When you dream of owning your own small business, or any other “career” aspiration, are you steering your own ship or are you letting someone else’s conventions and definitions guide you? Is it your parents, your peers, your hometown, a mentor? Or is it society in general?

And when you get that nagging voice that says “I don’t want to be doing this”, what is it that keeps you from starting on the path to what you really want? My guess is two-fold. You’ve been playing by an unspoken set of rules (which we are trying to question) AND you are afraid. Coach Pamela Slim wrote an insightful piece based on this Saturday Night Live sketch about fear. At our core, we are all afraid if we fail we we will morph into Chris Farley living in a van down by the river.

For many of us, these “rules” were developed fairly recently, after the industrial evolution and the end of World War II. There was opportunity galore and our country was feeling both invincible and filled with grief. We needed security and a clearly defined path and budding corporations made a de facto agreement with employees: you stay and be loyal hard workers and we will reward you with a secure job and retirement. Appearances and conformity were very important.

Chris Guillebeau, infamous travel hacker, community leader and author, points out that conformity is death now. It isn’t 1955, company’s don’t reward you for loyalty, and those individuals who think for themselves and take chances are the ones who live amazing lives. Let’s be honest. One of your values might be safety but pursue that path with caution and information. There is really NO SUCH THING.

Take small steps towards your personal dreams, build confidence, get knocked down a peg, get back up and take another small step. Google fails. Apple fails. But it feels much better to fail and get back up for something you personally want than for something someone else chose for you. Steer your own ship.


by Steven Schlagel