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Getting Paid For What You Love

Getting Paid For What You Love

Doing these workshops is such a rush.  I don’t mean the public speaking aspect (which I’m still nervous about most of the time), but the part where I can tell I’m actually helping people.  In ways that are much more personal and substantial than anything I did in my career as a software developer.

While it’s true that my better software designs could and did affect many people in small ways, I’m finding it much more gratifying to be helping even a few people in much bigger ways.  Take for example, my Jump-start Your Motivation workshop the weekend before last.  During the workshop, one participant made a dramatic shift in beliefs, attitudes, and even voice, after I spoke with her for just a few minutes during one of the Q&A segments of the workshop.

This participant was in a position that most of us would envy: being paid to do what she loves.  But she had one problem: a crippling level of guilt about it!  Since she didn’t feel she “earned” the money if she enjoyed the work, she would put off doing it, and build it up into a big effort into her mind so that she wouldn’t actually enjoy it.

So I briefly asked her to consider how she would feel right now, thinking about the sinfully luxurious pleasure of being paid to do something she enjoyed…  and to locate the feelings in her body.  In a quiet, rasping voice, she described the bending of her spine, tightening of her throat, and so on.  In short, she described the overall feeling as one of pulling every part of her body towards its center, of trying to “be small”.

And I recognize that feeling well, because I had something similar just a few months ago.  And I know that it is something that goes deep, and reaches far into every area of a person’s life.

You Can Change, Instantly!

So I asked her, if she was going to do it, or if she wanted me to do it?  And by “it”, I meant eliminating the feeling from her emotional vocabulary.

We quickly agreed that I would do it for her – and less than a minute later we were done.  “It’s gone…” she said, with what sounded like soft wonder.

So now it was time for the most important step: testing to see if it really worked.  I said something like, “So now how do you feel about the sinfully delicious pleasure of getting paid to do what you love?”

“Yeah, I like it!”

And at that point, I was actually taken aback, because her voice sounded different.  It was almost melodic in its enjoyment, cycling fluidly through a series of tones even in that single short sentence: an amazing contrast with the previous several minutes of her sighing and sometimes almost whispering, in a mostly-monotone way.  Even when she’d laughed before, it was more like a chuckle straining to come out.  Now, when she laughed, it was like music.

And although that was perhaps the single most dramatic moment of the call, it was far from being the only one.  More frequent, however, are the sounds of figurative lightbulbs going off in people’s heads when I answer one of their questions or tackle one of their problems.  I can always tell when I’ve given somebody’s reality a nice little twist, because they start to …  pause …  between their words.  And what they say is usually a little distracted, too.  It’s like they are really somewhere far away, in the new land my words have taken them to.  Usually the most coherent thing they can say after that is, “Thank you!”  (Sometimes repeatedly.)

Share What You Love, and Enjoy The Money!

But usually the best feedback has to wait until the days and weeks after a workshop, when participants post to the Pathfinders forum and tell me about their progress with the issues we discussed.  Everywhere, goals are being accomplished, life-changing decisions being made, and habits and attitudes being transformed.

And of course, I can’t complain about the money, either.  A little over ten years ago, I used to live on less money than what I’m currently bringing in part-time by doing this.  And yet, my current rates are an absolute steal compared to the amount of personal attention I’m giving out.

And the funniest thing about that, I find, is that the money is actually far more important than I used to think.  I know now that, even if I became wealthy and never had to work again, I would still charge people to help them.  Because:

  1. When you put your money on the table, your heart and mind will follow
  2. Receiving money makes me feel like my work is valued and appreciated, and in turn makes me feel generous and want to give people something “extra” above and beyond what they paid for
  3. The difference between a frugal investor and a penny-pinching “nabob of negativity” is that the former will happily pay for value received.  So requiring payment ensures that cynics, nihilists, and similar ne’er-do-wells will not darken my mood or the moods of other participants.  This is why even my free workshop required participants to at least buy my book!

