Despite being a well-known entrepreneur today, my earlier business experience encompassed success by working for others. I worked as a telemarketer in my early years and moved up to the director of that very same company by age 18. I then moved on and began a very lucrative and powerful career in banking, where I not only became one of the youngest branch managers in the country, but also worked my way up to vice president after only a few short years. During the decade I worked for others, my point of view, perspective and perception of reality was very different. You could say I was brainwashed and had a very one-sided view of business and life.
I also operated a side business, but it held no relevance to me, as my Corporate America salary prospered and my growth within the organization seemed to know no limit.
I was the company’s poster child; my image and progress was even used in orientation classes as an example of what dedication and hard work can lead to.
My boss was a great friend and I believed our friendship and ability to drive results would triumph everything, including any bumps in the road.
The reality was my situation was too good to be true and I never thought twice about it, other than to just keep moving forward, wanting even more.
Seeing as I come from a low-income family and no formal college education, it meant so much that I believed I was living the American Dream.
I had a beautiful house, nice car, great job and so much more — until things changed one day. I was called into an office and asked about a certain authorization I had given regarding a large money transfer.
Being that I certainly had faith in the system and in the people around me, I told the truth about the transaction, as well as my boss’ verbal approval of it.
While it seemed like no big deal on the surface, the conversation quickly took a turn. I was being interrogated.
I thought I was in control of the situation until I learned my boss, the same person I trusted, was, indeed, the person who had initiated this investigation, partly out of fear of foul play and partly to cover himself.
Within three minutes, everything in my life changed.
The level of betrayal paralyzed me. I didn’t know what to do. I now faced potential termination by those to whom I had devoted six years of my life, only for them to turn against me for some unknown reason.
My immediate reaction was to throw my badge with anger, walk out and make a statement that I would not sit there and be part of this whole mess.
I went home angry thinking someone would call and ask me, the “poster child” of the organization, to come back or even, perhaps, offer an apology for the grave mistake that was made.
Eventually, I did hear from them, and the unfamiliar voice on the phone simply explained to me that I was fired in a polite and professional way.
I devoted six years of my life to building a dream, albeit someone else’s dream. I felt lost and felt the road I traveled was no longer paved with sunlight, but rather, clouded and foggy.
What would I do now? Where would I go?
The obvious answer was to apply for another job and to keep moving forward, as this bump in the road would be soon forgotten. However, there was much more to the situation than originally met the mind.
I felt so betrayed that I had lost my confidence and simply didn’t think I could go back to doing the same thing, and the worst part of it all was that I didn’t believe for one minute someone else would pay me what I was making.
Think about it: The only company I worked with in that industry was no longer viable as a reference.
So, I did what most people in my position who felt betrayed, broken and lost would do… absolutely nothing.
I figured, perhaps, allowing some time to pass would allow me to reflect properly on the situation and eventually figure out what to do.
I will never forget the days I sat at Rio Grande, a local Mexican restaurant and stared at my Lamborghini with a book I was pretending to read.
Weeks passed before I realized four things that would change my outlook and perspective forever:
1. I was under the illusion I was building someone else’s dream.
You hear this often from entrepreneurs who want to encourage people to start their own businesses. The reality, however, is very few of us work to build other people’s dreams, even if we work for them.
Technically, we work to build our own dreams, except our dreams at the time don’t involve building companies. Instead, our dreams are raising families, buying nice things or living in better places.
All of these come from working in exchange for money at someone else’s company.
While it is very true that working for others involves moving someone else’s company forward rather than our own, our intentions for doing it are singular in nature, as we ultimately reap our own rewards from doing so.
2. I believed my education and work experience mattered.
I used to believe I was only as good as the experience I showed on my résumé or the education I held to justify the pay I sought. I realized the reason people would be willing to pay me a healthy six-figure salary had nothing to do with either.
Being in the finance field, I was only as good as my ability to sell myself and my ability to communicate my understanding of the field and/or business, not just because of what I wrote on a piece of paper.
After realizing everything I know, I was still highly underpaid, even though I was being paid 40 percent more than anyone else in a comparable role.
I realized my worth exceeded the four walls of the organization for which I worked and no place of work would be able to pay me my worth. Instead, it was me who settled for what I believed was reasonable for me at the time.
3. I never worked for others.
Even though I worked within rules someone else set forth, I always worked to improve myself, my knowledge and to grow my own life. How I did that was by participating in a company’s success, rather than building my own.
Once again, the misunderstanding from working for others made me believe that at the very moment, I was only as good as my boss’ perception of me. If my company believed I was CEO material, then I believed it was the company’s decision to make it so.
I realized, instead, that my boss’s assessment of me held no relevant worth other than a simple pay increase, which would have no long-term impact on my life.
I also understood clearly that working within someone else’s rules would always mean staying limited to someone else’s guidelines for growth.
4. My skills were only relevant to my industry.
While I may have been an amazing leader and vice president for one bank or one industry, my experience and praise came from the same people who truly had no loyalty to me, nor had my best interest at heart.
If it was true I believed nobody could set a cap on my growth or how much money I earned, then it must also have been true that nobody from the same organization could validate my efficiency in my role.
Accepting that I had much more to learn and that the skills I spent years mastering were only a fraction of those needed to truly become a master of my trade led me to humble myself into further self-education.
After realizing these four things, my days sitting at that restaurant started to change and my belief was not only re-enforced, but it also kept feeding my confidence, which got back to where it once was.
Instead of feeling defeated, I felt liberated, and the path forward was clearer than ever before.
So, what did I choose to do?
I owned a side business that required some work and furthered a few ideas in the back of my head, so going into business for myself full-time was the next logical choice.
Unfortunately, I failed miserably for a year but I learned a lot, and then, I decided to go back to Corporate America.
The only difference was that going back to work now felt like a completely different experience. I no longer bought into the politics to move forward.
It was a difficult transition back and despite still being very good at what I did, I quickly realized that even with a healthy salary, it was no longer a possible alternative for me.
My second attempt at banking was very short lived and led me to rethink my businesses one more time. This time, however, taking on self-employment was different because I no longer felt like the alternative of going back existed.
It seems we, as human beings, are capable of so much more when our backs are against the wall and we are forced to figure things out.
Fast-forward ahead eight years and I am now living my American Dream and have successfully mastered self-employment. I founded two very profitable seven-figure companies.
I am also submerged in teaching entrepreneurship to young children by innovating the learning space with two new ventures in collaboration with some of the brightest and most inspiring entrepreneurs today.
I have also authored 10 books, including a bestseller on personal development, and I contribute valuable information to many outlets, like the one you are reading now.
If there was one thing I learned in all the craziness I went through, it would be the following: Regardless of for whom you work or where you work, you must always bet on the right person, and that person is always yourself.