I had the day off from my normal go to work, sit in front of a computer and make code that does things the boss tells me to do. It’s not a terrible job; I make it out to be much worse than it really is. But there’s a big difference between not having to go and having to go. And today was one of those days where I had ample time to think about my next move in life because I wasn't busy worrying about hitting a fucking "milestone," or whatever.
Over the weekend, I met a friend of my girlfriend’s. She was an ordinary looking girl. If you passed her on the street, you’d think, “oh, there’s another person walking around,” and that would be the end of it. That was my first impression of her anyway.
She's got a complicated life situation going on. She has a somewhat estranged husband that lives with her, or doesn't, I'm not sure. It was hard to tell if he contributed anything to the household's bottom line or if he was just dead weight. She has a kid of her own and two kids from some other girl, a relative of hers. The court pretty much ordered her to take care of the kids because she can and the other girl can't. And from the way she was talking, she might be getting another one soon. Good times.
Despite all this bullshit going on, she just bought a house. A very nice, 4,000 square foot foreclosure that she got for way under the market value. If she were to put just a little bit of work into it (she already has), she could turn around and sell it for a $70k profit.
She’s approaching 40 and has a very successful, full time career. Taken all this in, I thought, "she could make any excuse she wanted to just take a knee and ride out the clock." Hell, she could probably live off the system for a while if she wanted to. But she's not. She's doing the exact opposite. She's making moves, picking up gigs on the side to make extra money, buying houses, yada yada. All this with 3 kids, possibly a fourth on the way, and a husband that may or may not be helpful. I’m still wondering if he lives in the house. It doesn’t matter.
After talking with her for about an hour about all the things she’s got going on, I got to thinking about my own situation. How I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. How I’ve been using trivial excuses to get in the way of doing what I want to do, which is to make a little side money. A little for now, hopefully a lot later. I was thinking about how this girl has every excuse in the book, and no one would even try to challenge her, but she keeps her nose to the grindstone. My girlfriend calls her the best hustler she knows.
So this morning I got to thinking of ways I could make a little money on the side using the skills I already have. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about this. It’s about the billionth time. But after meeting (let’s call her) Tiffany, I have a new perspective on things. I have no excuses, no one to blame but myself if I can’t make it happen.
I think I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time diddle-daddling, which is only doing things that I enjoy doing, instead of doing things that contribute to my bottom line. A job is only going to take me so far. And a job is volatile, meaning it can go away at any time. That’s why Tiffany has the right idea. Even though she has a stable job, she understands that it’s not enough, and she can’t rely on some other entity to provide all her financial needs. It’s not about becoming rich, but about being able to take care of yourself when the time comes, to mitigate the impact of disasters when they happen (like losing a job, or an unexpected large expense). I hate to admit it, but money is important. And the more, the better.
I read a thing on Quora yesterday about a guy whose built an empire selling $0.99 e-books through Amazon. I thought, “hmmm, I could do that.” Then I went and bought a couple of his books and read a little bit of them. Then I thought, “hmmm, this looks he’s put in a lot of work. I’m not so sure I can do that any more.”
The books were impressive. Not because they were chock full of great information, but because they're nothing more than marketing gimmicks. Like, he has a book called “55 Ways to Make Money Online,” or something like that. The book is full of regular ideas, from affiliate marketing to selling products. There's very little detail to each of the ideas. There's usually a sentence that begins, "the trick to making this work is," then he offers a vague answer. The great thing is, he liters the whole "book" with links to either more information about the idea or something he's made that you can either buy or download for free. Free reports, blog articles, etc. So it’s like you start tunneling further and further down the rabbit hole. It’s information overload. I even found myself buying into some of the things he was talking about, thinking, “I could do that.”
Then I realized what I was doing. I was getting suckered into the New New thing. “Oh, look, fresh information, I’ll get really excited and think I can follow this guy’s formula and I’ll have it made,” is what I thought, because I’m an information addict. And information addicts love consuming information.
