A Job Is A Lifestyle Choice

While everyone may suggest that day jobs are the answer, they are not for everyone. Many of us were raised to think there’s no other way. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many legal and non-humiliating ways to make an income. You can consult, provide a service or build an empire of your own. Specialize, mix it up, split your time however you want. There are no rules (except perhaps the law).

If you find yourself in a day job, be careful not to get too consumed by it. When all you see everyday is your desk, it’s difficult to believe that there are other options out there. It’s difficult to remember that you made this choice and could have made others. It’s up to you to decide if a job is the right lifestyle choice for you. If you decide that it is, embrace the choice with confidence and be at peace.

Change of Scenery

Sometimes that’s all it takes. Get out of town for a few days to clear your mind, reboot or shift perspective. It does not need to be someplace exotic or an expensive vacation far away. Crashing on a local friend’s couch can do the trick. It’s important to shake your routine loose every once in a while. That kind of reorientation can do wonders for your ideas and bring fresh clarity to life’s problems. Mix it up, baby.

If You’re Going to Spend The Money…

Don’t regret it. Just put the money down, enjoy or learn from the investment, and move on. Cut your losses and figure out how to move forward. There’s no point at all in tarnishing a good evening by despairing about dollars and cents. Live the good life.

Mission Before Business, Horse Before Cart

People throw around the word “entrepreneur” like it’s a lifestyle trend. Many fancy themselves an “entrepreneur” with only the curiosity (or perhaps a lust) for building a business. Like movie or rock stars, many successful business leaders keep up a public image. Far too many people subscribe to entrepreneurship because it sounds and looks cool. Most fail to understand the real work involved.

Building a business is very hard. With very few resources at hand, you must pull everything together through favors and very long hours. If you do not truly believe in what you are building, then it will never work. You must have a mission or product you believe in first before chasing your lust for business. Not only that, but you must have a mission or product that can inspire other people to help you and customers to buy from you. That’s a tricky thing to find. Most wannabe entrepreneurs forget that the core mission or product is what it’s all about. And it must come first.

Everyone and his or her mother wants to start a business and be a boss. Nobody will care about you until you give him or her something to sink teeth into. If you cannot offer the world a product that changes lives, then you must start with a mission people can understand, sign on for, and follow to the end. You must get the team on board and excited. And to find success with your business, you must get customers on board and excited as well. As the character Proximo says in Gladiator, “Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom.”

Find your core idea, set your mission, build a product, and then build a business around it. You cannot have a business without something to be busy about.

Decide What You’re Worth

Want to make more money? First, you need to believe that you’re worth more. If you believe it and exude confidence on the subject, everyone else will believe you’re worth more, too. Believe it deeply enough and you may not even need to ask for a raise.

It’s very helpful to know what you’re worth. To the dollar. Not some random number, no abstract figure counts – the exact amount to cover the cost of living the life you think you deserve. Add up your expenses, your lifestyle costs, your health costs, your travel costs. Cover your responsibilities. Price out your dreams and your hobbies. Set a structured savings plan and contingency for accidents. Add them all together over a year period. With simple math, you can conclude your annual salary. That’s what you’re worth. No less.

Be open to quoting that number to others, and do not be afraid to itemize the costs for them. If you can justify every price point and sell your needs, it will be difficult for anyone to argue. Make sure your employer understands this number. If it’s not possible for your company to match, find alternative means to cover the difference (freelancing, for example) – or find a different job.

Know what you’re worth. Believe you’re worth that much. Fight for it if you need to. Do not sell yourself short.

Small Plate Dining

I was raised to spend money on two things: travel and food. The latter I do everyday and with zeal. I love food more than almost anything else and treat it like a religious hobby.

 But like everyone, I appreciate a good deal. Dining out does not always carry a high value proposition over cooking at home. I cannot rationalize spending $12 on an Italian pasta when I can make it with ease at home for $3. I can, however, rationalize spending money on a multi-course, ingredient diverse meal that is too grocery-list intensive, time consuming and costly to prepare on my own.

 It is feasible on a normal night to prepare at most three dishes for a meal at home. I expect at least that many when going out to eat. The conventional American orders one entree when dining out. Unless it took 24 hours to prepare or imported some exotic ingredient from a land very far away, I often cannot justify spending double digits on a single entree. At the very least, I need to share entrees with other people. The more, the merrier!

 Small Plate Dining.

TapasJosé Andrés is often credited for bringing small plate dining to the states. More common in Europe, small plate dining embraces the “a little bit of everything” philosophy by offering many dishes too small to sustain an entire meal. The result? You order multiple dishes per sitting and make an entire meal out of appetizer-sized portions. Antipasti and tapas are common on menus and in wine bars where sampling and tasting is a virtue. If you order correctly, you end up with a broad culinary experience nearly impossible and far too expensive to replicate on your own. I will not hesitate to drop three figures on a meal if it presents a large dynamic range of flavors and diverse composition of ingredients.

 Research your nearest tapas bar. Show your taste buds a party!

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Image by Ana Ulin, via Wikimedia Commons.

5 Reasons to Leave Your Industry Hub and Move Elsewhere

Westward Expansion

Every industry has a central hub. New York for finance and marketing, Silicon Valley for tech, Hollywood for entertainment, etc. These “capitals” boast concentrated resources invaluable to companies on every level. While centralized talent and cash may be great for growing companies, it is not always beneficial for employees or startups. Competition can be fierce, even deadly. And you may be compromising your ideal quality of life by living there.

