A really nice article from Steve Pavlina. One of the reasons I like his writing is that he takes the time to break down processes into do-able pieces. Look at this one as a prosperity exercise …
July 21st, 2014 by Steve Pavlina
For the upcoming Conscious Life Workshop, the key goal is to help you achieve a sustainable income of $10,000 per month (or more) AND do work you enjoy AND enjoy plenty of lifestyle freedom.
Some people wonder about this $10K per month figure. How could it be possible for them, especially when no one in their line of work makes that much money?
Since this is a goal I’ve achieved and maintained for many years (and in different fields), let me share some simple realities about earning $10K or more per month. This is basically common sense — certainly not rocket science — but it’s not commonly applied. These are truths that people resist, sometimes to a ridiculous extent, but such resistance is largely futile. You can save yourself a lot of wasted effort if you just accept the obviousness of these ideas and work with them instead of trying to become the exception to them.
Some skills pay much better than others. Some skills don’t pay at all.
Instead of thinking about being paid $10K per month, put your focus on generating $10K+ of value for society. Don’t ask, How can I earn $10K per month? Ask instead, How can I create and provide $10K of value for others each month?
Thinking about how you can generate significant value for others may seem like a tall order, but it’s a great way to cut through the B.S. that might otherwise get in your way. If a certain option clearly won’t generate $10K+ per month in value for other people — as in, there’s no way anyone would receive that much value, collectively or individually — then you can reject that option.
The hard truth is that many people invest in lines of work and paths of skill-building that don’t provide — and will never provide — anywhere close to $10K of value for others, especially if this value is to be provided each and every month.
You may have spent a lot of time developing skills that other people don’t value very much. Join the club! We all do that. It’s the default behavior, conditioned by learning from other people who are also earning less than $10K per month.
I happen to love disc golf. I’ve invested a lot of time in it. But no one pays me to play disc golf. I’m not going to earn $10K per month teaching people how to play disc golf either. I enjoy the skill for recreational purposes, but it’s not an income-generating skill for me, and I expect that it never will be.
You’ve surely trained your brain to get good at something, even if it’s video games, movies, and social media. Wherever your attention is going, you’re building skill. That’s unavoidable. It’s how your brain works. Experience is training.
How many of your current skills are capable of generating $10K per month in value for other people? If the answer is zero, that would be sufficient to explain why you aren’t earning $10K or more per month already.
It’s fine to have some skills that aren’t income generating. But please recognize that not all skills are equal in terms of their ability to generate income.
Consider two potential skills you might develop: yoga and public speaking.
Some of my readers are amazing at yoga. They’ve invested years in their yoga practice. They can do all sorts of pretzel-like poses, and they look beautiful doing it. They’re very proud of their yoga skills. And they almost invariably struggle with money.
Of course a yoga pro could combine yoga with other skills like teaching and entrepreneurship to open a yoga studio or create their own yoga franchise, but those are entirely different skill sets that can also take years to develop as well. If you’re really passionate about teaching and/or franchising, then you can certainly make $10K per month or more that way. But in this case, I’m just referring to an investment in the actual practice of yoga. Financially, it’s dead weight.
The reality is that most people don’t care whether you practice yoga or not. They don’t receive much, if any, value from your practice. So of course they don’t pay you to practice yoga. See if you can earn $10K per month from practicing yoga. Good luck with that!
Now consider public speaking. Suppose you train up your public speaking skills instead of your yoga skills. Unlike practicing yoga, public speaking pays really well. The top speakers can earn $200K+ per talk (as Hillary Clinton presently does). A skilled but non-famous speaker can definitely earn $10K+ per month from speaking, if they develop their skills enough. I have numerous friends who earn this much from speaking. Give 4 talks per month at $2500 each, and you’re earning $10K per month. $2500 is a very modest speaking fee. My first paid speaking engagement was for $3000.
Good presentation skills are highly valued by society. Society has made it very clear that it values public speaking skills, financially speaking. Why are speaking skills so highly valued? Let’s not worry about that kind of why right now. Let’s simply accept and acknowledge that — for whatever reasons — some skills are great income generator candidates, and some aren’t.
There are lots of jobs people learn to do that just aren’t worth $10K per month. No one is willing to pay that much to have those jobs done, even if they’re done really well. If you ask for that much, you’ll probably be laughed at — and replaced by someone more reasonable.
