Corporate Mustang – Wild Horses in Corporate America

Corporate Mustang – Wild Horses in Corporate America

As fate – and chance – would have it this summer both Ellie Gates and I were upgraded to First Class on a flight home from San Jose. I usually travel over twenty weeks a year, and I’m usually the type to immerse myself in a book on takeoff and then my laptop for the majority of the flight.

But I was intrigued by a binder Ellie asked me to stow overhead on “development and training” and we struck up a conversation on a variety of topics from organizational development to career aspirations, to Toast Masters International speaking club to life in general. I took Ellie’s card and promised to get together soon, another first for me, and I followed through on my promise. And I’m all the better for it.

At our next meeting, Ellie talked about her “handle” – “Corporate Mustang.” I thought of the Ford car immediately until she described her entrepreneurial spirit stuck in a corporate body.

The power of the two words put together still strike me:

Corporate Mustang

My first thoughts of the words married together were of brutality, confinement, and imprisonment.  The romantic idea of a mustang roaming free on a landscape of endless valleys, hills, and mountains comes crashing down when you think of a horse confined to a small wooden pen, right? (And then you look around at work and realize that pen is larger than your cubicle …)

When I shared those thoughts with Ellie, however, she helped me understand that from her perspective the “bridal and bit” a corporation puts on the care-free mustang should be seen more as a process to polish off the rough edges and give a platform for all the creative energy to be channeled and perfected. A great racehorse is only fostered when discipline and control are introduced. But she also agreed the “breaking” process can stifle creativity and slam a square peg into a circular hole if gone unchecked.

As a corporate mustang “born into captivity,” I’ve come to realize if I’m going to continue to stay within I need to find where the corporation will help me further develop what I think is important for my long term success. Balancing my needs with the corporation’s is certainly a challenge as the bi-weekly paychecks come with an attachment: I’m often sidetracked from the work I love to do by having to clean up someone else’s mess, drive someone else’s initiatives, and do work that simply needs to be done but isn’t my passion.

A mindset that has helped, however, is understanding I am CEO of ME Inc. As CEO, I currently only have one customer – my current employer – but I am in the driver’s seat and I am in control of my future destiny. As I build out what I want long term, I feel a greater sense of freedom, and excitement about what the future holds. The advantage of my current corporate customer comes in training, travel opportunities, and financial resources I wouldn’t have on my own to explore new opportunities.

Initially I thought the greatest disadvantage to corporate life is the day you are told you are no longer needed. The mere thought of the possibility caused panic and despair, gloom and doom several years ago. But I got out of debt, put together my own “parachute” of three month’s expenses and now should I be “made redundant,” the resulting investment (in the form of a severance package) and forced freedom my company would provide is suddenly a blessing instead of the end of my world.

What’s your Corporate Mustang story? Or are you an entrepreneur living the dream? The day will come when I will run free, but I’m in a good place now with abundant growth and development opportunities. I’m also a bit ADHD and need structure and deadlines but currently lack the self-control to feel comfortable if I am the only taskmaster in my life.

Ellie has a great blog, Check out her August posting on Passion and Mustangs.

Learn: What is your passion?

Act: What steps are you going to take today to plan for your future and release the past?

Share: Reply back here, start your own blog, talk to others about their passion!


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