There are three keys to making money in the 21st century. 50 years ago—even 20 years ago—you could get by with one or two of these keys, but things are different now.
Elsewhere on SeedTime, we have articles on how to find at-home jobs, side hustles, and other kinds of jobs that are great if you already work but need extra cash. These are jobs that don’t require high-level skills but still pay decently.
However, those kinds of jobs are not generally suitable for building a career with a viable long-term income.
Below, we will show you what it takes to earn an income that can sustain itself for years and years to come.
1. An education.
Though a college degree may be considered less valuable than it was 50 years ago, education is just as relevant as it has ever been. A college degree is just one form of education, but there are many other ways you can educate yourself.
If you’re anything like me, you might not have enjoyed school. You might not associate learning with fun. But the reality is this: most of us like learning. We just like learning about things we want to learn about.
I loved learning how to throw a curve ball and strike somebody out. I love learning a song on guitar even if I have to struggle with it for weeks. I’ve even enjoyed learning how to beat my buddies at a particular video game.
I was developing skills that may or may not have been valuable at the time, but in today’s economy, almost every skill has some sort of income-earning opportunity associated with it.
For example, our parents told us, “No one will ever earn money playing video games. They’re only making you dumb!” Now, some gamers make hundreds of thousands of dollars playing games. Go figure!
But even in this funny example, I assure you that you’re not going to find many gamers who haven’t spent time learning and really excelling in developing their skills at the game they’re playing. It’s like that with everything.
Getting an education—learning and developing your craft—is one of the most important things you can do.
2. Your passion and calling.
Passion and calling are almost always connected. It isn’t often that God calls someone to do something they’re not excited or passionate about. The truth is He’s gifted each one of us, whether we realize it or not. There are things we’re good at as well as things we’re terrible at! That’s the way that it’s supposed to be.
But if you’re in a position doing a job that falls outside your natural gifting, it can be really, really demoralizing.
The reality is, if you don’t enjoy your job — if it doesn’t light your fire a little bit — you’re probably not getting paid very well because the people who tend to excel in their fields, and continue growing and moving up, are the ones who are passionate about what they’re doing.
However, to work while feeling like you’re not actually working — that’s what we should be shooting for.
If you already know what you’re passionate about, run toward your calling. Don’t run away thinking that you can’t make money with it. Whether it’s organic gardening, knitting, analyzing numbers, getting to know people, shopping for clothes, or really anything else you can name, there’s probably someone making a comfortable living from that same passion.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. There may not be a well-worn path directing you where to go or how to get there. But to be in a job you’re NOT passionate about—that’s not a good situation!
On the other hand, I think all of us have seen others who excel at their work. Those people are often doing what they believe they’re called to do and are passionate about.
3. Find where the demand is.
Finding out if there’s a demand for your skill is absolutely critical to success in the next decade. For example, if you’re passionate about repairing DVD players right now, no matter how skilled you are at that particular work, the demand for DVD players is all but dried up.
In 1853, there was a 24-year-old who saw people heading out to California during the gold rush, each one trying to strike it rich by panning for gold.
Instead of being like 99% of miners who ended up coming back home broke, this entrepreneurial 24-year-old decided he was going to look for the demand. He realized all these miners were tearing up their pants. He created more durable trousers for all these miners to wear.
Levi Strauss didn’t strike it rich in the mines, but he started a business that took off and worked well. His invention—blue jeans—is more popular than ever.
Look for where your skills and passion intersect with current demand.
The Three Keys in Action
My brother-in-law is a luthier. That means he builds guitars, but not just any guitars. He builds super high-end custom guitars that cost a whole lot of money. He is one of the best in the world at what he does, and he’s been doing it for close to 20 years.
He’s had the first two keys taken care of for a long time. He educated himself and became skilled at his craft. He sought out other master luthiers and learned from them as he continued to refine his craft. And he’s been nothing but insanely passionate about building great guitars as long as I’ve ever known him.
But over the last five to seven years, the high-end guitar market has changed, and the demand for his kind of guitars has dropped considerably.
Even though his guitars sell for over $20,000 a piece, the profit margins are small. Since he could only sell a few of them every year, it became really tough to make a living. A few years ago, however, he discovered there was a demand for something he had overlooked, something that worked with his gifts, his passions, and his skillset.
It dawned on him he’d been getting emails over and over again from beginning guitar makers, all asking him for tips. To supplement his income, he created an online course. Now, he’s teaching new luthiers how to build guitars, sharing his tips and tricks and strategies with students all over the world.
His course has exploded in popularity, becoming his primary source of income.
So, if we look at the three keys, he checks all the boxes:
- He invested in his education and skills.
- He worked inside his passion and calling.
- He looked for where the demand was the greatest.
When you get all three of these keys working together at the same time, you’ll be on a more sure path to success in 2020 and beyond.
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What have you discovered about making money in the new millennium? Leave a comment below so we can learn from you.
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