The best way for Founders to gain power is to create it for themselves.
When I was a kid, I spent my whole existence feeling powerless, like all of my needs and dreams were tied to someone else's rules. I dreaded that feeling, but at every turn the reinforcement of the power dynamic was there, whether it was from my parents, my teachers, or Leeno who owned the pizza place that I worked at when I was 14. They had the power, they had the say. All I could do was make the best of their rules.
And if my adolescence taught me anything, it's that I absolutely hate being told what to do.
While I was a happy kid, I was miserable at my station in life. I thought I'd be the unwilling pawn in someone else's game, always working just smart enough to make the most of a set of rules I didn't create in a game I didn't want to play.
Then, just a few years into my adulthood, I decided to venture out on my own and start a company - a digital marketing agency back when those didn't exist yet. I'd soon come to learn that the only way I was ever going to get power was by creating it for myself.
Throughout most of my first year, I earned nothing. What little I was charging was easily eaten up in what felt like a mountain of operational expenses, like rent, salaries, and our dial-up internet connection.
But then something magical happened — I made some money. I'm not talking about big money, the way the main character in a movie goes from being dead broke to living large. I'm talking about $500, which at the time was exactly enough to pay my rent, utilities, and stock my cupboard with a boatload of Beefaroni.
To most people that sounded like a horrible existence — to me, it was the greatest moment in my young life. As of that very moment, no one could tell me what to do. I didn't care about eating Beefaroni for every meal (I love Beefaroni). All I cared about was that for the first time I had power over my own life, and I'd do whatever it took to hold onto that power.
Years later and throughout my career I created the opportunity to do lots of things my way, from plotting the course of my company to determining exactly how I wanted to help other Founders going through similar struggles. But that wasn't the tipping point. The tipping point came the moment I emancipated myself from the rules of others by creating my own rules, my own path, on my own dime.
As Founders, when we think about creating power we think about upending massive systems that hold us back. But we sometimes overlook that in order to do that, it starts with changing the balance of power in our own lives first, so that we'll be around long enough to make greater change.
Once I stabilized my own position, I then learned how to compound my power by recruiting and enabling like-minded folks around me. In my case, I wanted to teach every person on the planet the power of entrepreneurship, to empower them to create their own paths in the same way that I did.
I found that power compounds with each tiny step in a forward direction, with an endless resolve to move forward, no matter how tiny that step might be.
Now my early efforts have led to helping millions of Founders forge their own path. Through the people I've recruited (whom I'm endlessly thankful for), I've helped shape a world that reflects the needs and desires of that powerless kid I was growing up. But it didn't start here. It started with a step down my own path and $500 of power, with self-reliance. It started with creating power for myself.
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Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.
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