I was sitting at the receiving end of a performance evaluation and my boss had just laughed at me. I had filled out a questionnaire about my plans and we were going over the answers. The answer that made my boss laugh was the question “what is the highest position to aspire to achieve in your career?”. My answer? CEO.

Not only did my boss laugh, but he pulled out his pen and crossed out my answer. “Seriously, Don. Let’s be realistic.”

I was annoyed by his answer. I hadn’t put down “CEO” lightly or without thought. I told him that I would like to stick with the CEO answer.

My boss pushed back again. “That just isn’t realistic. This company has 60,000 employees and you are 8 levels below the CEO. You will never be CEO of this company.”

I smiled and leaned back. “I never said I wanted to be CEO of THIS company.”, I responded.

Frankly, it was a cocky answer that I am a little embarrassed about. However, that day I was focused on something that can be easily forgotten. We are all empowered to make our own decisions about our lives.

Too often we voluntarily give up our power to others. My advice? Don’t.

The key to keeping your power is to recognize what you can control and what you can’t. When my boss was laughing at me, I recognized that he was right. There was almost no chance of me becoming the CEO of this Fortune 500 company from my current position. So your mind can go in 2 directions with this type of realization. The first is to feel powerless and defeated because the path you’ve chosen is not attainable. The second perspective is to recognize that you may need to jump off the path and find another one.

Look, your life will travel on your own path, but sometimes you will jump on someone else’s path as it aligns with yours. This is where it is easy to get lost. Keep your own path in mind and the signs are your own strengths and passions.

It took me 11 years from that conversation to become the CEO of a company. The cool part is that becoming CEO was never my goal. My goal is bigger. Becoming CEO is just a stop along the way and it is a stop that would have been impossible on the path I was on.

Don’t give up your power.