If You Produce Nothing How Can You Expect To Make Any Money?

Produce nothing? Have a double bagel

Produce nothing? Have a double bagel

Every time I walk into a coffee shop, I see guys fiendishly coding on their laptops. Although the chances are slim to ever make it big as an entrepreneur, thousands of predominantly 20-something year old men try their luck anyway. Huge respect for anybody who tries.

100% of the non-family tenant applicants for my previous house were males in tech, internet, finance, or consulting. No wonder why fellas complain that San Francisco is turning into a sausage town. At the same time, women also complain there are no good men in San Francisco either. Such a conundrum!

The title of this post may seem obvious, but I don’t think it’s obvious for the folks who 1) complain on the bus why their life sucks, 2) complain on message boards why what someone else wrote is terrible, or 3) complain on here why it’s too hard to save money or spend less. There has to be action, otherwise you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

Every single company we know of today started with someone who had a vision and a determination to produce something new. If you’re working 40 hours a week or less and wondering why you aren’t getting ahead, you might as well move to Europe where life is good and everybody makes roughly the same. A 40 hour work-week is an arbitrary amount to work given we have 168 hours a week.

THOUGHTS ON BEING MORE PRODUCTIVE

Device Elimination

Do you own a iPad or a tablet? Congratulations. You are a consumer.

Do you own a laptop that you lug everywhere you go? Congratulations. You are likely a producer.

I’ve typed 1,500 word posts on my iPhone before, but those are rare occasions when I’m bored out of my mind on a 10+ hour flight. I love my smartphone, but it’s really a communications device meant for fun (and approving all your comments on FS). Let’s classify a smartphone as a necessity that can be used for both consumption and production.

If you want to make more money by becoming a producer, the first thing you should do is get rid of your tablet or never consider buying one in the first place. Not only will you save time, you’ll save money as well.

Besides the internet, the biggest culprit of time waste is watching TV. Just look at the correlation between the amount of television watched and income (chart below). 20% of people who make under $20,000 a year watch 5+ hours of TV a day. More than 50% of people who make under $40,000 a year watch more than 3 hours of TV a day. Sitting on the sofa for 3-5 hours can’t be too healthy. We sure as heck know it’s not productive.

I’m guilty of watching too much TV during major sporting events like the World Cup, the NBA playoffs, and whenever the 49ers play. Spending three hours watching a football game is an eternity, which is why I have a DVR to skip through all commercials, half-time and usually the first half to compress the game into one hour. I get in as many sets of sit-ups and pushups as possible to at least feel a little productive. You should check out my one-pack!

TV Viewing And Income Correlation Chart

TV Viewing And Income Correlation Chart

Time Hacking

Every hour you consume is one less hour you can produce. Remember this basic tenet. If you add up the hours of consumption over a course of a year, you will be at a massive disadvantage compared to the person who produces during the same time. Imagine what you can create in 365 hours, 730 hours, or 1,095 hours. Absolute magic I tell you.

Bunching of tasks is huge when it comes to being more efficient with your time. I have a habit of always checking my spam folder every hour to release legitimate comments on this site because I feel bad when readers leave a thoughtful comment that doesn’t come through. However, if I would just check once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening I’d probably save at least 200 key strokes and an hour of time given there is so much spam I’ve got to wade through.

Try bunching your e-mail checking to no more than three times a day. It’s going to be hard at first, but you will be less stressed and save a lot of time in the process. You’ll probably also lower your chances of getting into a car accident because you won’t be using your phone while driving as much. I saw a woman mow over a 12 year old boy because she was on her phone driving last year. It was a tragic site.

If you can hack your time by getting up a couple hours before everybody else, go to lunch an hour before or after everybody else, and leave work an hour before or after everybody else, I am absolutely positive you are going to be much more productive, and much happier too. There is nobody to distract you from work at 5:30am. The are no coffee lines at Starbucks at 6am. Traffic doesn’t start before 7am or after 8pm. Why make yourself miserable by following the herd who don’t have the willpower to change?

