5 ways to get out of “job” mentality when starting a business

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Talk_to_the_handI have talked a lot this week about breaking out of some of your mental models so you can make a quantum leap in your life and work.

When you start your own business, it is tempting to look at it as you would an employee job.  You may believe that there is one definitive business that will bring you health, happiness, wealth, fame and a really hot babe by your side.  Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

The process of becoming a true, serial, (good) crazy entrepreneur is to view the world as a series of experiments.  Instead of a subject matter expert, you want to become an expert in experimentation.  And you want to plan on failing, falling on your face a few times, if for nothing else than to have a great story to tell your adoring stockholders and fans when you finally ring the bell at the opening of the New York Stock Exchange.  Part of what makes Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad success so great is his self-admitted hubris and failure at his first start-up business.

Here are some ways to get out of your job mentality and get into your entrepreneur mentality:

  1. Start with What kind of work am I meant to do?, not What kind of business should I start?  This is a very important distinction that I want you to stop and really think about for a minute.  It is related to your greater purpose for being on earth, or if you wish to frame it in corporate terms, your personal mission statement.  When I spent some time reflecting on the work I am meant to do, I realized that it all has to do with promoting personal freedom, joy and expression through work.  Kind of vague and squishy, huh?  But it becomes concrete as I experiment with different business ideas to further this mission.  I tried to work as a corporate consultant and had great fun and financial success.  Then I decided to become a coach for wannabe entrepreneurs.  Now I am playing with being an author and writing a book. In a few years, I may decide to create a product line or two.  As I grow and evolve, my work may change too which will lead to different kinds of businesses.
  2. Forget about permanence.  If you are just starting your entrepreneurial journey, chances are you may need lots of fits and starts in order to find a business that gives you meaning, money and happiness.  To use crass dating terms, you are not looking for Mr. Right, you are looking for Mr. Right Now, with the low expectation that he may surprise you and turn into Mr. Right.  It has been awhile since I have been on the dating scene, but I do remember a few men I met that were waaaaay too intense in their search for a permanent mate.  At the first date and coffee, if they asked about marriage and children, I would run screaming.  Your work feels the same way – it needs time to get to know you.  If the fit is right, go for it, if not, move on to the next one.
  3. Operate in a state of confident ignorance.  As an employee, you are often trying to hold up your status of subject matter expert so as to keep your job or get promoted to the next.  Personal weakness is not always embraced in a cut-throat corporate environment. My new "professional crush," Professor Bob Sutton from Stanford, just blogged about Strong Opinions, Weakly Held in which he says: 

    "A couple years ago, I was talking to the Institute’s Bob Johansen about wisdom, and he explained that – to deal with an uncertain future and still move forward – they advise people to have “strong opinions, which are weakly held.”

    I think this is a critical mindset to have as an entrepreneur.  If you are racked with self-doubt and think you don’t know anything, chances are you won’t be able to sell or promote your new business.  But you can’t get so confident that you actually believe that you know everything or you will fall on your face in a public and spectacular manner. 

  4. Blow away your traditional thoughts of salary expectations.  As an employee, many career decisions are made with salary and bonus in mind.  You may choose not to take a job that offers too little salary because you know that you need to maintain a constantly growing salary history in order to have a good career.  As an entrepreneur, this mentality is meaningless- you essentially become an investor in your business.  So besides covering your basic start-up expenses, you have to decide how to allocate your profits.  If you decide to pay yourself the same salary you had as an employee, you may fail to invest in critical things to grow your business.  Before having my son, I made a quarter million dollars a year, with the opportunity for much more if I chose it.  After my maternity leave, I made a conscious decision to make … considerably less while I build up the infrastructure for the new phase of growth.  Does this mean that I have "failed" in my business?  Nope!  I see the opportunity to eventually make much more than I did in my corporate consulting, but in order to do it right, I have to take time to get the infrastructure in place and build a relationship with my new audience.
  5. Be very open to firing yourself.  Know how far you are willing to risk your time, energy and money in your entrepreneurial venture.  Before you get rolling, set a few mental checkpoints where you can evaluate how well things are going.  Don’t become one of those sad "entrepreneurial gamblers" that spends your whole retirement savings, maxes out credit cards, mortgages your home to the hilt and loses your family in singular pursuit of your dream.  We all have heard J.K. Rowling’s story of recieving something like 37 rejection letters for Harry Potter before an enlightened publicist finally picked it up and made her a multiple-gazillionaire.  This is the exception, not the rule.  I am not encouraging you to give up on your dream, just don’t bankrupt yourself in the process.  If you have to go back to a stint as an employee, this is not failure, it is just a temporary income stream or my favorite saying, "becoming your own venture capitalist."

18 Responses to “5 ways to get out of “job” mentality when starting a business”

  1. What an excellent post! I had totally forgotten that it might be good to have more than one idea…

    I’d been weighing so many options in the recent past, debating the merits of what “focus” I should have should I make the last push.

