Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Embracing Your Strengths

Photo Credit: Amir Jina
Photo Credit: Amir Jina

During the 33 years of my life, I’ve started more ideas than I can even remember. My first business venture started when I was ten years old. My buddy Ahijah and I began drawing our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics and sold them for a quarter.

Copyright infringement FTW.

Since then, I’ve had more ideas die and go nowhere than I’ve had successes. Many more. Over time, I began realizing what leads to a big part of failure: not embracing pre-existing strengths.

There was a point in my life when I was building websites as a part of a business my buddies and I started up. We got a couple clients, but I was way in over my head because I was learning as we went along. Eventually, I couldn’t fulfill requests and, unsurprisingly, the business died. This trend repeated itself numerous times until I finally broke out of it recently. Why was I trying to learn how to do things myself instead of partnering with people who could compensate for my weaker areas? Why was I even pursuing ideas that didn’t take advantage of my talents?

Every self-earner should be keenly aware of their skills and how to apply them to a money making idea. Sure, enjoyment should go into it as well, but skill is essential. Otherwise, you could easily lose momentum because you’ll eventually reach some hurdle that, for one reason or another, feels too daunting to overcome.

Embrace your strengths and exploit your skill set. If you want the challenge of learning and creating something new, good on you. I’ll worry about that later when I’m more established. For now, I’m just going to continue doing what I do best.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Is Being a Self-Earner Right for You? All You Need Is One Rule

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Is Being a Self-Earner Right for You? All You Need Is One Rule

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond
Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond

Good morning, potential self-earners! Let’s talk motivation, shall we?

I already spoke about the power of persistence, but that was more in reference to maintaining momentum when you already have something going. But how about folks that have yet to start on their journey? Is this right for you? If so, what’s your motivation?

Here’s the thing with being a self-earner: the road is tough. Trust me on this one. It’s not all pots of gold and sunshine as some would have you believe. It takes hard work and dedication, especially in the beginning. Therefore, there is only one rule in determining whether or not this life is right for you.

If there are other things in your life that are more important and require as much or more time than being a self-earner, don’t bother.

I’m being serious here.

I mean, you can do it, but it will be that much harder to actually make any progress. Passion has to be your motivation. Without that, this becomes a less secure version of a job. Do you really want that? If this is your passion, there’s a much greater chance of success, enjoyment, and peace of mind.

Sounds awesome, right?

Don’t buy into the hype where people try to sell you on the dream of making millions by just quitting your job and following their secret tips. Sure, some are legit, but many of them are just self-earners on their own hustle. As for you, my best advice is for you to weigh your options and if things feel right, just dive into the pool. Throw caution to the wind and chase that dream like you never have before.

Would you be okay being a half-assed parent? Probably and hopefully not. You’d do the best job possible, even if you make mistakes along the way. This is no different.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Art of Letting Go

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Art of Letting Go

Photo Credit: Keith Rowley
Photo Credit: Keith Rowley

Earlier this year, I was working on a project with my buddies Pat and Jen. Shortly thereafter, I was laid off from my job and my priorities changed. I couldn’t drop money on a developer to build an app. I had to forge my own path to some extent. As a result, Pat and I got into the first and only argument I can ever recall, and it was all due to failing to complete our idea. As we argued and debated (for hours), I began to realize we were both suffering from an inability to let go.

This post is about to journey deep into zen territory, so if you have an extreme distaste for the subject matter, it would probably be best for you to move on to another topic. For the rest of you, here is what I learned…

We’re all doing our best to make it through this life. The problem is, sometimes no matter how much much effort we put forth, our best simply isn’t enough. And that’s fine, even when it feels like it isn’t. Even when other people tell you it isn’t.

Trust me, it’s fine

As a self-earner, all one can do is try to put themselves in the best position for success and have a contingency plan for avoiding rock bottom. Other than that, even the biggest control freak has no grip on his/her fate. All you have are odds and luck (or lack thereof).

