Being An Entrepreneur Is The Ultimate Life Hack

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A few days ago Tynan wrote that entrepreneurs don’t want jobs. His thesis is that entrepreneurs value freedom far too much.

I tend to agree.

But even more than that, entrepreneurs are a rare breed of unemployable people.

A Story of Employment

In my senior year of high school I did something they called co-op. If you joined co-op you’d get out of school early to go work at a job in your field of interest. For someone who hated school it was a pretty sweet gig. Especially because my school counselor was actually awesome and worked hard to find me a job that fit within my personality. I loved programming and computers and I got to maintain the website and backend database for a local Oldsmobile (remember them?) dealership. This was 1998. They were getting a steal by paying me only $7/hour.

To stay in co-op you were supposed to work 15-20 hours per week, or 3-4 hours every business day.

Which is all well and good for most people.

But my entrepreneurial mindset wasn’t one that could sit around the office and do nothing. Freedom is too valuable to waste. I would get a week’s work done in one day, then for the rest of the week I’d go in for about 1 hour (because I had to). The only practical work experience I gained was that I didn’t want to gain any practical work experience.

Because I was so efficient and so good at the job, I asked for a raise. I could easily sit around for 3-4 hours/day and get the $7/hour, or I could continue getting everything done in 1 hour/day and get paid $15/hour (the raise I asked for). It was a bargain as far as I was concerned. I’d get the same amount of work done and it would cost them less.

They didn’t see it that way. I didn’t game the system by wasting 4 hours/day in the office so I had no real leverage to get the $15/hour for less time … I was already working less time for $7/hour.

The First Step To Being Unemployable: Quit Doing Shit That Disrespects Your Time

I quit as soon as I was there long enough to earn my school credit.

The freedom of being able to go home and play guitar, or read, or hang out with friends, was much more valuable to me than sitting around an office pretending to do work for 3 more hours for an extra $21/day.

If that sounds like you, then you’re probably unemployable as well. Congratulations, you might just be an entrepreneur!

In Tynan’s article he asks the following question to entrepreneurs: “How much money would it take for you to take a job?”

Most of you know that if Mark Cuban offered me an unpaid gig working with him I’d take it. Not to build a CV (resumé). Not to make money. But to learn from a unique entrepreneurial mind. So my answer is, no amount of money would do it, but if the right person asked me to work with them, I’d take a job. (There are currently 2 people who fit into this “right person” criteria. It’s important to decide on your criteria before you succumb to other temptations, like a higher paying job or “career path.”)

What Is Freedom Worth?

Is it worth 40 years of your life?

If it worth dreading waking up every morning?

Is it worth looking forward to weekends instead of enjoying every day?

Sure, once you’re retired you’ll be free, but at what cost?

Would you be willing to make less as an entrepreneur to have more freedom?

If you’ve found your “enough” point the answer is probably yes.

Most entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with would much rather earn less on their own than have to go into work and make more money. Entrepreneurialism isn’t just about money. It’s about working passionately for the simple fact that you’re passionate about the work. Some weeks I work far more than 40 hours. Some weeks I work less than 5. The freedom to choose is worth more than any dollar sign.

Which leads me to the same question Tynan asked. If you’re an entrepreneur, what would it take for you to get a job? Money? A specific employer? A title? Nothing?

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You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts

My friend Ash (who I’ve linked to many times before) just released a great book called You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts (<– click there). Full disclosure: I bought it during presale and Ash refunded me. The point is, it’s worth the small cost and if you’re unsure about your track in life you’ll be happy you read Ash’s book.



52 COMMENTS

  1. Karol,

    Great post! One of my favs. Love the stories of your youth. I can only imagine what employing you would be like hahahah!

    I think the issue with most is in two large parts that really aren’t as large as people make them out to be.

    First…”I don’t have the right idea…or it isn’t good enough…or which idea should I use” runs through everyone’s head at some point. The ability to weed through ideas, pick one (because a large number could equal success) and then actually put work in, beyond the easy point, makes all the difference.

    Second and probably the ultimate wall for everyone in the 9-5 world is FEAR. We (me too) have this thought that our job in corp. america is safe. Now I know it’s not and it took time to realize this, as I could go in today and the job could be gone, but people feel that their job is safety and that is comforting. False hope for sure.

