So you want to start a business?

Create a good life by charting your own path.


Small business is the engine that drives America.

How many times have we heard this? The entrepreneurial dream is integral to the idea of America. One can argue how valid the dream is, or what level of involvement state, local and federal institutions should have in promoting it, but in a capitalist society the ultimate dream is freedom from working for someone else. That dream is also terrifying to you if you come from a family or a tradition that isn’t supportive of it. In fact, it’s terrifying for anyone who feels that their skills are not marketable, or who has never felt that they had business acumen.  

Every single one of us who has been employed by another has dreamed of a boss-free future, a future where we reap the benefits of the work we do. We dream of winning the lottery and living our fantasies, but when the real world intrudes we realize that what we are looking for isn’t freedom from work its freedom from working for someone else. 

According to the Conference Board ( the type of work we do, although important, isn’t the basis of our satisfaction but interestingly enough the potential or perceived potential for growth does play a big role. Another aspect of Job Satisfaction that is surprising is that employees aren’t primarily motivated by wages. Although men and women are motivated to different degrees, most people value the same things in work. 

According to the same source, 53% of employees are satisfied with their employment situation.  What is shocking to me is that they open the study by saying that job satisfaction is an all-time high! 53% of people, barely enough to approve laws in congress, not enough to pass anything consequential and not even close to the number we’d consider good for a passing grade for our kids. A little over half of us being happy in the job we spend most of our waking lives doing. How is this good???

We accept our lives as they are because we have been sold two big lies.

The first is that if we want to be truly happy, we have to be outlandishly rich. 

The second is that only those who come from money can make money. 

In my experience, the second is truer than the first because there are not many great examples of people who came from nothing and made it rich. BUT, that very frame points back to the first lie. Being rich in the way a Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch isn’t as great a life as you think. If you actually enjoy being able to go almost anywhere you want to without an escort or to live in fear that your children, husband or wife will be kidnapped, that level of wealth is not ideal.

From the beginnings of trade, it took some sort of skill to produce income without relying on someone else to pay you to “skill up” only to have them keep you on a short leash after doing so. The history of work is rife with people taking advantage of others because they owned the tools, the factories and the capital to drive the economy. This is true to a lesser extent now than it has ever been but many of us are still stuck in the mentality that we NEED someone else to keep us fed, clothed and housed. 

As I alluded to before, there is a reason for this for some of us. Be it that we were exploited for low (or no) wages, in dangerous, menial jobs that made us nothing more than property to the owners of our labors. We’ve also suffered under a divide and conquer mentality that keeps us subjugated under the heel of that idea. The creation of modern labor and the destruction of the will of most of us to labor for ourselves are not accidental. 

The very system we live under is to blame for this as it is and has always been created, shaped and molded by those whose best interest is to keep us dependent.

Now I know at least a few of you are shaking your heads, believing that I’m some sort of free-market libertarian. Judging by what I’m saying, you might be under the impression that I am some kind of radical individualist who believes that there is no place for government in the marketplace. Both these assumptions are false, at least to some degree. 

I do believe that regardless of what system we live under it is important that we have the ability to make our own choices, earn wages that are commensurate with our skill sets and/or our efforts and to a certain extent, control our own destinies. I also believe that as a country we should support our citizens in their efforts to better themselves through hard work, study, and will. As a matter of fact, we should be uplifting every citizen considering the abundance of wealth in this country. 

The scarcity mentality that employers and the powerful owners of those employers promote is keeping the rest of us docile and fearful, it does nothing for our economy, nothing for our self-esteem and nothing for our legacy. It hampers our ability to create a new, more democratic distribution of power that isn’t designed solely around wealth. When we take action, we create power.

So what do we want out of our working lives? What do we want to learn, do, see and explore? How can we use the experiences we’ve gathered to create not only income streams, examples for friends, our kids, our relatives… And as pollyannish as it sounds, how do we make a more inclusive, more just and more vibrant democracy?

I will attempt, over the next few posts, give you some of the resources that have helped me start that journey and change my entire outlook.