in entrepreneurship

I Have a Job

You may say that the opinion and support of others doesn’t matter. Stop kidding yourself.

“I have a job”. It’s something I’ve proclaimed to family and friends many times. No, I don’t wake up and go into an office. No, I don’t have a 401k and pension. And no, there’s no ten-year plan (as entrepreneurs, we like to call it the “next month” plan). But yes, I do have a real, bona-fide big-boy job.

I get it. Running a primarily web-based company, making close to six figures, working from my couch while watching Boy Meets World reruns can be hard to fathom. But believe it or not, I work hard. In fact, harder than I’ve ever worked before.

But it’s still a relatively “new” concept. Being a twenty-something entrepreneur who has (thus far) been very successful is hard for mom and dad to “get”. I’m not following the path I was supposed to. I didn’t put in years of effort to get where I am. I didn’t pay my dues, scratching and clawing my way to the top.

And that’s because the American Dream is changing. Leave it to Newt Gingrich of all people to inspire me when he said recently that we, as Americans, and even worldwide, should be focused on not only finding work, but OWNING our work. Paving our own road. Climbing our own ladder. Defining our own purpose. Living our own American Dream.

From my conversations with fellow entrepreneurs, I know you know where I’m coming from. It’s tough to sit around the dinner table while your family talks about all the paperwork they’re dealing with at work. The one new patient my cousin, who’s a doctor, started seeing last week. Showing grandma my laptop and explaining to her that almost everything I do happens through that 15″ screen.

We talk so much about how you don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself. But let’s face it – what the people closest to you think does matter – your family, your friends, you want them to understand, and more importantly, you want that support from the people you love.

In the immortal words of Will Smith, “Parents just don’t understand”. But I think they’re starting to come around. They’re starting to understand the possibilities we have, even at a very young age.

Remember when your parents used to tell you that the sky is the limit? Now they actually believe it. They believe, we believe, I believe, that the only thing holding you back from doing anything you want to be doing is yourself.

In the early going, it was tough. Incredibly tough. I honestly felt like every day I had to prove to everyone that I could run my own business. That I could actually get clients and make money. That I wouldn’t be packing my things and moving home so I could live for free and mow the lawn for a few bucks.

But instead of resenting the people who believed what I was doing wasn’t a viable career option, I used it as motivation. Not to prove anything to them, but to prove something, everything, to myself.

Let this be a lesson, to anyone out there who is considering starting a business after graduating. To anyone who’s thinking about taking the leap from the corporate nine to five to the life of an entrepreneur. To anyone who’s seeking funding for their big idea…

Haters gonna’ hate. Lovers gonna’ love. Disbelievers will disbelieve. Supporters will support. But at the end of the day, the only assurance and the only validation you have to provide is to yourself. Prove something to yourself, every single day.

Because now, more than ever, in this country and around the world, what can be done, will be done.

What about you? Is it tough explaining to your family what you do? Are you worried about the support of friends and family? Has a lack of acceptance and understanding from others held you back? Share in the comments.

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  1. Matt, 

    This is so on point. Sometimes I feel weird telling people that I work &write from home. Especially living in NYC where the daily grind starts with the daily commute. No, I don’t have to ride the train with a bunch of angry people, but I still bust my hinny cheeks on a daily to get stuff done! 

    Great post! 

    • Yes. Just because we may not fit the cookie-cutter mold of what it means to have a “real” job, doesn’t mean that we don’t work just as hard, often times maybe even harder. If anything, I envy those who go into an office, work, and then leave work AT work. That alone is one of the things I’m most trying to accomplish for myself – truly establishing some semblance of the balance that I had when I was “working for the man”. Easier said than done. :)

  2. Matt, don’t confuse revenue with net profit or even operating profit.  Calculate all your expenses and see if you still have as much as you think.  It’s tough to do, but it’s what keeps business folks honest and going.

  3. I feel ya Matt. When I was working full-time and writing Effective Immediately on the side, hoping to turn writing and speaking into a legitimate career, my family thought I was nuts. They actually called it “the project” for along time because calling it what it was – a book – seemed too grandiose….too much of a pipe dream. Four years later, as you know because you designed my site ;0, I’ve turned that book into a business and love every minute of it. It can happen if you block out everything else and listen to yourself. 

    • Yes. Listening, trusting, and believing in yourself is key. It’s why I close this post with the idea that every day you should focus not on proving anything to anyone else, but in proving something, everything, to yourself. I’ve dealt with the “project” concept myself – with friends and family asking how my “projects” are going in a somewhat condescending tone. I use it as further motivation as I continue to evolve into the role and life of a business owner. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. :)

  4. Matt – I’m working a regular job while building my company, but my mom still won’t accept the fact that my new company could replace a standard “corporate” job. Here’s to hoping she gets it. 

