I have a confession to make. When an idea hooks me, I get obsessed. My appetite for experiences and information related to that idea rivals a half-starved bear coming out of his den after hibernation.
For the past two decades, I’ve been obsessed with understanding how to earn lots of money while doing something to contribute value and help others. This quest led my many entrepreneurial adventures, and I experienced making millions of dollars as I worked on a mission I believed in. And I also experienced becoming disillusioned with my work, questioning my beliefs, and losing millions of dollars in the process.
So I began digging into research on job satisfaction and probing the profiles of hundreds of successful people to look for patterns to help guide my future path. The results surprised me. I discovered I had made mistakes because I believed too many popular myths about work and success. I’m willing to bet you also believe one or more of the myths I list below.
If I’m wrong, stop reading. But if you hold any of these misconceptions, you may benefit from what I’m going to share.
- Follow your passion to find your dream job.
- If you earn more money, you will be satisfied with your job.
- Time is money.
- You can’t be a top performer and have quality time for family and friends.
- If you work hard you will be successful.
- Get more formal education to earn more money.
Best predictors of job satisfaction
- You’re good at what you do.
- You’re engaged, challenged, and have some degree of control over your tasks.
- You contribute value and help others.
- You work with people (especially your boss) you like in a supportive work environment.
- You get paid fairly.
- Your work hours and commute match your desired lifestyle.
Factors that optimize productivity
- Ability to focus
- Clear priorities
- Effective planning
- Downtime to unplug from work and connect with friends and family
Time spent does not equal value
- Output equals value.
- Time invested does not necessarily create value.
- The concept of work gets associated with time (e.g., hourly wages, yearly budgets), but time and value should not be confused.
Keys to success
- Work smarter not harder.
- Build rare and valuable skills.
- Practice productive work habits.
- Invest in quality relationships and broaden your professional network.
Skills beat credentials
- Proven skills and experience are more valuable than formal education.
- Specific knowledge and experience can be conveyed through projects and writing.
- Investments of time and money for a graduate degree (e.g., MBA, PhD) are not necessary unless desired job (e.g. medicine, academia) requires one.
Navigating the minefield of outdated information and myths about how to be successful at work can be challenging. Writing about this topic forced me to wrestle with my own ideas and understand what I think. My goal was to inform my own career decisions. Now I want to share what I’ve learned.
Money buys freedom
Money doesn’t solve all your problems, but it allows you to pursue your interests and spend more time with friends and family.
Financial insecurity triggers fear and anxiety. Fear influences your choices and feeds like a parasite on your energy. The fear of losing your income lurks in the back of your mind like a squatter living rent-free in your head.
You’re not going to have freedom from financial stress until you have enough savings to support your current lifestyle for at least one year without working.
I didn’t understand how much fear influenced my choices until we sold our company, which provided enough money to support myself for a few years without working. The sale did not give me enough money to retire, but it gave me freedom from financial stress and the ability to focus on what I wanted to do next.
The relief from anxiety was just one of the benefits. Financial freedom unlocked creativity and transformed how I viewed risk and decision-making. More savings allows you more opportunities to take more risks. If you never take risks, you will never stretch yourself to realize your potential. Your job and career choices determine your financial independence. No one can tell you exactly what to do because your path will be unique. But you’re not the first person to face this challenge, and clear patterns have emerged to help you avoid wasting time and make better choices.
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