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In the wealthiest country in the world, there shouldn’t be a lot of struggle. You would expect that life would be pretty darn good for everyone. And for the most part it is. Sure, we have our first-world problems like not being able to get Wifi at our favorite $5 coffeehouse to discuss what Cardi B and Minaj are fighting about this time, but at least we have clean running water and shoes on our feet. And for that we should be grateful, right?
The Dirt: Everyone deserves a living wage
It’s only fair. Everyone deserves a living wage. Like everyone deserves a Lexus or an ice cream. The one thing I learned in school is that not everyone gets an A. If you work harder and smarter than me, you will get the A and if I slack off, I will get the F. I don’t get to be upset about this. Can you imagine me requesting that we average the two grades and we each get a C? You would probably find such a proposal to be ludicrous. Yet we leave the rules of school and expect the rules of life to be different. How’s that working out so far?
In the grand scheme of what we all deserve, let’s put our first-world complaints aside and consider that if you are reading this, you probably have internet access and an electronic device. Congratulations, you are in an extremely small minority of the world. Clean water? Indoor plumbing? Do you live on more than $10/day? If so, you are in the top 20% of the world according to the World Bank. That’s right, there are about 5 billion people that would like to do something between slap you and kick you in the groin for feeling like you are entitled to anything more than what you have.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive for more, quite the opposite. There are many levels of living in a first-world country. We are free to and have the opportunity to strive for the best. And so we should. Sometimes, we do let it get out of hand and our tremendously good fortune to have such an opportunity blinds us to it. It’s almost too easy to sit back and complain without doing the required work to have the best of the best.
Speaking of work, it’s common wisdom is that the key to success is working hard. If you have 2, 3 or more jobs, you know this is patently untrue. Consider that we always get paid commensurate with the value we provide and what we feel we deserve. Yes, we must work hard providing that value, but hard work alone will not get us there. Just like we can spend hours a day running on a treadmill and still be in the same place. If we were paid based on how far we went, we’d still be broke. We’d have to get off the treadmill to make some real progress.
The wonderful part of a first-world country is the opportunity to work hard, provide value, and get paid what you’re worth. This is the exact opposite of deserving anything. It’s simply the blessed structure to have a life based on a set of laws and rules that encourage people to create, build, and expand the potential of society. The only right we have is to take advantage of the system. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy for some as for others. Background, skin color, gender, etc. can make a real difference in how hard someone must work. However, the good news is that it’s not impossible. And if you believe you are the exception, I’ll accept the challenge to find a person in your situation that found success. And if they can do it, doesn’t that take away all of our excuses?
What exactly is a living wage anyways? Does it include cable TV and Starbucks? Where do we draw the line? If everyone got a ‘living wage”, wouldn’t we all just be exactly where we are today? Even though the tide has risen on wages, it would just adjust elsewhere. If everyone had a better baseline income, then resources would still be subject to supply and demand. Demand would go up (more people can “afford” goods), thereby driving prices up.
In other words, the $10/hour we earn today, if we time travelled back 100 years, would have us living like kings and queens. It’s not that everyone was poorer, it’s just that the baseline income was lower. Of course, this is an oversimplification of economics, but there is a point here. That point is how quickly we want more money without wanting to add more value. When we claim that we deserve a better wage, there’s often no mention of wanting to work harder, smarter, or create more value. Just pay me better because I was born here here. It might make for great headlines, but the long-term economic reality is not valid.
Now we come the deeper reason why we aren’t getting paid what we’re worth. The reason we either don’t know or refuse to accept, but certainly worth discussing. What if we always get paid what we feel we’re worth, for better or worse? What if our self belief, or identity, about our value were like a thermostat in that wherever we choose to set the dial, we’ll always end up pretty close to that setting? So if we believe we’re worth $10/hour, we will always end up in positions that pay very close to $10/hour. We may venture out into $15/hour, but unless we’ve raised our identity to believe we are worth it, we won’t keep it for long and will end up back near $10/hour.
Understanding how and why we have such beliefs is an entire book collection in itself, but in a nutshell, our beliefs create the world around us, and the world around us creates our belief. Yes, it’s a cycle. If we’re not careful, it could be a downward, self-fulfilling prophecy of strife and struggle. In the beginning, it’s our world that creates our beliefs, most of which are borrowed and self-limiting. We get infused with beliefs that either serve us or don’t serve us from parents, school, society, friends, etc. These then begin to manifest themselves in our reality, especially as we (hopefully) leave the shelter of our parent’s home, which in turn reinforce those beliefs. Good or bad, there we go, our identity in tow.
How do we give ourselves the best shot to earn more? We must believe we deserve it. We must raise our identity. But not just the flaccid superficial belief that we deserve it because we won the first-world lottery. No, the real, deep down, know-it-in-our-gut type of deserving it. A few key points on how to raise our identity:
Have a burning desire. What is in your heart of hearts? What’s your deepest desire to accomplish, like your destiny? Do not quit your job tomorrow, but if you had to monetize your passion, how would you do it? Most people never dream anymore, so if need be, take some time and figure this one out. Can you imagine a Michael Jordan working for $12/hour at Starbucks and never getting on the court?
Be a voracious learner. Take that passion and learn, learn, learn everything you can. BEcome the expert in this area and learn how to offer ridiculous amounts of value to others. After all, if it’s your passion, this part should be fun. It’s amazing how easy it is to learn about something you love. Talk to other experts, get involved in the community, and start raising your identity in this area.
Have crazy work ethic. Once you’ve acquired the knowledge, you must apply the work. First, the only way to build skill is to do it, fail at it, struggle with it, until you figure it out. If you want to learn to ride a bike, you’ll going to get a few scraped knees. Second, you will put far more effort in up front than you will get in return. This is okay, as it will be worth it long-term, and again, you love it anyways.
Focus on results and not timeline. Keep learning and doing until you see some success. Don’t focus on setting a timeline. Does it really matter when you win, or that you win? If you’re not going to win at your current job ever, than timelines shouldn’t matter. Think of it like growing fruit. Just plant the seed and keep watering with faith that the fruit will appear.
Max it out. Never ever ever ever quit. Most people quit on the 99-yard line. They put in all the work and give up before the reward. Just remember that your real competition is yourself. If you keep getting better, isn’t only a matter of time before you’re better than the rest? Don’t stop getting better until you’re the best.
The good new is that the more focus you put in, the more work you do, the harder you try, the more you will genuinely feel like you deserve to win. And when that happens, so does the winning. Let’s raise our identity for it’s one of the few things we can truly control. If we can leave the entitlement in the past and work to build our future instead, then we can truly have not just a liveable wage, but a wealthy life.
“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.”
I appreciate all of you. Feel free to share this with anyone looking to make more money. Let’s raise ourselves to the top because the bottom’s perennially too crowded.