5 Ideas That Shaped My Career

Reading can be the difference between a good career and a great one. How are you taking control?

Last week I went all “Joe Negative” with my 5 pieces of bad advice from investment gurus. The goal with that piece wasn’t to be argumentative…it was to help people realize that no advisor is infallible, and although starting with the guru is good, finishing with your own plan is better.

This week, to prove just how optimistically positive I can be, I thought it’d be great to review the top 5 pieces of career advice I’ve ever read from the popular press. Sure, some of these are from pop self help books, but these lessons have proven their weight during my career:

 

5) The concept of “Move and Fire” – Marine Corps Book of Strategy

 

While I’ll agree that the concept of business as battle is often overplayed, the idea of “move and fire” is a valuable weapon for a businessperson. Often, I’d want to either respond to a client request or work on improving relationships. By quickening the tempo of my communications with clients, surprising them with data when they didn’t expect it, and advising them on areas where they didn’t realize I was an expert, I was actually able to decrease my overall workload because I wasn’t getting silly requests on client terms. The “battlefield” of my career began to be dictated on my terms.

I also realized that to grow the business I couldn’t be one-faceted. I had to attack from all angles. That’s when my media blitz began and I gathered as many television, radio and print opportunities as possible. By moving and firing, instead of going slowly, I pushed past many people who waited for someone else to throw them a chance.

 

4) “The past doesn’t equal the future” – Tony Robbins (Awaken the Giant Within)

 

In business, you need to have a short memory or you’re dead. I saw many workers in all of my jobs (from high school through financial planning) who couldn’t get over the time they’d been passed over for a raise, the undeserved reprimand from a boss, or the tongue lashing from a client. Get over it.

I also experienced a phenomenon with young workers who couldn’t grasp concepts and refused to learn about them. I’d recommend listening to podcasts, reading work related blogs and books, or watching videos. Often, I was surprised to hear, “Yeah, I don’t really do that stuff.” Instead, they seemed to think that it was management’s job to teach everything you need to know to have a successful career.

Don’t wait on your manager to make you great. Just because you weren’t a reader yesterday doesn’t mean you aren’t today. Just because you were loud and brash at work doesn’t mean you have to be tomorrow. Just because you don’t dress appropriately for work doesn’t mean you’ll forget the tie tomorrow. The past doesn’t equal the future indeed.

Another related concept that nearly made this list was Tony Robbin’s assertion that success increases as you make decisions faster. While people often avoid decisions for fear of “being wrong,” Robbins pushes readers to click at a faster rate. Your brain will find ways to make your decisions better.

“I’ve failed more often than the average person has tried.” Donald Trump

 

3) Beware “The Monkey” – Ken Blanchard (One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey

 

While the whole One Minute Manager series was a little short on great ideas, the concept of “the monkey” helps great people accomplish more without becoming bogged down in irrelevant tasks.

Here’s the monkey: a co-worker walks into your office with a problem….we’ll call the problem “the monkey.” Instead of saying, “I’ve got a problem I need you to help me with,” co-worker says:

“We have a problem.”

The second that you agree that “we” have a problem, one of the monkey’s arms is around your shoulder. When you say, “I’ll take care of it,” the friend leaves your office and you now own a monkey while the friend is free of the problem.

Once I began to recognize “the monkey” and learned to say, “Let me help YOU with YOUR problem,” my life became much simpler because I never took “the monkey” on my shoulders. I could work on my own monkeys without inadvertently taking on everyone elses’…a common problem for achievers.

 

2) Remember “the Goal” (The Goal)

 

While the One Minute Manager didn’t wow me, The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt completely bowled me over. I can explain the concept here in a couple of sentences, but I won’t be able to convey the magnitude of how much this change in perspective increased my ability to achieve.  In essence: many people measure results in areas other than the one that matters: throughput. If I can increase the speed of something that doesn’t reach the customer, why do I care? The only job that matters: finding the bottleneck and working on increasing the output through that area of the process.

I often worked with managers and clients who’d complain about a certain department or facet of their plan that wasn’t performing well or workers who didn’t seem to be working as hard as they could. When processes are measured, though, many times these weren’t the areas the manager should be worried about. A manager should worry first about the area which is the bottleneck decreasing throughput. It seems obvious and not really a big deal, doesn’t it? This is #2 on my list because once I read the book (and the follow up, “It’s Not Luck”) my business changed dramatically.

