Do you see yourself being an employee or an employer?

I think most successful, self-motivated, and driven individuals would answer “employer.” It seems like the right answer, yet all too often I find individuals who would be dynamic employers continuing to settle for the employee role.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me throw a disclaimer out here. Most professionals should be working as employees. Obviously, we need employees, and very few people are actually suited to lead their own companies. Put it this way: everybody wants to be up to the plate, down a run in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and two outs–until they are actually put into that position. Being an employer is tough. But for those who have the stomach for the pressure, the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards can be immense.

So what exactly does it mean to be an employer, you might ask? It’s easier to explain what it doesn’t mean. Being an employer is not about the title you have or how well you hit a sales number. Being an employer is not about having your next pay increase determined by office politics, and it’s definitely not having a company car, free office lunches, or a fat severance package.

Being an employer is about autonomy. Having the autonomy to determine what journey you embark on and who will be going on that journey with you. Being an employer means looking in the mirror and knowing that whatever goes right–and whatever goes wrong–is contingent on how well the person looking back at you performs. It’s equity. It’s ownership. It’s being able to call your own shots.

The perks of being an employer seldom include the traditional corporate benefits. As an employer, you might have to trade in that pension, matching 401k, and the rest of the company package for the opportunity to “make it your own.” An employer is a modern-day explorer seeking for a new frontier. An employer is a visionary. The rewards can be immense in terms of financial gain and recognition, but these pale in comparison to how you’ll feel when you reach the twilight of your career and you know you put it all on the line. You were an employer.


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