What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end,
of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.
— John Ruskin
Welcome back to the the guide to reclaiming your life! In Part I of this guide, we discussed what is the career trap and why so many of us fall into it (if you haven’t had a chance to do so yet, I highly recommend that you read Part I before proceeding, if you want to get the most out of this guide. At the very least, please read the introduction for how I use the term “career”). To summarize Part I, a typical career denies you your individuality by forcing you into a mold, and significantly limits your productivity, income potential, and opportunity for growth. Many end up falling into the career trap for social approval and psychological factors, like risk aversion and a fear of change. But many of us find ourselves stuck in a cage, with low job satisfaction and underdeveloped potential, simply because we are not yet aware of any viable alternatives. If this is you, then this part of the guide will illuminate the possibilities. I will show you realistic alternatives to the career trap. These are not idealistic, unreachable ideas. They are simple ideas that thousands of people have used for many years to carve their own paths through life. The tools that I will give you have the potential to change your life. The rest, as they say, is up to you.
Before we continue I want to share with you why I wrote this guide. I wrote it because I grew up believing that I had to choose a career. I believed that there was no other way. A lack of awareness of the alternatives was the only reason that at the age of eighteen I found myself on a career path… straight to hell. To say that I was disappointed with my career, and the concept of a career in general, would be an enormous understatement. Since that point, I have desperately tried to find an escape. For years, I searched for a loophole with only limited success. Frustrated, I eventually started looking at ideas I previously refused to consider. And a whole world opened up before my eyes. This is the world I am trying to introduce to you. I am writing this guide to help others, like myself, find their way a little sooner than I did.
I am not giving you this advice lightly. I know that what I am about to suggest cannot be accomplished overnight. But it is also not fiction. These are real alternatives to the career trap. After we discuss alternatives to the career trap, I will also give you some ideas on how to get started. If you are sick of living life by someone else’s rules, if you really want to live life to the fullest, then this can help you break free.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE CAREER TRAP
The career trap doesn’t only trap our lives, it also traps our minds. We begin to believe that a career is the only option. But some great minds have been able to see beyond the idea of careers, and escape its limited mindset. These minds came up with some brilliant solutions both for living our lives and for earning a living without having to resort to a standard career. I will share with you some of these ideas: but you don’t have to stop there! You can use your own mind to come up with countless other possibilities, including ones that may work better for your particular situation. My free eBook, The Book of Brilliance, is aimed specifically at helping you come up with brilliant solutions to problems like this one.
Here are some alternatives to the career trap.
Whoever first came up with the idea of passive income seriously deserves a prize. If you are new to this idea, you may want to read this section very carefully because it is the closest thing to magic that I have ever experienced. Passive income is the idea of making money for long periods of time, possibly even your entire life, following a limited initial investment of time and effort. But, truly understand why it’s so amazing, you have to understand why it’s called passive income: after your initial investment of time and effort, you do little to no work, and continue to make money. To break it down, it works like this:
- You come up with an idea that can lead to passive income (more on this in a moment).
- You spend some (potentially a lot of) effort and time getting it started.
- Once your idea starts to generate as much money as you were hoping for, you can significantly reduce the amount of time and effort that you put in to maintain it.
- Your idea continues to generate a monthly income with minimal time and effort on your part (potentially for the rest of your life).
Maybe you think that I’m making stuff up. If so, here are two words that are bound to change your mind: Real Estate. This is the oldest, and probably the most common, way of generating passive income. The initial investment here is financial. But all you really need is enough money for a down payment. Then, you can find tenants to pay the rest. With time, as the rent goes up and your mortgage payments go down, you get to keep more and more of the difference. Then comes the real kicker. If you need a lot of money at some point in the future, you can sell the house! And all you have invested into the house was the down payment and maintenance. This is some very serious return on investment!
Now that you might believe me that passive income is possible, let me add that there are many, many other ways of creating passive income streams. Moreover, some of them require no financial investment whatsoever.
One such source of passive income is writing books. If you enjoy writing, this may be the right option for you. Even if you have no experience writing, but there is something that you would like to share with the world, you can learn how to write. Just like every other skill, writing improves with practice. If you take time to write every day, you will be surprised at how quickly you improve. Books are a great source of passive income. They require little to no initial financial investment. And, while they do require a substantial investment of time and effort, this all stops once the book is published. If you succeed in writing a genuinely good book, you can continue to reap the benefits from this initial investment for the rest of your life, without so much as lifting a finger.
