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Money Changes Everything

February 11, 2013

In a recent New York Times article, “Money Changes Everything,” Adam Davidson writes that based on research, ‘people with more money, tend to be happier,’ though up until now even scientists believed that money could not buy happiness. So what’s changed? Have we evolved, or devolved, so much we now believe that money can buy happiness?

One thing I’ve learned on my journey from starving writer/creative type to successful consultant is that money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, but it does make life easier, affords you more choices, and enables you to do more with your life and your time. Thinking back to when I was a lowly paid writer, I remember saying to a friend that “If someone paid me $20 an hour, I would be happy to sit in a room, by myself even, and write for 10 hours a day.” I honestly believed that having such a deal would make me happy. Of course in hindsight, I realize that would not have done it for me in the long term–not financially, mentally or spiritually–although it’s funny what we idealize at different points in our lives and how that too evolves as we find success.

Money, Benjamin Franklin

I don’t remember exactly when my mindset changed, but I do remember it was sometime during the course of reading the book, “From Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t.” So I am greatly indebted to Jim Collins for having had such a great concept for a book and for being so inspiring. That book helped to change the course of my life and career. Ironically enough, during the time I was reading that book, I serendipitously drawn to other people who were also reading that book and were on a course to transform their lives. It was as if we were on the same plane of transformation and brought together by the law of attraction. Meeting each one of them and having discussions about the book, and sharing how we thought we could apply it to our own lives was extremely invigorating and exciting. I hadn’t been that excited about a reading a book since reading “Rules for Revolutionaries: A Capitalist’s Manifesto” by Guy Kawasaki, a few years prior–another book that started me on a wonderful and exciting journey to exploring technology and how it would transform business, still one of my all-time favorite books–and a journey from which I have never turned back. Learning about technology in business plays an even bigger part in my life today.

So how did “From Good to Great” change the course of my life? In the process of reading that book, I realized that the only way to take a company from good to great was to inspire its people to want to accomplish that, then provide them a roadmap for doing so. If the people were the key to changing the company–and I’ve learned from my work that they are–then why couldn’t the rest of us take that same kind of approach to transforming our lives and careers to some level of greatness? I decided that we could–and I set out to do just that.

My first step was to begin thinking of my career as a business or as a corporation itself–and later on as a brand, but more on that later. Doing so would help me begin managing my professional life from a bottom-line perspective, just as companies do. If it was good enough for them, why not for me?  Though I can see that from an employer perspective, this approach might seem at odds with where they want their employees to be–and it was–to some degree–but it was also necessary. Taking this approach put me and the companies I wanted to work for on more leveled playing field, so-to-speak. We would both have our goals and objectives, and both have our bottom-line expectations on which to deliver.

I created a strategy for revolutionizing my career in 10 years, taking it from starving writer to consultant to FORTUNE 500 companies earning six figures. I actually achieved my goal in only seven years, and greatly exceeded the goal by the tenth year. So how did I do it? By doing three: Committing to shortening the learning curve and delivering value as soon as possible in every position I was given–and devoting any additional free time gained to learning anything and everything would advance me even further and faster. I learned that I could generally do the jobs I was hired for in about 50% of the time allotted and still meet or beat the standard set by those who had come before me. Realizing that, I developed a plan for getting promoted to a higher position within a year, or leaving the job and taking a new one, but only if it offered an increase in salary by 25%, or more, with each transition.  This was a bottom-line strategy after all. On average I increased my salary by 40% each time I transitioned. Last, but not least, I committed to broadening my skill set with valuable skills with every transition, and on my own time, because I believed that the broader the skill set the more marketable and indispensible you become.

In the course of my journey, no one I knew believed I was pursuing a good strategy–friends, family, colleagues and recruiters all told me I was making a huge mistake by not building career history and continuity. Ironically enough, job-hopping has now become the norm, so it seems I was ahead of my time. So as with most of the other risks I’ve undertaken in the past 10 years, I had to go it alone, based solely on my vision for success–and at times that was not easy. It was downright brutally painful. The biggest challenge was convincing employers to hire me in spite of the fact that I might leave after 6 months if they didn’t promote me–something made apparent by my resume. I’m proud to say that I was always able to make the case for why they should take the risk on me: I believed I could deliver greater value than the average person would, regardless of how long or how short a time I was there. I was committed to doing so because I was building a professional reputation that itself would push me further and higher. While I contributing to the success of my employer, I was driving my own success, so it was a win-win for both of us. Most employers realized the risk was worth the potential reward. There was only one employer, in the ten-year journey, who refused to hire me based solely on his fear that I would “not stay long enough. Though to this day, I still don’t know what the definition of long enough would’ve been if there was significant value delivered. Being short sighted was likely a missed opportunity on his part. He opted for having a status quo warm body who is likely still” in that same position, than to take a risk on someone who could deliver much greater value almost immediately, and likely continue to exceed expectations throughout his tenure there. I have to wonder how thing turned out for that department? It would be interesting to talk to him today and compare where our journeys have led us.

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While money was not my sole motivation for pursuing my strategy, it did play a big part. I started out as a starving creative type after all. Along the way, I realized that not only did my mindset have to change in order to succeed in business on such a fast track, but my entire way of thinking and tackling problems as well. I would have to become more analytical in order to move myself from a tactical worker bee to more of a strategic advisor. Though through some trial and error, and hard work, I managed to do that too–that was a journey all in itself–but more on that in a future post.

The best part about earning more money was, not having to worry about some of the little things that for many years had plagued my bohemian lifestyle, such as my old car breaking down at the most opportune times and creating overwhelming stress, or being short on rent month to month and having to go in search of extra work to make ends meet, or just never having enough money to buy supplies for my creative projects. Money changed all that–and while that may not have brought eternal happiness, it certainly brought a great sense of joy–and sense of accomplishment. I was becoming self-sufficient, something I’d never had before, and that felt good.

So to answer my initial question, does money change everything?” I pretty much have to say, “Yes, it does.” It did for me. Though I can’t say that money itself can buy happiness, it can change life for the better–if kept in perspective. My expectations for money were not that would serve as a magic wand and make everything perfect–which was a good thing, because it didn’t do that. It did however, help to advance me by allowing for the opportunities and time for me to continue learning and growing in a myriad of ways–and for helping others. Helping others make better lives was one of the greatest gifts of all because so many people helped me along the way. It felt good to finally have the financial freedom allowing me to help others at least test an idea or begin a journey.

Lately, I feel I am at point where I’ll soon begin another big journey of my own–and I’m really looking forward to that.

Here’s to your new adventures!

g_ROD

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