This is reality. This is also why many people opt for the safe route. You know, the one taught by society and forged by forefathers.

And foremothers.

Why isn’t that a real word?

Because sexism! Amirite?

Ehem, I digress.

If you’re going to be in the self-earning game while maintaining your general happiness and sanity, learn how to let go. Let go of high expectations. Let go of fear. Let go of negativity.Let go of ideas/projects/businesses that are not working and cannot be fixed.

Stop thinking and just be smart. As with everything in life, the stakes are only as high as we believe they are. Have some fun for Pete’s sake. If you end up clinging to all of these things, you’ll never reach your potential because you’re constantly restraining yourself.

Forget that noise.

Freeing my mind in this sense has not only helped me stay motivated while traveling this arduous road, but it has helped changed my perspective in all aspects of life. This is all a game to me – a puzzle in need of solving. It’s a challenge and I’m going to crack it or die trying. Either way, the experience is well worth it.

Maybe the same can work for you.

Peace out, party people (I so didn’t know this was the name of a Mariah Carey song until I looked up a video for this link. Please don’t judge me, although I would totally judge you if the shoe was on the other foot. Double standards FTW!).

Previously: Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Mainstream versus Niche – 7 Reasons why Less is More

Daily Opinion: SoftBank Is on a Buying Spree

softbank

Alright, this is a stretch beyond topics I usually cover, but I’ll circle back and connect it all together. So, if you don’t know who or what SoftBank is, they’re a Japanese company with a focus in telecommunications, e-commerce, and technology. They own 37% of alibaba.com. And, oh yeah, they recently acquired 80% of Sprint.

Yeah, they’re kind of a big deal.

SoftBank just invested $627 million in SnapDeal, an Indian e-commerce site. This is brilliant because India has the 3rd largest number of internet users in the world, but e-commerce is still very much in its infancy. It seems smart to get in there before anyone else figures it out. Hell, it worked when they invested in AliBaba.

How does this relate to me? Well, if you read my posts, many times I write about becoming a self-earner. In doing so, I’m slowly realizing there are opportunities outside of the US. SoftBank’s investment shows how companies think more globally than we do as individuals. You can apply this thinking beyond making money (networking, education, medical needs).

At a time where various countries aren’t doing so hot economy-wise, why should people be relegated to domestic opportunities? With India becoming an emerging market, there may be opportunities for self-earners to find a gap that needs filling.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: I Don’t Care about Football

 

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Mainstream versus Niche – 7 Reasons why Less is More

Record collection
Photo Credit: Maria Casacalenda

In 2011, I wrote a song called “F*** the Mainstream.” It did decently on YouTube and that title became somewhat of a catchphrase for me in my music “career.”

But is the mainstream really so bad? My intention in making that song wasn’t to say anything popular is bad. Far from it. I just have little patience for the lowest common denominator. Like McDonald’s burgers and Honey Boo Boo.

Bless her heart.

Most large businesses want to be mainstream. Having the potential to get money from EVERYONE is a pretty tempting notion, especially if you love money. But as a self-earner, do you need an idea to go mainstream in order to be a success? What’s your goal?

I personally have no desire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. I just care about not worrying about money. I don’t need excess.

So why bother pursuing an idea/business that is targeted toward everyone? That space is very competitive. I’d rather go after a niche market. I’m not going to make this post overly long, but here are some reasons why a niche market might be the preferred path for new self-earner.

