Meaningful Work

meaningful work--unschooling style
So much good happens when we work hard and work with others. From Amy Bradstreet’s Flickr photostream.

I don’t have answers to all business problems, but I thought I would share about an area of life I see often and have had experience with. The term “Failure to Launch” is a recurring theme for many young men in particular who are not going out and making things happen.

I have given talks to young people in college and spoken to many parents on the topic. There is an entitlement disease that has infected our society, specifically in the relationship between parents and their kids.

Although it is hard to admit, ultimately, this struggle of “failing to launch” stems from fear and laziness. The young person lacks confidence and gumption to go out into the marketplace and work hard to provide for themselves, much less a family. It’s scary. They are afraid of failure.

In the most amazing situations, I see perfectly healthy twenty-somethings that hold up a cardboard sign at stoplights begging rather than working. It’s astounding that it even works. They are physically able to work and there are plenty of minimum wage jobs out there which they can put their time into.

But, I digress. I am not a psychologist and cannot explore the depths of the complex issues here. But I do know that it is a problem, and I see a path to solving the problem from my own experience working with people over the years.

Start Something

I have seen many people try this idea. I have stories of people thanking me years later for helping them on the journey. Fundamentally, it is about getting out of therapy and a downward spiral of emotion and getting focused on doing meaningful work.

I think work is heavily tied to our identities and working hard helps to solve a lot of problems. If we can bring value to others and get recognized for it in the form of compensation, it is an immense confidence boost.

Many people are on the outside looking in. This also goes for people in the corporate world who have been used to spending house money and are unfamiliar with the risk and freedom of entrepreneurship. Others are in volunteer or non-profit circumstances where their specific work is not always tied to a monetary deliverable.

The closer one can tie their actual work and ingenuity to a reward, the more confidence and energy I see. If money comes from a derivative method – allowances, kickbacks, paychecks, handouts – then that connection between personal effort and reward are lost or fuzzy. In a way, it erodes a sense of personal accomplishment so important to our self esteem, motivation and drive.

Entrepreneurship is the closest tie between work and compensation. There has never been an easier time to become an entrepreneur. The internet has changed everything to make access to resources, information and customers easy. Of course you have to know what the heck you are doing. If you don’t know what you are doing, it is risk, for sure.

But learning how to go down the journey and start a business and failing forward with determination builds something inside those that truly try. And it stops the dysfunction of rewards without risk or work.

How To Do It

I realize I am being direct. I get paid to tell people the truth and not sugarcoat it. So, I have grown accustomed to the style. The bigger pain in my mind is if you are lying to yourself, or others are lying to you and the problem perpetuates without resolution. It’s a long, slow slog that is expensive in time and money.

Every day that goes by is an opportunity to build something and get in the game of entrepreneurship.

If you are a parent, then how about starting a business and hire your kid. Over time, help them start their own business or earn ownership rights to your business. Both of you will learn, grow and relate to each other better.

If you are a corporate employee who feels stuck, how about getting going with your 41st hour and invest in yourself. Commit ten hours a week to building something.

The startup costs for a professional services business can range between $1K-$4K depending on what you want to do. However, you will be building an asset that can produce revenue over time rather than simply spending money on cost.

Start by getting a name, an entity and a bank account. Then figure out who you want to work with and how much money they can spend with you. Then go and make a service that is world-class and get your first customer.

What I Have Seen

I have seen a father and son working on a business together as boss and employee after the kid had no job for eight months after college. Their relationship changed for the better in many ways as they were under the gun trying to figure out problems together, making money and meeting deadlines for customers.

I have seen an unemployed corporate type learn how to hunt again and make their first dollars off of consulting contracts. It did a lot for his confidence after months of unemployment.

I have seen young people who did not have a clue on how the marketplace works get out there and learn how to build systems and get paid. Their pie in the sky mentality got grounded quickly with real-life interactions and problems that business people face every day.

What’s Stopping You?

The way I see it, whatever situation you find yourself in will continue unless you stop the tape and take a look at it. If you rewrite the script and head things down a different direction, then things will change all around. They have to.

If you are bleeding cash, then put it to an asset that makes money rather than into pure liabilities that have no return.

If you want a better relationship with your kid or yourself, take some risk together and work together. That creates a whole set of rich experiences that can become opportunities for making a stronger relationship.

I don’t know every situation. My point is that connecting yourself or someone else to meaningful work, especially via entrepreneurship, is a powerful way of changing things up for the better.

For me, I have walked this journey via joint ventures with people because I have the know how to reduce the costs of failure involved with starting or growing a business. You might want to consider that path if you want to increase your chances for success and reduce risk.

Consider the script you are in and what it could mean to change it up.

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