If you are willing to work hard, you can succeed. That’s what we are told since young. And then we get sold a version of success that tells us that we have to go big or go home.

Anything else less than a huge success is not worth the effort. If we don’t make it big, then we might as well put our heads down to face the daily grind and not bother at all.

Go big in business

If we are in business, the goal is to grow revenue and increase the size of the company. Employ people by the hundreds, or even by the thousands. It would be great to create a 7-figure company.

But nobody reminded you that a 7-figure company that comes with 8-figure expenses is a recipe for disaster. Nobody taught you that now your employees’ pay is a bigger priority than the profits you get to keep. Oh and by the way, finding external funding for your startup could actually mean finding a boss for yourself and losing control of your company even though you are the founder.

The thing is, there are alternatives that you can consider. Some businesses might require you to seek external funding. But many others do not.

Bootstrapping is one alternative of maintaining 100% control as you slowly grow your business. Solopreneurship is another, allowing you to work with partners and contractors on projects while reducing your financial risk. But if all you want is to have more control over the projects that you work on, you might even want to consider freelancing.

Go big as an employee

If we are employed, the goal is to keep climbing the corporate ladder so that we can get to the top. If you have the chance for a promotion and you reject it, people will think that you are crazy.

Statistic: Ratio between CEO and average worker pay in 2018, by country | Statista
Statistics by Statista

It’s not helping that the higher in the corporate ladder you climb, the more significant the increase in your income. That makes us feel like we have no other choice but to climb the corporate ladder whenever we have the chance.

But nobody understands that you actually enjoy working directly with customers but hate managing a big team under you. And the promotion will mean that you don’t get to serve the customers directly anymore.

It’s found that great salespeople don’t necessarily make good sales managers. Yet, if you perform well in your job, you are more likely to rise to a managerial role. Or worse, we think that academically-bright students automatically make great leaders (hint: not always true).

Here’s a random thought. Why don’t we consider an alternative kind of promotion where you grow sideways? Instead of climbing up the corporate hierarchy, we grow horizontally in the hierarchy by earning more responsibilities (of course with more pay).

Growing bigger is not always good

As far as I know, there is only one phenomenon that grows bigger indefinitely. It’s called cancer. And we know that such growth is not good for our bodies.

Yet, we still believe that we can defy natural laws in economics, business and our careers. We think that we can grow indefinitely without any negative repercussions.

I’m not saying that growth is always bad. Stagnation brings a whole set of other problems. But I think the question we need to ask is, “Why do we want to grow bigger?”

We can create problems if the focus is only ‘go big or go home’ – that success only comes in grand packages. It could hurt our self-worth. And not everything needs to be big.

Small can be beautiful

The thing is, small can be beautiful too.

Small and intimate street (Credits: La So)

Skyscrapers in major cities around the world are no doubt modern engineering marvels. But I personally prefer to be in places where the scale is much smaller. It’s what we would call the human scale in architecture.

The thing is, our bodies cannot grow forever. At least not in the sense of unlimited multiplication of cells. You grow in size and stature up to a certain point in life. After that, the body focuses on renewing itself, making sure that dying cells are replaced with new ones. The focus is not about growth. The focus is to ensure that you can survive and thrive.

It’s crazy when we make growth the end goal instead of something that will help us achieve the goals we set.

Why did you start your business in the first place? Why did you choose the career path you chose in the first place? Don’t ever forget those reasons.

For example, some people choose careers in nursing because they care about people. But few realise that the higher you climb in position, the more you get bogged down by paperwork. And the less time you have to care for patients directly.

Sometimes when you go big, you lose the opportunity to do the things that you set out to do in the first place. You don’t always have to go big or go home.

The key is to understand what’s the scale that works best for you. Choosing to remain tiny might be a great strategy sometimes.

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