By Oliver DeMille

Young Geologist-ChiselCEO of Your Own Destiny

For years I’ve promoted the idea that conveyor-belt education is seldom great education, and that if anything should be great in a young person’s life it’s his or her education.

Therefore, I’ve said to anyone who would listen, let’s help our young people get off the conveyor belt to engage a truly superb, world-class, Jefferson-level education.

A lot of people have listened.

I get notes every day from people thanking us for teaching about Leadership Education and the idea that all education should really be great education.

They share amazing stories of how TJEd has blessed their families, kids, marriages and lives.

I’m always so humbled when I read these notes, because even though they thank us I realize that their successes are mostly the result of their own work and courage to aim for something better.

Lately I’m starting to get the same kind of notes from people who have turned from the corporate grind to an entrepreneurial lifestyle.

This is a little surprising, because while the benefits of truly great education can show up in a few weeks or even days, the shift to entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship can take a lot longer to bear fruit. For some people, it never does.

Entrepreneurial success is challenging, but then, so is career success on any path.

But for those who get off the career conveyor belt and make a living doing things they really care about, the increase in freedom, time with family, and often financial rewards is worth the effort.

The Age of the Entrepreneur

A new book by Maynard Webb, Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship (Jossey-Bass, 2013), shows how this is a growing trend.

It’s a great read for anyone who cares about the economy, work and where employment trends are headed.

To begin with, Webb argues that we are moving out of an “era of paternalism” where companies took care of their employees like a parent and expected high worker loyalty in return.

Now we’re entering an “age of entrepreneurship” where companies routinely lay off employees as needed or outsource jobs to workers in India or Pakistan.

In an increasingly competitive market, most firms just can’t afford to parentally nurture their employees’ benefits, perks or retirement savings anymore—or even ensure that they have stable job security.

As a result, those who succeed in this economy will increasingly become “CEO’s of Your Own Destiny.”

Welcome to the “Get-Off-the-Conveyor-Belt Economy.”

Those who truly succeed in this environment, Webb says, will have to learn to effectively work in teams of committed equals and also consistently network with people from all walks of life, among other things.

Fitness Test

So, give yourself a quick fitness test for the real-world economy right now:

  1. Are you good at self-direction and self-structure?
  2. Do you know how to follow your passions and turn them into quality work?
  3. Do you work well in teams with other talented and committed people?
  4. Do you consistently network with people?

If all of this sounds familiar, it is exactly what we invite students to do in TJEd.

And we teach parents and teachers to do the same by setting the example of these things (You, not Them).

Oh, and by the way, it may also seem familiar because these are the very skills most young people in the Millennial Generation (born between 1984 and 2001) have learned growing up in the social network world.

So, if you’ve been concerned about your older teens or twenty-something kids (and let’s be honest, what modern parent hasn’t?), with their tendency to constantly socialize, play, feel entitled, hang out at home for years past the norm their parents expected, waste a lot of time on movies and board games and electronic gaming, and easily flit from one job to the next with little evidence they’ll ever settle down or focus, note that they’ve got the precise set of skills needed to succeed in the current and emerging economy.

Except for one.

At some point, they’ll need to focus on building a business and then sticking with it.

Not “a” business, mind you, which Millennials too easily translate as “this business today, that business tomorrow, another business or job next month,” but rather “a business,” one they focus on and stick with.

Remember You, not Them

Of course, the best way to get there in this economy is to do one business this week, another next month, and yet another the month after until the right one clicks.

Mature Caucasian couple looking at laptop.So relax.

They’re probably on target, as weird as that seems.

The real question is: Are you?

The problem is that Boomers (born 1945-1964) were taught to think success means one or two stable jobs for life, and Xers (born 1964-1984) usually defined success as either a series of stable jobs or building three companies over the course of a career.

In the new economy, as Webb puts it, the key is to become the “CEO of Your Own Destiny,” which means building John Doe, Inc., (insert your name for John Doe) and flexibly changing your business focus over time as opportunities arise—or when you make them arise.

So here’s a CEO questionnaire for you:

  1. Are you building an entrepreneurial endeavor now? (If not, why not?)
  2. Are you working with teams?
  3. Are you a consistent networker?
  4. Are you online and is your work mobile?
  5. Are you putting your relationships and family life above work (because those who find long-term success in this economy will)?
  6. Are you constantly learning—reading like crazy?

If not, you may need to reboot your career.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re a TJEd mom or dad, you’ve been doing these things for as long as you’ve been off the conveyor belt.

Bring on the classics, mentors, and inspire-not-require.

Off-The-Conveyor-Belt Careers are going viral, and within a decade they’ll most likely be the mainstream.


For more ideas on building an entrepreneurial mindset and a business of your own, see The Coming Aristocracy.

Image Oliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through Leadership Education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.