Victus Spiritus


Autonomy, Dictate Your Own Boundaries

18 Oct 2010

The moment an individual relinquishes control of their potential, they give up their self direction. A classic case is the employee who seeks to please their manager, but quiets their own input, enthusiasm, and strongest affinity. But this is a grave error, these are the most valuable assets anyone can bring to their life's labor.

The modern day startup equivalent to drone behavior are founders who blindly follow outside input. The major communication channels are customer feedback, investor direction, and other successful entrepreneurs. If customers knew precisely what they wanted they wouldn't need you. If VCs knew what the next big thing was going to be and how to build it they would hire employees, not bet on creative leaders. Other entrepreneurs aren't you and your team.  They have their own vision, identity and market perspective. 

This weekend I watched the rest of Dave McClure's talk at Startup School about why not to do a startup. He mentions how much it sucks, family neglect, and failure. It's funny how Dave speaks as if founders have a career choice*. If you're founder kinda crazy, you're never going to be satisfied as employee number 1+. A founder's outlook and skill set can't match the specialization required to be an alpha employee in the long term, they're different animals. For the alpha employee, mastery of a given trade is how they express their autonomy. The founder does what is necessary to achieve a driving goal, but rarely has time to explore the nuances of particular crafts.

Seth Godin tags self motivated builders, leaders, and connectors as Lynchpins. It's pretty clear that he holds these folks in high regard. Seth's work reminds us that enthusiasm, self direction, and self responsibility are integral to the future health of the US economy. The jobs that don't require independent thinking or specialized craftsmanship quickly sink to the floor in benefits and satisfaction. 

Identify and feed the source of your enthusiasm

It was time to revisit why I first began this blog, inspiration. How can one be inspired without close association to their own voice. Autonomy is inseparable from satisfaction and success. As a society we celebrate and reward authentic leadership. Autonomy is a welcome ally in desperate moments when faced with a decision to blindly follow, or determine a path forward.

*= Orthogonal to the topic of autonomy, it's not like there's a huge hiring spree among US companies now. Survival is a potent motivator. There's no security more real than providing a needed product or service to a group of steady customers. In a very real sense Americans are faced with the harsh law of nature, build or starve.