Once, like my workshop participant, I would have felt guilty about getting paid to do something I loved.  Now, getting paid is almost the best part.  The rush of helping lasts a few days, but the heady afterglow of dollars being regularly deposited into Dirt Simple, Inc.‘s coffers is ongoing, even on the days I don’t feel like talking to people, let alone helping them.  😉

If this is Evil, I don’t want to be Good!

And yes, I know some people will be annoyed by these last few paragraphs, because they will think I’ve “sold out”.  For example, just a few weeks ago, one of the Python Software Foundation’s directors said in an email that watching me “turning into a self-help marketing guru” was “fascinating in a horrified kind of way”.  I found this amusing, because this same director previously took a certain large company to task in his blog for not paying for something they could get for free, and was now apparently upset about me giving people free things, and then inviting them to purchase other, non-free things, in the same articles.

But I won’t dwell long on the difference between trying to guilt people into giving “donations” and offering people additional value for value received.  Suffice to say that I have my own opinion as to which is the more honorable and moral pursuit!

And you know, I never thought I would ever even call myself a salesperson, let alone be so gosh-darned proud of it, but there you go!  Life is not a straight line, and passion is a meandering path.  When you follow your dreams, you never really know where you will end up.

And even if we all want to be paid to do what we love, most of us want it to happen without any of the discomfort of selling.  Without putting ourselves out there to be accepted or rejected.  Without unapologetically asking for what we want.  Without having to change our beliefs or guilts about what is worthwhile or how hard we should work to “earn” our daily bread.

Thank God most of that is behind me now!  (And by the way, speaking of God, the other week I heard a minister speak, who had made a million dollars in one month.  And it was all in exchange for value given – no “donations” requested or required.  If you’re going to believe in a God, you certainly can’t go wrong by believing in a generous one!  And if you go by the Bible, Jesus loves capitalism.)

Trade Value, Not Guilt!

But my main point is this: doing these workshops – and being paid for them – has been among the major transformative events of my life.  So, in 2007, I plan to expand my work considerably, with the intent that by this time next year, I will be helping enough people, in enough ways, on a regular basis, that their gratitude and investment in my work and products (to include newsletters, CDs, and books as well as continued coaching programs) will be able to replace my “day job” income.

But don’t worry.  I won’t ever try to guilt you into paying for something that I first gave you for free.  All but one of the articles in my book is posted here on my blog, where you can read it for free.  And yet I never said, “hey, buy my book because you owe me.”  I will only ever offer you value for value.  And the thing that freed me the most was to realize, that a lot of the value is simply me.

Back when I started this idea of trying to make writing into a living, I thought that the ideas and the packaging were king.  I thought that every book or course would have to have new ideas, new tools, and different discoveries.  Sure, I thought that my personal perspective was important, but I thought of it as being more a style issue than one of substance.  Surely people needed “high production values”, which is one reason why I went with such a fancy cover design and overall packaging for my first book.

But more recently, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t take that many ideas to change the world.  I’ve done five workshops now, and there are probably only three or four truly central ideas that I’ve been covering, and they get hit on repeatedly in every single workshop, just from different perspectives.  And, surprisingly to me, people not only enjoy this, but they comment on it regularly in the feedback they send to me, talking about how great it is that I keep showing them new twists to the same idea, because it helps deepen their actual application of the idea in their lives.

If You’re So Smart, How Come You Aren’t Happy?

And there’s the secret right there.  Back when I first dreamed of all this, I was still more of a “thinker” than a “doer”.  Until I started getting coaching myself, I didn’t understand this, because my mind was using “thinker logic”, the logic of ideas.

You see, in the logic of ideas, once you know something, you positively know it and can’t un-know it. Learning something twice would make no sense at all, let alone three or four or five times.  And who presents the idea or whether anybody else agrees with the idea isn’t particularly important.