If you’re currently doing work that society clearly doesn’t value as a $10K per month activity, then don’t fight society. Don’t argue with it. Don’t complain that you should be paid more. Just accept the decision of the marketplace.
Instead of railing against the unfairness of it all, consider investing in a skill-building path that does actually offer a potential income of $10K+ per month. And stop investing in so many skills that clearly won’t help you get there.
If your goal is to earn $10K+ per month, this is common sense, is it not? Yet how often do people cling to their unrewarded skills, as if society should simply change its mind about their value? Try meeting society halfway — at least.
Develop a portfolio of $10K per month skills.
Why stop at just one $10K per month skill? The mono-skill approach can work, but it’s risky. Change is inevitable. What if the world changes in ways that render your core income-generating skill obsolete? Wouldn’t it be wise to have at least one or two well-developed backup skills as well? Then if you can’t enjoy the same cash flow from your primary skill for some reason, you can pivot to one of your other core skills and still maintain your desired lifestyle.
Here are some skills I’ve invested in that I could use, individually or collectively, to earn $10K per month or more:
- Designing and programming computer games
- Writing / blogging
- Public speaking / workshops
- Negotiating business deals
- Coaching / transformational work
I can use different combos of these to earn $10K per month or more as well.
I’m not the one who determines what these skills are worth. Society does that. The marketplace does that. I simply observed that these skills tend to be handsomely rewarded, for those who make a serious investment in them.
I have many other skills that don’t pay well at all. I’m very well-versed in Star Trek. I’ve finished hundreds of video games. But for some odd reason, people never seem to offer me money for these skills. However, I receive abundant opportunities to generate income from writing and speaking — to the point where I have to turn down a lot of offers.
The programming skill was largely luck. I started learning to program when I was 10 years old. With this skill, before I even graduated from college, I was already earning about $50 per hour co-designing and programming video games for a local games studio (that’s my estimate based on my contractor payments plus the royalties from sales I received for the published games). So even though my video game playing skills were financially worthless, I was actually able to leverage my gaming experience to generate some real money by combining those skills with programming. My design knowledge stemmed largely from playing a lot of games, but I couldn’t leverage that skill until I also learned to program games.
Earning $50 per hour in the early 90s was a lot for a student. The only job I’d had before that was selling video games at a local games store for $6 per hour. That was a huge pay increase, but I didn’t actually work any harder. I simply pivoted to a different skill set.
As I got older, I deliberately decided to cultivate other skills that are capable of generating more than $10K per month. And so, for many years now, I’ve been earning well over $10K per month. My ability to maintain this income is very resilient because I can pivot to several other skills as needed.
I don’t work any harder than people who earn 1/10th what I earn. It’s just that while someone else is sweating through a session of Bikram yoga, I’m practicing an income-generating skill like writing articles about personal growth. This doesn’t require greater effort or discipline. It just requires different decisions about which skill paths to get into — and which to get out of.
If you want to earn $10K per month or more, then try deliberately building skills that can be used to generate that much income. There are many to choose from. But if you don’t develop any of them, then of course that $10K per month target will seem out of reach. Still common sense, is it not?
To significantly increase your income, you may have to do different kinds of work. You may have to develop different skills. This is easier than it sounds.
The next few years are going to pass anyway. During that time, you’re automatically going to build skill in the areas where you direct your focus. Your brain will take care of that for you. Take in experience, and it will feed a skill.
Take control of your attention. Start putting your attention on income-generating activities and interests. Withdraw your attention from some non-income generating activities and interests. Fire some of your old hobbies. Hire some new hobbies.
I’m not saying you have to go crazy and become a money-seeking robot. I’m definitely not saying that all of your interests have to be income-generating. Just shift the balance enough to match your values.
Once you develop some strong income-generating skills, you’ll be able to practice them more efficiently. This will give you more space for hobbies that don’t generate income.
One of the reasons I invest in high-payoff activities is that I want to have a lot of free time to enjoy a nice lifestyle. I don’t want a life that’s all work. I’d rather earn tens of thousands of dollars from doing a cool project like a weekend workshop by leveraging high-payoff skills vs. going to some office every single day and having to rely on low-payoff skills.
Bet big on skills you enjoy AND that pay well.
