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“The best time to start taking responsibility for your own success was 10 years ago. The second-best time is right now.” [Click to Tweet this]
In this article, I’m going to rant about why you are responsible for your own success. I’ll explain that success is freedom, and freedom comes from developing multiple, strong income streams that you control. Developing those income streams requires hard work and an investment in yourself so you can stop trading time for money and instead start using the value you create to build wealth. I’m also going to explain why I only fly first class. So, let’s get this rant going.
Why I’ll Only Fly First Class
My life goal is to only fly first class.
It’s materialistic and dripping with entitlement to say that I’ll only fly first class, but here’s where I’m coming from.
A few months ago, during my cubicle zombie convalescence, my GF and I went to Australia for vacation. We flew from the U.S. into Melbourne for a few days then flew up to Sydney for the rest of our visit. From Sydney, we flew back to the U.S.
All total, we spent around 40 hours crammed in the coach section of a metal tube breathing recycled air.
Don’t misunderstand, we had a great trip. I highly recommend a trip to Australia. And, Qantas, the airline we flew, seemed to put a lot of effort into making sure that us coach traveling commoners didn’t suffer any more than necessary.1 Still, the flight didn’t leave me with a desire to spend more time crumpled in a tiny airplane seat.
At 5’10” and 195 lbs., I’m not a huge guy. But, I’m big enough, with wide enough shoulders, that I regret my decision to save money by flying coach as soon as someone sits down next to me.2 Tack on a couple of 47-year-old knees with little room to stretch and I’m ready for the flight to be over before the plane backs away from the gate.
So, when we got back from Australia, I vowed to only fly first class.
You’re Responsible For Your Own Success
Success means achieving a level of freedom where you don’t have to depend on the government or a boss/corporation for your or your family’s well-being. The easiest way to gain that freedom is to build multiple strong income streams that you control.
Don’t Depend on the Government For Your Success
I’ll admit that I haven’t watched any of the Democratic primary debates. But, I’ve heard enough soundbites, watched enough video clips, and read/listened to enough commentary so that I feel confident in saying this: the Democratic primary is a bunch of politicians telling Americans citizens how awful our lives are, and that if we only vote for Candidate X, Candidate X will save us from said awfulness.3 Basically, vote for me and I’ll take care of you. Except that the government won’t take care of you.
In the ten years that I worked for the Federal Government, one thing I learned is that government employees are more concerned with their performance evaluations and their next promotion than they are about the people they purport to serve. That’s because the performance metrics, for the individual employee and the agency, don’t incentivize being a good public servant. The performance metrics instead incentivize churning through bureaucratic paperwork as quickly as possible with little regard for how the outcome impacts anyone. The better your metrics, the more praise you and your supervisor get. That means that government workers don’t care about helping you because helping you doesn’t get them anything. But busy work that has no direct connection to serving the public wins them promotions.4 Not exactly productive.
For example, in my civil servant career spanning two agencies, my performance evaluations depended on the number of cases I closed, not how many people I helped. In fact, neither agency even had a metric to track the number of people I helped. But management tracked the number of cases I closed and the time I spent on those cases with meticulous detail. As a result, my goal was to close cases as quickly as possible with minimal work, which meant putting the public I was supposed to be serving in the position of lowest priority.
Don’t Depend on a Boss For Your Success
We’re hearing a lot about the danger of automation taking our jobs and turning us into a bunch of useless, unemployed couch potatoes. Andrew Yang wrote a book (The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future)[affiliate link] and is running a presidential campaign based on this notion.5 The answer to this technology induced unemployment Armageddon put forth by Mr. Yang and others is for the government to step in and pay people some sort of stipend, generally referred to as a Universal Basic Income (UBI). In Mr. Yang’s case, the UBI comes in the form of a $1,000/month Freedom Dividend.
What’s frequently downplayed, or missed entirely, in UBI discussions is that society’s inexorable march forward on the back of innovation is necessary for progress and that it’s not something new. Ride share companies like Uber and Lyft disrupting the taxi market or self-driving trucks disrupting the ground transportation industry are not the first time that a market segment has undergone upheaval.
It’s important to remember that history did not begin yesterday, last week, or last year. Disruptive innovation, while defined and analyzed by Clyde Christensen in 1995, has existed as long as humans have been innovating.6 An example that predates our current technology focused society is Henry Ford’s revolutionary use of the assembly line to produce affordable automobiles, an innovation that disrupted the horse drawn carriage industry.
Some people in the horse-drawn carriage industry likely lost their jobs, but Ford’s innovation created a whole new industry with plenty of new jobs to fill.
