Have You Ever Felt Lucky Just to Have a Job?

Can you imagine if someone told you they were in an abusive relationship, but then, in the same breath said, “well, I just feel lucky to have a boyfriend (or girlfriend)!” You’d think, “Wow, you need help.”

Not all abusive relationships happen in our personal lives.

It was mid-2008. The economy was getting bad. I worked for a Fortune 500 company. One afternoon my boss showed up at my building unannounced, and called me in to an office she was using.

“We’re changing your compensation,” she told me. “You’re not getting your stock options anymore.”

This was a few thousand dollars per year, more than 11% of my earnings. I was confused. Weren’t the stock options touted as a great reason to join the company when I was hired?

“Can I have them back?”, I asked.

“No,” she replied. “Some of your colleagues lost them last year, which you know about.”

This was true.

“At this point,” she told me, “I feel lucky to have a job.”

The message was clear – I would now make less money then I did the year before, because this particular company had further decided that the shareholders were more important than the employees. There was no incentive for me to help the company grow anymore. And the message from my boss was that I should feel fortunate that I wasn’t having to look for new employment after that meeting.

Can you imagine if I called a meeting with my boss, sat down and said, “I’m going to be working less hours for the same money. You’re lucky I still come here at all.” You’d say that I need to review the agreement I signed with the company stating they could terminate me at-will.

That day, I left that office severely disheartened and I couldn’t help but feel that that was the emotion my boss wanted me to feel. There have been certain times in my life where I have uttered the phrase “…I feel lucky to have a job”, but as I walked out of that particular meeting I had an awakening.

I firmly believe that no company should ever make their employees feel that way.

Companies in today’s economy often treat employees like expendable resources rather than humans. It’s that lack of human-to-human involvement that really eats at me. Companies are made up of people, but you wouldn’t know it, based on the form designed, company-wide mass emails that get sent out. No one cares. And why should they? Everyone is easily replaceable, and just as scared of losing their job as everyone else. No CEO is ever going to say “we can’t fire these people! They’re humans! With families! What will this do to them? What will this do to their self-esteem?”

This isn’t an issue anyone stands up and talks about. I’m going to.

This could happen to you at any time. Things could be going fine, and then something changes at your job. Your manager, who you really like, leaves. Your pay structure drastically changes. Your company closes your office and moves your job to a less expensive part of the country. You have probably experienced this at some point and if you haven’t, inevitably you will.

So what can you do about it? You could do nothing. You could just wait for it to happen. You could hope that it doesn’t. I’ll tell you now that isn’t going to work.

Here’s what you could do:

1. Start thinking about what you love. What are your hobbies? What is that one thing you are constantly talking about?

2. Start thinking about how you can make money from that hobby or topic.

3. IGNORE the voices that tell you “someone has already done this!” and “You don’t know enough!” Those voices are useless.

4. Use your nights. Use your weekends. Use your lunch breaks. Use your current job security to make mistakes with your new business.

5. Save all the money you earn from this business. You don’t need it to live on – that’s what the money you make from your current job is for.

6. Re-invest that money in your business wisely.

That was my original plan.

However, I’ve gone back to the drawing board, because simply, this plan is all about you. And in life, it’s not about you.

Additionally, making money from your passion can be cut-throat, low margin,frustrating and exhausting. Realizing that you can make money from a hobby is one thing. Adding up all your financial obligations, ridiculous healthcare costs, calculating an additional 30% for taxes, plus money to live on – then trying to figure out how to earn that much – that can be a huge and intimidating barrier to entry. Why bother getting started if you’ll never make enough to justify cutting the ties to your employer?

Here’s a better way.

1. Start thinking about what you know more about than MOST people.

2. Start thinking about how you can teach those people who don’t know about your topic but want to learn.

3. IGNORE the voices that tell you “someone has already done this!” and “You don’t know enough!” Those voices are useless.

4. Start teaching. Give it away for free to your earliest learners. That’s OK, because you’re living off the money from your current job.

5. Keep teaching. Start charging just a little. Some of the earliest learners who were receiving it for free will drop off. That’s OK.

6. Keep teaching. Start charging a little more, and figure ways to express the value you’re offering. More of the earliest learners will drop off. That’s OK. They will be replaced.

7. Charge more. You’ve now been doing this for a while.

8. Offer to teach people how to make money teaching others about THEIR topic.

The best part about this approach is that it’s all about OTHERS. You’re helping others, teaching them, and giving of yourself.

I’m on Step 4. So far, it’s been wonderful. I am finding people who want to learn what I know. They’re sharing who I am and what I know with others, who (if they find it valuable) will share it with others. Now people who I’ve never even met think of me as a trusted resource.

One great thing about the 2nd set of plans is that you do not need to have a physical product of any kind (at least not in the beginning). So many people get stuck on the “I need to write a book, get it published, and then start marketing it” plan. You don’t need a book. You don’t need a full-fledged online course (not right away, at least). All you need is a way to teach people what you know. It could be in-person. It could be online. It could be recorded and made into a channel on YouTube. It could be 15 seconds of video per day on Instagram. But teaching is going to set you apart because you’re offering knowledge.

There’s plenty of things wrong with my plan (both sets of plans, actually). That’s great that you see flaws, because you’re going to help me improve my system.

Send me your feedback. Send me your suggestions.

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I’ll be discussing all of this (and more), on my next online session, tomorrow evening at 8PM EST.
(This is me on Step 4! Take advantage of it!)
  • Love it, Daniel. You described my journey thoroughly. It’s scary to step out and share what you know but once you do, you realize the world has been waiting for this. You’ll wonder why it took you so long. 🙂

    Also, one might think that the hardest transition is to go from your step 4 to 5 (or 6), from not charging to charging. But that’s not really true. The hardest step to take is going from 3 to 4, from ignoring the naysayers to actually doing something.

    It’s hard to put yourself out there, hard to share what you know and not feel like a fake (if you are supremely confident, then you’re probably kidding yourself).

    I’m glad to see you’ve already made that transition, Daniel. Everything else will come in time. 🙂