As a child of two entrepreneurs, the obvious career path would have been for me to start a business, right? Instead, I took a twenty-year detour into the corporate world. I observed my parents and developed a perception that owning a business = struggle. The corporate world seemed to be an easier road with a consistent salary, benefits, and security.
My Beige Years
Each morning, I donned a uniform – white polo shirt with the company logo and beige khaki pants. By the way, these should be outlawed, they don’t even qualify as a fashion statement. I sat through countless boring and soul-sucking staff meetings and listened with a huge dose of skepticism to the latest company initiative.
I navigated the transition of working for a family-owned company to being bought out by nameless/faceless investors. Struggled when the company went from being client-focused to bottom-line profit.
I became masterful at fitting in, for a while. But as the years ticked by, something inside kept nagging.
- Why are you here?
- How come you are selling something you don’t care about and don’t even agree with?
- Why do you keep trying to force a round peg into a square hole?
I began to speak up, believing I could affect change from within. Occasionally I did, but the companies I worked for were so large and I felt like a tiny fish at the bottom of the ocean. Often, my questions and challenges to the status quo was met with frustration and even outright hostility by those who preferred I be quiet and conform. I don’t know about you, but I’m not good at conforming.
Time for Something New
At some point, I realized I was just butting my head up against a wall – it was time for a shift. I studied for a new role as a spiritual coach and teacher, launched a side gig, and began serving clients on the weekend. This was one of the hardest parts: hiding my side-business from my daytime employer. It was so strange to have one foot in two vastly different worlds.
Yet I persisted. One blog post at a time, one social media ad, one small group program. The momentum built until I could see the entrepreneurship door opening wider and wider. One day during my meditation, I asked the Universe in frustration, ‘When will I be able to take my business full-time?’
The answer I immediately received was, ‘When you decide to.’
So, I took a deep breath and emailed my letter of resignation. This brought up a maelstrom of emotions: excitement, anticipation, complete and utter fear, and underneath, a strong belief in myself.
Purple Hair as a Rebellious Act
As a celebration and nod to my inner rebellious teenager, I dyed my hair purple, began sharing openly about my empathic and intuitive gifts, and offered tarot card readings at the local holistic fair. In for a penny, in for a pound as the British say. Or, you might call it swinging the pendulum to the other side.
Sometimes, we need to do that. It bolsters our courage and helps us step into a different way of life.
After years of being on someone else’s schedule, wearing someone else’s uniform, selling someone else’s dream – I was now doing it for me. And not just for me, but for the clients I serve.
Along the way, I faced those who didn’t understand, a few online trolls and some strange ones who come out of the woodwork. I also have an amazing inner circle of family and friends who’ve been cheering me on non-stop. Each day, I’m deeply in gratitude this is the life I get to live.
But before you start to think self-employment is all wine and roses, this has been both the most challenging path I’ve walked so far. Nothing besides my inter-personal relationships has invited me deeper into my hopes, fears, and full potential than the journey from beige to radical authenticity.
I’ve since swung the pendulum into a more centered, balanced place. Because of my experience in both corporate and spiritual fields, I speak both languages; I am a translator.
I also honor there are many paths to authenticity.
Where Are You on This Journey?
You may be called to stay in a corporation and be the change the business world is calling for. I’m optimistic when I see examples of companies exploring their hiring practices and how they are/are not supporting true equity and diversity. I watch them beginning to acknowledge the need for work-life balance (because people are not robots who can just turn off their personal life as they walk into the office). I observe more companies taking responsibility for their supply chains, demanding humane treatment of workers in developing nations, and measuring their impact on our planet’s environment.
Those who decide to stay, I applaud you for standing strong.
Speak up in that staff meeting, express what’s on your heart, even when there’s resistance to new ideas. Once something’s been spoken, everyone who’s present cannot unhear. They may be resistant at first, but change will come. The larger the company, the longer sustainable change takes.
Seek out a company that’s already moving in this direction and join them to build momentum. If your current employer is mired in outdated mindsets and this creates daily frustration and stress in your life – you are not required to stay and be a martyr.
Does your current employer align with your values?
Working for someone else means shifting your mindset from ‘I’m at the mercy of what the company wants’, to I’m lending them my valuable time, energy, and expertise. When I made this realization, I took my power back, from within. What do you believe in and feel right about supporting?
However, you may be sensing there’s an entrepreneur inside you, itching to get out. Make time and give yourself permission to explore what lights you up. Take a class, pursue a new certification, ask someone who works in the field you’re interested in to lunch. Find out what it’s like from the inside before you make that jump.
Take one small step, then another, and another.
We’re all meant to experience a life of meaning and purpose. You have unique gifts, perspectives, and abilities.
It’s time to use them wisely.