If you can alter your time just even an hour differently than the majority of people, you will get so much farther. Make it a game. If you are on the West Coast, try waking up before your East Coast colleagues and friends and stay up after them.

Job Role

Are you on the front end or on the back end? Front end jobs are generally client facing. These jobs are vital for organizations to grow their revenue and profits. This is why star sales people are often the most well paid. I knew several sales people who made much more than their non-producing managers. If you are still in college, or you are looking to change careers, search for jobs that are on the front end if you want to make more money. Front end jobs include: consulting, big law, medicine, banking, financial advisory, consulting, entrepreneurship, and sales.

Back end jobs are critical to any organization as well. Someone has to do the accounting, make sure all operations are running smoothly, manage the workforce, and so on. The only problem with back end jobs is that it’s harder to get rich because your work is supporting the organization and doesn’t involve bringing in more business. Back end jobs are considered cost centers that are first to be cut during slower periods.

Back end jobs can turn into front end jobs if you want. For example, you can move from a cushy in-house lawyer job with a set salary to working at a big law firm like Sullivan & Cromwell with a variable compensation structure . You’ll be paid on the business you bring in and the cases you win. Another example is going from IT support to joining or opening up your own IT consulting practice. The idea is to search for jobs where you have the ability to bring in business.

I’m currently in the marketing department of a fintech company. The marketing department can be considered a cost center, or it can be considered a fantastic lead generator. I view marketing as a vital part of any organization that helps build a company’s brand, and bring in business. But within the marketing department there are various front-end and back-end roles as well. For example, I am a producer of original content for my company. We then have a couple people who spend money marketing the content I’ve created and analyzing the content. What can’t happen without the other?

Desirability Rating

You can produce a thousand balls of crumpled paper, but you won’t get rich unless you make it a desirable piece of art. The time you spend producing should ideally be spent on something that’s in high demand, like a service or product. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to brainstorm for hours or days before starting your production routine. Ask as many people as possible what they think about your idea, and test out your prototype on your friends. Be open to criticism so you can get better.

Alternatively, you can see what is already working and try and build a better mouse trap. I’ve been a big fan of personal finance and lifestyle blogs for the past seven years until I finally decided to launch one of my own in 2009. I thought I could lend a different perspective as someone who went to business school and worked in finance for 13 years. I love writing and I knew I had the tenacity to keep on writing no matter how busy or slow things got. I didn’t invent the personal finance blog, but I’ve found my own small slice of success with ~500,000 visitors a month.

Whatever you produce, keep on producing so long as there’s strong demand. When things start to fade, or if nothing is happening, then it’s imperative to change what you produce. We call this “pivoting.” Always be testing as an entrepreneur.

As an employee, it’s important to envision a desirability ladder and be honest about which rung you’re currently on. If a fluffy panda bear knocked you out of commission tomorrow, would your department or company function absolutely fine without you? If so, then you are on the bottom rung of the desirability ladder. Very few companies allow for the “Superstar” model anymore given the lack of loyalty employees show to corporates nowadays (for good reason). But everyone knows some individuals are more vital to an organization than others. Position yourself with a skillset or project that makes you imperative.

WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING ON PRODUCING TODAY?

If producing is the key way to making money, lazy people who blame the world for their problems will never make money unless they get extremely lucky. Nobody is going to do anything for you for very long because everybody has their own goals to achieve.

The parallels to spending (consuming) and saving (producing) are very close. Are you going to spend time working on your finances? Or are you going to just hope everything will just turn out OK in the end?

Building wealth takes action. Nobody is just going to hand you great riches. I took action on my finances back in 2012 by signing up with Personal Capital to track my cash flow, run my investment portfolios through their free Portfolio Fee Analyzer tool to save me $1,700 a year in investment fees I had no idea I was paying, and stay on top of my net worth in order to optimize my finances. There are lots of tools online to help you manage your finances for free. I just think Personal Capital is the best free financial tool with mobile apps to help manage your finances on the go.

Create something the world needs. Save your money aggressively and track where it all goes. You’ll be surprised how easily money can disappear if you aren’t on top of things!

