Stop Acting Like an Employee

“They took my stapler”

Most people who earn an income are employees. I may write about entrepreneurship, but I’m no different — my wages come from my employer. I see absolutely nothing wrong with trading your time and talents for a regular paycheck.

There is, however, a significant difference between being an employee and acting like one.

Employees say things like: “I have to go to work.” “My boss is an asshole.” “They never tell us anything.” “They should be paying me more.”

With entrepreneurs, however, there is no “They.”

Sales need a boost? Pick up the phone and sell. Website need updating? Learn HTML and start coding. Competitor taking your customers? Formulate and launch a counterattack (like, now).

With business owners, there is no line between the business and themselves.

With employees, unfortunately, the line is often thick and blinding. That perceived separation, more than anything else, holds people back from achieving the success they dream of.


During my sophomore year in college I had a professor tell me that there’s only 2 ways to get rich:

  1. Work in sales, or
  2. Own a business.

What he was getting at was that until you take personal responsibility for a company’s success, your share in that company’s success will be small or non-existent. Whether you own the business or not is besides the point.

The “timecard mentality” has a lot to do with the problem. From our first jobs, we begin to associate our earnings with the amount of time we spend at work, not the amount of value we actually provide. We’re written up when we’re a minute late, yelled at when we leave early, and fired on the spot when we don’t show up to punch in.

This “timecard mentality” brainwashes us into a life of the rat race — into thinking the world owes us something just for showing up.

The best employees have a completely different way of looking at the world: they strive to understand how the company creates value in the marketplace, then drive that value as though there’s no separation between them and company they work for.

When you see someone who started out as a low-level employee, and now runs the company, this is exactly what they did.

We all know people who make excuse after excuse for not achieving important personal goals. Playing the victim is an inherently unattractive trait.

Ownership, on the other hand, is sexy. Just as we know people who play the victim, we know people who set huge hairy goals and tackle them. Instinctually, we avoid the former and flock to the latter.

Right now, this pattern is unfolding within companies all over the world, shaping organizational charts and creating the next leaders of the world’s most successful companies. These people are not victims.

The clock is a horrible proxy for the value we create. Just as in our personal lives, the only thing that matters at work is what we did today to move the ball forward. What did I do today that gets the company closer achieving its goals? There is no one else to blame when you’re striving to lose weight, be a better parent, or start saving money. Why do we blame others when the companies we work for aren’t succeeding?

When things aren’t right, senior leadership is an easy scapegoat, but they’re not the ones operating the business. You are. Blaming anyone but ourselves is a cop-out. Why not own it?

“But I’m not responsible for {insert thing to be done here}.”

“It’s not my job” is the single worst statement you could ever make as an employee, and it perfectly encapsulates the point of this article. As long as there’s someone else to blame for failure, there will be someone else to thank, and reward, for success.

Stop Acting Like an Employee and lead. The folks you work with will thank you.