There are many, many more ways of generating passive income. Most lay in the world of business. But keep reading even if you have already decided that business is not for you. The world of business may be a lot different, and a lot more accessible, than you could have ever imagined.
Business (may be more accessible than you think!)
Business has a bad reputation among those who do not practice it. Too often we think of business as dirty. We also tend to think of business people as manipulative, mean, and generally unpleasant. We don’t want to be like them. This image of business has a lot of negative bias. Yes, there is some corruption in business. But there is also a lot of goodwill in it. Business people work hard to give us products and services that we like. Many of them also donate large portions of their income to charity.
Another thing that we often forget is that there is a friendly businessman with a cute little store just down the street. We forget that our son’s sweet guitar teacher is a businesswoman. We forget that the naturopath our cousin raves about is a businessman. That is, when we start to think about business we often think of something that is too big and too overwhelming, and so we stop right there.
But business, as well as businesspeople, come in all varieties. Chances are that you can have a business that would suit exactly who you are and what you like.
Once people become comfortable with the idea of having a business, they often stop short because they don’t have any ideas for a business. They seem to think that other business people woke up one morning with a great idea and then decided to start a business. The truth is, the process often works in reverse.
Once you decide that you want to have a business, you need to start actively looking for an idea. You can try to get at the idea in all kinds of ways. You could try to come up with a product that doesn’t currently exist but that people would probably like to have. You could come up with a service that you could provide that doesn’t currently exist in your area. Or you could try to do a better job at something that someone else, or maybe even many others, are already doing. You may have an edge, which may allow you to do it in a different way. Or you may start by thinking about what you like to do, and see if any of those things can be turned into a viable business.
Note that not all businesses require an initial financial investment. For example, many online businesses require virtually none. There are also businesses that you can do from your home that have a low starting cost. But even if you have an idea for a business that would require substantial initial funding, there are investors out there looking for new businesses to fund.
Finally, let’s return to the idea of passive income. Not all businesses lead to passive income. For example, starting a restaurant may require an even larger time commitment than a standard career. So if you want to start a business for the sake of generating passive income, you’ll need to be careful. Some do, while others do not – the good news is that you can often tell ahead of time. For example, many online business can turn into passive income. If you have a great idea for a new piece of software, this can be turned into an income stream that requires little time and energy to maintain. Your business can also subsequently be sold, and then you can reap huge benefits from your initial investment.
But you don’t need to limit yourself to business ideas that lead to passive income. If you find something that you absolutely love to do, it would makes sense that you would want to keep doing it.
I encourage you to play around with the idea of starting your own business. Every single product and service out there was thought up by someone. Many more are still going to be introduced by others. Why not you?
Contract and freelance work
If you want to have more control of your time and money, but you don’t feel quite ready to delve into the world of business, then contract or freelance work may be right for you. It can give you much greater control over your life than a typical career. It can lead to a lot more choice on how you spend your time, and can also greatly increase your earning potential. You can choose your clients, choose your work, and enjoy a greater degree of flexibility. Most importantly, instead of being paid for time, you will be paid for the value you bring into the world.
Too many of us put all of our eggs in one basket. Somehow, someone managed to convince us that having a career is the best way to ensure financial security. This simply isn’t true. The safest thing to do is to diversify, so that if one source of income suffers, there are others that do not. Investors have known this for a long time. The same applies to other streams of income. If you are a freelance programmer as well as a writer, and you make some passive income from real estate, you are a lot better protected from economic ups and down than anyone who depends on only one of those things for their income.
You can diversify your investments and real estate, but I am going to push this idea even further and say that you can also diversify how you use your time and energy. This idea may seem overwhelming, but only if you are used to working for someone else for 8 hours a day. If you reclaim you time, it becomes a lot easier to manage it. Now, you don’t have to do it all at once. For example, you may want to focus on developing a business for several years. But once you get it going, you can hire someone else to help you out and spend some of your time on writing a book or starting another business. Or, like me, you may find pleasure in switching between different tasks. I can work very intensely, sometimes for days almost nonstop, on the same thing. But then, I usually need a break, which is when I delve full force into something else.
Finding THE Time & Money to Get Started
Let’s say you’ve thought about it, and figured out what you want to do. “But this is just a dream,” you tell yourself. You have bills to pay. Maybe even a sizable mortgage. Maybe there are people that depend on you financially. You want to get started, but you just don’t see how to take that first step.