    • She will. In time. It took a while for my folks to come around (it’s still a work in progress). I’m still pretty early in the game myself – and more than anything, I’m just now beginning to accept that running my own business can be and is a viable long-term option. I had always chalked it up to being a very fortunate situation – and while it very much is – I’m just now embracing that it’s also my career and a significant part of my life. The more you begin to embrace and accept your own role as a business-owner, the more other’s will begin to come around.

      Excited to be working with you in helping to turn the idea into a reality!

  5. As a Career Counselor I have to say HUGE KUDOS to you, Matt! I work hard every single day to help students figure out what they want to do and then shatter the fear (and voices of those that love them) to achieve it. You have it figured out a lot more than many other people in their early 20s… -Tracy

    • Thanks, Tracy. Though, I think now that I’m 26, I’m over the “early 20s” hump – it’s all downhill from here, right? :)

      It’s more important than ever for folks in your position to inspire and motivate young minds toward achieving anything, literally anything, they want to do. There really is no better time than now. Your work must be extremely rewarding when you see the folks you’ve counseled move forward in making great things happen.

  6. Matt – 

    I had to chuckle about your grandma comment. My husband’s grandfather asked my mother-in-law the other day – what exactly does Vanessa do again? (I blog and consult on pr and social media.) Although I am seeking a more traditional career at the moment, I am learning first hand that I can hack it as an entrepreneur, and my parents have luckily come round to this idea (albeit slowly).

    Your post is spot on. Prove something to yourself every single day.

    • Haha. Yeah, my grandparents still don’t have a clue what I do. I just tell them that I work on the computer and that I’m really busy and they throw out the ol’ line “Well, busy is good”. To which I smile and nod. 

      More than anything, the overall lack of understanding has taught me that it’s not about proving or explaining anything to anyone else, it’s all about proving to myself, day in and day out, that I can do great things. Cheers!

  7. As a 51 year old woman – and yeah, to hell with pants (like the cats n dog care?) trying to break upwards and away from my SSDI check due to chronic illness (I have chucked out more bad parts than an AMC Harley Davidson) – to recapture the talent of broadcasting this broad once loved – and now blogs, advises and makes a home – days are filled with hard work to see if anyone wants to pay for my brain power.  I KNOW STUFF!.  Close family members somewhat ‘get me’.  Others say that I “play” on the computer all day.  Women are worth (last estimate 2010) $60K annually for being a home-maker.  If you run your family small business and do the books, add some more value.  I don’t get paid.  I get sweat equity.  And, like Rodney Dangerfield said, “I get no respect!” from those who matter to me.  Matt – what I like about you is that you are forging the new American dream.  My son is 19, and I owe him his chance at a University.  The kid has juice.  He wants an engineering degree.  He’ll get one and take it to the new frontier.  He is not that far behind you in age, and like you – he knows that the new path is not based on old dreams.  Who wants to earn/own a house right now?  He has seen his folks do the right things with the best intent and add value back to society.  Only the latter part has relevance.  Our hard work has come to naught by the whim of dishonest industry and political processes.  With his youth, my broken body, and my husband’s hard earned W-2 keeping our heads above the insanity … the lad and I may be able to be part of what you speak of.  Reinvent the dream so that no one gets it, but once you (and god willing me) are rolling with momentum – no one can outsource or steal what can only be originated by the Individual.  All one has to do is follow the law, pay taxes and act in good intent despite what others do around you.  I CAN AND WILL make a career out of what rolls around in my head.  I’ll take my laptop and devices with us when I can cut the old man a break with some vacation money.  I can wear no pants by wearing a swimsuit – on a boat – wondering what all that fuss was about.  And, the house will be paid off, even if it isn’t worth the paper it was written on.  A young person like you, and those I have been following of late are showing me that I can do work that’s not a job.  I can feel good about owning it, and i can make others feel good because that’s what I do best.  How the hell I do this all is yet to come, but it will because I said so.  Intent to action to fruition.  The new economy is especially crucial to women.  I love my husband for supporting us on his shoulders, and I am glad I put my former liquidity all in to promote what WE DO.  The female trap is not having your own fall back.  Life can change.  Your reasons are to build your future life from a young vantage.  My bent is to return some independence and contribution to feel like – keeping the house and books in good order is earning my keep on my man’s paycheck.  He doesn’t feel like I am taking a free ride, but I do.  So, once I find my target to place all this experience and fun into the right format … I’ll be shopping for a sweet open bow speed boat. After the debt load is reduced, that is.  =D 

    • Yes. To all this. I’m thrilled that this post inspired you to share your personal perspective and thoughts on the subject. It’s true that regardless of age, situation, etc. life can change and you can make great things happen. The dream doesn’t have to be defined in your twenties. There’s no time limit to doing amazing work. Your thoughts here are a testamant to at least that much.