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. SP says

    Hmm, couldn’t another argument for the TV viewing habits of people making under $20K a year be that they can’t afford other forms of leisure entertainment?

    I’m not saying watching TV is productive–but you can pay to go out and do other things that are equally unproductive (like eat fattening food or watching live sports games) when you have more money. I think a fair case could be made that a decent portion of people with higher incomes spend more time *out* of the house being unproductive.

    • says

      Here’s a quote on productivity from Bill Gates I’ve been parading about recently: “I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.”

      I don’t think the form of leisure consumption matters as much as recognizing that leisure itself is more expensive the younger you are. Watching hours of TV in your youth (or, as Sam said – banging away on a tablet instead of coding on a laptop – which is the minimum for coding compared to a nice keyboard on a desktop) is more expensive than watching hours of TV in your forties.

    • says

      I completely agree. But on the other hand, there are far too many variables to measure here. $50,000 in Atlanta gets you much further than $100,000 in NYC does. These numbers would mean more by region, I doubt that is available though.

      But to your original point, I for one, will go watch live sports quite frequently, otherwise I’ll be on the couch watching the same 3 hour game! If I’m not at the game, then I’m at a sports bar with friends – very rarely will I watch my teams (football) play from the comfort of my couch.

      Jay

  2. says

    Complainers never win because they are consumed with complaining. I think most people pick the path of least resistance when it comes to earning money. I think it is also why we can become complacent too. You may not be satisfied with your earnings, but the complainers will just complain. I look for situations where I can produce when others do not work. It may be the stock market, summer school or class coverage (extra pay), income property (previously) and some new areas. According to the retirement calculators, I am way ahead, but I don’t want to rely on a calculator.

  3. says

    Being self employed my entire life, I totally agree with you that time management is the key to a lot of stuff in life. If you can’t get a handle on time-management, good luck mastering money-management.

    Life’s full of tradeoffs and the biggie is the tradeoff of time for money. When we’re young, invincible and our time horizon is way out in the distance, the more precedence we tend to give to the money side of the equation. But as we get older and we see time rolling by faster and faster we begin to realize that although we can always bring in more coin, we can’t corral any more time. Eventually we’ll get to point where we start to ponder our significance, and knowing that forging of some kind of worthwhile legacy requires a combination of time and money, hopefully we’ll be able to look back and know that we have mostly allocated correctly between the two throughout our lives.

    • says

      “If you can’t get a handle on time-management, good luck mastering money-management.”

      Totally agree.

      I’ve felt the speed of time accelerate. There is no way in hell I will purposefully ever do anything again that makes me stressed or unhappy for money.

  4. says

    I think this boils down to mentality. Like krantcents mentioned above, people pick the easiest road. Instead of sitting by the pool drinking beers right now, I’m working two jobs (day job and new blog) by choice, not necessity. It’s much easier to grab a few beers from the fridge and head out to the pool obviously, but what would I be achieving by doing that? The short answer is nothing. The long answer factors in opportunity costs. I’m sure this simple question alone can spawn a 10 book series: “What could I be doing to better myself?” If you ask yourself that when weighing options, you’ll train yourself to view decisions in a different light and hopefully make some positive changes.

    Also, Sam, I hardly think ~500k visitors a month is “small!”

    -Jay

    • rob Munich says

      remember it’s worker smarter not harder that counts, Sam worked hard and retired young. Something I wish I had known in my 30′s

    • says

      Good job hustling Jay! If you can stick with both activities for 3 years I’m sure you’ll be rewarded.

      500k a month is just a drop in the Internet ocean. But it’s better than a cracked dessert wasteland.

    • WorkingOnIT says

      “It’s much easier to grab a few beers from the fridge and head out to the pool obviously, but what would I be achieving by doing that? The short answer is nothing. ”

      What’s ironic about this statement is a big part of my ambition to become financially free is so that I can spend a few hours every day sitting by the pool (first I have to afford a pool) enjoying a few beers doing absolutely nothing and revel in the present moment.