    The whole system is messed up though (you know how I feel about school…though it took me much longer to realize it than you). I grew up being told by the system that this and this equals success. I did this and this and to the world I have success. I know I’m extremely blessed, and so very thankful for all that I have. Am I doing what I’d really like to do every day? No, though I do enjoy my daily exposure to greatness (I meet with a lot of people like you…haha). Are most people? No.

    At the same time, I don’t think the majority work the way you work. So while living anywhere and doing whatever you want sounds amazing to most everyone, most everyone couldn’t function. Having said that, there is a large group that could and that is the group you are after.

    The ability to see life beyond the moment right in front of us, is so amazingly important. You do that.

    This post isn’t about being an entrepreneur at all (ok it is), it’s about LIFE. What is freedom worth? A question we should all ask ourselves more often.

    Thanks for getting my day started corrently bro! Peace!

    • Thanks Kenny. I think that’s also what separates entrepreneurs. They’re not afraid of falling on their asses and making the “wrong” decision. Making the “wrong” decision is better than making the safe decision.

  2. Boy, Karol, I can identify with this one. Back in my corporate america days and running out of work to do after the first hour. Then they started giving me all these additional tasks which I was happy to do because I knew I’d get a nice raise come review time. WRONG! None of the extra stuff I was doing was mentioned during my review. When I asked about it I was told that stuff wasn’t considered in my review because it wasn’t part of my job description. Nice. Don’t miss that crap one bit.
    Started reading Ash’s book yesterday. I’d recommend it on her entertaining writing style alone!

    • I think most people run out of work in the first hour. :) That’s what all the meetings and conference calls are for. Gotta make it look like shit’s happening! :)

  3. Cool stuff. I think it’s important to note that if you step directly into it, trying to BE an entrepreneur, it probably won’t work as well as if you let your passions lead you to a money-making lifestyle.

    I also don’t think that a 40 hour per week lifestyle is necessarily hell for everyone. I use it as a tool to travel. I give them my time, and I take AWESOME vacations to awesome places at least once a quarter. It works very well for me, and although I understand the sentiment that some people hate their day jobs, I bet it works for others too.

  4. One thing that hit me over the past 4 months is that I’m willing to make far less an an entrepreneur. For me, freedom is the prize – as long as I make enough to pay the bills, I’m incredibly happy.

    That’s where my minimalist lifestyle comes in handy. I really don’t need many material things to meet my “needs” – that makes things especially easy when you start out…or if you decide you only want to work 5 hours a week ;)

    Awesome post Karol, way to rock the entrepreneur life!!!

    Mike Donghia

    • Cool that you found your enough point Mike. :)

      Minimalist lifestyle can definitely help, although I was definitely a full on consumer for most of my entrepreneurial life.

  5. Karol,

    Ya know, this is often the “fight” I have with certain people. They all about the money. And I get it. Hey, you do need some to live on.

    But once you have it…what’s next? More money? More living a life you don’t want to live?

    I’ve been known to work for people, do stuff for them, just to be able to absorb their knowledge. To get an insider look at how they did what they did. Some may call it kissing up, and that is fine with me, but I call it learning and modeling from others. And all this made me into a better person. Grabbing from everyone and just learn from them. I have an incredible amounts of stories to say over about these people, so much to repeat that they taught me and best of all, it helped shape who I am today.

    One of the problem I have with working in the corporate world, and even non-profits (which sadly has been very corporate, with the exception of a few), they don’t change up. They don’t allow creativity to rule. They don’t really grow. Sure, they get the work done but it is brutal to work for them. You come up with an idea, they smile and that is the end of it. Now, I don’t need my ideas to be implemented, but I do need to see that they want ideas and creativity flowing around. And when I see that they don’t care, I just leave and create my own project.

    A friend of mine, was very involved with a certain organization, and one day he had a brilliant idea and told the org. about. They said no, we are not going to do it, and they really didn’t provide a reason. So, he went about, (enlisted my help), raised money, created this idea, put it into action, and BAM, a whole new organization came about that is attracting a lot of creative people into the organization.

    OK, not sure what that had to do with anything, but wanted to share.

    • Thanks Roy. I don’t think it’s worth the “fight.” :) Most people will never see anything but dollar signs. Let them. Those of us who do things for love will keep doing things for love. :)

  6. The fact that you were unwilling to sit around and pretend to work is what differentiates the mind on an entrepreneur in my view. Time is worth more than money. After all the U.S. mint can print a virtually unlimited amount of money – but no one can create more time.