But in the logic of action, repeated exposure is necessary.  The brain responds to signals from perceived peers and authority figures.  It resists changing until it is sure that the environment has really changed – especially its social environment.  So particpation in a coaching group – preferably led by a person you look up to as having done what you want to do – is a significant accelerator in changing your beliefs and attitudes.  (Peer pressure as a positive motivator?  Who’d have thought it?)

So, examples are important if you want to change.  And I really enjoy being the Morpheus to my students’ Neo, or the Obi-Wan to their Luke.  Because although I’m not always revealing all my secrets up front, I enjoy helping them reach for their own potential, rather than just copying my mistakes or successes.

So, over the last couple of months I’ve been contemplating how to do this on a larger scale, and further clarifying what it is I want to “do when I grow up”.  And the short answer to what I want to do, is that I want to help people of potential become people of action.

Got Potential?  Get Real Instead!

For a lot of years, I remember being the guy who had “potential”.  Unfortunately, what it really means when somebody says you’ve got potential, is that you haven’t got anything actual!

So, people with potential have skills or smarts or talents, but they aren’t using them effectively.  They get in their own way with procrastination, perfectionism, and pessimism.  They feel guilty about doing better than other people, or asking for what they want.  They think money is evil.  They are afraid to choose to focus on just one talent or skill or goal at a time.  They dream of a better life, but they don’t know exactly what that life would be.

And I really know what that’s like.  It’s only been in the last year that I’ve been throwing off these shackles myself, and taking my first steps towards freedom.  In fact, you can read all about it in my book, although you’ll have to hurry because there are only 42 copies left as I write this!

But that’s not the only thing that’s running out.  I’ve already ended the deal where you could get a free MP3 copy of the Banish Unwanted Feelings Forever workshop when buying the book.  I’ve also closed registration for the “basic” level of the Seven Days to Live Your Dreams program, and I’ll be closing it entirely after this coming weekend’s Gear Up For Action workshop.

So, if you want to turn your “potential” into “actual”, you need to do something, now.  Life won’t wait around for you until you’re “ready”, and neither will I.  The only way you get anything in life is by doing something before you’re “ready”.  For example, you can’t build up your muscles by lifting weights that are already easy for you!  You have to stretch yourself by lifting something that isn’t easy yet.  But if you first do the thing, then you will have the power to do it… again and again.  Begin it now!

Join the discussion
  • In ways that are much more personal and substantial than anything I did in my career as a software developer.

    That phrase makes it sound as though your software development days are over. I hope not. You may not agree with me but that seems a waste of your talent.

  • “””That phrase makes it sound as though your software development days are over.”””

    Nope, it’s just going to get a lot harder for people to hire me; i.e. I’m going to be a *lot* pickier about the projects I choose to accept payment for.

    Meanwhile, I expect to continue open source software development as a hobby, and hope that I’ll actually end up with *more* time for it.

  • I find it amusing, after such a introspective, inner driven, and well thought out article, that someone would even contemplate making a comment like dropping software development is “a waste of talent”, I also find it oddly amusing that the person would feel so uncomfortable with their comment that they needed to post as as “anonymous”.

    Personally, I see that comment equivalent to telling Michael Jordan early on his life that quitting his job at Denny’s to pursue ‘something else’ was a waste of talent because he was such a fantastic waiter.

    Programmers are a dime a dozen (and in India they cost even less), but someone willing to put these types of personal and unconventional thoughts out there for the world to see is uncommon, rare and valuable.

    I say,,, until you have proof to the contrary, you should “never write another line of code” and feel no guilt or regret,

    I admire your courage, message, and thoughfulness. Waste your talent,,, Waste it as easily as you would leave throw away uneaten food on your plate after you were full. It is not a sin to waste talent. The sin lies in being afraid to abandon an established talent for one that you know is more significant / on purpose.

    I can confidently say that the vacuum created the moment you stopped programming was filled milliseconds later.

    With regards to this blog… Write on dear friend. Write on.

    Thank you for creating such a wonderful blog.

    Ed Ferking
    F3 Solutions



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Cover photo of "A Minute To Unlimit You" by PJ Eby
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