      Life is funny that way that we have to work hard to eventually not have to work hard…like doing the thing you hate the most in order to not have to do the thing you hate the most (mind blown).

      Obviously everyone’s ambitions are different, some people seem to enjoy spending countless hours in front of a computer screen or in a book at work…but I can somewhat relate to *Cb says*’s post below… sometimes you just have to enjoy life and not worry so much about how much you’re producing… time is more precious than money. However, I will agree that if one spends a lot of their time complaining about being broke and doing nothing about it, then there’s some personal accountability issues there for sure.

      • says

        One thing I’ll tell you post leaving corporate America is that once you get to lounge near the pool every day, it SOON becomes boring as hell.

        I don’t think most people can just chill for longer than 2 months, even with a loving person by their side.

    • getagrip says

      While off from college the last few summers my one child was doing lifeguard duty at a small community pool. While some days were busy, most summer days were filled with nothing to do for at least half if not the full day as no one was at the pool. I tried to encourage them to pick up a remote college class where they could do the reading during their down time and papers at home a night or two a week. No luck. In the end I got them reading some financial and business books mixed in with my fantasy, science fiction, and mystery collection. At least it wasn’t a total waste and they saw the value of getting some information among the entertainment.

      On the flip side, I have a friend who became a millionaire, but part of the problem was he got to a point where everything he did had to have a focus on business, from where and who he went to dinner with to power lunches to where he chose to go on “vacation”. Every action was about contacts, networking, and discussing business so since I wasn’t part of that business we drifted apart and though we manage to keep in contact and occasionally see each other it’s not like it was before that because his drive.

      So you still need a balance and need to keep it smart. There may be an occassional day that it is worth it to grab a beer and spend an afternoon at the pool with no agenda. The problem is when most of your days are nothing but no agenda.

  5. Maverick says

    Oh, and if you are in the business of dealing with data (as a producer), then you need to be able to correctly analyze the data and turn your findings into something ACTIONABLE!

    • says

      True. Although there can be no analysis without data.

      One of the things I’ve found as an Indy producer is that common sense analysis actually goes a long way.

      Analytics today is about optimizing at the margin.

  6. Ace says

    I think you have an interesting argument. I’m not sure about the correlation of television consumption?

    Well…. I can say that very few of my days are unproductive. If I’m not directly producing, I’m usually doing some kind of research. I own a TV; but it’s at best background noise. I don’t have cable (I guess that makes me weird).

    In regards to devices…… I don’t code….. But I access the internet frequently for research. I prefer iPads. Very portable, easy to use, and reliable. I have PCs, but only use them when necessary (besides, Apple products are like a thousand times better).

    • says

      The point is that every hour you watch TV is every hour you don’t produce. TV is a distraction that can suck you in. 5 hours of TV is mind numbing.

      But having a TV is a nice low cost entertainment option. It’s about moderation like everything.

      • Ace says

        TV is certainly a low cost entertainment option; assuming you don’t have a giant cable bill every month.

        Maybe I have ADD, because I find it difficult to really pay much attention to television for very long. Anyway…… More disturbing is parking young kids in front of the TV. Kids need to be outside playing ball, riding bikes, etc. It’s no wonder we have an obesity problem!

  7. says

    Great article Sam. I read all of your posts, though this is the first time I’ve commented.

    I think personality type predisposes some people to be producers and others to be consumers. Though everyone has the potential to produce and consume, we all land closer to one side of the spectrum. Also, some people will always choose to work the back end of whatever they do, it’s what they are good at, and we need those people.

    People in sales will almost always make more than technicians and foremen. I own a roofing business in Alabama, and our employees who produce(sell jobs) always warrant more pay than technicians. We need both front and back end employees to run the business, but without lead generation nobody has work.

    - Billy

  8. Ricky says

    The best statistic on that graph is the under $40k and > 5 hours of TV use. After that, the statistics appear to be less useful.

    For instance, ~62% that make less than $150k a year watch at least 2 hours a day.

