Sunday, February 28, 2016

In Defense of the Side Hustle

I hope all your F’ers had a fantastic week! After about 6 weeks of traveling for work, a week at home has been magical. I was checking my email the other day and to my great surprise a fellow F’er sent me a post he wanted to share with our tribe. Due to the content of this post and being this person is in an upper-management position they have asked to remain anonymous. Enjoy these words of wisdom and go find your “hustle”.......

I’m someone else’s property, and have been since I graduated from college and became “khaki-responsible”.  I have come to a midlife realization that someone else owns me.   The truly scary thought is that if that person or boardroom higher-ups decide that OP-Profit is down too far for the fiscal year…I will become the product of the US government dole.  Like most Americans, I’m a handful of paychecks away from becoming a welfare check recipient that TAKES from society instead of gives.  And that really, really bothers me.  I mean really.

When I was 7, I decided that since I owned Michael Jackson’s Thriller cassette, and some of my friends wanted it, I could use my cutting-edge double-cassette boom box and dupe it.  Then sell a copy to them for $3 instead of the $8 that same album would have cost them at Kmart.  Everybody wins right?  My pal Richard Evans thought I had revolutionized the music industry and my other friend (who shall remain anonymous) turned me in to our local religious authority for piracy.  Truth be told, he was mad that I didn’t just give him a copy for free. 

That was my first experience as an entrepreneur...... 

When I was 10, my mom gave me an allowance of $5 a week.  She had just bought a gorgeous new Honda self-propelled lawnmower (which still runs flawlessly to this day by the way) and I saw lots of overgrown lawns in the neighborhood.  I put two and two together and started earning $35 a week mowing lawns instead of the measly $5 from my mom (I still pocketed Mom’s $5).  The Pendleton’s paid me $20 a week and the Eldredge’s paid me $5.  Different sized lawns = different comfort levels for extortion.    Either way…everybody wins. 

At 21, my college friends worked in a call center.  Angry wireless customers harassed them about billing discrepancies all day and then their gestapo supervisor made them work on Christmas Eve.  I, on the other hand, bought a set of windshield repair tools and walked around car lots fixing rock chips (business cards and everything).  I made more in 2 afternoons of work than my buddies did all week.  Everybody wins.  Especially the call center. 

That’s a really long way of saying that entrepreneurship is in my blood.  I can’t get it out.  Wearing khakis hasn’t cured it.  Neither has the career advancement, increased pay, and financial stability.  The bug is still there.  So what’s a khaki-wearing slave supposed to do when every second staring at a TPS report is filled with thoughts of either a) driving my car into oncoming traffic or b) the amount of money he could be making if he was doing this for himself instead of someone else? 

Until recently I believed that I was doomed to either cut the clock-punching umbilical cord and live in poverty for years working 90 hour weeks until I clawed my way to success… or remain forever someone else’s “management material” that despises the management part.  (I’d rather just be material.)   My “fish-gutting on Lumberg’s desk” moment was just way to imminent for my liking.  That is, until I discovered the side hustle.  The side hustle, moonlighting, or “jobby”, or whatever term you want to use to describe a side job, is perhaps one of the most important discoveries of my professional career.  Let me explain why:

Working on a business on the side is kind of like doing everything you WANT to do at your job, but can’t.  You make decisions.  You spend money how you think it should be spent.  You don’t get questioned about those decisions…you just live with the consequences.  But most importantly, you get the chance to be truly PASSIONATE about something.  OK…so maybe you’re not passionate about selling supplements online, or whatever your side hustle is.  But I can promise you that what you are passionate about, and what draws me back to the side hustle over and over again, is the control of your own destiny. 

Let’s face it, when is the last time your employer gave you 100% freedom to do what you felt like was the right decision.  And when was the last time that you kept 100% of the upside to the company for making those decisions?  Likely never.  And that’s because it’s THEIR side hustle.  It’s their company and they get to make the decisions.  

OK, so I can hear you now…won’t I be working twice as hard?  Or neglecting my responsibilities to my employer?  Ummm... yes.  And yes.  But you will do it because you WANT to do it.  Because you believe in that project and in yourself enough to make it succeed.  It will become something for you to take pride of ownership in.  And let’s be honest, if you’re working 45 hours a week for your employer instead of 40 hours a week, is that going to prevent you from being “re-structured” when OP-Profits are down?   I wish I believed that the executive leadership team thought about this like your family does.  I can see it now… ”Hmmm I know our stock dropped 38% last quarter and unless we layoff 20% of the workforce we’ll go under, but we have some employees that really need to make their mortgage payment this month.  Let’s forgo the layoffs.”  Since that’s NOT going to happen, why not spend that 5-10 extra hours a week for yourself instead of your boardroom friends. 

