Are You Satisfied?

Are you satisfied3I’m still reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers, The Story of Success”, and my attention was once again captured when I read his thoughts about what it takes to have a satisfying work life. This concept isn’t given a lot of coverage in the book, in fact it isn’t more than a couple of paragraphs, but entrepreneurship is the context in which he brings it up. He tells us that “most people” agree we need “autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward” to be fulfilled by the work we do. As most of us already know, it is not how much money we make that leads us to happiness; it is the satisfaction we derive from our work that sustains us. If we accept that work life satisfaction results from a mixture of “autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward” we can easily identify why those of us who have chosen the life of self-employment are likely to be a happier group than our worker bee counterparts. I remember back to the early days of Making It Big when I hired my first employee. I was so excited to provide that person with everything I had been deprived of in my tenure as an employee. It was my introduction to realizing that not everybody, in fact not that many people, were interested in a work life that encompassed satisfaction as we are defining it. Being wired to thrive in situations where I was challenged, independent, and recognized for my accomplishments, I was startled to discover that providing employees the opportunity to have those experiences was often of little or no interest.

There are those of us who know how important autonomy is. Some of us choose to be self-employed because we crave the opportunity to stand on our own two feet. Others of us are built that way. Whatever the reason, we become self-directed, the queen of our domain, we get to decide how things are done and determine what is most important to do when. I was pretty much a failure working for other people because my independent streak, combined with my determination to do a good job, were consistently perceived as a threat. I worked for many managers and small business owners who lacked the understanding that having a team of excellent employees was superior to a team of people who only did what it took to get by.

By nature, entrepreneurs thrive on the challenges and the stimulation that result from engaging in complex thoughts and actions, especially when they use “both mind and imagination.” This is not to say that self-employment is easy; there are often years of toil before reaching success and sustainability. However, those of us who take this path somehow manage to embrace the light at the end of the tunnel; even when it is a mere speck in the distance, we never stop moving forward. And once we arrive, we change tracks, and are onto the next challenge!

In the entrepreneurial world, the link between how much we put into our business and the rewards we reap are often not about the money, although many find the promise of financial abundance compelling! From the age of 15, until I was 23, I worked for other people. Even then, it wasn’t about the money. Apparently I could muster up passion and excitement for selling fast food, operating a PBX board, being a sous chef, hostess, waitress, counselor, and all the other jobs I had. For the most part, I could totally engage in the work I was doing and seldom gave less than my best effort. In those youthful days, I had to support myself, but I was looking for recognition for a job well done because that was the reward for my effort, the money was circumstantial.

Like many of you, the act of building and running a business has been the most inspiring, fulfilling and challenging work I have ever done. I feel blessed to have found my path to a satisfying work life at such a young age. What I love about Gladwell’s synopsis is how much I relate to it and know it to be true, both experientially and in my heart.

Are you satisfied? Ask yourself the following questions: 1. Does what you’re doing match your values? 2. Are you competent and effective at what you do? 3. Are you engaged? 4. Do you experience joy when working? 5. Do you feel challenged and stimulated?