This is the third in a three part series on trust.
A friend asked me to meet with a consultant whose career is winding down. He is very successful in every way imaginable. He has a great wife and marriage, successful kids, a great reputation within his prestigious consulting firm, plenty of clients and the material possessions to prove his success.
In stepping out of the environment he has operated in for the last 25 years, he is stepping into the unknown. All the people in business who tell him how great he is will go away. The moment he walks out of the office for the last time, his personal brand will begin a precipitous fall. He’ll come to realize the brand wasn’t his to start with; it was his company’s brand.
When we talked, I saw a man who is fighting the advice to retire. Friends are telling him, “You’re set for life financially. Do the things you and your wife always wanted to do. Enjoy life.”
But he said to me, “I am healthy, ready to serve others as I have done all my life. I have a lot to contribute.” He is right.
Fame Is Fleeting
He is like the NFL star who leaves the field for the last time. He had millions of people who loved him, watched him and cheered for him.
Very shortly, he’ll be nothing to those he spent a lifetime serving. If he achieved greatness, maybe they’ll bring him out on the field at halftime. Then the kids will lean over to their dads and ask, “Who’s that?”
And just like the NFL star, this man must finally address the question, “Do I trust me?”
He will come to realize, as I did, his trust was in the system more than in himself. He proved he is great inside the company.
The rules were clear, and the referees enforced them. The competition was easily identified. There was a structure to follow for achievement. He trusted the system, and it rewarded him. If he retires, he stays in the system. This is the reward of the system. But what if he doesn’t retire?
To Retire…or Not
This man will retire from his company but not from a life of service. He wants more, and he has more to give. For the first time in his life, he is choosing the path of the entrepreneur.
This is his opportunity to grow personally. The only way for him to get to this life test is to cut loose of the systems he trusted and be in a position to trust himself.
In the last two articles, I addressed the importance of trusting in our institutions and our companies. In this article, I am addressing trust in ourselves.
I went through this transition in my late thirties. I left the company I was working for and came to realize the truth. Although my personal brand was strong in the company as its executive, I had no brand in the market.
Who Are You?
It didn’t take but a few meetings with strangers after I left the company to realize this. I experienced people saying, “And who are you again?”
This created a personal crisis of belief. I began to wonder, “Isn’t my resume enough to give me credibility in the marketplace?”
My best chance of maintaining my brand was to stay in the same industry. To plug back into the system I trusted. But instead, I chose to pursue a different path. The path of the entrepreneur. I became an angel investor and started a services company incubator.
Entrepreneurs trust in themselves. They don’t seek acceptance. They seek conversion. They say, “Follow me. Join me and change the world. Make a difference. Why would you do anything else? I offer you an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Path to Fulfillment
The men and women who choose this path are the most fulfilled people I know. They put themselves at risk. They demonstrate who they are publicly by doing what God called them to do or what they know in their heart they should do.
Risking the reputation they so carefully built year by year in their former companies, they strike out on their own. They do it. They trust in themselves.
Because of my age, I know more and more men and women who have “retired.” They may have left their careers, but they are serving others and creating value in a new capacity.
When I ask if they miss their work, to a person they tell me, “Retirement is the best decision I ever made. No regrets!”
I know leaving the company I trusted and becoming an entrepreneur was an incredible journey. It took me to the depths of despair, the realization I was an alcoholic, then AA and finally Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
It wasn’t until I made that last step on my journey that it all started to work.