Who do you work for?

How many times have you been asked, “Who do you work for?”

Unless you haven’t graduated from high school yet, my guess is that you have heard that question at least once in your lifetime. It is a common question that people use to engage in small talk and it is an easy way to start to know someone.

If you are like most people, you probably answered by giving the name of your employer. That’s not a bad answer since it is the truth, but it isn’t the whole truth.

In reality, you work for yourself. You may have decided to sell your own personal services to one employer in exchange for a certain degree of comfort, experience, benefits, money, position, time off and other things, but you still are selling your services. Someone who is self-employed may sell their own personal services to many buyers, whereas you sell your personal services to one buyer. In effect, both the self-employed and the employee work for themselves. Each sells their own services.

While you may be employed by someone else, you should consider the work that you do as a service that you sell to your employer.

… but, why should you care?

You should care because when you think of your employment as “selling your services” instead of “being employed” you can look at all of the gains that your employer offers in exchange for your services. When you “sell your services,” you find a way to make work profitable for you. When you are “employed” you get only what the employer tells you that you can have. That small distinction creates a vastly different outcome.

I find that most people who work as employees will judge their success by their title or by their compensation. These are good things, but there is more to the equation.

How does a business sell their services profitably? They do two primary things. They try to reduce the cost of selling their product or service and they try to increase the price and quantity of services sold. In other words, the business wants more total money coming in and less of anything that goes out (time, labor, capital, etc.)

You should do what the employer does, not what most employees do. You want to work towards situations where you spend less time and effort in a position AND are paid better. Being paid more is good, but working a lot more for it is not that good. Working less is good, but not when you lose most of your income.

Why is the phrase “to work towards” in the last paragraph? Well, you cannot make changes to your employment instantly. In some cases you might, such as finding a better job, but if you are with one employer, it may take a while to position yourself for a promotion or apply for a better paying position. It may take time to create a work environment that benefits the employer but isn’t so stressful or time consuming. It may take time to become a person at work who everyone looks up to.

Some things do take time, but there may also be opportunities available now that you are passing up. You might have an opportunity to configure a desk, office or cube to be more private and comfortable. You might have the opportunity to get your employer to pay for education that you are not taking advantage of. You might pay for additional education on your own, so that you can sell higher quality services to your current employer. You might have the opportunity to take on a new project that will result in comparably less stress and less demands on your time. You might have the opportunity to take on new work that positions you for an increase in compensation. You might be able to change your start time and shave 20 minutes from your daily commute.

When you understand that you work for yourself, your success becomes a function of you. When you believe you work for the employer, your success is largely controlled by the employer and what the employer tells you you can have. So, look for ways to improve your knowledge and experience, increase your comfort, decrease your time and effort AND increase your compensation. That is gainful employment.

Take Advantage of Free Education

Do you want free education? I know that there is recurring talk in the political realm about the debate over whether higher education should be free or not, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about the free education that is all around you that you could take advantage of, but that you pass by.

When I was in high school, I was offered the chance to go to a technical school to learn a trade. I planned to go to college, but I saw something good in learning a trade so that I would have employment before I went to college. I went to a vocational technical school while I was in high school, aside from my college prep classes, and learned how to repair computers. That technical training in my junior and senior years gave me a very early start into the computer field. I would eventually complete an undergrad in information technology and then go on to attain an MBA, but I know that I made my career entrance a lot earlier. The vocational education gave me the ability to become a computer technician at the age of 17, and start gaining experience (and income). I did not have to wait until I graduated from college.

Additionally, when I was in high school, I was offered the chance to take college classes at significantly reduced rates (I believe a few were free, and others were nearly free). I chose to take the classes, and they were credits that I did not need to pay so much more for when I went to college.

You might be thinking… “that’s high school. I’m not in high school anymore.”

Well, continue on.

Not long after high school had ended, I was offered the chance to teach a class on computer repair. I wasn’t going to get paid. I was going to have someone help me prepare for the class so that I would know how to format a lesson and teach the content. I decided to do it. It cost me some time, but I learned how to teach in an academic setting. It gave me knowledge and experience for later opportunities when I would teach for local colleges.

Just a few years after high school, I got into real estate investing. As I did so, I found that I needed to learn about wiring receptacles. How did I find out how? I initially got a book from my local library on the basics of home wiring. I read the instructions and looked at the wiring layout and followed what I read.

At another time, when I wanted to learn how to drive a manual vehicle (I needed to buy a truck and I found an affordable one that was not an automatic) I went onto the Internet and looked up “how to drive a manual vehicle.” It might sound ridiculous, but it worked. I bough the vehicle and I knew just enough to get the vehicle home. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but once it was home I had the ability to get better, and in short order I learned to drive with no issue.

