I was asked to give a speech at the San Francisco State business fraternity last week. I’ve done it before, and since I happened to be in the Bay Area at the time, I was happy to oblige again.
However, I knew that my talk this time around had to be different. My last speaking engagement with the fraternity happened about two years ago when I’d just started my first company - which failed. Anyways, at the time I didn’t know it would fail, and I was pretty full of myself. Thought I was pretty hot shit.
I gave the students a bunch of fluff and bloviated about “dressing for the job you want” and other real gems like that. I’m sure they got some value out of it, but it wasn’t a valuable talk. I knew that this time had to be different.
What can I give these students that’ll help them post college? How can I reach these kids? *Insert Edward James Olmos meme here*
I drove up to campus without knowing what I’d talk about. I sat in my car and thought.
Well, I thought, I really enjoy my life. How did I get to where I am? Not an easy question to answer. How did anyone get to where they are?
So I thought some more. Well, if I like my life so much, and if I assumed I went back in time in a Back to the Future-like fiasco, what would I tell my college self so he wouldn’t fuck up what we have going on now? What would I tell him so he’d end up liking what he did, and make money doing it, too?
That’s a little easier to answer. In fact, it’s as easy as 1-2-3. And the best part it isn't just for college kids. Anyone who wants to feel more fulfilled can follow the steps. Whoever is searching for the elusive “thing” that’ll make them both wealthy and happy can benefit.
So, I walked into that talk and delivered three actionable steps that everyone in the room could take to find both money and happiness.
And you can read them below.
Creating a life that’s both fulfilling and wealthy starts with at the end and ends at the beginning. The first step is to get clear on your desired life outcomes and goals. The second is to find a job that’s fun, you’re good at, and pays well. The third step is to diversify your skills to remain unique in an ever-changing environment.
Once you define each of these three steps, implement the first step and work your way to number three. Before long your skills will get you the job that gets you the lifestyle you’ve always wanted.
What does your ideal life look like? Do you know? Not many people do, unfortunately. And yet everyone tries to “get ahead,” but where they’re getting ahead to, no one knows.
I’m reminded of the Ryan Holiday quote that says, “when you don’t have a goal in mind, the default becomes ‘more.’”
And that’s how a lot of people operate their lives. More, without any understanding of why.
When you define your life’s outcomes, you’re getting clear on your ideal life. You’re outlining what a “good” life looks like. Literally imagine what your life looks like in 10 years if it was out of this world amazing. Those are your outcomes.
Let’s say that you want to own a mansion. Ok, well in order to do so, let’s assume for the sake of arguments that you need a net worth of $10 million. The $10 million would be your goal. The mansion would be your outcome. Most of us value goals over outcomes, but that’s wrong; you need to know an outcome in order to identify the right goal.
Take me as an example. When I fantasize about my ideal life, I’m a location-independent writer and a business owner with a few investment properties spread out across the U.S. I have a large network of awesome friends and family and we get to gather often to have BBQs and generally shoot the shit. I travel a lot and continue to meet new people.
Those are just some of the desired outcomes of my life: location-independent, large network, and multiple properties, among other things. Now that I understand these outcomes I can set my goals accordingly. My first goal, for example, if I was doing this all over again, would be to find remote employment. That achieves my location-independent outcome.
You can have more than three outcomes, of course, or even less. Regardless, life outcomes act as north stars that guide you as you move through life.
Now that you know what your ideal life looks like and the outcomes needed in order to achieve it, you can judge all of your actions and opportunities against your outcomes.
If a goal, opportunity or decision gets you closer to one of your outcomes, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. It’s as simple as that.
Well, duh, right? If only it were that easy. Everyone searches for a “better job,” but very few people understand what better actually means. What is it you don’t like about your current role? What would be better at another gig?
Well, there’s a quick and easy way to identify the elements of a good job. In fact, it’s also as easy as 1-2-3. If you want the perfect job for you, you need to find one that lies in the center of the below Venn diagram:
The right jobs, ones that go from “better” to “best,” lie at the center of job you love, a job you’re good at, and a job that pays well. If you can find something that hits all three, you’ll be one of the most successful and fulfilled people around.
However, remember that in order for a goal, job, decision, or opportunity to be a good one, it has to get you closer to one of your life’s outcomes. So, however you make money (and I’m using the term “job” to be any form of employment, even self-employment), you want to ensure it sits in the middle of the above Venn diagram and also helps you achieve a life outcome.
The good thing though is that if you’re clear on your outcomes, they’ll be strong enough to steer you toward the right job.
Take me again. I’m a writer and marketing consultant with three large and stable clients. I write business articles, work on SEO strategies, and manage my schedule so I can allocate time to screenwriting, going to the gym, etc. My job is perfect for me. Writing is something I’m good at, I love doing it, and as a finance and startup-specific writer, it pays well, too.
And, of course, being remote allows me to achieve one of my outcomes. Now all I need to do is focus on spotting good real estate investment opportunities as well as awesome people to add to my network of friends.
Can you think of a job that you’d love, pays well, and one that you’re good at, too? If you try hard enough I think you can.
Ok, I have to admit that I stole this one from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert and a recent guest on Tim Ferriss’s podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. On the show, Adams discussed what he called “systems thinking.”
To him (and to me, too), creating a life that systematically learned new skills was more important than trying to achieve specific goals. You might fail at your goal, but if you create an environment where even if you fail you learn something valuable, you’ve really won.
It shouldn’t be hard to convince you that in a highly competitive market, skills are the most sought-after commodity. You can always make more money, but you might only have one chance to learn a new skill. So, rather than always chasing the money, try to always chase the skills.
What interests you? Good! Go do that thing. I hate to keep saying “it’s as simple as that,” but it really is that simple. You’re interested in something. You’re probably interested in many things. And your unique interest is different from anyone else.
So, if you follow those interests and try to learn new things about it, you’ll naturally increase your skill set in that area.
The key, Adams says, is to find two to three skills in which you can be in the top 25 percent. That’s it. Not the top five percent or even ten. 25 percent. The idea is that while many people might be better in one category, not many people will better in both. And when you combine the two, almost no one can even compare.
Adams also points out that one skill should be a hard science while the other should be a soft skill, which is important.
For me, my hard skill is finance. I have a degree in money science and worked in the industry for many years. I might not be the smartest finance guy in the world (or even in my friend group), but I’m definitely in the top 25% in terms of knowledge.
My soft skill is writing. I’m self-taught, but I’ve always been an avid writer and reader. I might not be the next Pulitzer Prize winner, but I’m definitely in the top 25 percent, especially given the state of the blogosphere nowadays.
However, not many business and finance people are good writers, and not many writers understand the intricacies of finance. And boom! Those two skills gave me a unique angle that I parlayed into becoming a business writer.
And if you remember, the job of being a business writer achieves my outcome of location-independence.
So, my unique blend of skills (of which I’m in the top 25) helped me get a job that sits in the center of the triple Venn diagram and live the life I always wanted to live.
I told you it was easy as 1-2-3. However, remember that when you’re planning your life, you go from one to three. But when you implement the strategy, you start with three and go to one.
Micro to macro or macro to micro it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you understand money and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive.