How can you be the CEO of your own destiny early in your career, before you are established?
In particular I’d like to address these critical questions:
How difficult is being the CEO of your own destiny? May be when you take good progress things begin to be easier, but at the beginning [it] looks impossible to be there? — Lopez Vasquez, Maintenance Technician at Mead Johnson Nutrition
I love the idea of servant leadership to inspire others. I just wonder if it could work without first amassing an ample nest egg? — Charles David Upchurch, “I can build YOUR workforce SUCCESS”
I understand these questions, and I also acknowledge that I’m fortunate at this stage of my life and career. However, I also believe that the value system I’m touting — the mindset that I am in control of my destiny and the importance of being of service — is what got me to this stage of life.
I didn’t start out in life with a silver spoon in my mouth. My father died unexpectedly when I was 7, and we were left penniless. Consequently, there was no money for college and I needed to help contribute for things I wanted or needed. By the time I was 12, I took on a paper route. I worked through high school — working at a gas station, cleaning toilets at a Mister Donut, bussing tables at the Pancake House, working at an outdoor store, and working the night shift at a mattress factory. Because I also had schoolwork and sports, I learned the power of adopting the spirit of “AND” — I realized that I could do as many things as I put my mind to.
This impacted how I approached my career. I learned that I had to be knocking on doors early and had to be willing to take on new challenges and risks while being mindful that I had obligations at home. For example, I started my career as a security guard at IBM, and was eventually promoted to a professional job. Curiously, that post paid less because I lost my opportunity to make overtime. I still took the promotion, and I had to focus on saving money. Every day I went to work with only 32 cents in my pocket — the cost of a cup of coffee back then — and didn’t eat until I went home. I also took another job, working nights and weekends at JCPenney assembling gas grills in order to make ends meet. I remember being embarrassed when one of my colleagues saw me there, but now I know that it was worth it, and it was my willingness to work hard that enabled everything else.
I’ve been at that difficult early stage of starting out and having nothing. But I also knew that didn’t mean I needed to stay there. Being the CEO of your own destiny is a mindset. It does not mean you have to start your own company or ignore your responsibilities. It’s understanding that you are in control of where you go. A lot of things are possible, but you have to take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Your career is in your hands. I’ve found almost anything is possible and achievable if you really are willing.
Truthfully, I’ve experienced more success than I ever imagined for myself. But I was never pining for success; I was pining for impact. And that’s how I learned the second secret of success: the value of service. For me, making a lot of money was a secondary thing. It has always been about making an impact that mattered far more.
What are you intended to do? Where are you supposed to go? Are you living up to dreams? No matter what, don’t give up on your dreams. And don’t be afraid of the hard work it takes to get there. You have to believe in yourself way more than anyone else. Others don’t know enough of you yet to have big enough expectations of you. Volunteer for the jobs no one wants and always show the people you work with that you can do more. Stretch yourself to do things you weren’t trained for — you’ll create golden opportunities for yourself.
Having money gives you certain degrees of freedom, but it doesn’t buy fulfillment. So start investing in finding that now, and you will earn everything you desire and deserve.