Many years ago, when the blogosphere was much smaller and I was a bigger fish I used to get inquiries all the time from aspiring bloggers about how to build readership for their fledgling sites. My reply was always along the lines of if you have interesting things to say, people will find you. Don’t worry about money (monetizing your blog) just yet, write about what interests you, engage with other blogs such that you add to the conversation with your content not spamming someone else’s post. Do that, and readers and income will take care of themselves, especially if you can be patient.
It’s not clear whether that advice still works for becoming well known and creating an income stream because there are so many blogs out there now. My peak in blogging, whenever that might have been, is long past but I continue to write about what interests me, it’s fun and if nothing financially ever comes of it again, that’s ok because, again, it is fun and it led me to many great opportunities both financial and experiential. I lived by the advice I gave out and the readers and income took care of themselves.
This leads me to the life hack alluded to in the title, I’ve never made money my top priority. I mean obviously at 22 or 23, when people are still trying to figure themselves out, I was a cold calling cowboy and yeah, money was the priority, but I outgrew that very quickly for burning out on that sort of work and being mediocre at best at it. While plenty of people thrive under the pressure of having to meet sales quotas, I was lucky to figure out that I was willing trade more income for less stress and being happier.
I did not want to be the salesy guy that people avoid or have people say something about me like keep your hand on your wallet around that guy. A few years ago a college buddy asked about hiring me to manage his money. He decided not to for whatever reason, it would have bummed me out if it had been awkward after that and fortunately it was never awkward even for a second. My approach to taking on new clients in my time as an RIA has always been, this is how I do it, this is why, I think I’m pretty good at it and if it resonates then maybe you’ll hire me and if it doesn’t, then you probably won’t.
Creating a sustainable practice came very quickly, and I don’t think I was ever the pushy guy that you’d avoid at a party. My practice has never been huge. If I wanted that I would have spent much more time on business development. I essentially spend no time on this. Not saying I would have succeeded; I have no idea but that is not how I wanted to live my life. I wanted exactly what I have, time to study the market, manage portfolios and write every so often.
I’ve frequently defined success as making enough to pay the bills, set some aside for the future with a little left over for some fun. I’ve been lucky to achieve that without making money my top priority in life and have been much happier for it. I’ve been much more independent because of this and that is what mattered to me. Thank God I figure this out in my 20’s and it only took ten years to get there. That timeline is another example of things taking care of themselves, I just put that together right now.
Naval Ravikant said "Money doesn’t buy happiness – it buys freedom." One way to get to freedom and independence is to spend less than you make. On some level, everyone knows they should do this, but it is elusive for a lot people. To quote our friend Bill here in Walker, you can figure it out now or you can figure it out later, but you’ll be much happier if you can figure out now. That sentiment applies to almost everything.
A sentiment from me that I say often on Twitter is that being in your 50’s, with a little bit of money in the bank and fit and healthy is a great time in life. Halfway through my 50’s and that is unambiguously true.
Faith that fill in the blank with the thing you care about will take care of itself requires at least some competence and the ability to be patient. I don’t know if these things must be innate or can be self-taught but they are traits that will make life much easier and put you in a position to exploit the life hack of not making money your single top priority.