Ditch the Cog, Create the Wheel

As of child who came of age in the 80s and 90s, I absolutely loved Hanna Barbera cartoons. “The Smurfs” were my absolute favorite and following close behind were “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons.” I loved “The Jetsons” because I couldn’t wait to see what new space-age invention would be in store during each episode. While I was intrigued and amused by each new device or gadget, I always felt sorry for the family patriarch, George Jetson. He always seemed to be at the mercy of his tyrannical boss Mr. Spacely to make a better Spacely Sproket, and Mr. Spacely in turn always seemed to be one step behind his competitor Mr. Cogswell at Cogswell Cogs. They all seemed to be caught on this vicious wheel of competition that was never ending and never fulfilling.

Since I took the leap of faith to become an entrepreneur at the beginning of the year, I’ve thought a lot about George Jetson and his lot in life. George never had any control over his destiny. He was just another disposal cog in someone else’s wheel. As I’ve contemplated my new future, there have been more that a few days where I’ve said to myself, “Look, Leah, let’s get real. You better get a real job, chick. You might not be cut out to be an entrepreneur.”

But then I remember that I already know how to be a cog in a wheel. At each company where I worked, I was the definition of a sterling employee. I came in on time. I hit all my deadlines. I became the expert on the topic areas for each of my associations.  I can pretty much guarantee that there’s no one else on the planet with crazy institutional knowledge about  oral deaf education, professional development for upper-level educators, and radiological best practices plastered in their brain. My authors and contributors loved working with me, and most of my former supervisors still speak highly of my work ethic and my contributions. If you wanted your project done right, there was no other choice but to put Leah in charge of it. I was the cog of all cogs. I had no problem towing the line, doing what was expected of me, and doing it well.

But what the heck did any of that have to do with me and my dreams? Most often not a darn thing. It was great to add another book or magazine to my portfolio, but my passions and ideas were usually buried under the missions, goals, and values of my employers.

But what if I were the one to actually create the wheel? What if I created a vision where new editorial voices could be nurtured, valued, and heard? What if I was the one to train the next generation of cogs to create wheels of their own? While exciting, exhilarating, and honestly a bit scary, wouldn’t that be a worthier use of my life instead of just contributing to someone else’s bottom line?

Creating a wheel takes BALLS. More balls than I expected 90 days ago when I started out on this journey. But I’ve realized that being a cog is now too easy and too safe for me. There’s no longer any adventure for me to work on someone else’s vision of the world. I owe it myself to create a wheel and to leave a vision for all the future wheels that will follow in my footsteps.

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