Friends know I am not a big proponent of the Hollywood community or life in Los Angeles. In fact, I would be happy to see Los Angeles crash and burn (but that’s a post for another day). Nevertheless, I appreciate the things I’ve learned, connections I’ve made and resources I have access to here. But while I support studying in the belly of the beast (I did so through USC Film School and continued employment in Hollywood), I think it may be to your advantage to take that knowledge elsewhere.

Below are five reasons why you should consider moving away and doing your own thing in another city:

  1. Less Competition. Fewer companies competing for business. Fewer qualifiers poaching jobs. Depending on the scope of your business or skill set, it will be far less difficult and expensive to stake a claim with your great idea or robust resume. There may be a smaller talent pool to recruit from and fewer jobs to step into, but you have a greater chance of standing out.
  1. Easier Press Attention. In fresh locales with less competition, you are the cool kid on the block. Almost everything you do can be newsworthy. It is exponentially easier to promote yourself and rise above the noise outside your industry hub. Do you think the Los Angeles Times gives a damn about film shoots anymore?
  1. Quality of Living. If you are liberated to live anywhere, live where you want to. The cost of living could be cheaper, the pursuit of recreation easier, the commute shorter, the schools better, the communities safer and the environment cleaner. Way waste your life accepting surroundings or a lifestyle that fails to enrich your soul?
  1. The Local Hook. You can sell your support for the community as well or better than you can sell your products or skills themselves. Every city is packed with patriots who will gladly help you out if you promote the local angle of your ambition. You may even be able to secure local investment from financiers who simply adore their home town, even if you are situated in a sector outside their expertise. And to differentiate yourself in the national and international market, you can embrace local themes and regional advantages through your marketing, sales and products (Denver is healthy, Detroit is rebooting, Hawaii is beautiful, etc.).
  1. Room for Growth. Industry hubs are wrought with history, tradition, bureaucracy and rules. Moving elsewhere makes it possible to start anew, break rules and bend the future as you see fit. Becoming a local industry expert or thought leader is much easier with less competition and accessible press. By earning that respect, you are better situated to shape the direction of the community at large and make a name for yourself. There is less ladder climbing and more real work being done.

Mark Suster wrote an insightful post this week about building tech communities outside Silicon Valley. For anyone interested in skipping town, I encourage you to read it (even if you are not in the tech industry).

Got A New Job, I’m Moving to Europe!

The deal just got signed today and I am leaving the country the beginning of May. My contract will start me in London, from there I have no idea. I cannot say much about the opportunity yet, but I am very excited. I want to see as many of you as possible before I leave.

No time like the present to pick up and go. We are not getting any younger. If you find yourself at all envious of friends exploring the world abroad, think really hard about your priorities. Opportunities overseas are countless, the frontiers exhilarating and personal growth guaranteed. Your day job is not an excuse to stick around. If you feel the drive to search your soul and broaden your horizons, do not wait – get the hell out of town. 

Follow your heart.

I will continue blogging daily. Stay in touch!

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Justin Hamilton alerted me to this figure of speech over dinner last night. The ordeal with general education, I think. One can learn a little bit of everything or learn one thing really well. Which direction should you choose?

In the business world, niche is king. It is much smoother to specialize, carve your name, and turn a profit. Expert a trade skill and you will never have a problem finding a job in your field again. A specialist is far more straightforward than a generalist – more simple to rationalize and far easier to market.

The risk? You can get boxed in, branded, stuck. Known as a great musician, it will be difficult making your name in other art. Known as a great assistant, you will have trouble being seen as anything but a great assistant. Known as a talented comedy writer, you will never be taken seriously. The list goes on. Think you might want to change gears later in life? Be weary of specializing. Mastering a skill is great for those who prefer simple lives, terrible for others who live to explore.

Being a “jack of all trades” heightens your exposure to a wider variety of crafts, trades, fields and skill-sets. You have more options and therefore a broader opportunity to discover your true passion and talent. You may never be the best at anything specific, but you know a lot about the world and can be a broad resource. You can be the center of it all, a leader. Great leaders can speak the language of their collaborators and must understand the all of the trades involved. I would argue “jack of all trades” status is a prerequisite to leading strong teams.

Master of none? How about mastering the jack of all?

The Curse of a Twenty-Something

You graduated college. Time for the real world. The bills, the loans, the career, and perhaps even children. Life gets difficult, responsibility escalates. You need help now more than ever. But wait – where did all my friends go?

Being twenty-something can be a very lonely experience. Why? All of your peers are preoccupied with the real world, too. They are all busy reconciling jobs, covering the bases, relocating, soul-searching, starting families, and planning for futures yet unseen. You are not alone. But you are alone.

Some adults never recover. They never find a social life again. The burdens of adulthood consume and defeat an otherwise fruitful, interpersonal existence.

That does not have to be your fate. All twenty-somethings suffer relatable woes. Why not help each other? Revisit an old relationship once every day. Rebuild your support group. Make a habit of staying in touch weekly. Get out of the house at least two weeknights every week. Get out of your own head as often as possible. If it is too difficult to meet new friends, re-meeting old friends can be much easier. You do not have to be alone. But only you can take action; do not wait to be called.

Pick up the damn phone.