His experience at the monastery had freed him from the escapist thoughts of fantasy jobs that had once dominated his mind. He was able instead to focus on the tasks he was given and on accomplishing them well. He was free from the constant, draining comparisons he used to make between his current work and some magical future occupation waiting to be discovered. - 1
Early in So Good They Can't Ignore you, Cal Newport, tells us a story of Tim. Tim worked in a bank and longed for a great job. Something that left him fulfilled and joyous about the coming day. So Tim went to a monastery and studied Buddhism. The quote above is about Tim, who isn't in the monastery anymore. Tim is back at that banking job, and started back in data entry where he left just before his monastery experience.
The difference is that Tim had a realization and changed how he works. In fact he changed a key sentence in his thought process as outlined on page 228:
Working right trumps finding the right work.
For a number of years I was done with coding in any form. I was bored of it and took at adventure to focus on coaching, and only coaching, as my main source of income. While I did earn a bunch of money doing it, the truth is that my overall feeling about work didn't change that much.
I was still looking for some dream where I coached 5 people on Fridays and charged them $1500/month and then didn't do anything with the rest of my time. That career turned out to be a fantasy land that I wasn't going to be able to occupy. In part, because I hate phone calls and time in my schedule claimed when I have to be in a certain spot at a certain time. In part, because while I'm a successful freelancer earning 6-figures, but it's not like I've built and sold some business for multiples of 6-figures and everyone is clamouring to hear what I have to say.
To steal Newport's term from the book above, I don't have the career capital to get those clients.
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I do have capital when it comes to building eCommerce and Membership sites. I've been building them for 10 years. I've built membership sites before there were any of the fancy tools that make my job way easier. I built team integrations and voting systems for businesses when there was nothing on the shelf to even look at first.
As I've retired myself from coaching and headed back towards programming, I've found so much joy again in building things for clients.
Just this week I've figured out Git Actions along with WP Engine for automated backup and deployment. I'm dusting off some 6 year old code that allows automated configuration of WordPress sites based on the environment that they're operating on. Yup, that means different plugins with different settings running based on the domain that the site is hosted on.
Here I charge lots per hour2, and I'm genuinely interested in the work. Sure there is still some grunt work, like changing how a form operates, but there is so much automating to be done. Many unit tests to write and many deep problems to get involved with and enjoy.
Many days I talk about what I did and my family looks around at each other wondering if I spoke English or just made sounds from the language in a form that resemble something real. My 9-year-old smiles and says: "All I heard was you're a nerd" and we laugh and I agree that I am a nerd that enjoys all of these things.
Today this is my question. Are you only aiming for a dream? Are you focusing on finding the right work instead of just doing good work and earning enough "career capital" that in a year or two you'll be able to dictate how you work and when you work?
One way is going to set you up for misery. You'll always look to the future and some other career as the right thing to do that isn't here yet.
The other way, lets you learn a bit every day and grow a bit and brings you joy in your work. It will earn you mastery in your field and people will look to you an want to be like you.
One way is like all those "passion" bloggers that tell you how to make money from a website, while trying to figure out how to earn anything at all from their writing.
I know which path I'm choosing...continued pursuit of interesting problems and then sharing what I learn.
Which path are you going to choose?
Seriously, reply via email and I'd love to hear about it.
Monday I shared my content calendar in Notion. Yes there are some drawbacks to the iPadOS version of Notion, but for now it's the best way I've found to deal with my content scheduling.
Monday Unread updated to version 2.1 and I put together a quick video on the new features. It actually supports some of the things I wanted it to support when I reviewed Unread 2 just a few weeks back.
Wednesday I talked about some of my Book Firsts. The first book I purchased 2 copies of simply because one was beautiful. The first book that got me inspired to grow as a reader...that type of thing.
Friday I talked about Boys & Sex by Peggy Orenstein. It was a tough book, and while I think it has lots of value it's also one to approach with some caution if you've had sexual trauma in your life.