What is the Most Direct Way to Make Money? [Letter#16]

There are many ways to make money as an entrepreneur (in addition to being an employee trading hours for a paycheck). Have you ever thought about the most direct way to make money as an individual (legally that is)?

There is a way to make money where you don't need to do marketing or sales. You don’t need to build an audience. You don’t have to be famous or influential. You don't trade hours with freelance/contract work. It does not involve building a product. And it doesn't even involve starting a business. The most direct way to make money is investing in another business.

Notice I did not say ‘the easiest’ or 'the fastest' way to make money because investing is none of those. Nor did I say ‘the best way’ to make money because that depends on who you are. However it is true that if you had invested $50,000 in Tesla a few months ago, for example, your investment would be doubled. You would have made $50,000 and that's enough money to live on for at least a year in most parts of the world. There are other examples of one-off investment in selected businesses where a similar return is possible.

There are two problems with this though: #1 It requires that you already have money in the first place. That you have spare $50,000 to invest. Because if you had invested only $5000 then your return would have been $5000 also. More importantly #2. Investing (in individual stocks) requires you to spend time making decisions regularly. Because investing is not only about deciding what to buy, it's also about deciding when to sell. Or when to buy more and when to do nothing or when to buy something else. This requires spending time and effort on those decisions. The other way your time will be spent when you invest is keeping up with news about the company.

So unless you want to spend your time getting good at these decisions and keeping up with news, investing is not the best way for you to make money. (And if you're a maker/builder at heart it's not a very satisfying to make money in this abstract way, it seems)

Investing is just one example. There are many things we can choose to spend our time on to earn money. We can create online courses, we can start a paid community, we can create subscription software (SaaS) products. We can write books and create other info products, we can sell physical products. For any X above the ultimate question is do you care enough about X to spend all of your working time getting good at that X?

When committing to a path, it helps to think through what that implies in terms of how you'll be spending your time.

Knowing that if you decide to launch a subscription software product, you will be spending your time adding features, debugging code, communicating with users, providing support. And if you decide to start an online community, you will be spending your time organizing events, keeping track of members, connecting members and responding messages or emails from the community forums.

Not both of these will appeal equally to the same person. Choosing one path, implies choosing to spend our time on specific activities. I recently saw an offer from a popular paid community for entrepreneurs. The offer was to sign-up and get 1000(!) business ideas. There was an example of someone making millions by capitalizing on an idea about the growing trend of...indoor plants. And I thought to myself "wow I've never noticed but there is likely a trend here given how many indoor plants I've seen around offices". Followed by a more important thought "do I care about indoor plants? No."

It is a privilege to get to spend our time doing something that we care enough (watch this! 3 min Seth Godin talk) about and earn a living at the same time. For those of us who have the luxury to choose, our quality of life improves when we choose to earn money by spending our time on getting good at the thing we care enough about.

Monthly Habit Review and Planning

Reviewing January Habits:

Habit #1 Recording - my goal with this was to just start, and hopefully gradually suck less at it. The result - I still suck but I actually feel OK with sucking. Decision - renewing this habit for 30 more day.

Habit #2 Reading to study writing style - my goal with this was to implement advice I had read in multiple books. Result - it worked at the beginning, but it was difficult to find things to read specifically for this exercise. Decision - will make this an implicit habit instead of an explicit one. So simply noticing, in my day to day reading, when a piece of writing appeals to me. Will take time to think about why.

Habit #3 Doodling/Sketching - the goal was do something just for fun. Result - It was fun. I ended up doing this for longer than the minimum 5 minutes. Decision - I will keep doing this when I feel like it, though won't track it.

Planning February Habits:

I’ve done my pre-thinking and I am ready to commit to the below habits for the next 30 (actually 28) days!

  1. Recording - renewing this habit from last month. Committing to record daily, and publish two short videos (2 min) per week.
  2. Mental exercise - time to start this up again after taking a break. I will do 10 minutes every weekday. (read about and experiment with different styles “meditation”)
  3. Writing/creating hour - I will spend the first hour of the morning every week day writing or coding.

Unofficial habit - when I see work that I like and find useful, compliment its builder/creator somehow. This is something I’ve thought about doing many times but never put into action. I haven’t yet figured out all the details to make this an official habit but I’m going to make an effort to provide specific positive feedback to one entrepreneur per week.

That’s all for this one! Are your working on building a new habit, how is it going?

Until next time,


P.S. Here is my “proof” for habit #3 the daily doodling/sketching

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