You want to be in the driver's seat? Then steer

A new consultant I mentored showed a surprising lack of self-confidence, given his technical talent. He wanted constant assurance that his contract would be renewed, and I responded if this bothered him that much he should have remained full-time. At one point when things became comical I smiled gently and said: I can't promise that.

As he became distressed, I explained I couldn't make promises about things that were out of my control. What if tomorrow, the company discovers an unethical accountant just stole $40 million and fled the country? We'd all be looking for new jobs then, both the contractors and employees.

The other side of the coin was that early on I'd asked if he had set up his SEP yet (Simplified Employee Pension IRA), and he blinked and asked: what is that? When I followed up later and learned he still hadn't set this up yet, I remarked it was curious that he worried about things over which he had no control, and didn't worry about things that not only were in his control, but as a consultant, were absolutely his responsibility, since no one else would take care of these things for him.

Do you understand where your true priorities are?