    >50% of people that make

    We’re so consumeristic that we have blogs that inspire ideas that lead to early retirement. In effect, we are saving up so that we can “consume” time indefinitely. And its only because we live in such a consumeristic society that we ever afford the ability to do so since the standard of living is so high.

    I guess my point is that its not really an argument about consuming because we are going to consume no matter what…The frugal person still consumes time and food while the extravagant spender buys round trip flights to Paris. I feel like this is an extension for your other blog post which asks why people work less than 40 hours and complain. That is to say, once you’ve “made it” you can pretty well do what you want whether it be watch TV or consistently book rooms at The Shard in London.

    But yes – we should all definitely consume less and produce more in the beginning.

    • Ricky says

      I meant to say “>50% of people making over $150k a year watch at least 2 hours per day”. That is a pretty staggering statistic in itself.

  9. Austin says

    Good article. I feel similar to this. I struggle with people who just want to put on baseball and stare. I didn’t have TV for three years and only kind of missed NCAA football/history & military channels. I am usually more interested in the markets, world events and business. But, this is a flaw on my well roundedness. A lot of my job is being a people person capable of bs’ing. Unfortunately, my disinterest in sports has given me a great disadvantage on what is otherwise a great equalizer/ice breaker. I am working on something on the side and may be interested in writing about it here.

    You probably find yourself doing a lot of the same tasks repeatedly in approving comments. A cron job or custom plugin could take care of a lot of that admin burden for next to no cost.

    • says

      Sports, definitely a segment you want to follow and get as much knowledge on in America! Watching 5 minutes of Sportcenter a day is probably worth it for people’s careers.

      Spam is an epidemic. 200 million spam messages a day is crazy. These guys need to be punished for wasting all our time.

  10. Thomas47 says

    In the survey, I wonder if they included online video as “TV”?
    I think there are people that might respond that they watch “little TV” because they are literally referring to a television device. Perhaps they aren’t considering time spent watching Netflix, YouTube, etc. on their non-TV devices, like phones, laptops, & tablets.

  11. Cb says

    So work a ton of hours to make a lot of money that you don’t use for consumption.

    In other words, do all that you can to avoid actually loving life. Sure, you win the dick measuring contest of having a big bank account. I’ll stick with being unproductive time hanging out with my kids, enjoying being able to leave work at 4, and pour myself a fine whiskey when I sit down to enjoy a good movie. Have fun not having fun

    • says

      Who says people who work hard and produce can’t love life?

      The government does make it tempting to just kick back and drink some single malt whiskey and smoke a Cohiba though. So I agree with you.

  12. says

    Hey! I use my iPad to blog :-) it’s a lot more discrete to take to work to use for that purpose.

    But I DO really agree with your note about shifting schedules around to avoid lines and traffic. At our last jobs, my husband and I could work basically whenever we wanted (and sometimes from home). We moved for the hub’s career, he asked in the interview about flex time and they said “oh yes, we do that”. He got here and the same person who said that tells him his hours are 8-5. No exceptions. This has been a huge shift for us – we never took lunch breaks before so we’d get off early and have more time to pursue our lives. Now we get up, get ready, head out on our long commute, work, come home, eat, clean up, and go to bed. Flexible work schedules (and short commutes) are necessities for über successful side hustles. Otherwise, you’ll just be burnt out in 3 months.

  13. says

    Great article Sam! I wrote articles on my iPhone as well! Usually when I am watching tv or the kids are watching a movie I will write out an article. Almost all of my articles are started and most are 70% done on my iPhone.

    To be an entrepreneur you have to plan and focus intently on your end goals. That usually gives you the steps and day to day tasks you need to do to reach those goals. Like you mentioned you any work 30 hours a week in the beginning and hope to succeed. It usually takes hard work in the beginning to build a business and then you can hire people to take the work load off. Hiring people also allows expansion more quickly and usually makes more money in the long run.

