I've been self-employed for nearly 30 years. Last week at a networking meeting I was told by a recruiter that self-employed people are just people who can't find work or keep a job anywhere else. I'm not sure I've ever been so insulted in my life. And that's saying something, since in my lifetime I've been called pretty much every name in the book.
He then gave me his card, winked and asked me to call him so that he could connect me with people who could get me a "real job." It was all I could do to keep myself from leaning in and ripping his throat out.
I began to wonder why I was so sensitive about his remarks and I concluded that it was because he could not have been more dead wrong. Not just about me, but about an entire generation of people who, because they chose to be "slackers" have made a difference in their world and all around them.
Let me set the record straight for all those who are self-employed and all those who are not.
We do have "real jobs" and they don't come with a cushion of a 401(k), paid vacation, sick days and a boss to take the fall if we don't do it right. We have to pay our own expenses, not the least of which are health insurance, retirement account, licenses, taxes, organization fees, advertising, web site maintenance, computers and office equipment, travel expenses, vehicle maintenance, and we don't get to call in sick when we have the sniffles.
I think that those of us, who take a chance on ourselves, put our confidence in our skills and go out there and actually build something from nothing, are warriors in the truest sense of the word.
We take the chance every single day that we will make enough money to keep the lights on, the mortgage paid, the kids in school, gas in the tank, food on the table and clothes on our backs. If you think that's slacking, I'd like to see you try it.
People who act on their passion are a gift of light, hope and possibilities to our world. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and fortitude to tackle the unknown every day, to take the bad days with a grain of salt and not let the good days go to our heads. It takes balance, audacity, drive, vision and great deal of smarts.
I can only speak for myself in saying that even with the days that my income surpasses my wildest expectations, I always feel like I'm just one step away from living under a bridge. The fear level that comes with being self-employed is palatable. We feel it in our gut and we can literally taste the fright in our mouths. But here's the deal: we go out and achieve our goals in spite of it.
That, my friends, is pure unmitigated bravery. Slacking plays no part in being an entrepreneur. It never has and it never will. And frankly, I'm damn sick and tired of the judgment.
Yes, I'm angry. I know a lot of good people who work hard and struggle every day to stay above the doubt, the criticism and the financial risk that comes with the territory of being self-employed. These people are business owners, writers, speakers, service providers, artists, musicians, the list is endless.
I say thank God for all of them. Thank God that there are people who think out of the box, take a chance on something innovative and new, and look fear in the eye and spit at it. Whether they succeed to their expectations or not, I give them huge kudos for engaging in the act of bravery, originality, and raw nerve.
Those of us in business for ourselves don't always get it right. We are often wrestling with self doubt, second guessing and re-grouping. The best of us never give up. We may take a moment to lick the wounds of defeat should our venture not succeed, but the true entrepreneur will be back, and always with a vengeance.
To have the daring to stand apart from the crowd, to refuse to be a cog in the wheel, is no easy feat. I think its much easier playing the employment game, going to work, punching the time clock, collecting the check and having your health insurance paid and your paid holidays off. If that is your mindset, I admire your work ethic. You will get no discriminate judgment from me.
But on the chance you have any doubt, know that this country was not built by corporations but rather on the backs of the entrepreneur; the dreamer who had an idea and the courage to follow it, the inventor who was ridiculed but still persisted, the architect, artist, writer, musician, and philosopher who despite opposition and mockery stayed the course.
And, just in case you were wondering, I did call that gentleman (and I use the term loosely) and I did have coffee with him. How else would I have had the opportunity to let him know how very wrong he was? And let him know, I did. I offered the thought that an employed individual may well be a person who simply does not have the courage to follow their dream and create their own business. If he hasn't changed his opinion on the matter, I think it's a safe bet to assume that he will refrain from sharing it so cavalierly.
If you've wanted to be your own business person, you are in good company and there are many success stories to lift you up along the way. The price of being on your own is high, much higher than many think. But the rewards are tremendous and the satisfaction of knowing that you can make a living doing what you love ... well, that's priceless.
So, I end with fair warning; if you wish to engage me in a conversation about what slackers self-employed people are, prepare yourself for a battle you are destined to lose. You are wrong and the world proves you so every day.
We are not all made from the same cloth and we are all here to make a life and a living. All of us bring different qualities and abilities to the table. It would be nice if respect was among them.