    And yes I will likely take a “pay cut” when I leave the corporate world (again) in July of next year. But it will be totally worth it because my time will be my own to manage and I won’t have to pretend to be busy (I always hated busy work in school).

  7. “You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts”
    Nice sentence. Indeed many people don’t have guts to take action and make a change in their life, thus they allow their Master (or they call boss) to rule their life.
    Thinking that it’s a very comfort zone for them to stay working and earn money every month, without thinking that they are actually investing in a high risk game, which will be game over in 2 words “You’re Fired” by their Master.

    • You can thank Ash for that sentence. :)

      You make an interesting point. Many people think being an entrepreneur is a high risk game. But getting a job is even higher risk. When you have no control you live by the wits and whims of your employer.

  8. Hey Karol,

    I am with you. I’d work for free to gain knowledge and to grow as an individual. It goes back to my cultural background. In the old days in India, and in the East in general, you did things for your guru(teacher) in exchange for being in his shadow (so to speak) and that’s what you’re talking about with Mark Cuban. BTW, who is the other person?

    Great article. I wish more people would understand it, but then, what makes us us is that we are all different, even though most strive to act the same.

    Rasheed

  9. Great Post! All I know is right now I’m making $7/hr (figuratively) and am about to bust out in less than a month! I’m scared shitless but frickin’ happy as shit right now that I’ve made the decision!
    Thanks for all that you do!

  10. I agree with you. At a young age, I have the ability to make almost as much as my parents did after many years of working. Instead, I have chosen to work in my field part-time while spending off days doing whatever I want, including developing business ideas and being with family. Full-time in my field was draining and boring after a few days. No amount of money could force me to do it again..I would only consider short-term projects which I have control of (which doesn’t count, does it?)

      • When I worked full-time, I always finished my work in half the time and would waste the other 20 hours at a desk. The extra time I get not working or traveling to and from work allows me to engage in other hobbies/interests of mine. I love having the balance and freedom of not being tied to one thing.

  11. As as teen I worked part time at a tennis club because I liked tennis. Discounted gear, free lessons, playing on the job=fun! One of the members was a retired lawyer who pestered me to go to law school because I had such a good business mind. I wanted to reply, “Why? So I can retire and spend my days playing tennis here? I already do that!”

    It’s sad that success is measured with titles & dollar signs. Somehow by not having these people are presumed to be unintelligent or lazy. I’ve been out of a *job* for over 6 years despite numerous offers (and without even applying). My right people understand why I always say no.

    By the way, is that picture from a bathroom stall??? :)

    • hehe, that’s awesome Elle! There’s actually a parable that’s very similar to your story. Only it has to do with a fisherman and a businessman.

      The photo is from the U of M grad library (according to the photo credit).

  12. Falling back into the 9-5 was not the end of the world for me. It has helped support my fiancee and I, but, clearly, there are other ways to financially support us. My entrepreneurial ways just weren’t footing the bill for two. With that said, I continue to strive towards complete independence. No matter how many times I F things up by not doing exactly as you suggest.

    Onwards to freeing myself…

    Have a good one Karol…..Thanks for sharing some more historical background to what led you to who you are.

    David
    LifeExcursion

  13. Hi Karol,
    I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, way before it was cool to say so ;-). However, I succumbed to the “dollars for hours” trap for many years for financial reasons, until I realized exactly the conclusion you came to while participating in the co-op, that I’d rather be broke and happy doing something I love than sitting at someone’s desk doing meaningless (to me) work. It took a few unfortunate turns to get me to this point, but I don’t plan to ever turn back. So the answer for me is there is no amount of money, perks or prestige that would get me to give up my entrepreneurial journey in exchange for being uninspired. That’s no way to live.

  14. I would never take a job pure for the money. What use is money if i can not spend it in the places i like whenever i like?.

    However,a IT job where i can still travel anywhere i want,
    Doing stuff for the company(programming,web management)

    Would be a considerable option for me,Given the fact i work at the hours i want, as long as the job gets finished in time.

  15. Oh, my…What an awesome post Karol.
    After having guts to be free, one will never want to go back to be a compliant factory worker again. Living life on own terms, brings value to your own life and your visible passion will be so contagious, that it will inspire others, to do work which matters. But I guess, I don’t need to say more about it, everyone who read this email is pursuing their unique path to freedom.
    ;-)
    Have a super cool weekend, guys!

