My friend and microbusiness partner Jeremy is a well-rounded guy. He has a few consulting clients that give him the income he needs to get by and maybe a little more. But that doesn't take up all his time. In his spare time he's also dancer, and with his wife and a few friends is opening a Montessori school. But that doesn't take up all his time, so he worked with two other guys and myself to create iKan, the Personal Kanban iPhone app. But that doesn't take up all his time either, so he got together with a bunch of other guys and created Crowdmap an awesome shared mind mapping tool for the iPad.
So Jeremy is, as I said, my microbusiness partner. iKan is a microbusiness. The application has helped many people take their Personal Kanban with them when they are away from their home or office. But it's also only $4.99. With four partners, it would take a very long time for any of us to become wealthy from it.
But what I'm noticing is this: The new entrepeneurs the media keeps touting are not out building companies with just sweat equity. That is nothing new and completely misses the point of the transformation that is taking place.
The previous career models of "I'm going to get a stable job and go to the office every day" or "I'm going to launch a startup and we're going to become huge and make millions" are increasingly viewed as the self-defeating, zero-sum games that they are. People are recognizing that full time-work is fleeting; that at-will employment means you have no job security. And hopping from job to job is stressful and forces you to give up all self-control.
Instead, people are collecting portfolio projects with residuals that, over time, will result in reliable income streams. This is a vital distinction, because when you have a huge time-sucking job with no hope of residuals, every hour you spend working is worth a set amount – regardless of how much effort you put in or how much value you create.
This means that trade-offs between the rest of your life and work will always fall in favor of work. If your boss tells you to work until midnight during your daughter’s recital, you need to work. If you don’t, the zero-sum game means you lose disproportionately to the cost of the action. Going to the recital will always lose to not having a job and health insurance. But the action that night at work compared to your daughter’s recital? That individual trade off was likely in favor of your daughter.
Building a portfolio of microbusinesses with an underpinning of paid project work means you are building both good short and long term income opportunities. For a portfolio holder, the option of working that evening or spending quality time with your daughter will, appropriately, come down on the side of the daughter – and if it doesn’t, it will be because the trade-off was really worth it.
So Jeremy and others I know are placing themselves in a position where they can exercise life’s options with the least amount of external costs. This allows them to build not only a portfolio of projects they have worked on, but also greatly expands the portfolio of projects they can work on. In doing this, Jeremy and others have bought themselves a great deal of freedom.
The next time you think about work/life balance, consider this: have I placed myself in a position where I pay a penalty for choosing activities outside of work? Have I placed a tariff on my own happiness? Have I left myself unable to work on projects that will make me money, expand my capabilities, and provide an interesting challenge? How many of my options have I closed off?