      As for your son, he’s walking into the “real world” at a great time. It may not seem like it, but now more than ever, success is ripe for the picking and the sky truly is the limit. I put together an ebook last year with 50+ other folks, sharing our tips for, well, everyone, but especially new grads and job-seekers, that I think would be super helpful for your son (and maybe you as well). I strongly encourage you to give it a read:

      Thanks again for your thoughtful response!

      • I/We will take a read of your words, with thanks ahead of time for suggested reading. The Lad knows “WE” [gov’t] left a mess that will require him to curtail the old paths to career and upward mobility.  It is filled with IED’s of failure.  Doing it all to fit a new dawn is something he is malleable enough to just ‘osmosis’ into.  At 19, he saw how we used to ‘get it done’, saw the methods fail – and was in school, plugged into the world to know that his entry offers NEW vistas.  As for me, I am catching the tailwind of youth blazing new directions.  I can work my cell phone, MAC and PC OS formats, but admit to having a bitch of a time with the DVD player we have.  I am  being repaid by Karma –  for taking the piss with my folks  inability to cope their VCR settings! :P
        TY also for seeing that age is not a factor here.  It is the times we live in.  Just because I feel like Chuck Heston seeing the sunken Statue of Liberty on post apocalyptic Primate shores is no reason to fail.  I will raid the tools left behind, feed myself and light fires regardless of age or health.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  I have been physically dead on the OR table two times, so, there must be something I am supposed to find and get on with my own success.  Reading your published works may be one of those tools picked up on the beach.  Rust Never Sleeps!  SJ

  8. At least you figured out what you want to do (be an entrepreneur) at your ‘early’ age. It took me 10+ more years than you to figure it out, and it is still a work in progress. But it has been 5 years since I was an employee, and I love every (stressful) minute of it!

    As far as family/friends not being supportive, I think the issue is that most people have an employee mindset and they can’t be happy for someone who is swimming upstream. Never mind there are 27+ million small businesses in the US, so the upstream traffic seems like rush hour sometimes.

    It is good to connect with link-minded individuals (those that are self-employed), even if it is only online. At least they have some clue as to what you are going through!

    • Hey Marshall. Honestly, I feel extremely fortunate to have discovered the path to embark on early in my life. I know that for many, that discovery can and does take a long time, and many experiences of doing the wrong thing(s). 

      And, to your point, where the support may have been lacking amongst personal friends and family, the support I had here, through my blog, as I launched my first business and then my ful-fledged company, was overwhelming. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if it weren’t from the friends and peers online who understood and supported everything I did and continue to do…

      • Through time and geography – many artistic or “differently successful” people who made something brand new … were  told to go find something meaningful to do.  Worse, they were told to stop doing new things!  I want to make some bank before I leave and not afterwards. 
        What you are telling us, Matt – is that each day, self directed validation and proof  fuels the passion to make “IT” happen.  Once IT is tangible and you are sought after they apPROVE of you … people will want you to buy them a house. ;}

  9. God Yes! every other day i hear, did you find a real job yet from my mom LOL- now i just chuckle and hug her and tell her how cute she is. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
    its a tough path we’ve chosen  but its one that feels oh so right…right?

  10. Great perspective here, Matt!

    I have been a full-time entrepreneur for a full week now and I know exactly what you’re talking about! It was very difficult for some of my colleagues from my 9-to-5 job to understand what I was doing (or why). I got a lot of comments like “oh, you can sit in your pajamas all day!” Or, others asked where my office would be and gave me a quizzical look when I told them I’m working for home. It’s amazing to me that even though this new brand of entrepreneur is becoming more common and accepted, it’s still very foreign to a lot of folks.

    But, at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is how YOU feel. You’re right – we’re often the ones who stand in the way of our own success. Once we learn to get over our fears and plunge ahead, there’s nothing stopping us! :) 

  11. I can really relate! I’m a senior at San Francisco State University. I am a Liberal studies major. My grandparents still every time I see them say, “you should be a lawyer mija!” it’s like UM I’m graduating in May! Can you just accept that I want to be a writer? They don’t get it, still! I struggle with the fact that my parents don’t understand therefore don’t know how to support my career goal and plan. I’m moving to LA after I graduate and they aren’t proud of me they’re more angry with me but like you said I need to use that for motivation. Thanks for the wise words.

    • I know how you feel, Ali. I distinctly remember my folks telling me that starting my own business wasn’t realistic. Now, over two years later, there’s still doubt, and as much as I hate it, I often have to justify what I do as legit by the money I bring in each month (to them, that is). That being said, the only thing you have to prove anything to is yourself. Focus on that, and eventually everyone else will come around. Those who don’t, you don’t need them. Don’t let their doubt and disbelief bring you down.

      And congrats on the upcoming graduation! Exciting (and slightly terrifying) times, that’s for sure…