Then, I worked for an employer who offered a very small amount of money for workplace training (it was less than $500 per year) but I figured I would take advantage of it and get a certification in my career field.

At another employer, I was offered a larger annual sum for education. It wasn’t enough that I could go get a degree (I had two degrees, and didn’t really want anymore) but it was enough that I could learn a new skill. Looking around, I realized that one of my biggest challenges and expenses as a real estate investor was HVAC work. Since the EPA requires certifications to be allowed to buy refrigerant, and since HVAC services are expensive, I figured I would dramatically benefit my own investing by getting the certification. My employer was paying, but I would reap significant benefits from it.

Lastly, I will mention that most times I go dancing (many of the dances are free) I find that there is a free lesson taught. If you wanted to learn to dance, you could very likely look for places in your area where dances are held and find out which ones are at no cost and which ones have lessons. While I’m primarily self-taught, I did learn quite a few things from the free lessons before dances.

As you read all of this, consider how much opportunity I would have passed if I never decided to take advantage of the free education that was available.

What kind of education are you passing up? Are you in high school and able to benefit from learning a trade before you go to college? Are you working for an employer who offers tuition or education reimbursement? Is someone else willing to apprentice you?

Free education is all around. You only need to start looking and as time passes you will find more and more opportunities. If you have never thought of how much you could benefit by learning without paying, hopefully this has given you a different perspective.

How to Overcome Procrastination

If you’re reading this, it is because you want something else in life. You want more wealth or more fitness or a better social life. You want things that you do not have. You might be sitting in a cube right now and thinking “there must be more to life than this, right?”

What prevents you from achieving the goals you have set for yourself is discipline. You do not do enough of the things that yield results. I know I have often thought that if there was one thing in my life that I could have, it would be that: more discipline. If I could change myself to be less… I’ll describe it as “human” and more “robotic”… then I would be able to set a good goal and work towards it. When I set that goal, I could then start working on achieving that goal, having discipline. Also, having discipline, I would work on it until it is achieved. That isn’t what it is like to be human.

Being human means that we have to deal with the emotions of “I don’t want to” or “I want to do something else.”

How do you overcome the conflict between what you want to do and what you should do. It isn’t easy, but it is straightforward. On the other hand, sometimes it is complicated, but it isn’t hard. Keep reading, and you will understand.

The answer is to keep reinventing the way that you approach your procrastination or your lack of discipline or your need for variety or your need for the lack of variety. You keep throwing yourself at the problem, because, then, you learn more about how you work and about what it is that you can do to address your problem.

So, what you do is that you have to find out how to manage your own emotions. You have to find out what makes you choose between the short-term and the long-term. I don’t mean some kind of book learning or theoretical learning. I mean what is the underlying deep cause of why you like to do the emotional things. Here are some examples to jog your mind.

Do you choose to do things that are routine?

Do you choose to do things at random?

Is there an emotion that you most often pursue?

In my own case, I found that I had a difficult time sitting down to blog. I have a lot of ideas. I wanted to do it. I enjoy it a lot when I’m doing it. I love writing. However, the sitting down part is difficult. Nothing special here, right? That’s just every normal human.

So, what I did was that I started to look at the things that I do in life. I cleaned my house, I went for a walk, I paid bills, I would work on my books, I would play video games, I would exercise, I would call my mother, I would pray, and so on.

I also found that when I got into an activity, such as writing, or dancing, or playing video games, that I would tend to stay in that activity. I also found that I became less productive at whatever I was doing the longer that I did it. So, sit me down in front of a television with a show I want to watch, and I’ll watch the show in entirety. That’s not productive. However, sit me down in front of the computer and let me start writing, and I will write. That is productive. The question is, how do I get more of the productive activities, and how do I prevent the unproductive activities from taking too much time and reducing my motivation for other things?

What I did to address this was to get a computer timer. It is actually called “Free Timer” but I have no association with the software, nor am I recommending it. I would set the timer for 10 minutes and pick a song that I found relaxing that would play at the end of the timer.

All of the sudden, I was able to take my need for methodical behavior and add randomness to it. I would clean my house for approximately 10 minutes and then I would go exercise for 10 minutes. Then I would go video game. Then I would pay bills. Then I would call my mother. Then I would go out for a short walk. Then I would write 10 minutes on my blog. Then I would watch 10 minutes of a show I wanted to watch. Then I would prepare food for my lunch at work tomorrow.

Not only was I not getting bored and not having trouble starting a task, but I was also learning to not procrastinate, because I was always starting a new task. How often do I use this? A lot. It is a “reset” for me. When I get off track, I “reset.”