 

1)   The best battle is the one that’s never fought – Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

 

Sorry about two “war” books in the same piece, but this one was easily my favorite piece of advice. When I’m at odds with someone I’ve learned that instead of bringing on the fight, are there ways that I can still “win” without fighting at all.

With Sun Tzu’s help I became more proactive. If I could answer potential questions or concerns my clients had BEFORE they occurred, I’d avoid a problem later. I’d also think of any way that my competitors might try to steal my business and make sure that my clients were iron-clad mine. In setting up financial plans I’d imagine all the ways the plan would be tested and raise defenses against them.

Sun Tzu can be found all over my financial planning tips. It’s:

–       the reason I’m a stickler on the emergency fund, regardless of the interest rate.

–       the single biggest reason my budget for married people focuses on communication, not spreadsheets.

–       The reason I start with problems that might occur rather than insurance when dealing with “what if” scenarios.

 

There they are…my top 5. I’m excited to read your best career advice in the comments below. What should have made my list?

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101 Ways to Make Extra Money In Your Spare Time – A Review

Wondering how to make a few extra dollars? We read Jackie Beck’s new book to dig for moolah.

Yesterday Jackie Beck appeared on our podcast to discuss some of the ideas from her book 101 Ways to Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time. For those of you that don’t listen to podcasts, I thought I’d review the book here. My overall feeling: this is well worth the investment in time and money if you’re in the book’s target group.

Let’s start out with what this book isn’t. If you’re a person who’s confident that you’re doing everything it takes to make money, this book isn’t for you. Of course, the title gives this away, right? It also isn’t an in depth look at any of the 101 ways to make money, although Jackie includes tons of links in the e-book to many, many outlets for readers to begin gathering more information.  As a sometimes-reader of magazines like Real Simple, I’m often disappointed when good tips seem to be skewed toward one gender or another (in the case  of Real Simple, it’s women….which is why I don’t read the magazine often). 101 Ways to Make Money includes ideas for men and women, and of varying skill level. Simply put, there’s a little something for everyone.

 

Who Should Read 101 Ways To Make Extra Money In Your Spare Time?

 

Jackie mentioned online that her early readers seem to be stay-at-home moms. While I stated that this book does a great job of remaining gender neutral, it’s ideal for a stay-at-home mom or anyone looking to earn a few extra dollars on the side. It’s also great for that person who works a 9-5 job and is hunting for something else to bring in a few (or many) extra dollars. From raking leaves (obvious and easy) to setting up an Etsy shop and selling crafts (more pointed and needing a little skill), there are lots of tasks that can easily fit into a weekend or after work schedule.

 

The Capital Problem

 

In many cases, it takes money to make money, and that’s the case with some of these suggestions. Don’t think that you’re going to get 101 pairs of ruby slippers you tap together three times to fill your greedy little paws with cash. There will be work, and in many cases, you might need a little moolah to fund your new business venture.

 

Readability

 

Jackie, who writes at the MoneyCrush blog, among other places, is a seasoned writer, and it shows. Her style is easy and straightforward. While I breezed through this book, it wasn’t because it was void of information. In fact, Jackie’s style makes it simple to grasp some fairly complicated ways to make money as if it were easy.

 

Why Pay For A Book of Ideas?

 

When I first heard about this book, I thought, “why the hell would I pay money for a book of ideas, when there are so many resources on the internet?” Here’s exactly why: for me, time is valuable and the cost of having a consolidated list that points you toward deeper text on any of the ideas presented is invaluable. Do you want to spend your time figuring out how to make money or do you want to find a way quickly and spend your time working the idea? If you’re like me, your time is valuable and you’re hoping to just get on with it. Jackie’s book, priced at $4.99, is an ultra-low cost way to cut to the chase scene in your money-making pursuit.

 

What Don’t I Like About the Book?

 

If I had to pick something that could have been improved, it is how little  these ideas are explored. There’s no discussion of the capital outlay it might take to be successful in each business or the amount of money each one could reasonably bring in. Of course, I understand that this isn’t the point of the book and I’m nit-picking. I could easily see Jackie digging into some of these ideas to help readers gain a leg up on marketing, competition and creative ways to stand out from the crowd of other people doing these same tasks, if she chose to expand the book in the future.

 

Final Analysis:

 

For people looking to make a few easy dollars or to dip their toe into entrepreneurship, 101 Ways to Make Extra Money In Your Spare Time has the ideas you need to help you create a spark. If you don’t ask it for details, you’re going to be a happy reader, and at less than $5, it’s easy to justify making this investment to more quickly focus on the right income earning path for you.

