5 Business Lessons Nobody Taught Me (But I Sure Wish They Had)

You will disagree with one or more of these. Watch for my note at the end about that.

1. Stop thinking about money

The worse your financial position, the more important this is.

I have lived in poverty most folks in the developed world can’t imagine. When you’re scrounging change from couch cushions to buy milk, it’s hard not to take work you hate just for the pay, or to work with jerks because they have money.

The bad mental association of working for jerks, doing work you hate just because it pays is a good way to mess up your relationship with money.

The sooner you stop thinking about money, the sooner you will start working with inspiring people, doing things that make you try harder.

Corollary: don’t work with people who put money first, either. You’ll know them by their actions, not necessarily their words.

2. Stop planning

know which way the wind blowsLife is like sailing: you can’t choose a direction if you’re not moving. At the dock, a rudder is useless. Once you’re moving, that tiny part of the boat controls the whole thing.

Some planning is necessary. You’ve probably done too much already. I spent years at the dock, waiting for the wind and tide to spontaneously sweep me toward the paradise on the far shore.

When I finally shoved off, sometimes rowing, sometimes sailing, sometimes bailing like mad, I made progress. I’m not in paradise yet, but we’re miles closer than when the boat was sitting at the dock, waiting for the perfect idea for the perfect plan.

The time when you’ll know the least about where you’re going is right now. Make your plans based on that concept. Every inch closer, you’ll be learning, adapting, changing. You only need enough plan to get away from the dock, and a clear destination — though that may well change, too.

3. You don’t want a job

It’s the title of my 10th book because I believe it. A job is a way for someone else to make all the decisions — and all the money.

Don’t trade your entire life for just getting by.

You can do better on your own.

Want a free copy of the digital version of the book? Just ask. You deserve better than working for Mr. Waturi in the advertising library in “Joe vs. the Volcano.” If a free copy of my book will nudge you toward less madness and more joy in your work, I’m all over it. Like I said, just ask and it’s yours.

I struggled for 35 years with jobs I hated for employers who ranged from pretty good to completely insane and downright abusive. My whole life, I’ve only had 2 jobs that paid more than I made the past year being self-employed. (I work about 2 hours a day, spend most of my time writing, or playing music, or being with my family.)

Take your life back.

4. Generosity is your greatest asset

The world is not a pie, from which we each take a slice, leaving less for others.

The world is a field, in which the more we plant, the more we harvest.

Do not give this lip service, then expect repayment for every “gift” you give. Give without thought for repayment. Give all your knowledge to those who need it. Give your services to those who deserve them, but can’t pay. When you can, give your financial support to those who need it, especially by paying for products or services which are worthwhile.

5. “Smart” is not the best metric

How smart you are, or I am, or anybody is, means nothing. Not a thing.

Love is the best metric.

If everything you do in business (and, frankly, in life) is based on unselfish principled love for others (and a healthy love for yourself) then you’ll start and end every day a little better than the one before.

Note at the end

Which one of these bugs you the most? Which one makes you think I’m crazy off-my-rocker nuts wrong?

That’s the key. Change that, and watch the logjam break loose.

Then come back and tell me about it.

5 thoughts on “5 Business Lessons Nobody Taught Me (But I Sure Wish They Had)

  1. Smart’s not the right metric indeed! Nice to see the comments open, Joel. And glad to hear things are going well.

  2. Wow, Joel, I’ve had this in my inbox letting it wait for me to read it for, what, weeks or so now? This is such a great post of yours, short and right to the point for me. I have quite the issue with money. I’m afraid of poverty (because it’s stamped in my brain from somewhere that “poverty is indisputably the worst mark on your forehead there can be in this world”). At the same time, however, I have an ongoing ambivalence around my disgust for the (Western?) world’s love and worship of money. But no, I don’t want, and won’t be getting, a job again. It makes no sense to sell my soul and basically die internally for it. Why in hell would anyone do that? All that said, #2, Stop Planning, likely is the biggest issue. “You can’t steer a parked car,” THEY say. I might be in full gear, moving quickly even, but all I hear is I’m parked Because I’m Not Making Any Money. It’s a freaking huge “slinky effect,” I call it. And, as you can hear, I’m going insane. Or slightly mad, as Freddy Mercury says. So there’s your answer and my own personal therapy at your hands for the day! Thanks, and we’ll talk soon.

    1. Poverty is painful. I’ve been there most of my life. And during the 2 brief periods where I wasn’t, one of them was the WORST period of my life. And some of the time I had nothing nothing nothing was the happiest of my life.

      If you have shelter and food, beyond that, money has no relationship to happiness.

      Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding, suggests we measure our wealth as “How much time do I spend doing what I WANT TO instead of what I HAVE TO?”

      Measured that way, I’m the richest person I know. Richest, by far. Richard Branson probably spends more time doing stuff he doesn’t like than I do.

      How ’bout you?

      1. I’m also going to email this reply, Joel, because it does look like I haven’t been getting your replies…and never have I clicked on either of the two buttons below the Post Comment box. Duh. But just in case.

        So, I’m reading this response on 9/25/13 whereas you and I wrote our first comment/reply above on 5/14/13!! Wow.

        So, how ’bout me, you ask? Everything has changed. Because I had no memory of having read this and even sending a long, tortured comment about it to you in May, it was all new for me today. Answers, then: I have Zero problem with any of what you say here. None of it bugs me. It is clear. I understand what is said and why it can really bother someone.

        That’s it. Just super valuable stuff, Joel, my friend.

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