Choose your own destiny

Entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury not to


Last month a I was talking to a friend about a project he’s involved with at work. He was recently hired into a large private company to help them open up a new market. During the recruitment process they specifically described the position as ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘a startup within the larger corporate ecosystem.’ Knowing how these things sometimes turn out, he asked them whether there was a budget for the new venture, buy-in from upper management, etc. They confirmed that everyone was behind the new initiative and that he would have what he needed to make it work. He accepted the job.

A few months later, he found himself struggling. The supposed budget had yet to be assigned and he couldn’t achieve the current milestones he was executing against. The higher-ups did not appear to have the sense of urgency necessary to provide proactive support. He was frustrated and began rethinking the project and career move. That’s when he came to me. I suggested he evaluate his own perspective.

Successful entrepreneurs never take “no” for an answer. They see new obstacles as challenges that push them to new levels of performance. If an investor backs out, they find a way to reel them in or find a new source of capital. If the competition throws a curve ball, they dodge it like Neo from The Matrix. If their team is flagging, they find a new way to inspire them. One way or another, they figure out how to get across the goal line.

My friend had explicitly sought out a role that was entrepreneurial. He wanted to lead a startup within a larger company. That’s what he signed up for. If a budget isn’t there, he needs to figure out how to get it assigned (sometimes it could be as easy as buying the right person a coffee). If upper management hesitates, he needs to figure out how to call them to action.
Ultimately, entrepreneurs choose their own destiny.

That doesn’t mean that others line up with accolades or helping hands (although it’s great if they do!). Regardless of whether you have your own company or work for an NGO or a government agency, think about how you can chart your own course rather than letting outside winds buffet you around. It’s far too easy to let institutional barriers shape your actions and far more satisfying to start shaping the world around you. It’s amazing how things fall into place once you commit.

Incidentally, he’s now kicking ass, taking names, and leading new initiatives at his company.


Need help crafting your story? I work with entrepreneurs, executives, and investors to articulate, refine, and share the stories that define them.

Eliot Peper is the author of Cumulus, Neon Fever Dream, and The Uncommon Series. He’s helped build technology businesses, survived dengue fever, translated Virgil’s Aeneid from the original Latin, worked as an entrepreneur-in-residence at a venture capital firm, and explored the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Mustang. His writing has appeared in Popular Science,Businessweek, TechCrunch, io9, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Xconomy, and Ars Technica, and he has been a speaker at places like Google, Qualcomm, and Future in Review.