You don’t have to spend the rest of your life feeling exhausted from work, waiting for the weekend, and barely making ends meet every month.
Instead, there are smart choices we can make now to set ourselves up well for later. But that means we have to do hard things today, and that’s exactly why not everyone is earning more.
Most people have a very short time horizon. If you’re willing to look farther, you will make better choices today. Choices that improve your life.
Here are two of those choices. I believe these are the most important reasons why some people earn more than others.
1. Aim for being the best
There’s a huge income gap between people who are on top and those who are considered “average.” Take the publishing industry, for example.
We can also look at basketball. There are literally thousands of people who love to play basketball. But only a handful can get into the NBA and earn million-dollar paychecks.
The top performers in any industry always earn the most. That’s obvious. But being part of top performers is not that obvious.
In his book, The Dip, Seth Godin says the reason most people fail is that when things get the hardest — when they’re in the dip — they often quit. The problem is that success comes after the dip.
It’s how King wrote three full manuscripts that remained hidden in his drawer, unpublished. Before his best-selling debut, Carrie finally came out.
If King had quit after all the rejection he got — and he almost did, if his wife didn’t find his crumpled first chapters and urged him to keep writing — he likely wouldn’t be the icon he is today.
What being the best really means
I like how Godin defines what it means to be the best in the world:
“Best as in: best for them [target consumers], right now, based on what they believe and what they know. And in the world as in: their world, the world they have access to.”
Let’s say you’re looking for a graphic designer to help create your branding materials for an online business. The “best” graphic designer “in your world” would be someone whose style fits the vision you have in your mind for your business, fits the way you work, and can do everything you need at a price you can afford.
The goal for us is to be the best for our audience. Whether that’s a guest if you’re in the hospitality industry, or a listener if you’re in the podcasting business, be the best for them.
I’ve adopted this mindset in my writing as well. My aim is to create the best personal growth blog in the world, for my readers. My goal is that every reader who visits my blog thinks, “This is so helpful.”
That’s why it’s so important to know your aim. Who are you performing for? Who are you the best for? Sure, you also do it for yourself. But there’s always a recipient.
2. Choose your opportunities wisely
We all have limited time and energy. We can’t say “yes” to every opportunity that approaches us.
Now, that’s easy enough to understand in theory. But harder to practice in a world that’s filled with distractions and opportunities.
There’s so much to do. And you should say yes as much as you can, right? No, because you can get distracted easily.
This happens to a lot of entrepreneurs: They focus too much time and energy on the wrong things, which often leads to failure.
A study found that one of the reasons why startups fail is that they create a product/service the market doesn’t need.
Imagine putting all that money, time, and hope into something that no one actually needs! Yet, many startups end up crashing because of that.
Which opportunity has the biggest payoff?
That’s a question I ask myself a lot. It’s all about return on investment. Ask yourself, “which opportunity can give me the biggest possible return?”
Everything requires energy. And whether you work on something small or big, both require energy. This is something I picked up from Steve Schwarzman, the founder of Blackstone, a large investment firm. In his book, What It Takes, he talked about the early days of Blackstone.
He said that it took the same energy to ask investors for $1 million dollars as asking investors for $100 million dollars. He simply had to go to different investors. But the work was the same.
This concept is also true in our careers. You could perform the same job at a different company and get paid twice as much.
Here’s another take on that. You could spend 8 hours a day trading stocks and end up getting market returns. Or, you could put all your money in a passive index fund and spend the rest of your time building a business. You’ll get the returns plus the income from your business.
Optimize your time and money for opportunities that pay off big. Get after the lump of bread, not the crumbs.
The platitude goes like this: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today.
Corny, but true. A good life doesn’t come by itself. It only comes if we consistently work on creating it.
Building a business that earns you a six-figure income, creating a career you enjoy, and so forth — these things take time. My blog, for example, only started earning after two years of consistent work.
Working less and earning more is something everybody wants. And that’s exactly why it’s hard to achieve.
If you want to earn more, you don’t need to wait for that perfect moment like when you’re earning X dollars or you’re more comfortable and so forth. You can start today. It’s all about that first step.