But then I thought, “wait a minute, what happened to making my own way?” This guy carved his own path, and now he’s selling the path he carved. I’ve bought into that nonsense too many times. There may be some good ideas in there, but to think I can just copy exactly what he’s done is ludicrous. I’ve tried it before, on several occasions, and either quit too early because it was feeling more like a job than an adventure, or I failed miserably. I’m not going to fall in that trap again.
I think the truth about starting <insert some difficult thing here> is that it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of little failures to succeed. In other words, you have to carve your own path, and that scares me. I don't know why it's scary. Probably because if I tell everyone what I'm doing, then I fail, then they'll say something like, "I told you so." Or, I'll do something I think is pretty good, then everyone shits on it. Or, if I somehow pull it off, and the thing(s) I make are good and people like them, then there'll be a lot of pressure to continue delivering.
But these are just flimsy excuses. After meeting Tiffany, I have nothing in my way. I have zero responsibilities outside a couple of dogs and a very low maintenance girlfriend.
After juggling all these thoughts in my head, I shifted my thinking to how I could make some extra money. I started thinking about what skills I have and how I could leverage these skills to solve problems for others. It’s hard for me to do something just to make a buck. It doesn’t feel good if I feel like I’m scamming someone. So I have to find something that genuinely feels good to me, and provides tremendous value to someone else. And it doesn't have to be just one something. It can be multiple somethings.
After getting stuck in all the thoughts that try to deter me from trying something new, I took a small step back and asked myself what the end goal is. Forget about the whys and all the abstract reasons someone might start a silly venture like this. Forget the, “because I have a passion for helping people with X.” That's canned bullshit. I like being creative. I like solving problems. And I’m pretty good at both. So that’s my why, simply because I think I can. And also, I don't want to go out just being ordinary. I don't want to go out with people saying stuff like, "well, he showed up for work every day and did a decent job." I'm not content living an adequate life, doing just enough to not die.
I felt like I needed to get more specific though. As in, how much money do I want to aim for? $500 per month was the answer. I thought about $1k. I thought about $100. But in the end, $500 seems achievable in a reasonable amount of time. Psychologically, it feels like a challenge that's not hard enough to make easy for me quit, but not easy enough that I get bored.
Now that I had a monetary goal, I needed a deadline, a time frame to shoot for. As an aside, I really hate goals, because they have a tendency to come with dependencies, like delaying happiness until they are achieved. And crushing defeat if they’re not. Since I’m not really into the whole putting off happiness until I achieve X, I decided not to set a deadline on achieving the $500 per month goal. Instead, I’ll focus on making progress every day. Whether it's writing a little bit or just brainstorming things to do next. Sounds like a fucking cliche, but I don’t want to be stressing over hitting some arbitrary goal. I choose happiness now. So, suck it.
By the way, I decided all this as I was washing my butt in the shower and getting dressed this morning. I started thinking it was going to be a productive day, especially since I didn't have to go sit in a chair in a stuffy office with a bunch of forever slaves. They're good people, but I hate being in the same category as them.
I packed up my backpack with my laptop and headed off to the Starbucks close to my house. I don’t work well at home for some reason. Probably because there’s too many fucking distractions. TV, dogs, girlfriend, apartment noise, etc. Coffee shops are like my own personal space. It makes me feel like I'm being social without the whole having to talk to people thing.
I cracked open the laptop and started thinking broadly. I thought about the basic needs of people. I thought about my needs, the things I try to focus on every day. I read a thing somewhere (I think on Quora again) that boiled down the areas where modern humans live their life, the things we're all striving to improve or make better/easier/faster somehow.
- Health - everyone wants to be healthy, while feeling good and looking good physically.
- Wealth - everyone needs money to exist, and the more, the better.
- Relationships - this could also be categorized as Love, because everyone needs love, friendship, and human connection.
- Passions - everyone has things they are passionate about, whether it be some hobby, like knitting, or something more abstract, like music, art, and/or entertainment.
Focusing on these 4 areas, I went one level deeper. I downloaded a simple, free mind mapping tool and started a mind map for each of these, then started expanding each into slightly more specific categories. Here’s my mind map for Health: