Never Look Back

Change is hard and leaving the comfort and security of a well-paying job for the unknown of entrepreneurship is not easy.  But in the words of author J.E.B. Spredemann, “if you’re always looking back at what you’ve lost, you’ll ever discover the treasure that lies just up ahead.”

When I made the decision to leave my corporate job, I also left behind a matching 401K, the supplemental retirement plan, and all of the other corporate goodies that I had become accustomed to. I took all of that and traded it in for a position at a small, family-run company called Universal Protection Service.

When I joined the company, their annual revenues were about $12 million. They didn’t offer even the most basic 401K.  For any outside observer, I understood that this seemed like a losing proposition. In fact, there wasn’t much more to Universal than the bare bones of a company, so I understood people’s skepticism.

I saw something different, something more. I saw the potential. I was painfully well aware of everything that Universal was not, but I was certain I could build it into something far more. That was exactly what I was looking for; not a move-in-ready position, but a fixer-upper that I could remodel according to my vision, to create something all my own.

I was aware that achieving that goal was going to be a hell of a lot of hard work but most everyone I shared my future plans with could not see the vision I saw for Universal. Once I’d announced my intentions to enter the security industry, I was surprised to discover that there were some individuals outside of that field who held a certain disdain for the entire industry. (Keep in mind, I was coming from the waste management industry.)

I remember a conversation with one gentleman who couldn’t believe my decision to leave my cushy corporate position for Universal. He asked me point blank, “You’re leaving your position to go manage knuckleheads?”  I had no idea what he was talking about. “Excuse me?”

“That ragtag security company; it’s going to be like managing knuckleheads.”

I shrugged off his comments and dismissed him entirely. “No,” I said. “I’m leaving this job to start a career. Mark my words, just like I am leaving a billion-dollar enterprise, I’ll turn this ‘ragtag security company’ into a billion-dollar enterprise too.”

He smirked. “You can’t possibly believe that.” “I can. And I do. Just watch me.”

I’m still waiting for him to reach out and tell me that I was right and he was wrong.

People will always have opinions. Weigh their words and consider their counsel.

I have always been aware that among those who will offer you valuable insight, there are others whose only intention is to try to inject your dreams with their own doubt and fear and negativity. I never listened to a word that guy—or anyone like him—had to say. I knew what I was getting into with Universal. I had done my homework and I wasn’t concerned with those who couldn’t see all of the opportunities that I could.

Consider what people have to tell you, but never let them make the decision for you. Getting as many opinions as you can is often helpful, but do your own due diligence so that you know the answer for yourself.

I was aware of everything I was leaving behind. More to the point, I knew that my old company had a strict no-re-hire policy in place. There was no swinging door. Once I was out, I was out for good. I knew that and I went anyway. I knew what I was going to do and I never looked back.

First featured on Forbesbooks.com