What we actually get paid for is all the work we did yesterday, and the day before that, and the year before that. In fact, what we get paid for is the work we did when no one was watching and no one was paying.
I’m going to tell you quite a personal story about how changing one simple thing last year changed my earnings and work life dramatically. It starts with a story I heard from an old 1960’s business coach called Bob Proctor. I was listening to a podcast of his where he described the following situation. A gentleman was the owner of a medium sized, $10 million dollar enterprise. He was the sole owner of the business and employed a large number of staff for the time. It was during the 1980’s. Unfortunately he passed away unexpectedly and all of the staff members and senior management were worried about what his wife (who inherited the business) would do now that the founder and CEO was gone. Some thought they’d lose their jobs, some thought she’d sell the company, some even rubbed their hands together and hoped for a management buyout. What she did do, no one expected. She had never had anything to do with the business before his death, but came in for the first official meeting to tell the staff and board of directors what was going to happen. This is what she did.
She asked all of the Directors to tell her the following 3 things:
- What are you doing in your division at the moment.
- What is working well.
- What is not working well.
She went around the room and let all of them tell those 3 simple stories. After that was done she gave them all a very simple instruction. She said. “I want you to stop doing all of the things that are not working. I don’t care if we lose revenue, or what happens as a result of this. I want you to only do the things that are working. Anyone who doesn’t follow this rule when I come back and ask the same questions in three months, will be dismissed.” She then told them she wasn’t selling the business, and the benefits of any growth will be shared accordingly.
One year after she undertook this strategy the business had grown from a $10 million enterprise to a $30 million enterprise.
It got me thinking at the time I heard this about what I was doing with work. What parts was I doing that were actually working well, and which bits were not working out so well. I came to the conclusion that the things that always worked out best for me were Writing and Speaking. I was doing a portion of that as part of my work at the time. I was working in advertising and in some startups on the side. Whenever I did a keynote speech or did a pitch I smashed it. My writing for journals and blogs was getting good credence. It was probably about 20% of my time on the average week. So I wondered what would happen if I only did those two things. Even for the startups I work with – only write and speak about them to help them grow. I wondered what kind of an income I would earn as a kind of ‘thought freelancer’ on technology, startups and business strategy. So instead of just wondering about it, I decided to do it. My new mantra would be to ‘Think, Write and Speak’ for a living.
Since this decision – which was around a year ago – I’ve published a book and started doing keynote speeches through an agent. And this is the personal bit. After about some months getting organised (pitching the book & getting an agent for speaking), I’ve earned well over what I earned for the entire previous year in just 5 months. What is super cool about this, is that I’m managing to do this in only a small portion of my week. It then forms a kind of underwriting strategy, so that I can invest more time in some killer startup ideas I’ve got, but haven’t had the capacity to get done. I say this not to impress you, but to impress upon you. I’m pretty sure all of us have a muse like this. That small portion of what we do in our company, job or startup which we excel in. A muse we have natural talent for, and naturally put more effort into. I’m pretty sure if we all focused on this, we’d get the same results that I am seeing. Remembering of course that this is not some passion fantasy, but real work we already get paid to do.
Another thing which is really telling with this story is this simple fact: I am no better at these things than I was 1 year ago or even 3 years ago. I am the same person, with the same capacity. I simply sowed my seed in more fertile soil. Which also makes me wonder why we all act like trees, waiting for the environment around us to change and help us flourish. When we can instead choose to change our environment. Unlike trees, we don’t have roots, we have legs, we can use them to go elsewhere and change where we do our work for a more fruitful return. I think the biggest determinant of our income is taking the work we do to a place where that is valued at its highest.
Maybe the thing we need to change, isn’t ourselves, but where we do our work.
I’ve been doing some blogging and work in general for the good people at Pollenizer. My recent focus has been over coming the fear of leaving your job, and things we can do to reduce the risk and make the transition. I’ve written 3 posts in particular which I really think you guys will dig. There’s some links below and a little sound bite for each proving they are worth the 3 minutes each of them take to read. Remember we must first invest in ourselves before anyone will invest in us.
- The fast track, zero risk method to becoming an entrepreneur: This post is the ultimate startup life hack – and with a simple trick gets to you on the path to entrepreneurship in an instant. Serious.
- Startup training in a low risk environment: here I’ve written about ways you can up skill and help your self transition from employee to startup founder without risking anything. A must for those planning to escape their cubicle in corporate land.
- The worst case scenario for failed entrepreneurs: And finally a nice bit of entrepreneurial FEAR debunking, and reasons that taking the leap will not result in anything bad. This one will ease your mind.
Hope you enjoy these mind jams.
I was recently thinking about the various activities I’ve been interested in as I grew up. Not just the passing fads, but the stuff that really inspired me to levels of near obsession for a solid period of time. Things which entered my life and created large chunks of pure happiness and exploration. And now that I look back on them they all have elements which are related. Both from what makes me tick and even my career trajectory.