Sometimes through social pressure (especially family pressure), people bet big on skills that pay well but that they also hate. I’d say the big three are medicine, law, and engineering. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received an email from a student who was pressured into one of these fields by their family, and they hate it.
Do yourself a favor: Don’t bet big on income streams you dislike. The stress and resentment isn’t worth the money.
I bet big on writing because I really like writing. Writing is a zen-like experience for me. I feel very lucky to be able to write and share so much. In the past decade, I’ve essentially tripled my writing speed even though my typing speed is only a little faster today. For me this is a very nice skill to have. I enjoy practicing it, and if I write in ways that create value for people, I can generate substantial income through my writing. I could easily earn $10K per month from my writing if all I did was write and self-publish books.
I did not, however, bet big on one-on-one coaching. I know it’s possible to earn $10K per month from coaching since I have friends who earn well beyond that level. Some of them get paid $100K per year per client. That’s not a typo. With 2-4 clients they earn $200-400K per year. I think that’s great — for them. I’m pretty good at coaching because of all the related transformational work I’ve done, but I don’t like coaching nearly as much as writing and speaking. So I won’t bet bigger on coaching. I don’t want it to be a serious income stream for me since I don’t want to do a lot of coaching, even if it meant more income.
Ask yourself: Would I still practice this skill — and continue to build it up — if I knew I’d never be paid for it again?
If the answer is no, it’s time to pivot to a different skill set. Being paid is nice, but it should certainly be possible to find a different skill that pays well AND that you’d also enjoy practicing. So don’t settle for one or the other. Go for the full package.
Abandon the dead ends.
We don’t have the time and energy to pursue all possible skill paths. We have to pick and choose.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block that holds people back is that they don’t abandon the dead ends. These are the skill paths that are clearly leading nowhere, or they’re just running you in circles. Don’t cling to those paths if you want to make progress. You simply don’t have the bandwidth.
This is one reason I deleted all my social media accounts earlier this month. I’d invested years in getting good at social media, but eventually I realized that continuing on this skill path was a dead end for me. I didn’t enjoy it that much, and it wasn’t a powerful income-generating path for me either. I didn’t see the point in training my brain through further experience with social media.
By deleting social media from my life and by consciously choosing not to continue developing that skill path, I freed up mental bandwidth for developing new skills and for betting bigger on existing skills. I also freed up more time to enjoy my lifestyle, like I’m doing this week at a Fringe Theatre Festival in Canada.
I definitely haven’t missed social media. Dropping it has been terrific thus far. I’m very pleased with the decision to opt out of this skill path and to allow my social media skills to atrophy, decline, and degrade. I’ve gotten as good as I’m ever going to get at social media. From here on I’m only going to get worse. Five years from now I expect I’ll be somewhat incompetent at social media… but I’ll be well on my way to mastering something much more important to me. Get the idea?
If you take a serious look at how you spend your time, you’ll see that you’ve been investing in many skills. You may be really good at certain video games. Or cooking certain types of meals. Or yoga. Or posting amazing status updates.
Where have you been putting your attention? That’s where you’re building skill.
How many of those activities do you find deeply fulfilling? How many of those activities will generate $10K per month in income if you bet bigger on them?
Don’t be stubborn. Don’t cling to skill paths you’ve outgrown. When a skill path isn’t delivering strong enough benefits anymore (if it ever did), have the sense to opt out. Put your attention where you want it to go instead.
When you drop an unproductive skill path, rest in the empty void for a while before committing to a new path. Let the old path die off, so it stops influencing your thinking so much. Then examine some new possibilities and perform a conscious pivot. Feel free to dabble at first. But when you see the golden combo of fulfillment plus strong income potential, bet big. Invest heavily. And reap the rewards.
* * *
One reason people question their ability to earn $10K per month is that they’ve become too deeply mired in skill paths that can’t possibly pay that much. If you want to receive that much income from people, then work on providing that much value for people.
The world will give you plenty of feedback about what it thinks your skills are worth. Your heart will give you feedback about how your skill path feels to you. Listen to both sides. If you don’t like their answers, then get off your old path, and choose a new path.
Sometimes you won’t even be able to see the right new skills to develop until you abandon the paths that clearly aren’t working. Don’t expect that $10K+ per month opportunity to squeeze into your life through the haze of video games, Facebooking, and yoga postures. Try doing a little housekeeping first. Create some space.