  1. You can look for holes that need filling. Catering to the mainstream means creating a product or service that many people want or need. That’s tough. It’s easier to find a specific demographic and work toward grabbing their attentions.
  2. Niche audiences can be more loyal. Popularity on the mainstream level can easily fall into trend or gimmick territory.
  3. More money and resources are required to go mainstream. This means the pressure for success is much higher.
  4. A large audience is harder to maintain than a smaller one. You can also reinforce loyalty I noted in #2 with more direct communication with clients/users/customers/fans. This is exceedingly more costly and difficult as the audience expands into mainstream territory.
  5. You can charge a premium to niche audiences. Alright, I’ve stated many times, I am essentially anti-capitalism. That said, I’m in no way going to ignore the fact that most people don’t want to spend a lot of money on things. The ones that do are your niche market. They are the ones who want the things you can’t get anywhere. Hobbyists and collectors are a good place to start.
  6. There is ALWAYS someone bigger. There are some big boys who want that mainstream money. Why do you want to battle upstream? Like I said before, just look for a certain demographic that needs something.
  7. Your niche idea doesn’t have to stay that way. There is nothing wrong with growing a business to become mainstream. I’m not against that at all. I’m just saying, that might not be the smartest place to start.

Or just go for it. I’m not saying what’s right or wrong. I’m just a guy with an opinion. But if you really think about it, less really can be more in this case.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Use Body Language to Improve Networking (Part 1)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Power of Persistence (and the Things that Inhibit It)

Photo Credit: David Melchor Diaz
Photo Credit: David Melchor Diaz

The previous lesson I wrote focused on execution. This time around, I’m going to start with something more obvious: persistence is key to ensuring the completion of any project.

Duh.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the purpose of these posts isn’t to to feed you some blurbs of what should be done. This is to expose why you and I don’t do these things and why they impact potential for success.

So we know being persistent is important to being a self-earner. Then what prevents persistence?

  1. Confidence – Have you ever felt like a fraud or an impostor? Have you at any point felt as though you were not truly prepared or worthy of a certain job or task? Maybe you felt as if you were one slip up away from being exposed.Face it; you’re just not good enough.Don’t feel ashamed to admit you’ve felt any of this. It’s called Impostor Syndrome and many people experience it at least once in their life. Don’t address this by simply telling yourself you’re awesome…

    Although it feels really satisfying. You should totally try it sometime.

    …Increase your odds of success by focusing on ideas that cater to your strengths. Try this tactic for one of your first ideas. It’ll lessen the chances of you giving up while you simultaneously gain more confidence in your general ability to execute ideas.Also, remember you’re not alone here. Many people go through this and they succeed just fine. Are you going to let them (or me) outdo you? Why? Don’t you want this? Who cares if you’re not “good enough?”

    Why am I asking these questions for you? You don’t need to have confidence to the point of hubris, but just remember those thoughts are just thoughts and not reality. But if you keep painting with that same brush of gloom and doom, you’re sure to lack faith in your abilities.

  2. Failure – This can fall into the confidence category, but pessimism has a ton to do with an inability to push past failure as well.Boo hoo.Failure happens! Anyone who says they’ve never failed is either deluded or they’ve had an exceedingly easy life. The thing is, some people push past failure while others don’t Are you the former or latter?There was a time in my youth when I found it difficult to approach women. I had a couple instances where I crashed and burned hard so I stopped trying as much. Instead of learning from my mistakes (and realizing I can’t guarantee success, just maximize my chances) I slowly became less persistent. Guess what. That didn’t get me any closer to finding Ms. Right either. In fact, I noticed I was getting increasingly frustrated with myself because I thought about what I could be doing instead of just doing it. Thankfully I smartened up and learned from those past failures.

    How badly do you want this? Bad enough to learn from a failure instead of giving up? If failure is too much for you to bear, continue with your 9-5 job. FAILURE WILL HAPPEN AS A SELF-EARNER. There’s no two ways about it. Learn from them and make your failures manageable.Or give up. There’s no shame in that. If there is, it’s only because you know what you could be doing something instead of just doing it.

  3. Monotony – Some people thrive on routine. I am, in no way, one of those people. I get bored extremely easily…Thanks, ADD….and I tend to only be consistent with work that I truly enjoy. As such, I do a few things to break up the monotony.

