The worst advice I ever got from a mentor was this: “Stop trading your hours for dollars.”
What he meant by that was that a traditional job does not scale, that the amount of money you can earn is limited by how many hours you can work. He was trying to encourage me to develop multiple streams of passive income so I could earn money while I sleep.
While I understand what that means, almost everything I learned from that relationship was a resounding What Not to Do. My first advice to other people would be: Make sure someone is actually living out whatever it is they are encouraging you to do, before you try to do it yourself.
My supposed mentor was trying to teach me to do something he had never figured out how to do himself. It was a mirage.
That was when I learned that trading hours for dollars is better than trading hours for NO dollars!
For every proven method of making money, there are more people failing at it and going broke than there are successful people making it work for them.
99% of people in MLMs lose money
80% of restaurants go out of business within five years
Only 25% of new businesses survive at least fifteen years
People love to talk about the rate of divorce, but even second marriages are statistically more likely to succeed than business ventures.
None of this is why I took a traditional day job, though.
It was mental bandwidth.
Before COVID, I was working on a book deal. I have an actual relationship with a publisher. It was going to happen in the near future - and then the world changed.
Two other things happened, all basically at the same time. My husband got sent to our living room on mandatory WFH, and I contracted coronavirus two days later.
Step 1: I realized my book had died, and could only be reborn in a radically different form
Step 2: I realized that I would not be able to write until my husband went back to the office
Step 3: I realized that the pandemic would most likely last three years* and that therefore I would need something to do.
Roughly a year and a half later, my assumptions have continued to bear out, which is about 10% reassuring and 90% disappointing.
Kismet applied, and my dream job opened up, and I got it, and it has been everything I wanted. It gave me something to do to distract me from the pandemic, gave me people to talk to, and I have been able to work from home. Perfection!
Of course there are drawbacks. I’m now on camera in meetings for hours every day, and there are few things I loathe more. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that my workstation is an arm’s length away from where I try to relax on my couch in the evenings.
These “issues” are, of course, nothing compared to the millions of people around the world who are forced to risk their lives working in physical proximity to other humans.
It is probably much more obvious now how much every job is a lifestyle business.
I chose being an employee and “trading hours for dollars” over being my own boss, because it doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s freeing.
I log in every morning, hang out and help my colleagues get stuff done, sign out every night, and that’s it. Pass Go, collect paycheck.
I don’t have to spend a single moment worrying about marketing, scheduling anything, making sure I am adequately insured, inventing new products, analyzing trends, networking, or anything else I don’t want to do.
I don’t work long hours, weekends, or holidays.
I don’t have to hire or fire anyone.
I don’t have to pollute my personal interests and hobbies with a profit motive.
I don’t have to toss and turn at night, worrying about whether I can maintain enough customers or contracts.
I happened to have the great good fortune of filling a role on a team that was a complete replacement for the previous team. Everyone had gone months with those roles unfilled. Thus I am greeted with gratitude and respect.
Running my own business would leave me the sole bulwark against customer complaints and criticism. No thanks.
I choose to be an employee rather than an owner/operator because it is a laid-back way to draw an income.
A person with a certain tolerance for risk will struggle to tolerate working for someone else. Makes sense. I am a low-risk, high-challenge person.
Some people will choose a business that allows them to do something they love to do all day. For instance, almost every hairdresser I have ever met will say, “I always wanted to cut hair.” They did it for free as kids or teenagers, and figured out how to get paid for it as adults. Dog groomers and dog walkers also seem to just want to be around dogs all day. Owning a restaurant or a bookstore or a clothing boutique are maybe also along those lines.
I dunno. There has never been a time when I wanted to run a shop or have my own restaurant.
“Office lady” is the life for me. I like corporate culture. I like having a formal code of conduct. I think business jargon is hilarious. I like the predictable hours. I like how many things are transferable from one industry to another.
If I ever tried to run my own business, I would probably just try to replicate as much of standard office culture as possible, and in that case, what’s the point?
Part of why I hung up my literary aspirations, at least temporarily, was that I could not disinterest myself completely from the business world. Might as well make the most of it.
The truth is that having nothing to do can start out relaxing, even healing, and then eventually it can become incredibly boring. If you need something to do with your time, might as well acknowledge that whatever you do, it is a lifestyle. It’s up to each of us to make it an interesting one.
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.
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