Will You Be the Shepherd, or the Sheep?
Wake up, shower, get dressed, fix a cup of coffee, eat breakfast and commute. Start work at 8:30, leave at 6:30. Fix dinner, walk the dog, watch some TV and sleep. Wake up the next day and repeat. Sound familiar? It should. Millions of Americans live a similar lifestyle. This is Corporate America. For over a year, this daily routine was the bane of my existence. I wanted to escape, but how?
Problem of Today: Capitalistic Independence
In the Western World, economic and social independence is viewed as success; America’s capitalist society is a stark reminder of this. We are told to work hard, remain diligent and aspire for greatness. If we do so, we achieve the ‘American Dream’. Unfortunately, hard work does not always equal success, and economic freedom does not directly translate to happiness. FreedomLab provides a strong statement as to why this hyper-independence may not be for the better:
“Modern individuals are increasingly finding themselves in a society in which concrete dependencies give way to anonymous and diffuse dependence on devices, structures and systems, and their lives run along programmed paths instead of a unique path of self-development. Examples of this are the fact that modern people often behave and dress more similarly than in previous times, or the fact that large bureaucracies often determine what we should do.”
Does running along “programmed paths” sound like independence? Not to me. That is why I felt such resentment for Corporate America. I yearned for true independence.
The Problems with Corporate America
I do not like the Corporate World. It is controlling. It is manipulating. It is monotonous. It requires all employees to fall in line with their company’s vision – fall out of line once and expect no mercy. Employees are viewed as dollar signs and not people. If the value of an employee diminishes, the corporation trades in for a newer, more naïve and eager model. My time at ALKU proved this to be true. The moment I showed disinterest in the work was my final day of employment. There was no regard for my wellbeing, no person-to-person conversation to try and come to a mutually beneficial resolution. Termination. That was that.
But why was I disinterested in the work? As I mentioned in “A Leap of Faith: From Corporate Ladder to Entrepreneurship", much of my reasoning was that I did not appreciate the company’s need for control over itsemployees. Among other things, I was constantly monitored and criticized for my work. What I failed to mention however, was my disinterest in the work itself. I had no personal affinity for selling IT consulting services. I felt nointrinsic value in my work. I made cold calls, scheduled meetings and dealt with unappreciative clients, day in and day out. How boring does that sound? The only positive I saw was extrinsic: money and benefits. I know that I am not alone in thinking this way.
Work is More than an Earned Income
I believe that choosing to work in the Corporate World is in many cases, choosing to turn a blind eye to one’s true values and professional potential. Signing a contract of employment with a corporation is agreeing to spend 40+ hours every week, in pursuit of someone else’s passions and interests. Why spend your life working in someone’s shadow? Imagine all that you could accomplish in pursuit of your own dreams if you took control of that time. Ask yourself, “is what I’m doing in my job, contributing to my own personal development?” If your answer is “no”, it may be time to take a deep look into who you are and what you want out of your career.
Working for ALKU, I had no time to pursue my own personal interests, simply because all of my time and energy was devoted to my employer’s wants and desires. Sure I was living comfortably and being paid justly, but what is the point in all of that if I loathe the work itself? I dreaded waking up in the morning and getting out of bed to repeat the same schedule day after day. That is why following my termination, I decided to take control of my life and pursue the World as an Entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship in a Nutshell
In my own personal experience, as well as takeaways from conversations with friends and family alike, much of the general hesitation in leaving the corporate world to venture solo boils down to this: un-comfortability with the unknown and what the future holds. Trust me, I know. I am still scared shitless of the unknown for my future. I currently make the minimum to afford rent, utilities, groceries, a bit of travel and a few nights out a month. I can’t even afford health insurance (thanks America). Is all of this worth my independence? Yes, one thousand times over.
Today, I am happier with my penny-pinching, Entrepreneur lifestyle than I ever was earning a steady paycheck with ALKU. I am focused on building my own brand. I am in control of my own schedule. I am self-sufficient. I answer to no one person. I am free. In the beginning, I experienced a major adjustment phase. I felt as though I was dropped in the middle of the ocean with nothing but a life jacket: scared, alone and unsure of which way to go. All I knew was that if were to save myself, I needed to swim. It did not matter which direction, I just needed to make a move. Well, six months in and I cannot see land yet, but the signs of life are beginning to show. Now, I am more comfortable in the un-comfortability of Entrepreneurship and am improving in my journey daily.
Hint: The key is to focus on progress and accomplishments in the beginning, not tangible returns such as financial compensation.
I, for one, have no interest in listening to bureaucracies’ commands, especially when they have their own, self fulfilling and egotistical interests in mind. Society puts a lot of pressure on individuals to achieve its version of success. K-12 → College → Corporation: a modern day pipeline that stifles creativity and inhibits independence. Instead of following this pipeline any longer, I choose to take control of my life. I will no longer allow an employer to dictate my schedule, control my habits and manipulate me to their version of success. I choose to be, me.
I implore my readers to rethink their working position. Will you be the shepherd of your life? Or will you be a sheep and follow along a “programmed path”? Either choice is fine. Frankly, the World needs more sheep than shepherds. But if you want to lead your own flock, you will not get anywhere by following in the path of another.
As a closing statement, I implore you to ponder this question: "In this moment, if I could focus my time and energy on one thing for the rest of my life, what would it be?"
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed. Please feel free to subscribe to my blog for future postings. My goal is to start publishing weekly. 🙂
© 2021 Ian Shepardson