Still not convinced you should have a side hustle?  Let me give you one word: Diversity.  No…not like the affirmative action kind.  I’m talking about your streams of income.  When’s the last time a financial planner sat you down and said “you should really move your entire retirement fund into IBM Stock”.  Sure…it might be a good idea at the moment (if that moment is 1989), but any good money manager worth his fee is going to tell you to spread out your risk.  Are you catching my drift? 

Why would you possibly have your entire income stream “eggs” in one job “basket?”  One job that, as you may or may not know, is only as secure as the S&P500 allows it to be.  Economy in the crapper?  Well, get ready for a layoff.  Mortgage crisis?  Yep, sayonara to your Christmas bonus, Clark.  You get the point.  Side hustles allow you to create multiple potential income streams that can act, if nothing else, as a safety net if the world goes to hell in a hand basket. And the best part about the side-hustle? It’s YOURS!!!!!!  You get to keep the financial security until your side hustle replaces your hustle! 

I’ve met a lot of people that have side hustles.  And what’s interesting about a lot of those people is the fact that they tend to gravitate to ventures that are completely opposite of what they do for their day job.  Perhaps this has something to do with the inherent conflict of interest in working for someone else and also being their competitor in some fashion.  I personally subscribe to the theory that even more than the conflict of interest factor; the choice of hustle depends on the fulfillment of an unmet need in their current position.  A software programmer might start a shoe company; a saddlemarker may become a blogger.  Employees working in the services industry might gravitate to the physical products opportunities.  In all of these cases, it’s simply a matter of re-activating parts of the creative brain that might have been dormant for a long time.  And in my opinion, the more brain activity, the better.

Don’t know what your side hustle should be?  Join the club.  That’s the beauty of the side hustle.  YOU get to pick.  What have you always wanted to do?  What do you enjoy?  When you were 7, did you mow lawns or illegally copy music for your friends?  Do you like to play an instrument?  Are you a good writer?  Maybe lots of things come to mind, and that’s perfect because it gives you plenty of options.  You have passions, hobbies, interests, and strengths.  LET THEM OUT!  For the love of all that’s holy in this world, let your light SHINE.  Ask your family and friends what they think you’re good at.  You’ll probably be surprised and enlightened and come away with some great ideas.

So, for the brain activity, for the financial diversity, for the income potential, and for my sanity, I’ll be a serial side-hustler until such time as my side hustle turns into my hustle.  The question you should answer RIGHT NOW is what’s your passion?  What can you do that will diversify your income streams, give you satisfaction and intellectual stimulation, and a chance to control your own financial destiny?   Don’t end up as “management material” only to retire wondering what might have been.  Go do it.  Go hustle.  

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Sunday, February 21, 2016


Whether I like it or not, I travel for work.  This has been a constant in my life ever since I decided to become an adult and get a "real job". As it so happens, I am currently in the middle of one such trip at this very moment, and for this reason I thought I would impart what I have learned about corporate travel while traversing the western half of this country.

First and foremost, let me get this disclaimer on the record: I hate saying goodbye to my family. I realize (usually right after I walk out the front door) that I miss people, and familiar surroundings.  And I realize that I am also missed by those same people while traveling for work and feel a fair amount of guilt about not being available to help out with my family’s needs. Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you a little about myself.

My mom's side of the family is second generation Hungarian and I am convinced that through my Hungarian blood line there has to be Gypsy blood somewhere in the mix. This is the only explanation that would account for my wander lust.  I have always loved traveling, moving, and basically experiencing all that world has to offer. In my younger years living out of my backpack and crawling into my sleeping bag every night provided the fix I was looking for. I loved and lived every moment of my adventures ranging from backing packing in the middle of nowhere, hitching hiking, or making my way through South America. Every trip and new experience opened my eyes and helped shape me into the person I am today.

So here is the crux! I am now a father, husband, and working professional with only few weeks of vacation a year. Those titles above seem to run in direct contrast with my transient yearnings, and if you are like me you get it! For those of us who suffer from this condition, there is an itch that needs to be scratched. For this express purpose I would like to share the secret "hack" that I have for turning boring corporate travel into an adventure all its own.

For those of us that travel for work, the typical routine goes something like this: work all day, hit the hotel gym if you’re lucky, grab a quick bite at of bland, national chain restaurant food close by, return a few emails, and go to bed. Rinse and repeat. 

