"My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn't believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead he got a safe job as an accountant. All of that fell apart when my dad lost his job and the family fell on hard times. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."
— Jim Carrey
Even the tech industry is not immune to the layoff contagion this time around. 344 tech companies have already laid off 103,767 employees in 2023. In 2022, there were 1,535 layoffs at tech companies with 241,176 people impacted.
I have several friends, clients, and acquaintances who have lost their jobs in the past 14 months. Some of them felt safe because they worked in a hot industry that seemed to be growing. Sure, there was some growth, but there was also a lot of over-hiring. Some of them also felt safe because they worked in large corporations that had dodged the economic troubles so many smaller companies and startups faced in 2020.
However, the truth is no one’s job is ever “safe.” Heck, “having a job” is never safe. Your source of income is never safe when you work for a company that can eliminate your job in an instant when it needs to make the numbers work.
I hope we’ve all learned a lesson from this. No industry is a safe haven. Big companies are no longer better than smaller companies when it comes to employment security.
Leaving your fate in the hands of an employer is always risky. I know that many of us do it. Look at me, I did it for decades. It’s how most of us are raised and educated. Your goal is to get a great job and climb the ladder to higher success.
But what if job security is no longer guaranteed?
What if you hate your job so much that you can’t stand going to work every Monday morning?
What if you do everything you were supposed to do, work hard for an employer that makes you miserable, and you still lose your job and need to scramble to find a way to pay your bills?
What a kick in the teeth!
I don’t know about you, but I always hated wasting my precious time working on meaningless projects. I hated working for someone who was a lousy boss and a terrible leader. I hated watching the company make bad decision after bad decision, knowing we’d all have to suck it up and deal with their incompetence later.
That’s what you do as an employee. Unless you’re a C-level executive making the decisions, you don’t have much of a choice. If you don’t like it, you have to leave and find a new job with a new employer. You have to hope you find one that is more competent!
Or, if you’re anything like me, you finally reach a breaking point. You decide that enough is enough, and it’s time to bet on the one person you can always count on no matter what:
Things you can’t control
When you work for someone else, so many things are out of your control. I remember my employees being frustrated that their performance targets and bonuses were tied to factors beyond their control. They knew that a lot of things could go wrong — despite their hard work and best efforts — and their income would take a hit.
These factors can also take a company down, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I have a few clients who went to work for a hot company and received stock options that made their total compensation pretty darn sweet. But, the company made some bad strategic decisions and now their total comp is less than they were making at a previous job. It sucks, but there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.
It takes several years to change corporate culture. So, if you’re working in a toxic environment and hoping it will get better, good luck. As an individual, you are not in control of fixing a corporate culture. Even if you can start moving it in a better direction, it’s going to take time. A long time.
You cannot control what your executives say or do. I think we can all remember times when a CEO said or did something that made their company’s stock take a tumble. In some cases, it never recovered. Through no fault of your own, you will financially suffer if your executives say or do something stupid.
Unless you’re a C-level executive or board member, I’m guessing you don’t have much control over the corporate strategy of your employer. When the strategy is sound, times are good. But, when the strategy is flawed, there’s not much you can do about it as an employee.
Similarly, the execs and board create a lot of plans that the lower-level employees have to live with. When I was a junior employee, I assumed that senior executives must be so wise and experienced that they knew what they were doing. But, the higher I climbed the corporate ladder, the more I saw “how the sausage was made.” The more you know, the more worried you get about the plans they are making, but there’s not much you can do to change those plans.
I remember when my team knew we needed to make an investment in infrastructure and talent. Even though our business unit brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, we weren’t allowed to invest it in the way we knew we must to remain competitive and generate even more revenue. The C-level execs vetoed our plan and slowly killed our organization over the next few years.
As an employee, you have very little control over corporate spending (unless you’re the CFO). If the company is burning cash too quickly, there isn’t much you can do about it. Guess what happens when companies are in financial trouble and need to reduce expenses quickly? That’s right. Layoffs.
Now, I do coach my career clients to do everything they can to choose their manager when seeking a new job. A great manager will do wonders for your career. A terrible manager can tank it. But most folks don’t get to select their manager. Companies have too many re-orgs for you to stay in control of that. There were times when I was working for an amazing boss. Unfortunately, it didn’t last forever. The company would have a re-org or my boss would decide to leave for a better opportunity. I certainly didn’t get to choose my new boss. That was out of my control (and didn’t end well).
Your management chain
Likewise, you aren’t in control of the leaders in your management chain. You might have a good direct manager, but the leaders above them aren’t so good. The higher they are, the more power they have and the more miserable they can make your life.
