Erick Rommel

Erick Rommel

Everyone has dreams about what life has in store, personally and professionally.

It’s one of the few experiences we all share. As young children, many of us dreamed of becoming police officers or firefighters. As we grew older, those dreams grew grander. Some continued to imagine a life of service. Others imagined a life of riches or personal satisfaction.

Many paths of success exist for every dream. However, very few paths are truly self-sufficient. Most rely on the support and approval of other people.

When we start out, that means pleasing a boss. As we gain experience, we often become a boss, but there is always someone above us who needs to be pleased. In this situation, finding the balance between doing what’s right personally and professionally is a lifelong battle.

The only true professional freedom is self-employment, but that increased freedom, like all freedom, comes with increased responsibility. If you can’t work or people don’t like the service you provide, you don’t earn a living. Without income, you can’t afford basics like food and shelter.

But, if you are successful, you are also responsible for any you employ. Stumbles that affect your livelihood affect them as well. If you falter, they also can’t afford basics like food and shelter.

This responsibility for others is one of the largest that exists. That’s why so few choose to professionally take it on. How few? Employment statistics in the United States show fewer than one in 10 people are self-employed.

That’s why I was interested to read a recent blog post where top photographers, typically self-employed, shared the best professional advice they’ve ever received. I felt their insight was applicable to all lives and all professions.

The most universal truth shared was simple: “If I don’t go out and get what I want, it likely won’t be handed to me.” That’s not a sentiment specific to someone self-employed. It’s a universal truth that can apply to all.

Every comment didn’t have as obvious a connection, but upon reflection, I always found a link. For example, “Make it personal. That is my ultimate goal in my business, no matter what the job is.”

Whether at my first job making fries and burgers in a mall food court or in my current position, I see the value in that statement. We all want to have a connection with the people we meet. If we don’t feel it, something is wrong.

That’s why the most important aspect of every connection is its quality. “Don’t attempt to do everything just because you need the money,” one photographer said. To put it another way, some jobs just aren’t worth it.

I remember a summer job I almost took while in college. I would have earned money selling knives door to door. The more I learned about the responsibilities of the job, the more I questioned the integrity of the person who would be my boss and the honesty of the company that would employ both of us.

I didn’t feel a connection and walked out the door. I returned home and learned of another job opportunity. The connection was there and I worked for that company until after my college graduation.

In the end, our dreams of professional freedom are no different from our dreams for personal freedom, and when it comes to personal freedom, we’re all self-employed. We must feel comfortable with our actions and with the people around us.

One way to gain that comfort is to be open with those we know. It’s our obligation to share our insights in an attempt to make their path a little easier to navigate.

After all, we all rely on the support and approval of others.


Erick Rommel works for a nonprofit youth organization. He can be reached at