    Create a Game: This is somewhat cliche, but it totally works for me. I’ll assign points to certain tasks to see how many I can accumulate by the end of the day. I may also compete with another person I know who is doing similar work. Whoa, healthy competition? What a novel idea!

    Schedule Undesirable Work: If you know you only have to do the tasks you don’t like during a certain time, it can help to make them more bearable. However, monotony sets in much more quickly on rote tasks that are performed often. Schedule it out. If you have the means, outsource it so you don’t have to deal with it at all.Regularly Try Something New: Do it! Firstly, you never know when you might discover a new passion. Secondly, new things are awesome! Bi-weekly should be enough, but if you have severe attention span issues like I do, once a week will do the job just fine.

    Work with People Whenever Possible: Monotony sets in much more quickly when you’re working alone. If you have the option to collaborate and cooperate, do so. Not only will it help to keep things fresh, but it will also give more opportunities to share ideas and thoughts.

  4. You – How well do you know yourself? More importantly, how honest are you with yourself? If “100 percent” isn’t your answer to both of those questions, you risk your chances of seeing an idea/project through to the end. Are you lazy? Do you learn best from lecture or hand-on experience? Do you actually want to become a self-earner or does it feel like a pipe dream? Ensure your knowledge of self and don’t fall into self-delusion. I personally listen to some very open people in my life who aren’t afraid to be totally honest with me. Their perspectives help to build my own.

    In any case, learning why I do things was an essential part of maximizing my potential. Hell, I feel as if I’m still learning new things to this very day.

I hope some of this is helpful to anyone reading this. Give these a shot if they make sense; they certainly helped me. But for now…

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Lessons from a New Self-Earner: 10 Steps for the Improvement of Project Execution

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: 10 Steps for the Improvement of Project Execution

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo

If you read my My Journey Toward Financial Freedom: Understanding Theory vs. Executing Steps post, you know I’m currently focused on the theory behind being a self-earner. The principles behind this can be applied to anything, at least in my opinion. These are all lessons I had to learn from either direct experiences or various mentors I’ve had throughout my life (Paul Hollister and Joe Lin).

Let’s talk about execution. I LOVE coming up with new ideas, hence my 100 Days/100 Ideas series. Unfortunately, ideas simply make for nice conversation and cloud talk without actual execution. It’s an obvious notion, but one that many people forget on their path to creating… anything.

My buddy Pat and I have come up with countless ideas that have gone nowhere. This basically happened because we discussed ideas to death rather than actually making moves.

But, Andre, how do I get out of that mentality?

Funny you should ask. It definitely isn’t easy. In fact, I had to go through a ridiculous number of failures before I actually realized this was a huge problem I have. Yes, I said “have.” It’s sort of like alcoholism; you’re never really cured, you just have to keep it in check. So here’s my own 10-step program to help potential self-earners get over the hump of being their own hindrance.

  1. Come to terms with why you aren’t executing your ideas. It’s tough for most people to be self starters for things they don’t like or are afraid to do. This is part of the reason why most jobs have bosses. A self-earner doesn’t have that luxury (or burden, depending on the side of the coin at which you’re looking). As such, this is something that plagues many folks. Some people have a natural ability to overcome this, but that’s certainly not the majority. I mean, if you didn’t have this issue, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post, right?You are not lazy.

    You are not stupid.

    You are simply a human being going against his/her natural instinct to only work when necessary.

    There’s nothing wrong with this. Accept it and embrace it. It’s who many of us are. Realizing this will make your life a hell of a lot easier as we go further.

  2. Take your idea and split it into 10 distinct checkpoints. Now that you have a better grasp on why you don’t execute ideas, let’s make your goal a bit more digestible. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by envisioning your idea as a single daunting task. Thinking of it as a ton of singular tasks is no less intimidating. Get off that train of thought ASAP.Try taking your idea and split it into 10 definable checkpoints. Why ten? Because it’s an easy number on which to latch. These checkpoints should be major milestones that specifically go toward the ultimate completion of a project or idea. Don’t forget to track the completion of these as they will be one of the motivators for your continued persistence.
  3. Prioritize your checkpoints. Some things need to get done before others.Duh.