  14. BH says

    Great article. I agree with your thesis (and don’t own a tablet or watch tv). On the other hand, I recently changed career directions from a big law firm to a cushy in-house job, so I guess that means I’m on the back end, which isn’t great from a career perspective within the organization, but on the other hand, I’m learning a lot about a business I enjoy and now have time to pursue things that are good for my soul and focus on my own investments, so hopefully that wasn’t a bad decision. I’ve yet to regret it. Still, nobody wants to be in a dead-end job! I guess you have to look at it as a learning experience.

    • says

      It’s good to change sometime and learn something new and prevent burnout. Doesn’t mean you can’t change again.

      Perhaps use the extra time to work on something you like that might turn into something more!

  15. says

    So many informations I don’t know what to comment on!!! I like thinking of making myself useful to someone else. Wealthy people get that way usually because they have helped others. So you help people and get money in turn. Pretty sweet this capitalism stuff.

  16. says

    This reminds me of the Zero Product Theorem in math…it basically says 0 multiplied by any number is zero. To apply to this article to me means no matter how much potential and opportunities are in front of you…your product will only be multiplied by your effort. Zero effort….zero produce….even if the generous opportunities are in front of you.

    This isn’t to say everyone’s opportunities are equal…some people legitimately have to work harder or search deeper to find the opportunities….but there ARE opportunities and resources…and if you multiply that by some effort…you’ll generate something

  17. JayCeezy says

    Great book by Theodore Dalrymple, “Life At The Bottom” about the underclass in the UK. He is/was a medical and mental health professional who would visit homes of low/no-income households. He noted that “the telly was always on. Always. I would make a point to turn it off, so that the call would be more efficient and less distracted, and somehow within minutes, it was back on.”

    Another tidbit, part of India’s national birth-control strategy is to increase widespread television use and ownership.

    I haven’t had a television since 1992, and my life is better for it. I do love television, watch a few shows on DVD (and then again with the commentary) but the thing I do notice when I have it on in hotels or airports, etc. is that it increases my stress. Especially with the news channels, nothing new is reported all day yet the same stories are repeated with disturbing images and commentary. Planes missing, shot down, terrorists shooting missiles, missing children, carjacking, wildfires, angry political hearings that accomplish nothing but facetime for those trying to get re-elected, some sports figure DUI or wifebeating…ugh. None of it improves my life, but when it is on I just keep watching, clicking, flipping. No good. Any info I want/need I can get.

    There is also a recently released study that “watching TV after work makes you feel like a loser” (google it). Not exactly sure that correlation equals causation.:-)

    • says

      Good point about stress and the repetition of tradgedy.

      I’m in the middle of my house move and haven’t watched TV in 1 month.

      For the India comment. You saying people copulate less of they watch TV?

      • JayCeezy says

        “My wife and I prefer doggy-style. That way we can BOTH watch Letterman.” – Rick Reynolds

        re: India and anywhere else, yes, that is one result of watching a lot of television.

  18. Jason says

    At a certain point, like some other people have mentioned, being more productive does not necessarily mean that you personally need to spend more time on things. I think that’s the real secret.

    In fact, if you want to have any hope of scaling anything up, you will need to leverage others. It’s a lesson I’ve learned just with managing my own properties vs. using a management company.

    I’m actually now spending much less time and getting better returns just by letting go of the direct control of things. I get more of my time back and, most importantly, there’s fewer constraints on the size I can get to.

    The thing I’m running into now, though, is what to do with this time. I get restless, but taking on a serious business/moneymaking task doesn’t seem like the right thing. I think the trick is to find something that you enjoy, most importantly, but that doesn’t seem like “busy work”.

  19. says

    Wow, really interesting to see the salary to tv consumption chart! I’ve no idea how someone can watch that much tv in a day, especially american tv! Your shows are great.. but the advert breaks every 7 minutes would drive me nuts.. and all your commercials are so loud and in your face with ultra fast talking.

  20. says

    Very informative and motivating post. I’m a living example of that TV chart as a poor student I watched a lot of TV but now as a full time doc with a blog on the side, I hardly have time for TV at all. It really is amazing how much of a LIFE suck TV is.

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