So, this is a “gimmick” if you want to consider it, which means that it might not work for you if your mind works differently. However, you should consider giving it a try. It will teach you a lot about your own mind and how you motivate yourself and how you prioritize your own tasks. But, most of all, it will make it so that you create a pattern in your own mind where you can start tasks that you do not want to. When your mind finds that it is not painful to start a task, then it will apply that to other tasks, because you will already be active.

When I use this technique, I always aim to do what I want to do, but I choose something that is easy. So, if I want to work on a difficult section of one of my books, I aim to use this technique, and then I, for the first 10 minutes, go do something easier such as go clean my house. Then I play video games for 10 minutes. Then I read my book, because I’m already moving and having no trouble starting and doing something for 10 minutes.

What happens? When I’ve gotten into an activity that I am enjoying, I find that I don’t want to stop. That actually creates a second emotion in the mind. That emotion is the desire to continue. I find that after I have gone 10 minutes writing a blog entry, and have to stop in the middle (this also helps with never having writer’s block) that I am very interested to come back to it. So, I am creating in my own mind an intense desire to do something that I was having trouble doing.

In short, you do not have to “not like” the things that you “don’t like.” You actually can start to “like” the things that you “don’t like” if you keep trying to find a way to act on them.

My own belief is that desire, or the lack thereof, is artificial. If you can change the emotion that you experience in your mind, or prevent your mind from engaging in the conflict of “do I want to or do I not want to?” then you can start to add in those activities that you are having a harder time doing.

Practical Advice is Hard to Find

It is very hard to find good information. It is not hard to find people who mean well and want to help. It is not hard to find people who have been successful. It is not hard to find opinions. What is hard to find is good information that is useful and can answer the question of “How do I…?”

Some information is person specific. If you find yourself wanting to start a business and ask a business owner how they got started—hoping to glean some useful information that might point you in the right direction—you might hear a story that you know was unique to the business owner’s life circumstances. If you discover only that the business owner inherited their business or that their employer wanted to retire and asked them to buy it, you cannot really plan to replicate what they did. This kind of information is not bad, but it is not useful.

Other information is too general. Look up “how to start a business” online and you will find advice such as “get an idea, make a business plan and talk to a bank.” That, also, is not the kind of targeted information that you need.

I am willing to speculate that the kind of answer to “how do I start a business” is more along the lines of “how do I generate an idea for a business product or service when I don’t have any ideas?” than it is “how do I incorporate?” Yes, incorporation should be considered, but the real question of “how do I start a business?” is concerned with the major actions that enable discovery of a marketable product or service, the production of that product or service and the profitability and control of that product or service.

To give two more examples of focused questions, it probably also is something like “how do I look at my own life to determine what kind of idea I can turn into a real product or service that I, with my own skills, abilities, finances and connections, can make profitable?” Another real world question would be “how do I find the resources and information that I need to be successful in my business?” These are the kinds of real world questions that you would want to focus on, because to answer these would be to discover the real answers to “how do I start a business?”

The reason for this blog, and for the books, videos and other content that I have produced, is that I have searched intensely for information throughout my life. I have found many answers, but I have also spent a lot of time searching. What I hope to share are the answers and the how-to of searching for the information you need, so that you will not have to search as much, and for as long, as I have.

The questions are always different, but the method is always similar. When I ask “How do I…?” what I really want to know is

  1. How broad is the topic and how do I focus on what I need to know? (i.e. in dance, how much do I really need to learn?)
  2. What are the major areas that concern this pursuit? (i.e. in real estate, how to screen tenants, how to price units, how to determine what to do to a property and what not to so that it is profitable)
  3. Where do I find the resources, people and information necessary to help me answer the question? (i.e. instructors, agents, advisors, contractors, associations, books, etc.)
  4. What changes do I need to make in my life to enable me to pursue something?

Using these four previous questions as a rough guide, here are some of the questions that I have answered for myself:

“How do I build a good life for myself?”
“How do I learn to invest in real estate?”
“How do I make new friends?”
“How do I get a job in my field?”
“How do I climb the corporate ladder?”
“How do I learn to dance?”
“How do I overcome social anxiety?”
“How do I eat to lose weight and control my weight?”
“How do I find good information for my health?”
“How do I overcome weaknesses in my life?”
“What kind of business could I get into?”
“How should I think in order to find the best answers to problems?”
“How can I find answers to problems when I need them?”

There have been so many times throughout my life that I have gone in search of good information and found my resources lacking. I did not have someone who could give me good advice and I could not find the information readily available. I hate to say that I reinvented the wheel, but sometimes, when you cannot find what you are looking for, you need to reinvent the wheel. So, whether you ultimately come to this site for how to select high quality tenants, how to build wealth or how to dance anywhere, I hope that you will see not only information that is focused enough to answer your question of “How do I…?” but also delivered in a way that respects your time. Respect for the amount of time it takes to learn something is very important to me, and I try not to duplicate content or to add filler.