I had the opportunity to get in the door at a major video game company. I knew video games were moving over to the CD format and that video was going to play a much larger role, so I signed on to the facilities department and began making connections in the video department. But just as fast as the door was opened, brick walls went up. After months of performing favors, special treatment and making it clear my desire to work for the department, the major operations were shifted to Japan. I was then overlooked for a position within the remaining local team.
I decided that the only way I was going to be satisfied was by taking control. I asked myself "Why am I leaving my life in the hands of people who are only looking out for themselves? Why keep taking on the system when I can make my own rules?" It was time to create my own path and take ownership of my future.
I knew it wouldn't be easy. Much of the same obstacles that are in your way in the corporate world are in the entrepreneurial one as well. Plus, you have the added burden of finding your own jobs, your own health insurance and your own equipment.
Most people who run their own businesses will tell you that they've never worked as hard as they did when they started up their companies. Trust me, it's not easy living off of Top Ramen and cheap coffee. The politics, the co-workers, the games, they're still all there in one way or another. You work late nights, make decisions on things you don't know much about, and all without much of a safety net.
But it's yours. For as much as you take on the risk, you also get all the rewards. No one is going to hand you success, and believe me, it's so much better that way. You set the goals, you make the budgets, you do the job. When you finish your first project or put out your first product, there's no better feeling. And that's what attracted me to it. I was finally setting the rules to the game, and I was the one deciding what's right and what's fair. I was finally in control of where my life was going and while other people still had input, I had the final word. Make or break -- now, it is all about me.