    Relieved to realize I’m not mad. 🙂

  2. Good one! Very well said and quite relevant.

    Entrepreneurship is an altogether different ball game.

  3. David says:

    I love your third point! ‘Operate in a state of confident ignorance’… Classic!

  4. Great blog entry, and very helpful. I am experiencing several of these points. It’s definitely a transition from worker to boss, and in more ways than just this. There are so many guilty feelings with taking a day off, etc. But I do like the boss better.

  5. Graydon says:

    Great tips. I only had one thought… On #1, you could shorten it a bit from “What kind of work am I meant to do” down to “What am I meant to do”… then the “work” becomes a tool of doing what you wanted. It’s another fine line… but I think it matches more to the intent. Plus, I think your expanding thoughts are already in that frame work…

    You – meant to promote personal freedom, joy and expression…

    through working as a corporate consultant, coach, blogger, author and who knows what comes next.

    Of course, when framed this way, there will be some people that can find what they were meant to do inside the corporate world.

  6. Best Blog Articles – 09-17-2006

    How many blogs do you read during the week? I subscribe to almost 100 blogs. There are a lot of good ideas out there and Im always impressed by the good articles with original content that can help us all in what we do at work. These articles s…

  7. Becky says:

    Pam, thank you. Last week I had an opportunity to do a meet-and-greet that might was likely to bring me a huge influx of clients. My strategy has been to grow slowly, taking the time to be sure I’ll thrill my clients every step of the way, and not grow beyond my skill or ability to deliver in a timely manner. My contact who invited me to the event was aghast when I declined – “You don’t want as many clients as possible?!” My answer: a firm, surprising, “No.”

    Keep it up – your posts confirm that I’m doing the right thing in following my heart and my instincts. Much appreciated.

  8. Leo Archer says:

    5 ways to get out of that “job” mentality when starting a business

    Pamela Slim has a great post titled ‘5 ways to get out of job mentality when starting a business’ which is recommended reading for anyone starting a business or anyone who has moved into their own business after being employed. 

  9. bitacle.org says:

    Bitacle Blog Search Archive – 5 ways to get out of “job” mentality when starting a business

    […] I have talked a lot this week about breaking out of some of your mental models so you can make a quantum leap in your life and work. […]

  10. Przemek says:

    No more Rich Dad, please, please, please…


  11. Having worked on my own for 25 years, I’ve just escaped from true temptation to go back to the cubicle. As a result, I now find I am more effective than ever in being a self-starter. There’s nothing like good plain fright to motivate you to visualize where you want to be!

  12. Escape the Job Mentality When Starting a Business

    Pamela over at Escape from Cubicle Nation offers some great ways to get out of the job mentality when starting a business.
    The first item on her list Start with What kind of work am I meant to do?, not What kind of business should …

  13. bitacle.org says:

    Bitacle Blog Search Archive – 5 ways to get out of “job” mentality when starting a business

    I have talked a lot this week about breaking out of some of your mental models so you can make a quantum leap in your life and work. […]

  14. robert says:

    Another helpful aid to begin weaning yourself off the ‘corporate mentality’ into your entrepreneur model will be to visualise your timeline to success.

    Shut your eyes and visualise yourself 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years and up to 4 years from now. See what you are doing at these intervals. Hear how you interact confidently and successfully with your customers and staff. See yourself concluding deals that will bring in more revenue to the business.

    Make the colours brighter and sounds louder. Double the size of the picture of you 4 years from now, then double it again and double that one again until it is a massive picture of a successful you in your own business.

    I use this technique as often as I need to see where I am going and to visualise my milestones toward escaping the cubicle.

  15. Todd says:

    I really like this article and I think those are great tips. Especially the last one about firing yourself if you have to.

  16. Solopreneur Transitions

    After listening to Free Agent Nation, by Dan Pink, reading the comments Ann Handley and Michael Pollock made on Becoming a Solopreneur, and talking to some of my “solo” colleagues, I started to consider the transitions we go through when

  17. ann michael says:

    Pam –

    This is great. I think we all start out with an idea of what we’re going to do and how it’s going to work and we have to be open-minded. It’s far better to think about who we are, what we’re good at, and what we enjoy!

    I can’t tell you how useful I’ve found your blog (I only recently discovered it). Where were you a year ago!!!! (actually I wasn’t reading blogs or writing my own a year ago – my how things change when you go out on your own!)


  18. Amer says:


    I have just finished reading your article and it has really opened my mind! As a graduate with a fairly good job I found it difficult to break away from the ‘secure’ job mentality. I know, there is no such thing but it’s how the school system taught us to think. Your comment “you essentially become an investor in your business” struck a cord, I had never quite thought of it that way before but it makes perfect sense. I guess expectation is that when you do start to ‘work’ for yourself, you have to make more money/have a better car/house than as an employee or you have failed. I think I’ll go and re-read the article a few times, Thank you.