Forgive me for using a title that sounds like a get-rich-quick pitch. “And if you act now I’ll throw in TWO copies of my book for the same price as THREE!” Which would be a terrible deal for you, by the way, but that’s not the point.
You’ve probably read a thousand business articles by now, and they’re all trying to accomplish the same thing – helping you make more money, and/or helping you enjoy what you do. That’s really all any of us are after, and there are a trillion ways to go about it. But I want to try and simplify it as much as possible so that you can do as much of either as you have the ability to.
On the one hand, there’s the ‘make more money’ approach, and for this I’m going to paraphrase the main idea behind “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which is a misleading title by the way because I know it took him more than four hours a week to write that book. Anyway, very basically the premise is this – you make money. That money can be expressed in terms of an hourly wage. (So, for example, if you earn $60,000 a year, your hourly wage is around $30/hr.) If you can find somebody else to do some work for you at less than your hourly wage, you will be freed up to concentrate more of your time on the elements of your business that bring in the most profit – attracting new customers, thinking up new products, finding new business partnerships, whatever. This is the basic premise that governs the hiring of new employees, who are supposed to bring in more money than they cost to hire. Generally they don’t accomplish this by actually earning that money themselves; rather, they take over the responsibility of handling necessary but unprofitable tasks so that more-experienced people can spend more of their time doing the things that will increase your revenue.
However, the other thing these people can do is buy you more time. This is the premise behind hiring a housekeeper – sure, you could clean your own house by yourself, but you’d rather have those couple hours heli-skiing or giraffe breeding or whatever it is you would rather be doing. This is also the golden promise of technology, that new products will accomplish the same amount of work in less time, freeing you up to do more of the things that you want to do.
Now in the perfect 4-Hour Workweek world, you’ll do both of these at once. Whatever extra money your business generates will simultaneously help you earn more money (by freeing you up to do the things that generate more revenue) and provide you with more leisure time (by allowing you to buy your way out of doing crappy chores). Occasionally you do see this in action – the franchisee who owns 23 Taco Bells and spends all her time yachting while hard-working store managers and employees write her checks every month. Ah, the American Dream – to get rich by doing nothing!
However, for most of us, this isn’t realistic. Far more often, we have to choose what to do with our extra time – do we use it to earn more money, or should we just watch the waves instead?
We have a model for the second approach, and it’s called retirement. That’s when you get to do whatever you want whenever you want – read, garden, travel, volunteer, knit, re-enact Revolutionary battles, whatever – because you just don’t care anymore about earning more money. A lot of people like this, although many retired people seem to be unbelievably bored.
And at the other end of the spectrum is growth at all costs, where every free moment is devoted to building an even greater, more awe-inspiring enterprise. A lot of people like this one, too, which is why we have gigantic companies and hot-shot billionaries. But some of these people are patently miserable and alarmingly unhealthy.
So how can you know what to do with your surplus income? That depends entirely on where you fall on the spectrum. So maybe ask yourself the following:
How much money do you actually need in order to live the life you genuinely want?
How much do you really want to work – and what do you want that work to be?
For many of us, the answers to these questions change with time, and that in turn will govern how we spend our resources at any given moment. The only real danger – and it is a trap that people fall into far too commonly – is not asking these questions at all.