Now there are times when this is all but necessary, but there are also trips when time and situations allow for so much more. Enjoying ones surroundings much like exercising at end of the day tends to be a choice that needs to be made ahead of time. Read that last sentence again.  You need to PLAN to have the adventure, just like you planned to make the trip.  With a little bit of research it is possible to turn an otherwise dull evening into an adventure. So, since I’ve done it a few times, let me impart a few tricks of the trade that have turned my work trips into mini adventures:

1.     Download Yelp: Yelp is the secrete to getting the low-down on where to eat when you hit the road. I picked this trick up from my boss and have subsequently found some amazing food along the way. Try and follow the creed, "if you are somewhere new, try something new." No offence to Chili's but we as a nation can do better! Once you have the inside track on where to eat, you are on your way.  My other insider tip: Ask the waitress what SHE would eat when she eats there on her day off.  Never fails. 

2.     Vary your workout: Being that me and the waffle maker at the hotel breakfast bar have a sordid love affair, I am forced in my F word status to put on the shoes at the end of the day and run. This insures the success of my relationship with my gluten Belgium mistress. Instead of grinding it out on a beat up crappy treadmill, do your research ahead of time and find out where a great trail or scenic run resides during your travels. Reach out to the local running store, you just might find a killer run along with a running group who is already headed out that way. My favorite workout to date was a night run with head lamps above the foothills of Vegas (the picture in this post is from that run). If running is not your thing try a cross fit, yoga, or spin class at a local studio. It’s always good to see how other locations put a spin on your classic workouts.

3.     Experience the outdoors: Since daylight is limited after work hours, this requires being a bit creative. For example, I recently had to go to Boise for work, so I decided to pack my skis. You may ask, "how did you pull off skiing on a work trip?" The answer: night skiing of course! Not only did I head up after work, the three hours of skiing in fresh snow with no crowds was straight-up epic. During the summer months if I drive to a location I will pack my bike or my inflatable paddle board. This gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day as well as experience a new venue and or trail. 

4.     Be a “creative” workaholic: You are already in town for a work trip, so why not find out if any of your customers are into the same things you are! The best way to forge a strong relationship with a prospect, client, and or customer is to get them out of the office. See if they would like to meet up to (fill in the blank) after hours or give you the local tour of their favorite activity. Not only will this make your trip that much more effective, but you will build common ground with your customer as well as possibly find the best fishing hole in the area. 

5.     Plan your trips around special events: I spent a year doing research and site visits for the Army Core of Engineers. I did the majority of these trips with a good friend of mine from San Diego, who just so happened to enjoy the same type of music as myself. That summer as we booked our travel, we also booked concert tickets. It was a ton of fun to see great music in new venues. I am using concerts as an example, but this can apply to anything you would like to go see or do.

6.     Maximize your time: Time is a commodity that, as a working professional and a father, I seem to have very little of. Work trips can afford each of us the opportunity to take advantage of the evening hours that are normally spoken for and use them to get out and do the things that typical work/life schedules do not allow.

7.     Change up the scenery: When you have NO time for adventure (I have been in this situation as well) here is what I recommend. If this happens in the summer months, grab some takeout, activate your Wi-Fi hot spot on your phone, and head out to a nice park and get your work done while you watch the sunset. I assure you this will do more for your soul then staring at the vinyl wall paper at the Hampton Inn.  And yes, it IS legal for men to watch sunsets too.  

8.     Reach out: I am fortunate enough to have friends in all the locations I travel. This has given me the opportunity to do everything from catching up over dinner to jamming with different bands. The point of me saying this is reach out to your network, and if you do not have one be creative and create one. 

9.     Bring your family:  If your family has flexible schedules, there’s nothing more satisfying than having your employer pay for your family vacation.  Of course…be careful on your expense reports and get approvals first if needed, but in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with your family sharing your room and having a slice of your pizza with you while they explore a new (to them) city while you’re out bringing home the bacon.

10. Nothing, nada, chill time: This last one contradicts everything I have stated above, but with the daily grind and pressures we all experience an evening of nothing can be absolute bliss. Nothing wrong with some take out, catching up on the latest episode of Vikings, and chillaxing.

So, here is the challenge for my road warrior compadres and fellow F'ers: If time allows, turn your next road trip into an experience. Forgo the temptation to hit up Chili’s.  Find your new favorite trail, and most of all enjoy your time in an environment that is not your own. If you have to hit the road, it IS possible to take that otherwise boring grind and turn into an experience.

After all, isn't that what life is all about?  Seeing something for the first time? Experiencing the things you love to do? Expanding one’s horizons?  When it really comes down to it, our time is limited and we can not make more of it. F word nation, let’s drink it all in!

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