A truth about being your own boss that nobody has told you

Photo credit: pixabay/geralt cc0 public domain.

“Be your own boss,” says an ad peddling a questionable “business opportunity.”

Apparently it sells. I’ve seen this back in the 1990s and I still do today. It’s a potent advertising slogan because most of us feel powerless. Those who are employed by a company usually contend with an incompetent, asshole, or difficult boss from time to time. The thought of working just “for yourself,” therefore feels like a breath of fresh air: a lure of freedom.

Have you tried to study something — maybe a foreign language, maybe computer programming — by yourself, simply by watching YouTube videos or Coursera, without enrolling in a school or hiring a tutor? Even if you did very well and earned great GPAs when you were in schools or colleges, it is a very different experience when you try to learn something without the help of a structured curriculum and support of teachers and classmates.

Same is true with working for yourself.

First and foremost, being your own boss means to be true to your own words. Do what you said you will do, and conversely, do not over-promise and under-deliver. If anything, it ought to be the opposite: under-promise and over-deliver. The former will disappoint people and hurt your reputation; the latter will pleasantly “wow” people and help build your reputation.

People often talk of “accountability.” In popular parlance, it implies opening yourself up for public scrutiny and if you screw up, be punished.

But actually, the word really means: your ability to count on yourself.

In other words: don’t be a flake to yourself.

Yes, we live in a real world with many unknowns and last-minute surprises. We get sick and sometimes feel too depressed or exhausted. This happens from time to time, and you must forgive yourself when things don’t always go on time or as you wished.

However, being able to count on yourself builds confidence in yourself. In turn it will help you achieve greater goals over time.

This isn’t easy at first. We are often too used to being told by others what to do, what not to do, and when. Creating your own structure is a must. Try making a to-do list (preferably on paper, not on computer or smartphone). When you wake up, choose six most important things out of the list and try to do them first.

Freedom is a product of honor. Honor yourself, and honor your own words. And don’t push yourself too far. Be realistic. Know your own capacity and limits.