We just got back from a reading for Born For This and got to meet Chris Guillebeau IN PERSON! If you have a chance to see him while he’s still on tour, go for it. He’s super nice and he puts on a great show. I had already read the book, because I couldn’t wait, so I bought a copy of The $100 Startup and had him sign that for me instead. It’s the last of his books that I haven’t read yet, and I’m saying that because I’m a mega-fan and I think you should be, too. He’s all about finding ways to pay for living your dream.
I’ll talk briefly about the book, because it deserves a close read and attention to the exercises. Just buy it already. Then I’ll address some points that were raised by audience members after the reading.
Most people don’t love their jobs, and most would also laugh ruefully at what an understatement that is. Unfortunately, most people don’t have any better ideas. We get caught up in this idea that we don’t have any other options, or we’re so burned out at the end of the day that we just melt into the couch and try to pretend we don’t have to go back again tomorrow. Born For This would be an excellent choice for anyone who feels this way. It teaches ways to brainstorm and come up with different approaches to the problem of Sounds Great, But How Will It Pay the Bills? This includes ways to raise cash right away, at least some of which I have successfully done.
One of the younger members of the audience asked a question about how to deal with family members who aren’t supportive. When she asked her dad for career guidance before going to college, he said to pick something that paid the bills. I don’t even know where to start with that. First of all, “bills” are totally variable depending on location and chosen lifestyle. Second, everyone I have ever heard suggest options that “pay the bills” has listed off what I consider to be low-paid jobs in insecure fields with a lot of competition for positions. This is where the advice to be “obedient and hard-working” comes from. Obedience means you’re waiting for someone else to tell you what to do, and there are precisely zero well-paid jobs that fit that description. Hard-working? What I learned as I climbed the ladder was that every time I got a pay raise and/or a promotion, the job was easier and it had more perquisites. If you’re interested in being an entrepreneur or having a side hustle, stop asking for advice from naysayers. Just do it. When they give you unsolicited advice, smile and “take it under advisement.” When my dad wanted to know why I was bothering to go back to school, I told him it was so that I could meet and marry a high earner. We’re allowed to joke about these things. My university education paid for itself the first year I went back to work, doing essentially the exact same job for higher pay.
Another audience member had a question that wasn’t really a question. She was carrying a story about how 1. She was too old, 2. The economic crash of 2008 had permanently eliminated opportunities for basically everyone, 3. People had stolen from her, and 4. The book is inspirational but can you prove that it will work for me? She wasn’t old at all, barely older than us anyway, and another audience member of her age addressed that for her. My husband and I were a little puzzled by the reference to the crash, because, hello? That was 8 years ago. It hit us pretty hard at the time, but we rejiggered and got past it. Yeah, he’s pushing 50 and we don’t own a house; like a lot of people, we believe that home ownership is a major financial liability and obstacle to career growth, rather than an asset. About the story of personal betrayal… Again, each of us has been through a divorce that cratered our finances and messed with our credit. This woman had no idea that there were others sitting within a few feet of her who had similar personal histories, but different attitudes. For all we know, the three of us were the luckiest, most solvent, highest-income people in the room.
The thing is, solving problems is the solution to problems. Venting is not the solution to problems. Venting should be done alone, with a journal and a timer, and when the timer goes off, the step of Define the Problem should be complete. Time to move on to the next step, which is to Eliminate That Problem and then Define the Next One.
Can a book work for you? Can a book change your life? That depends. It depends on whether you’re open to new information. If there is salt in your coffee, you have two options. Grimace and chug it down, or toss it over your shoulder and proceed with an empty cup. Don’t go around holding out your salty coffee and showing it to everyone. “I got salty coffee and now it’s cold, too!” Born For This can teach a certain mindset. It can teach troubleshooting exercises. It can offer many diverse examples of other people who have broken free and started doing things they like for more money. What it can’t do is to somehow supernaturally figure out who you are and the details of your individual story, beat down your laundry list of objections, and give you a tailor-made answer of what to do next. The desire to explain in minute, meticulous detail Why My Scenario is Different is just salty coffee. Let that scenario go and start focusing on concrete steps toward something else.
Chris said more than once that he doesn’t want people to say his work is inspirational. He wants it to be practical. He wants us to walk away with specific steps to take and a firm plan. He also says that if something isn’t working, we should quit. I like this. I’ll go along with him and say he’s not motivational or inspirational. He’s purely practical. Do it like this:
Step One: Get a copy of Born For This.
Step Two: Read it.
Step Three: Do the exercises.
Step Four: Put it into practice and just get started.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.