What’s a “career,” anyway?
Go on, feel free to answer. What’s a career?
Something you love to do? A way to make money? A means to an end? It’s funny that a career is something we all “do,” but none of us - including myself - really think about what it “is.”
To me, something you love to do is a passion rather than a career, so I’ll stick to defining career in the traditional sense: a way in which you make money.
In that regard, a career really is a means to an end. It’s a cashflow and a perception of security that allows you to do what you love in your free time. In a sense, a career can be defined by the equation below:
Career = Cash Flow + Savings + Retirement - Risk
Your retirement, although later in the equation, is really the first component to your career, because it’s normally taken out of your earnings pre-tax. So, the percentage of your gross earnings you decide to contribute to a 401(k) - or other retirement account - is the retirement component to your career.
Your cash flow is the after-tax and after-retirement portion of your career that floats your lifestyle. You use it pay for your monthly living expenses and monthly entertainment.
Your savings is the portion of your career, leftover after your cash flow, that you save for future investments or unforeseen rainy days. Whether your savings goals are to buy a home, travel abroad, or invest in the stock market, it’s the monthly increase in your bank account at the end of the month, after everything has been paid for.
Risk is the last component to your career. Many of us choose a career because there is perceived safety. Some of choose a career because although there is risk, the payoff outweighs the potential downside. The greater the risk - and the more unwilling you are to take on risk - the more it subtracts from your career.
Ok, sorry, didn’t mean to go into a financial diatribe. Still with me? I hope so.
So, if your career is nothing more than cash monaaay and safety / risk, than what are you still doing at a 9-5 job?
We need to break free of the traditional sense of a “career.” With the new culture of job-hopping, there is no real career path anymore. Instead, we need to think of our career as a collection of fun and interesting projects - more of a “project path.”
The point of a career, then, should be to fulfill our cash flow, savings, and retirement, and reduce our risk, in the quickest way possible, so we can focus on what we really enjoy.
In today’s world, through a collection of projects, we have the ability to fulfill the three components of a career, while reducing the fourth component, in a manner that lets us do what we love and love what we do.
View yourself as the CEO of Brand You. You are the owner of multiple “companies” (i.e. projects), that fund your “holding company” (i.e. your life). Visually, your career should look like this:
Rather than this:
With a project path rather than a career path, you’re able to do two very powerful things: build a collection of projects that reduces your “work time” and allows you to do what you love, or, build a collection of projects around what you love so they literally become your passion projects. The beauty of it all? They aren’t mutually exclusive.
And when true wealth is defined by ownership of your emotions, time, and location, our career focus should be to maximize that ownership. And building a “career” around a collection of projects does just that.
You have a base project that generates most of your cashflow. It could be a consulting business, a personal website, informational products, a Kindle book. Anything really.
You have a second project that is your “stretch project.” It might not be making much capital now, but it has a lot of upside, which could make it your cash cow. Granted, you’ll have to look at the amount of time and effort you’re dedicating to the project, and decide if the potential upside is worth the investment. But, if you do it right, your base project should be generating enough cash to sustain your lifestyle while you work on this project.
You also have a third project, a stable one, that mitigates your risk. Using my own skills and background, it could be a long-term project focused around writing or business planning that can be found on oDesk or eLance. These types of projects, although not a traditional career per se, offer more safety since you’re being paid by reputable companies for work on which you have signed a contract.
The third project, as you see, generates cash, but is used more as a fallback just in case the money dries up with your base project or your stretch project. It probably won’t make you enough money to support your lifestyle on its own, but it will float you enough time to figure out your next move.
The aggregate cash made through these three projects, if planned correctly, should take care of your: cash flow, savings, retirement, as well as reduce your risk. Therefore, through projects that you enjoy, you’re able to build a “career” that allows you to have full ownership of your emotions, time, and location.
The point being that if a career is nothing more than the equation above, there are many options that allow you to maximize said equation beyond the traditional school of thought.
Focusing on the true meaning of wealth (emotion, time, location), embarking on a project path over a career path is a no-brainer. You’ll be able to work with whomever you want, wherever you want, and make as much money as you’re willing to work hard for.
So, I challenge you. What base project can you start today? Everything starts off small, and starting a side business while you’re still at your day job is a perfect opportunity to test the waters.