And that means, it’s other people you need to understand if you want to make money, not yourself.
How many people do you know who love doing their taxes? Probably not many.
Believe or not, I love doing taxes. Does that surprise you? I’ve always loved math. Math was my first language; I understood it long before I understood spoken English. And doing someone’s taxes is like the ultimate mathematical puzzle.
So here we have something I love doing that other people hate doing. And guess what? People love to pay me to do their taxes. No really, they are thrilled to part with their money. Why? Because I take away their pain. I take away their stress, I take away a task that would be hard work for them, and I take away the struggle of learning to excel at something that they don’t even want to do in the first place.
That’s what I get paid for. I get paid to take away someone else’s pain.
When I was younger, I had a basic delusion about money. I thought money was a reward for tolerating hard work. Hourly employment can, slowly but surely, indoctrinate you with a very mistaken view of the value of money. Because on the surface, right, you are working so many hours and getting paid so many dollars.
And it’s true that some people do get paid to do things that, probably, no one really wants to do. For instance, every week someone comes and picks up my garbage. That’s a service I pay for. Now I don’t want to have to deliver my own garbage to the dump. I doubt anyone really would want to do that, not on a weekly basis. And I find it hard to believe that anyone would wake up every morning and think, “yay, I get to pick up and deliver garbage”–unless they were getting paid for it.
No matter what you try to do with your life, in order to make money, there’s going to be at least some aspect of your job that is like picking up the trash.
But here’s the important part. It doesn’t matter whether you like doing it. It matters whether other people like doing it. Your customers, your clients, whoever they are–if you can figure out something that other people hate but you love, like or at least don’t mind, you’ve hit the jackpot.
When I started my own business, guess what I quickly learned was the easy path to success? Yep. Doing taxes.
As time went on, it was more lucrative for me to be a financial adviser. The pain that financial advisers take away is deeper and more stressful than the pain of filling out a tax form. For instance, financial advisers deal with a retiree’s fear of running out of money. That is a deep fear, and it requires more trust to even talk about it, much less hire someone to remove it. But regardless of the fact that it took longer to get the financial advisory business up and running, in order to succeed I had to internalize an important truth about money itself.
Money is not a reward for tolerating stress, agony, or even hard work. Money is a reward for doing something that someone else finds stressful, agonizing, hard, or flat-out impossible.
I really wish someone had told me this decades ago. I would have spent less time looking in the mirror, trying to “find my passion” or whatever, and more time considering others, finding their pain. In other words, I would have been both more successful and more compassionate. (And I would have had more respect for garbage collectors.)