Choose your own destiny

Last month I was talking to a friend about a project he’s involved with at work. He was recently hired into a large company to help them open up a new market. During the recruitment process they specifically described the position as “entrepreneurial” and “a startup within the larger corporate ecosystem.” Knowing how these things sometimes turn out, he asked them whether there was a budget for the new venture, buy-in from upper management, etc. They confirmed that everyone was behind the new initiative and that he would have what he needed to make it work. He accepted the job.

A few months later, he found himself struggling. The supposed budget had yet to be assigned and he couldn’t achieve the current milestones he was executing against. The higher-ups did not appear to have the sense of urgency necessary to provide proactive support. He was frustrated and began rethinking the project and career move. That’s when he came to me.

I suggested he evaluate his own perspective. The successful entrepreneurs that I know never take “no” for an answer. They see new obstacles as challenges that push them to new levels of performance. If an investor backs out, they find a way to reel them in or find a new source of capital. If the competition throws a curve ball, they dodge it like Neo from The Matrix. If their team is flagging, they find a new way to inspire them. One way or another, they figure out how to get across the goal line.

My friend had explicitly sought out a role that was entrepreneurial. He wanted to lead a startup within a larger company. That’s what he signed up for. If a budget isn’t there, he needs to figure out how to get it assigned (sometimes it could be as easy as buying the right person a coffee). If upper management hesitates, he needs to figure out how to call them to action.

Ultimately, entrepreneurs choose their own destiny. That doesn’t mean that others line up with accolades or helping hands (although it’s great if they do!). Regardless of whether you have your own company or work for an NGO or a government agency, think about how you can chart your own course rather than letting outside winds buffet you around. It’s far too easy to let institutional barriers shape your actions and far more satisfying to start shaping the world around you. It’s amazing how things fall into place once you commit.

Incidentally, my friend is now kicking ass and taking names at his company.

Complement with do what matters, the “search” for meaning, and life lessons from a CIA agent turned NYT bestselling author.

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