While we may occasionally see an old industry die, a new industry generally rises in its place. We lose jobs in one industry to make way for new jobs in the new industry.
The lesson from disruptive innovation is that things change. You can’t rely on your boss or a corporation for lifelong employment because if the market changes and you become obsolete, that boss or corporation will kick you out the door at its earliest convenience,
In such an economy, you have a choice. You can sit back watching sports and drinking beer with your buddies, waiting for your livelihood to get disrupted out of existence, or you can proactively work to build a set of new, transferable skills. Make yourself so valuable that companies will be beating down your door before you can hit the unemployment line.
One More Time – You’re Responsible For Your Own Success
What I’m trying to explain here is that no one is going to take care of you. Not government career bureaucrats, not the politicians, and not your boss. If you want to be successful, the responsibility is on you.
The Power is in Your Hands
I was born in the dark ages of the early ‘70’s. Back then, a rotary dial telephone and a color television that the family had to share was the pinnacle of everyday tech in the home. Today, we have the Internet, laptops, and phones that fit in our pocket and can also land a person on the moon. You can play Scrabble with anyone in the world. Thanks to technology, we live in a time of unlimited opportunity.
One of the income streams that I’m building is an ecommerce business where I sell physical products on Amazon. Amazon handles customer service and logistics. All I must do is get the physical product to Amazon’s warehouses and Mr. Bezos and associates handle the rest.
Amazon exists thanks to the Internet. Before the Internet, this type of physical product business would have required much more capital to start. Now, anyone with a few thousand, or even a few hundred dollars and some spare time,7 can get in on the action.8
There are countless other ways to leverage technology to make money. The opportunity is there. Work hard and invest in yourself.
My Real Goal: FREEDOM
I started this post by declaring that I would never fly first class again. I made that statement tongue in cheek; I honestly don’t think I’m too good to fly coach.10
What’s important is what that goal represents. And that’s freedom. Having the option to purchase a first-class ticket when I travel means that I have put in the hard work necessary, and that I have invested enough in myself to build the skills I need, to build multiple, strong income streams to the point where I don’t have to worry about the cost of a plane ticket. If I need to go somewhere, I can go without fretting over expenses.
Remember, it’s not the money per se, but the freedom that the money gives you that matters.
The Benefits of Multiple, Strong Income Streams
In the end, success is freedom and money leads to freedom. And multiple strong income streams lead to even more freedom.
When something happens that is out of your control like the government raising your taxes or your boss deciding he doesn’t need you anymore because a new technology is threatening your industry, having control over your source of income minimizes the impact of those events. Who needs a boss when your blog is bringing in $100k+ a year? Your city government raises your property taxes, that same blog gives you the freedom to move to another jurisdiction.
Multiple income streams take it a step farther. If the government passes a new regulation hurting your profits from one income stream, you still have a second income stream to rely on. In my case, if the government breaks up Amazon,11 I have Strength and Reason to fall back on until I can pivot my ecommerce business away from Amazon.
We Live in a Money Driven Society, If You Want Freedom, You Must Be Responsible For Your Own Success
Whether you view it as a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing, we live in a money driven society. What that means is that, while money may not make you happier, it sure as hell makes your life easier. Remember, money leads to freedom.
No one is just going to hand you that freedom. You must work hard to get it by investing in yourself so that you can stop trading your time for a paycheck and instead start selling your value to build wealth. That means you must be responsible for your own success.
So, don’t sit around complaining. Certainly, don’t depend on the government or a boss. Be accountable and get out there to start helping yourself.
1 United, please take a hint from Qantas: it’s a good thing to not make your passengers suffer.
2 Again, United, do you really think making your passengers rub shoulders and elbows in flight is comfortable?
3 This isn’t a dig on Democrats. If we reversed the situation and the Republicans were holding debates, they would be telling us something similar.
4 A fancy, and albeit shorter, way of saying that is that employee performance isn’t aligned to organizational goals.
5 Full disclosure: I haven’t read Mr. Yang’s book but I intend to, even though I don’t agree with his prediction that automation will cause massive unemployment.
6 Creative destruction [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_destruction// and disruptive innovation [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation] are fascinating topics to me that I’ll write more about in the future.
7 Finding time is easier than you think. Just turn off the television. The world won’t notice, much less care, is you miss the new season of [insert whatever all your friends are watching here].
8 I’m using program called Just One Dime [https://justonedime.com/] to build my ecommerce business.
9 I’m using the Wealthy Affiliate [https://www.wealthyaffiliate.com/] program to build Strength and Reason.
10 I frequently fly Southwest, which doesn’t have first class.