Interested in purchasing the book? We liked it enough that we joined Jackie Beck’s affiliate program. Click the link here or in the article to head to Jackie’s order page if you have questions, want more info, or would like to purchase a copy.

The Passive Income Lie: Our Cuppa Joe Discussion

The concept of “work hard now so I can play later” bothers me. I like to play, and I don’t want to wait until later.

Luckily, my work = my play.

This is the way life is for me. Hard work is the journey and the destination.

That’s why I get so frustrated when I hear people say “I’m going to work really hard now so that I can sit back and relax later.”

They’re going to build up a truly passive income stream.

In this statement, it would seem that completely passive = perfect purpose.

What? Does that ever happen? And if it does happen, how often do you hear “This is exactly what I wanted! To sit here with nothing to do….”

 

My Story

 

Early in my career as a financial advisor, I was told the business was all about building a base of assets. This is a financial advisor’s version of passive income. Management would tell me, “bring on a ton of new clients now and roll over their money. Later on, that pile of cash will be making so much money for you that you won’t have to work hard.” It made sense. If could build my assets under management to $100M dollars and earn half a percent personally, I’d bring home $500k per year.

Sweet!

 

The Truth

 

I grew my practice to about $40M under management before I realized that this idea of working hard now so I could have fun later was a lie. ….at least for me.

First, as my practice grew, I attracted more demanding clients. It’s the same if you own rental houses or dividend stocks, isn’t it? As you grow the portfolio, you are pulled in more directions with your time managing assets. Decisions get more difficult. Strategies become more complex.

Every once in awhile, I’d try to take time off. The longest I could get away was two weeks, and by the end of the trip I usually was working about an hour and a half a day. My business demanded my time. How was I going to sit back and do nothing?

Second, I liked what I was doing. It was fun talking to my clients about their dreams. If I owned rental properties, I’d like to fix them up and receive rents. I own dividend stocks and like following the companies and diversifying the portfolio. When I step away, it demands that I continue to work, but it’s also fun.

In short, I’m starting to believe that the whole idea of work hard now/play later is a lie. Sure, I might work less hard. I also might delegate more of the tasks which aren’t my core activities, but I will never, ever stop working.

In fact, I’ve found proof that I probably don’t want to stop.

 

State of Flow

 

I first heard of the book Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (easy for you to say) during a USA Today interview with Jimmy Johnson, Super Bowl and NCAA National Championship winning coach. He was hot on this philosophy and had a history of professional success, so I went out and bought the book immediately.

It confirmed my suspicions about the meaning of life.

In the book, Csikszentmihalyi seeks to define what “optimal experience” is for a person. When are we in that state where we’re at one with the universe?

He asks–have you ever set out to accomplish a task and then lost track of time because you were so absorbed in it? He describes that perfect union of task and complete concentration as flow. This complete focus, to Csikszentmihalyi, is the optimal experience for a human.

He backs it up by studying people who play classical instruments. Their chances of becoming wealthy or famous are nearly zero, but they’ll practice for hours on end. Why? They crave the state of flow, where everything is working perfectly in harmony together.

There’s no promise that they’ll be rewarded down the line with riches. But they’re attracted to the work anyway. They’ll practice until their fingers bleed.

Do these people just not get it? Shouldn’t they be working hard at things that will make them money today so they can throw out that stupid instrument? I don’t think so.

I think the idea of sitting around is overrated.

Life is about chasing flow. Working so perfectly that you’re completely absorbed, using all of your energy to be the best you can.

 

Maybe you agree and maybe you don’t.

 

That’s what the cuppa Joe discussion are all about….grabbing some coffee and arguing a point.

Maybe the concept of passive income is cool if you hate your job. You want to grow your income in a way that you can work at those things you enjoy rather than those you’re forced to do to bring home the bacon.

I can see tha desire to have multiple income streams. What I can’t imagine is any discussion where I’m working hard now so I don’t work later. I don’t crave completely passive income because I’m pretty sure it’s unattainable.

The idea of my money working for me as I’m also working fires me up. The phrase “don’t work” literally doesn’t work for me.

How about for you? Let’s wrestle this out in the comment section.

(photos: Coffee Shop by dailylifeofmojo, Flickr; Immaculata Symphony by Jim Capaldi, Flickr)

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