If you interview candidates, you may have some say in a few people who join your organization. But, for the most part, you do not get to choose your coworkers. Sometimes they’re great, but sometimes a few are pretty toxic or downright incompetent.
We’ve all worked on teams before. I’m sure you have memories of those experiences. You’re probably working with a team right now. The competence of your fellow teammates can be 100% excellent (rare), average to pretty good (more common), or quite bad (it happens). Work sucks when your colleagues aren’t very good at what they do.
Similarly, some people work harder than others. That’s reality, and there’s not much you can do about it if you’re an employee (not the manager). Folks might be competent, but they don’t like working as hard as you do. Now, your overall performance — and odds of success — are dragged down by your lowest-performing members.
One thing that many corporate employees complain about is slow execution. If you’ve ever worked for a startup or smaller company, the change in execution velocity at a large corporation probably drives you crazy. Why do things take so long? Well, there’s nothing like having “too many cooks in the kitchen” to drag a project to its knees.
I founded my own tech startup several years ago and worked with cofounders and employees. My head of Design literally sat right next to me in our tiny office. He’d create a new design for one of our app screens and say, “Hey, Larry. Can you take a look at this and let me know what you think?” I’d roll over, review the design, and say, “Looks great! Push it to the engineers.” One day, he said, “You know, this is the fastest decision-making I’ve ever had in my working life. I love it!” But, when you work for someone else in a larger company, good luck with that. Decisions have to flow through so many layers that they take forever.
Of course, no one can control market conditions. But, you should be able to control how you respond to changes in those conditions. And, you should be able to quickly adjust your strategies and plans when necessary. Well, that’s not in your control when you work for a larger employer. You’ll see what’s happening in the market, you’ll know what changes should be made, and you’ll be incredibly frustrated to see the decision to make those changes take forever (or never happen).
Likewise, no one can control the actions of their competitors. But, you should be in control of how you deal with what you’re competitors are doing. Unfortunately, when you work for an employer, that’s not your call. You’ll have to wait and see what the leadership decides to do (if anything). We all know several companies that failed to respond to competition quickly enough, which led to their demise (e.g., Blockbuster).
Finally, no one can control the economy (or can they 😂)? But, again, you should have control over how you respond to economic changes. Smaller companies (and solopreneurs) were able to pivot quickly and survive during the quarantines a couple of years ago. Larger companies struggled to adapt, and there wasn’t much their employees could do to take control of the situation. Heck, that’s even happening now with the current economic uncertainty, hence the layoffs.
Things you can control
I bet you can see why I love running a solopreneur business so much now. My corporate experiences left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. As a solopreneur, you have complete ownership of your decisions and actions. No one can slow you down. No one can stop you from doing what you know needs to be done.
It’s a huge responsibility, but you are in full control of your business strategy as a solopreneur.
You are in control of the plans you create to execute your most excellent strategy.
You decide how much preparation (e.g., research, designing, building) is required before you launch your service or start selling your products.
Your time and effort
You control how much time, energy, and effort you put into your business (e.g., I love working hard on my own business). The harder you work, the better your business will do.
You can move as quickly as you want when executing your vision for your business.
Your decision making
You are the top decision-maker, which can be a little scary sometimes but is also incredibly empowering.
Your custom team
You’re not stuck with coworkers you didn’t hire. You can choose who you want to hire (e.g., contractors, consultants, vendors) or partner with to make your business successful.
Your response to competitors
You are in control of how and how quickly you respond to moves by your competitors.
Your response to market conditions
You can respond quickly to changes in market conditions and do what’s necessary to survive and thrive.
Your response to economic changes
Similarly, you can respond quickly to economic changes to adapt and keep your business running (e.g., reducing your own salary, expenses, etc.).
It’s so amazing to get to invest in what you know your business needs most (e.g., software, training, marketing, advertising, product development, equipment) without some higher-up telling you, “No.”
Finally, you control your budget and can dial spending up (e.g., when times are good) or down (e.g., you lose some clients) as needed. It’s your call.
Whew! That’s a whole lot of things that are in your control when you run your own business. But, that’s what it means to “bet on yourself.” You are willing to take on the responsibility because you want to be in control of your future and not subject to the whims of an employer (who may or may not be competent).
I know it’s not easy to leave a steady paycheck. The good news is, you don’t need to leap straight from employment to unemployment and hope that your business ideas will work out.
You can ease into testing the waters. You can also build a business that leverages your years of experience. Once you see that it’s all working well, you’ll feel more confident about quitting that job that’s making you unhappy.
I quit my $500k career
My total compensation was over $500K/year when I left the corporate world in 2010. For some people, that seems like a crazy amount of income. I can tell you that my younger self never imagined earning that much.