Kids stuff – When I look at the 3 things I was obsessed with while growing up, in hindsight they are all very similar.
BMX, Break Dancing and Surfing: All sliding across the surface of things, fluid movements which involve an elements of acrobatics. All have their own subculture, community, and even a specific style of dress. All individual sports – but yet often done along side groups of friends who also enjoy it. All of them arrived as a new-ish thing, rather than being activities with long histories.
I feel like this is very telling about me as a person. If consider the work I do today, it is much like this. I like new projects, startups, technology, writing. I work both independently, but along side others. I like exploring new territory and being at the edge of emerging culture – I’ve mostly worked in marketing and advertising.
I think if we look back at our own ‘history of interests’ we’ll be able to find a pattern about what makes us tick. Our kids stuff is probably also what our adult stuff ought be. What we like to do metaphorically might even provide some clues as to whether our next startup project is suited to our true selves.
I can remember a time when it really mattered that you stayed in the same industry. If you wanted a job in consumer goods marketing for example, it really mattered that you had experience in consumer goods marketing. If you wanted to transition industries it was an incremental process. You had to eek your way across to new ground. Small step by small step. They wouldn’t let you play in their playground unless you had played their before, or at least a very similar playground. Sadly, our first job often defined us for much of our career. An potential employee needed a logical straight lined career flow.
I’m glad to say those days are over.
That attitude was one of protection. It’s a guild ethic, where profits are a function of a knowable, existential system. One that must be protected at all costs. But when a system breaks down, the smart players look for a new set of functions. A new attitude and ideas from an unfamiliar realm. If you’re in the middle of career transition, or wanting to break into a self determined entrepreneurial realm then there has never been a better time in history to do it. It’s damn exciting.
The best CV, or should I say personal brand isn’t one with a consistent story line. No, today it needs to be a set of juxtaposed, unusual and significantly differentiated projects, industries and activities. One that shows experimentation and the ability to cope with non-linear complexity. Go ahead and get involved in some, we’re waiting for you.
I’m typing this on a Sunday evening. I’ve had various times in my life when I used to hate Sunday, not due to its own features and benefits, but because it was the pre-amble to Monday. Mondayitus. The dread for Monday was so deep and worrisome that it ruined the day before it which is was a free day. And what is more ironic is that I even liked Thursday more than I liked Friday, because Friday was too close to Monday. It is strange indeed how our minds can work. Sometimes it is worth listening to the strange.
Tonight, I went for a jog and I was genuinely excited about the week ahead and couldn’t even wait for Monday to get some of my projects underway. We are doing another world first for Tomcar Australia which will be global news. I’m attending the FML this Wednesday night to help jumpstart the maker movement in my fair city Melbourne. I’m working on a few Hackathons for some big corporates. I’m doing a new talk on the ‘future of work’, which I will deliver at the co-work in the lane way for the Hub Melbourne. Working on a new technology related property development. Shipping the Super Awesome thing & person from Romania. Working on my new book and might even be launching my new startup by the end of the week. I can’t wait.
I’ve decided that Monday is our best friend. There is nothing more telling in life than how we feel about it. Monday knows all. It is about time we started listening to our internal mental Monday sermon and tried and create a Monday that Monday actually appreciates. I ignored Monday for a while, but now I’m listening to it again and it is helping me smile.
As far as I can tell our Mondays are the ultimate arbiter of happiness.
Over my career I’ve worked for a number of companies, as well as my own startups. And while I invested a good number of years working for others (as an entrepreneur with 1 really big and important customer – which is how I define it any time I am employed, as we all should), I always found that I didn’t quite fit in. I never really fit the bill. Sure, I delivered, I think I even over delivered on many occasions, But I was always a problem child.
I hope for your sake you feel this way too. While it can be uncomfortable at times, it is the muse trying really hard to tell you something, and that something is this:
You are an exotic bird.
Therefore you do not belong in a cage. Therefore your output (egg) is rare. It is possibly a different colour, size, shape and taste. It’s unusual, and so they don’t know how to deal with it. It is not what they expect, and they panic and don’t know how to cook it, or sell it. If they did, they might realise your eggs are worth much more money in the right market. But chances are they’d rather sell the same eggs, to the same people they sold to yesterday. You’ve laid some of these eggs over time, but it turned you inside out…. It wasn’t really you, even though you proved you could do it. When you showed them your natural exotic output, they didn’t want it. Instead they wanted the same eggs being laid by everyone, everyday. They just wanted more of them, and at a cheaper price than yesterday.
If this feels like you, you’re not alone. And if you do manage to escape the coop, and find, or better still, build the right nest, know it will be worth the effort. Exotic birds get paid a lot more for their eggs once they are in the right environment. But in the wrong environment, they are just seen as defects.