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“I get paid by bringing value to the market place.”—Jim Rohn

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This is one of my favorite quotes from my mentor Jim Rohn.  Basically, you are paid based upon the value you provide.  If you want to make more money, you have to provide more value to people.  Well, the value is definitely the wildcard here.  You may think, “I am valuable.”  This may be true, in the eyes of your spouse, mother, father, brother, sister or God.  But are you valuable to the general population? 

Value Is Not Black And White

Value is also ridiculously dependent on the times, the market, and opportunities.  For example, how valuable is it to create YouTube videos about games you play on Xbox or PlayStation?  Well, some people have made a lot of money by creating YouTube videos of themselves, playing video games, and commenting on them.  Is it valuable to shovel driveways of snow for a living?  You can make some money when it snows and people need to get out of their driveways, but it is not valuable in the summer.  The point here is that value is not always black and white.  You have to understand your audience, market, and their current needs. 

Teenage Me Thought He Knew

The first time I experienced differences in value was as a brand new college graduate.  I had received my Bachelor’s Degree in Rehabilitation Services and was seeking my first job.  Rehabilitation Services was not my first choice as a major.  It was a stepping stone to earning a Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy.  The starting salary in Physical Therapy was around $60,000 a year.  That would be a pretty good start, twice the salary teenage me was hoping for.

As a teenager, I would say, “Give me $30,000 a year and a Dodge Stratus, and I will be happy.”  That was my plan.  Well, I met my current wife in college, moved in together my Sophomore year, and fell in love.  When I finished my Bachelor’s Degree, I applied to the Physical Therapy program.  My grades were pretty good, with an average of like 3.4 out of 4.0 and I graduated Magna Cum Laude.  As I was awaiting word on acceptance to the program, my now fiancé and I started working summer jobs.  As we waited to hear back from the University, my fiancé started to share how she would like to move back home.  She wanted to be closer to her family, which was like two hours away.  Long story short, I never heard back from the University.  Instead of waiting any longer, we decided to move back home near her parents and get married.  As a side note…it is really odd to not hear back from the University regarding my application.  I don’t know if they lost my application or what, but no word from them resulted in me getting married and where I am today.  So I think it worked out pretty good. 

No, That’s Not A Typo, $17,000 A Year

I remember my father-n-law took me job hunting for my first job with my college degree.  We spent an entire day, driving around the city, handing out my resume anywhere rehabilitation services could be used.  Well, I finally landed my first job at an alcohol and drug counseling organization.  That is where I had my first experience, as an adult, of bringing value to the marketplace.  My skills with a four year degree was worth $17,000 a year.  No, that’s not a typo, $17,000 a year.  I also ended up getting a part time job working with individuals with mental health problems.  I worked that job 20 hours a week, which was worth $7,000 a year.  You may think, well, “that’s $24,000 a year fresh out of college, not far from your $30,000 a year goal.”  Well, that is true, but I was working 60 hours a week for it.  I found out quickly that I had to settle for a lot less than I wanted in life on that salary. 

You would think that helping people improve their lives, and even save a few through positive change, would be worth a lot of money.  According to the financial world, this is only true if you are some type of medical doctor or psychiatrist.  Although I believe counseling and social work is worth a lot more money, the world doesn’t place a high value, at least not monetarily, on that.  Let’s compare this with my lifelong buddy who went to college with me.  He studied Computer Sciences and graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree the same time I did.  His starting salary out of college was more than double mine.  Wait, that’s not fair!!!  How can he make more than twice what I made a year, working the typical 40 hours a week, just by typing on a keyboard?  I am helping rebuild lives.  Well, his job with the Department of Defense was much more valuable than mine trying to convince someone to not drink alcohol any more.  This was a wake up call. 

I Will Do My Best

Then I thought, “I am young and need experience…I will do my best and grow my salary.”  After about three years, I was able to move my salary a little, still working two jobs at 60 hours a week.  I decided I needed to make a change.  I spoke with my current manager at the alcohol and drug counseling job and shared with him my financial concerns.    I asked him what I needed to do to really make good money in this field.  He said that it was very tough to make a big salary in the field and that if I wanted to make really good money I needed a job in computers.  Well, that was a blow.  I had just spent 7-8 years building my education, learning and working in the field, and now I have to study something completely new to me if I wanted to make really good money??? 

I Felt Defeated

Somewhat defeated, I went home and decided I would call my good buddy at the Department of Defense.  I had spoken to him many times over the years.  He told me he loved his job, was excited to go to work every day, and his salary was growing nicely.  Me…I showed up to work every Monday, literally ready to cry.  The other days of the week were not that bad, and Fridays were great.  But Monday’s were very depressing.  A week full of listening to people’s troubles and trying to convince them to avoid alcohol and drugs, was not going to provide the money I needed for the life I wanted. Listening to people, on probation or parole, deny their alcohol and/or drug problems was finally getting to me.  I had to make a change.  

“Get A Computer And Install Linux”

I told my buddy my story and asked him what I needed to do to “learn computers.”  He gave me the best career advice I had ever received, ”Get a computer and install Linux.”  And that is what I did.  I worked both my jobs each day, would come home around 9pm at night and go on my new computer until  midnight.  I worked hard, learned everything I could, and came across a great opportunity working with computers.   All I had to do was go through a paid training program for eight weeks.  After that, I could be working in computers with a starting salary of equivalent to what I was making working 60 hours a week.  I’ll take it. 

Teenage Me Could Have Never Dreamed

Over the years I have worked hard and have even went back to school.  I have earned a second Bachelor’s Degree, in Information Sciences, and a Master’s Degree in Network Security.  I ended up working about 60-70 hours a week over the years, because I loved the field and I was growing immensely.  I added a ton of value to my company and was rewarded highly for it. Now, over 20 years later, I work for myself in my own software company.  My current salary is higher than the teenage me could have ever dreamed, and I love what I do. 

Final Thoughts

I learned the hard way about bringing value to the market place.  Teenage me should have done his research.  If you are not making the money you want to make today, it is not too late.  Do your research, find out where you can bring value to a lot of people and go after it.  You can still achieve many things and change your livelihood.  You just have to understand and remember, “I get paid by bringing value to the market place.”  Then find where you can provide that value!!!

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