For other folks, that’s a pitiful amount of money. I know that many of my tech friends are earning millions in total comp these days. I also know that many of them are very unhappy with their jobs.
I was pretty unhappy, too. So, I walked away from that executive salary and the Bay Area lifestyle. What’s the point of making great money and having a fancy home if you’re miserable and rarely get to enjoy any of it, anyway?
I took a nice long vacation with my family. I did some consulting to get income flowing back into my bank account. I entertained the idea of going back to a 9-5 job. But, the longer I stayed away, the less I wanted to return to the corporate world.
I was tired of trying to change toxic corporate cultures, forcing myself to endure toxic bosses, and working on projects that were pretty meaningless in the big picture of life.
Finally, I decided to bet on myself. I would create the kind of company I wanted. I would build a business around work that made me feel good about what I do.
How I stayed away
I haven’t had a boss for almost 13 years now. I never did go back to a 9-5 job. I may not be the next big multimillionaire, but I’m so much happier and healthier than I was before.
I created Invincible Solopreneurs to help others take a similar journey. There are plenty of entrepreneurial consultants who will promise you riches. They tell you that you’ll be making six figures in two months. They dangle wealth in front of you and hint that becoming a billionaire is not out of reach. Yeah, sure.
If you want to get rich, find one of those consultants. I will never promise you that you’ll become rich by following my system. Instead, I want you to have enough. I want you to be able to comfortably support yourself and your loved ones, but not hate your life every day. I want you to be happy, healthy, and successful enough.
"I want to be the most successful person no one knows."
— My rather successful anonymous friend
Some people call that a “lifestyle business.” I prefer to think of it as keeping everything in balance and knowing what matters most in life: happiness, health, and love. You do need enough money to feel secure. But, the pursuit of excess wealth will always risk your happiness, health, and love. Just take a look at the lives of the few billionaires on this planet (e.g., Musk, Bezos).
I love working hard on something I believe in.
My work gives me purpose and keeps me going.
I radically reduced my expenses.
I’m not shy about marketing myself and my businesses.
I explore new ideas constantly.
I pivot when I need to make a change.
I slowly expand and diversify.
I keep adding new revenue streams.
I focus on scalable activities and income (this is essential).
I feel grateful for this life I’ve built. I’m glad that I finally learned that “having enough” and being happy with that is the secret to breaking free and owning your future.
Are you ready to take control of your destiny?
Reach for the moon, but…
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”
― Norman Vincent Peale
I love dreaming big, and I think you should, too. But don’t miss a chance to live an excellent life because you refuse to settle for anything less than your vision of financial perfection.
I encourage you to be pragmatic enough to build a business that pays your bills, even if you dream of creating an empire. Bet on yourself, but don’t gamble away your freedom and future with crazy investments and ventures.
We’ve all heard stories about people who lost their life savings with risky business ventures, real estate investments, crypto schemes, etc. They wanted the big prize so badly that they were willing to risk it all. So they did, and they lost it all.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with building a lifestyle business. My business is exactly that. I earn enough to support my family and feel secure. I’m not crazy rich, but I don’t care.
Do you know why? Because I have what I always wanted. I now have things that I did not have when I made way more money. My solopreneur business gives me:
Autonomy and freedom
Ownership of my time
More time with my family
Time to exercise
Less stress, anxiety, and frustration
More happiness, purpose, and fulfillment
Now, don’t get me wrong. I still have big dreams. I spend 30-60 minutes every morning exploring new business ideas, models, and plans to continue growing my entrepreneurial kingdom.
It’s in my nature. I can’t help it!
However, I am so grateful for what I already have. I wake up every morning and feel happy that I get to work for myself instead of facing a boss every day.
Bet on yourself
Hey, if you’re reasonably smart, talented, ambitious, self-motivated, and a good decision-maker, you should be working for yourself. You’ll do well!
You’ll be able to build a business that generates a profit and responds quickly to changes to remain successful. If you’re reading this newsletter, I know you’re going to be frustrated working for anyone else.
You can tolerate it for a few years. Most of us do. But, you’re going to become increasingly irritated by the incompetence around you and long to break free one day.
If you’re going to bet on someone, bet on yourself.
Hi, I’m Larry Cornett, a coach who can work with you 1-on-1 to design, launch, and optimize your business. You might also be interested in my “Employee to Solopreneur” workshop (coming soon). I currently live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and our Great Dane while running my businesses 100% remotely.
One thing I love about working for myself is that I can make time for exercise every day (it has probably saved my life). If you don’t know me, I’ve become a bit of a fitness fanatic over the past 14 years and share many of my workouts on Instagram for accountability.