I spent ages in corporate America and did quite well moving up the ranks with massive velocity. For about a total of 8 years of my life, I not only played the game, but did so with a very strong sense for politics and loyalty to those who didn’t deserve it. I decided at some point that it wasn’t for me anymore, but it certainly played a big part in my past even if it has no room in my future.
I have since wondered why was it that being entrepreneurial was such a threat to the system and those within it.
Having been a top performer within the system and having delivered amazing results for those I worked for, it always occurred from my ability to look outside the box rather than blindly follow old and unrelated instructions that lead to failure. It was great until people started questioning if perhaps it was a fit.
I have always thought that if someone is playing their own way but within the confines of the sandbox, they are still eligible to play the same game and with the same people but apparently I was wrong. What I learned can be summed up in one line.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
While I think people can adapt, others many times are paralyzed by fear which keeps them in the most conservative mode of life. They enjoy coming to work despite the repetition or knowing many things they will do that day will not make sense later and they believe in what they are fed from the top down no matter how misaligned with their reality. For the longest time, I used to think there was something very wrong with that and used to want to alter people’s thinking from within. I quickly learned unfortunately that those under me loved thinking out of the box, while those above me looked at it as a threat to their way of life, also known as collecting a paycheck.
While younger, more dynamic people were hungry and wanted more, those above me were old and comfortable and the majority of those in corporate America who stay in it, old or young, tend to enjoy this comfort which is why they look at anyone showing them a different alternative as threat.
The threat is two fold, one is based on the simple idea that others will showcase that working hard and pushing the limits is a new possibility that will now become a minimum for them, the second is based on the idea that you are going to cause them to lose that comfort by doing something that they see as playing outside the sandbox, and therefore threaten their most comfortable asset, their paycheck.
Entrepreneurs in general look to fix issues, and while this may seem handy in corporate America, it is far from handy because every system in corporate America, like the government itself, is broken. It is broken because one size doesn’t fit all but the bureaucracy and politics. In other words, things that could be fixed in minutes don’t ever get fixed because no one has the balls to fix them and is afraid to be considered unequal to all.
Someone once told me great leadership is about discrimination, not equality.
I embraced this early on and felt that all these flaws and broken down processes in the system could be fixed quickly. As a younger executive, I forgot to identify that perhaps they weren’t broken, because no one wanted or tried to fix them.
Entrepreneurship is simply not welcome in corporate America and despite the appearances of ideas being welcomed, many organizations simply look at that as a means to attract great talent and make it seem like they are given a choice to voice an opinion but in reality, they can’t.