Did you really think that I was going to tell you to forgo your responsibilities? To drop everything and start your life from scratch? Maybe someone would give you this advice, and maybe in their own way they also have a point. But I would never drop my responsibilities, and I am not about to suggest that anyone else do that.
There is another way. In fact, this guide has been designed especially for giving you the information you need to put together a realistic plan.
You can change how you live your life gradually and carefully. You need to make a realistic plan for how you are going to make it happen. But no matter what your plan is, you will need some resources to make it happen.
If you have time, or money, but not both
You don’t need a lot to get started. But you do need at least a little money or time. The good news is that, money and time are interchangeable. If you have time, you can create money. If you have money, you can create time. For example, if you have money, you can hire people to help with chores to free up some time to work on your idea. Money can be used to save time by hiring others to help you make your ideas a reality, even on a small budget.
What’s even more important to realize is that time can be turned into money. Some businesses require virtually no financial contribution. If you have the time, start an online business, write a book, learn how to write programs and make your own smart phone application, the possibilities are endless. Let me emphasize that time can also be used to gain new skills, which removes the need for paying specialists.
So, if you are lucky enough to have a little free money or time, use it to get started. If you can free up just one hour a day, or maybe just a few hours a week, use it to make progress towards your goals. Get started so that you can begin to get a feel for what it’s like to have a life outside the career trap. Get started, so that you have a chance to figure out how to continue.
If you have neither time, nor money
How to Find Time
You don’t need much. Really, you don’t. Did you know that many successful businessman started out after they had a family and without any money to spare? They used every minute of free time to work on their ideas.
Sometimes we feel that we don’t even have 10 minutes to spare. If this is the case for you, try to get others to help you. Ask your spouse to help with some more of the chores. See if grandma and grandpa could babysit for a couple of hours on the weekend. There are also a lot of time saving tips in our article 20 Tips to Simplify Your Life. See if you can use some (or all) of them.
Also, it is essential that you make it a priority. If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s clear that we all find time for what we really want to do. Decide how much it means to you to make a change in your life, and act accordingly. Make it clear to others in your life that this is important. If it’s high enough on the priority list, then you will find the time.
Finally, you can collaborate with others to create time. If you start a business with your spouse, sibling, or a trustworthy friend, you each need to invest only half the time. Don’t be afraid to work with others. You are lot more likely to succeed by keeping each other motivated. It can also be a lot more fun.
How to Find Money
Sometimes, it is easier to find some extra money first, and then use that money to make time. For example, if you are a single parent of three children then time might be hard to come by. But I’ve seen it done even under such circumstances. Sometimes, the solution is to find money first.
Here is one word for you: Save. I know you’ve heard it before. The difference is that I am suggesting that you save money in order to use it to improve your life soon – not after you retire. If you have the drive to make your own path in life, then it might make sense for you to save very aggressively for a short period of time so that you have a chance to execute your plan.
It shouldn’t surprise you that many of us can save a lot of money by moving into smaller houses and settling for cheaper cars. These are legitimate options, as long as the end is worth the means. If you have a goal in mind and all you are missing is the money, then making these sacrifices might make sense (although only you can be the judge of that). But many of us don’t have to go that far. It might be enough to stop buying things that we don’t use and don’t really need.
If you manage to put aside even a little money, it can make a really big difference. It can give you the confidence to get started. It can allow you to free up a little time to work on your ideas. It might be just enough to get started.
Finally, you don’t have to start big if you don’t want to. But if you are ever going to break free from the career trap, you will have to start somewhere. Do something towards your goal, no matter how small. When you see even a small success, you will find the courage and motivation to continue.
Once you free your mind from the confines of the career trap, you will discover endless possibilities. Take a chance on yourself. Believe in yourself, and you can do it! Play around with different ideas beyond the cubicle that so many of us chain ourselves to, until you find one that fits you just right. Then, find the resources to get started, and go for it!
Stay tuned for Part III, coming tomorrow!
To help you even more, tomorrow I will be posting the final part of this guide. Part III will focus on how to overcome the psychological barriers that come up when we think about carving our own, different path through life. It will also include an extensive list of other material that can help you on your quest to reclaiming your life.
I would love to hear from you!
By the way, I am a real person – please contact me! I would love to hear from you. If you have questions, ideas, or you would just like to say “hi”, I would encourage you to leave a comment, or email me directly.