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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