I have been a technical writer for many years in a bevy of industries: music, travel, hospitality, development, politics, tech, and non-profits. In most of these fields, writing was a core competency, not the bread and butter. I was not a reporter in the trenches nor an author of memorable fiction. I derived most of my income from managing other things, with communications just a part of my professional toolbox.
That is, until I hit rock bottom, dusted myself off and stumbled upon Medium.
I started to hit rock bottom in 2015 when I was fresh out of grad school and suddenly almost $100,000 in debt. It stayed that way for two years because contrary to what I had envisioned, I was not getting hired right away. The immigration policy of the US was apparently hostile to foreign nationals that they had just educated. When I came home, the jobs that were available would not pay me for what I felt I was worth. It was a long period of agonizing limbo, but it gave me the opportunity for genuine introspection.
The most important thing I learned during that difficult time was that I had always let others lead my life for me. I had no clear personal goals. The goals of my boss and my team were specific, stuff got done, and I moved upward in my career rather smoothly. But not once in the chaos of everyday work life did I sit still to think about what I wanted to do with my life.
All I knew then was that I wanted to be rich and successful, but what that meant to me in clear numbers and actions was not clearly defined. I just believed that if I worked my ass off, I would hit that nebulous mark eventually.
I was wrong.
I connected the dots when I used my unemployment to read, open myself up to criticism, reach out to people who had made it, and understand through rigorous study the fundamental principles of wealth.
The first thing I learned was that being a 9–5 employee was not part of the wealth formula, and neither is working for a salary as a consultant. Anything that requires your time, physical presence at work and compliance with the rules of that organization in exchange for a paycheck will not make you rich.
Owning assets that work for you will. These assets include online distribution businesses that pay commissions, a frequently downloaded e-book, a music composition that generates royalties, stock dividends, rents from owned real estate property, paid YouTube views, and so on. None of them requires your time to generate income for you. They just do, without your permission, but only after you have put in the work, which includes many rejections.
And the passive income generating machine that is Medium is an example of that asset. It will not make you a billionaire, but it can help provide the freedom to become one.
The best way to summon your heart and mind to work together on your very clear goals is to first write these goals and read them every single day.
The one question that helped me formulate my life goals is: If time and money were not an issue, what would you do with your life?
I repeat. If time and money were not an issue, what would you do with your life?
It was time to go crazy, so I did, but after multiple edits and rewrites, I narrowed down my life’s mission into 4 specific goals: I would travel, read, write and sing if I had all the time and money in the world. That is how I intend to make a difference in the world.
It was now clear that a 9–5 job had nothing to do with my goals. Working in a cubicle for at least 8 hours each day will not allow me to travel to Italy for two months, even if I had the money. Working for someone else will only afford me a holiday for 30 days, not a 6-week vagabond adventure like the one I had across North America last spring.
Would I have gone to graduate school if I had reflected on my life more consciously? Probably not. And while I do not regret getting that Master’s degree and meeting all my amazing friends, I do know of people who pursue MBAs with a willingness to incur student loans so they can move up the career ladder much faster.
This, I am afraid, is an antiquated way of thinking, with all the new work and remote business tools now at our disposal. But please do not let anyone stop you from getting an MBA if that will help you achieve your life goals.
My point is, you have to know what you really want before you make any life-changing decision.
I know of people who delight in working with teams and coming to work every day. I must admit I kind of miss that life too. I loved being a part of an extraordinary creative team who would go to war with you, burn the midnight oil with you, and in the process make you become a better person. But because I live in a country where traffic is horrible and public transportation alternatives are limited at best, the eight hours I would spend for work in one day expand to at least 12 hours due to the long commute.
I would not be living the life I want if I spend half of it on the road.
Moving to an apartment closer to the business district is unfortunately not as optimal for someone with student loans to pay.
So deprived of the opportunity to work for huge companies due to distance, I had to be more granular and strategic with my goal-setting. I asked these questions:
How much would have been my income if I had worked for a huge company?
How do I earn the same amount while working remotely?
What are the time commitments of each project? Will they still permit me to perform with my band for two nights a month?
What part-time businesses can I go into?
Then I was introduced to Medium, at the most auspicious time, when I was looking to go back to writing as an income stream while traveling.
There is now content living in a platform and earning what it is due, months after it had been published.
Writers are finally getting paid for their readable art, with a business model that meets my standards:
- Can be done and managed remotely
- No bosses, just clients
- No employees (so no drama)
- No rent
- No physical overhead (i.e. office space, equipment, repairs)
- No government requirements like paying for staff health care and withholding taxes
- Flexible schedule
- Location independent
There is hope for artists in the world after all.
I am still very new here on Medium, but I see the numbers and I can tell it is a thriving new business for me. It is a proven passive income stream — slow at the beginning, but in time, will reward handsomely. Like any other legitimate business, it does not give you the return on your investment right away. Assets that yield passive income are like trees — you need to plant the seeds first, nurture them and patiently wait for them to grow before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
And only those still standing in the end will deserve its just rewards.