Trust your instincts & burn the safety net
About a month ago, I had what certainly on paper looked to be the worst day of my professional life. I had been working on a fast-paced project and, even though I do say so myself, absolutely smashing it from all angles. I was motivated and engaged with the work and planning well into the future. And then, with no warning, my employment was terminated.
If I had predicted what this might feel like, I would have expected to be devastated. A combination of catholic upbringing, a lifetime of being a woman, and a decade of being a mum have primed me always treat myself as the guilty party. There was definitely some crying – mercifully not until after I left the building – but on the whole my main concern was having lost my ‘safety net’ regular income that ‘allows’ me to do the more ‘risky’ entrepreneurial work that I love.
But then. Something strange happened. Word got out that I was – erhem – more available than usual. Within 48 hours I’d won a major new contract for one of my businesses. Within 72 hours I’d been approached to start a brand new business venture with an old contact. Things were looking up.
A month on, the extra space in my schedule has meant that I can throw myself into my businesses much more, and guess what? As a result I have already earned more than I would have done from the next 6 months of my ‘safety net’ job! Which just goes to show that perhaps I didn’t need a safety net in the first place!
I have always been pretty cautious professionally, hence always having a part time ‘secure’ job to back me up. But now I’ve learnt two things. Number one – just being employed doesn’t make you ‘secure’. Number two – by giving myself ‘protection’ in case my business ventures didn’t succeed, I was actually getting in the way of them achieving their full potential.
This got me to thinking about the cautious approach I’ve advocated when lecturing to business students over the years. I thought of my role perhaps as the ‘voice of reason’ – there to encourage ideas, but also to ensure that students were aware of the realities and challenges of entrepreneurship and took a cautious approach. What if I was wrong all along? What if I should have set fire to my safety net long ago, and encouraged everyone else to do the same?
It’s early days, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so my luck may run out. I know that I am fortunate with how things have worked out thus far, and that not everyone is as lucky as I am. However one thing is for certain, I won’t be rushing to re-establish my safety net anytime soon if I can help it!