A New Way to Work

by Victor Cheng

There’s a entirely new way to work today that’s being made possible in part by the Internet. Global borders have fallen. The ability to find customers and suppliers from around the world is easier than before. More so than at any time in history has it been possible to create a lifestyle-oriented business.

A New Way to Work – My Story

When I was a kid, I always assumed that career success meant making more money.

You worked hard, others noticed, you got promoted, you made more money – hence you were successful.

Several years ago, I came across two interesting pieces of information that shattered my way of thinking on this topic. Myth #1: Money Buys Happiness

In a recent study, researchers surveyed the members of the Forbes 400 – the list of the 400 richest people in the world.

The results were fascinating. The super-rich were not any happier than average person living in the US.

So when people say money doesn’t buy happiness, it turns out it’s true.

Myth #2: The More Money You Make, The More Free Time You Have

The second piece of research I came across was a chart showing the amount of free time someone has compared to their income level.

It turns out the more money you make, the LESS free time you have. It took me a moment to get my head around this idea… but it does make some sense.

If you’re unemployed and broke, you have all the free time in the world.

If you have an entry level job, you’re making a little money and working only 9 to 5.

If you have a managerial job, you’re making a salary (instead of getting paid hourly) and in all likelihood working more than 40 hours a week.

If you own your own business, the income potential is much higher and as many of us know from first hand experience, a 40 hour work week is often not the norm.

It turns out this pattern continues all the way to the highest levels of income.

The more money you make, the less free time you have.

A New Way to Work – Shatters the Traditional Success Paradigm

If money doesn’t buy happiness and money doesn’t even buy more free time, then what’s the point of focusing exclusively on making more money?

And if it’s pointless to focus only on making more money, then what else should one focus on instead?

After reflecting on this one for a while that I came up with the concept of the Lifestyle Business — which is really an entirely new way to work.

In a traditional business, the entrepreneur works like a dog and whatever time and energy she has left over is devoted to her personal life. And surprise, surprise, the entrepreneur has the rude awakening one day that she has no life!

The business first, personal life second approach results in petty much no personal life.

The idea that one day I will have the life I really want is an illusion. If you don’t live the life you want right NOW, the research suggests you probably never will even if you make a lot more money in the future.

In contrast, a Lifestyle Business is one that is designed around your ideal lifestyle. You choose the lifestyle you want and then you build your business around it.

Lifestyle first. Build business to support lifestyle second.

This is the new way to work.

Defining Your Own New Way to Work

So how exactly does one choose an ideal lifestyle. All you need to do is answer 5 simple questions:

1) WHO do you want to spend your time with (during work time and personal time)?

2) WHAT do you want to do for work (e.g., what role or activities do you prefer doing)?

3) WHERE do you want to live and work?

4) WHEN do you want to work? (What time of day? Which days of the week?)

5) HOW do you want to work? (Do you like in a certain way? Hate dressing up for work? Like working in spurts with long breaks?)

You simply answer these 5 questions and then build your business around these lifestyle choices.

The Transition to Working on Your Own Terms

For example, I first started using this approach in 2002 when my wife and I were expecting our first born.

At the time, I was an executive at a high tech company and was a road warrior — spending 30 weeks a year on the road.

Given my limited parenting skills, I felt like I had a much better chance of being a good parent if I was actually in town. As Woody Allen once said, 90% of success is showing up.

So I made the decision that I wanted to “show up” as a parent. So I decided to re-design my career to be able to work from home every day, all day long. I wanted to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my new baby girl.

I had decided on my WHO (my daughter) and my WHERE (work from home). I also decided my “WHEN” by scheduling my breaks to mirror my daughter’s awake hours and my work hours to coincide with her many nap and sleep hours.

In a very personal way, this was my idea of an ideal lifestyle — a lifestyle that virtually none of my colleagues and peers could pull off.

Even old colleagues and friends now making 7 figure a year incomes on Wall Street and as partners in major consulting firms could not “buy” this lifestyle.

I know some would consider the idea of spending all day with your kids to be torture (and on some days when they are acting up it is!). But it was always a big dream of mine.

You see I grew up in a household with parents that worked really hard, made their money, but were not around much physically or mentally when I was growing up.

They succeeded in the traditional sense of the term – yet I always felt something was missing in my childhood… something that money simply couldn’t buy.

So I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to my kids.

Making a Lifestyle Business Work

One of the problems of running a lifestyle business and living life on your own terms is that lack of support staff and infrastructure.

Having run a $20 million a year division of a public company, it was tough to go solo — no staff, no team, no help.

It was then that I discovered Elance.com – an online marketplace of freelance professionals to do project work.

Over the years, I’ve hired many to do administrative work, ghostwriting, graphic design, website development, and countless other projects.

Elance has been my “backoffice” on demand. And what has been a pleasant surprise to me is how many of the people I’ve hired on Elance share surprisingly similar values around the Lifestyle Business.

I remember I hired this one writer who was phenomenal. Weeks into a project I had the chance to speak to her by phone and realize that she was 85% deaf and couldn’t hear very well.

She used the combination of eLance to find clients and email to communicate with them to find her own new way to work–one where her disabilities were completely irrelevant.

Until I tried to call her by phone, I never knew she was almost entirely deaf–and since her writing was so good, I really didn’t care.

From the disabled, to stay-at-home moms, to caregivers to aging parents, many of the Elancers I’ve hired through the years had chosen to make a specific lifestyle a priority–and then used Elance to help make it happen.

And for me Elance has helped me build an entirely new career as a business coach, public speaker, and author of business books.

The Challenge

Here’s my challenge to you:

What’s the lifestyle you want to live? What part of that lifestyle can you lead right now? Not later… but now? Why not find you own personal “new way to work”?

You may not be able to get everything you want lifestyle-wise immediately, but if you start making progress today you’re much more likely to get there than waiting to some time in the future.

Life is for living. It is not for waiting.

You only live once. Make it count. Find your own new way to work and make it happen now.

Comments

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia Dunams September 25, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Victor you hit the nail on the head. When you choose the lifestyle you want, and visualize it will happen, then all kinds of opportunities spring forth. My business is gangbusters now, because of your business coaching. Thank you!

I really like the way you think – it gets me jazzed!

Lalitha Brahma November 9, 2009 at 5:18 PM

Love this timely article. A “must read” for every one especially when we tend to focus on gloom and doom. I totally believe in building my business around my life purpose and lifestyle. Elance has helped me to some extent and now I am motivated to use their services more and more. Thanks.

Victor Cheng November 10, 2009 at 10:48 PM

@Lalitha Brahma:
Lalitha – glad you like the piece and you’re welcome.

Peter Turla June 20, 2013 at 8:50 AM

As I read your fine article I’m reminded of an old Lily Tomlin joke:
“If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

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