    • Hey Ivana! It’s been a while. :) You’re right on: when you’re living a life with visible passion it surely does inspire others to do the same.

  16. Thanks to your posts and your email articles,

    I’m bursting with so many ideas and want to bring them to life so I can enjoy my freedom…

    Here’s to being free from someone elses $$$$’s

    Can’t wait!

    S

  17. About 10 years ago I was either working for a temp agency (making regular income while it lasted) or helping my friends with their business startups (more fun but no money). I kept going back and forth between the two. If I was at a temp job I could afford to travel but was tied to that location. When I was between jobs I had the time but no money. A case of two extremes!

    In a regular job now, but am very intrigued with the idea of making enough money to live on while working on projects.

  18. Working for other people is definitely not freedom. I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur for less than my current job pays, because then I couldn’t afford to eat. But, I’d work twice the hours for the same money if I was building my own business.

    • David, thank you, that is a great point. I would also work more for myself for the same amount of money as a job. Another sign of an entrepreneur. :)

  19. Back when I was in college I got to tour an ad agency where one of my friends worked. He explained to me what the first 5-years were going to be like. My freedom would be taken away as I’d be required to work 70-hour weeks, sleep under my desk, and be the one who had to stay up late doing everything until I earned my keep. Sounded like hell to me, so I ran… I ran as far as I could. I never went to one job interview, never sent off any resumes, I didn’t want that kind of life.

    So I built my own. My way. My freedom.

    I’ll never take a job.

  20. Hi Karol, just wondering what your thoughts are on how you view entrepreneurial success, simply from an income point of view (& nothing else).

    Let’s say you were making $100,000 at your day job. What amount of income would you feel one has to make to feel like they are a success?

    • That number is arbitrary and I don’t view success from an income standpoint. I understand “6 figures” sounds sexy, but it’s not. $100k means nothing if it’s not tied to something important. I’ve made everywhere from $10k in a year to $300k in a year. $300k was no more enjoyable than $10k because neither of those years were tied to doing anything important. This year I’ll fall somewhere in between those extremes, but it has been an incredibly fulfilling year. The key is finding what’s enough. If $100k truly is the enough point (and it may be) then $100k equals success, but it shouldn’t be chosen arbitrarily.

  21. Just wanted to say what a pleasure it is to have found your blog (thanks Lifehacker). This article especially really spoke to me. I’m *only* 34 but so, so sick of going into the office every single F*ing day knowing I will have anywhere from 2 – 6 hours of time that I will spend doing nothing but bs’ing with co-workers and surfing the net. I NEED TO MOVE ON.

  22. I had a university job for years, a corporate job for years after that. I avoiding living solely on the money I made from consulting because “it was less secure”. I finally realized that owning my own company was the only situation in which if I was going to be out of a job, _I_ would be the first to know.

  23. Dude, this post is GREAT! I found you from Penelope Trunk’s guest blogger today, Fabian Kruse. After reading this I feel like jumping up from my Corporate chair and quitting! *sigh*, okay that moment is gone. I’ll quietly continue my side businesses and build up enough to truly live my entreprenurial passion!

    • Awesome, thanks Montina! Working on the side business while working the corporate job is actually my recommended path for most people. It’s usually stupid to quit a job without some kind of income coming in.

  24. Great stuff!
    I love the bullet points. Makes one sit up and recognize the real reason they couldn’t hack a desk job for more than a few-month stint. Reaffirms the notion that, no, your not a dysfunctional “grass is always greener” dreamer, your just an entrepreneur, and guess what, the grass is greener. Get over here and get ready to work with passion.

  25. I signed up for your info [long ago] and only found you today. I left the USA, the United Slaves states of north America seven years ago. Life outside is exhilarating and much easier than I ever experienced no matter where I lived in the USA. I look forward to investigating your information. My willingness to chuck everything and start over leaves most people I know terrified. The excuses people use to play small and remain unhappy are not worth repeating. If people don’t get out soon most will never be allowed to leave.

    • Hey Michael! Awesome that you found me again. :) I don’t agree that if people don’t leave now they’ll never be allowed to leave. I don’t buy into that type of paranoia. That said, if somebody doesn’t like where things are headed they shouldn’t stay just like you have done. Personally, I don’t feel affected by much of what’s going on. As much as I don’t agree with a lot of it I’m still thankful I grew up here instead of elsewhere.

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