We all have days we remember for the rest of our lives — days that change our perception about everything we’re doing and where we’re headed. I had such a day the evening I met Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus, and one of the greatest thinkers in the technology industry. Mitch had left the companies he’d created and was working on his own. He said, “You should come see what I am doing.”
I enjoyed hearing about his experiences running Kapor Enterprises, working in his family’s foundation, doing non-profit work, helping startup,s and lending his time to other projects that he found important and inspiring. He stayed in the same place — the place he wanted to live and work from — and took on work that was interesting to him. I realized that this model was very powerful and freeing. Instead of deciding which teams to join, he decided what activities and teams joined him. It sounds like a nuance, but it’s a very powerful distinction and one that I thought fit for me.
I told Mitch what I was thinking for my next act, and he said I should decide which projects I want to be focused on and spend my energy there. He said my interests will always bubble up, but I had to build an ecosystem around me to achieve more impact. That changed my paradigm.
With that, I began to create a plan that would allow me start moving toward the life I wanted. Within 6 months, I resigned from my CEO role. I continued to sit on boards I found interesting and where I could make a difference, like salesforce.com, and I decided to join new boards, including Yahoo and Visa. I’d been an angel investor for 15 years, and I created the Webb Investment Network (WIN) with a small team and “affiliates” who invest alongside me, allowing me to fuel my passion for working with startups and as a way to continue collaborating with friends and past colleagues. We put a renewed focus on our family’s foundation, which is dedicated to helping underprivileged young people gain access and opportunity to a great education. I wrote a book. I didn’t know that would lead to the founding of a new company, Everwise, but being open to change — whatever it may be — enabled that.
Today, I spend my days doing the things that matter to me. I have fewer meetings, but more impactful meetings. I spend more time with my wife and family. As I personally evolved from a “company man” to become the “CEO of my own destiny,” I’ve found it’s a lot less safe, but a lot more fulfilling. It’s liberating not to have to rely on anyone else, waiting for someone to promote you, notice your work, determine if you are doing good by the company. I’m fully accountable and it’s not scary — it’s incredible.
I have my own experience of breaking out on my own, and as a director of public companies and investor/advisor to startups, I have ample opportunity to learn from the best about what it takes to #BeTheBoss. I’ve learned two secrets:
Secret #1: Understand that YOU are the CEO of your own destiny. You must be self-aware and certain about where you want to go and why. No one will ever care about your career and your career options more than you. Understand dreams and capabilities and then chase your potential.
Secret #2: Understand that it’s about being of service. If you want to be the boss to amass power, it’s going to be hard to get people to rally behind you. If you take a different approach, one that is bent on inspiring other people, you will have a much more successful time.
Good luck. As the CEO of your own destiny, you’ll find that you are accountable for your own advancement. And you’ll experience great fulfillment in moving out of hope mode and into drive mode.