    Prioritization is essential in execution because it keeps one from being mired in unimportant busy work. This is the same type of busy work that reinforces procrastination tendencies.

  4. Create small executable tasks to accomplish each checkpoint. Remember step two? Yeah, we’re applying that here. Why? Because a checkpoint is useless without executable tasks. These tasks should be small and manageable. A task should not be “sign up for social media sites.” That’s too vague and open for interpretation. Be concise and direct.Sign up for Twitter with X account name.

    Connect Facebook account with WordPress.

    These types of tasks are straightforward and don’t require much thought for completion. Also, they’ll help keep the forward momentum going. Simplicity is the key to increasing the the success of execution!

  5. Prioritize your smaller executable tasks. Notice a trend yet?
  6. Delegate tasks that you find difficulty in executing. Here’s the big reason why I love collaboration: it allows people to strengthen each other. Adding one or more people to a project can be seen as adding potential points of failure. But being the only person means you’re the only point of failure. Unless you’re perfect, this is a horrible model.Strategically work with those who compensate for the areas in which you are weaker. I, for example, am horrible when it comes to my knowledge of YouTube culture, though I want to venture further into it. My girlfriend is much more knowledgeable and has given me advice on how to move forward. Pat and I are separating work based on our respective strengths to accomplish a singular idea. Any areas where we are both weak will be outsourced. If you don’t have the means to outsource or you don’t have a viable partner/volunteer, that idea may not be the right one for you

    At least not right now. Timing is everything.

  7. Assign yourself daily executable work. I’m stealing this one from Tim Ferris. Your mornings should include a set of five or so executable tasks that go toward completing your ultimate goal, but do not take your entire day. This way you can make progress and not fall into procrastination. If you have a huge task that gobbles up all your time, you may lose motivation. And motivation is a precious commodity. It’s the fuel for execution, so don’t waste it.Don’t forget to track your daily tasks, even the ones you don’t complete. This way you will develop metrics on what you are able to successfully accomplish versus your shortcomings. Reevaluate the failures and just figure out how to get them done rather than giving up.
  8. Celebrate the achievement of checkpoints. Getting to a checkpoint is a big deal. It means you’re one major step closer to your ultimate goal. This isn’t just the completion of a task here. As such, you should reward yourself. Sure, the work isn’t totally done and it isn’t a reason to rest on your laurels, but if you don’t reward yourself, the work may become tedious because the actual completion then becomes the reward. That might feel far away. Even if the work itself is rewarding, why even risk discouragement or tedium?Go do something for all your hard work. If you’re collaborating or employing others, celebrate together. You deserve it.
  9. Find ways to efficiently complete repeatable tasks. Tasks that need to be done daily can quickly become rote, especially if they take a long time. Each week, question the efficiency of the completion of those tasks. Can the work be automated or outsourced? Is there a way to complete them in less time without sacrificing quality? This is the perfect time to do some reasearch on the internet and see if there are solutions or processes out there that will help in this endeavor.
  10. Ask yourself, “What could you do differently next time?” You may fail in executing an idea even if you try following these tips. Relax; old habits are hard to break. Just make sure you take something from that failure.What were your successes?

    What caused you to fail?

    What will you do differently next time?

    Be honest with yourself (it’s crazy how many people lie to themselves so their ego feels okay). Also, even if you haven’t failed, you can still take time to reflect and see what adjustments you would make to improve future projects.

Whew! That was a decent amount of information, but give it a shot! They helped me as I mature into a self-earner. I’m not saying this is the be-all, end-all o of advice, but I think it will help many folks that have ideas that never get completed. There will be more lessons in this series so stay tuned!

Peace out, party people.