Do you ever feel guilty for everything that you have and make?
Someone recently asked me if I felt guilty that I could charge so much money per hour as a consultant, and I could basically making in a month or two what some people make in a year on minimum wage.
I paused, and said: “No, why should I? I worked hard for it.”
This kind of answer surprised them I think, because I was being honest (a little too honest?), seemingly arrogant (I like ‘confident’ instead), and it was a rather harsh answer for a society that tends to try and put the guilt trip on those who make good money, and to not be so selfish with it.
(For the record, I don’t think I’m selfish with it. There are plenty of people who make the same amount of money but don’t donate any of it. I have some inkling of a conscience.)
I’ve already talked a bit about those who inherited their wealth rather than having worked for it here: Imagine if you were Born Rich (documentary) of heirs and heiresses, and Nietzsche had it right when he said ‘guilt is a useless emotion’.
MAKING GOOD MONEY IS ALL RELATIVE TO OTHERS
There’s always going to be someone else making more money (or less) than I, so it’s relative to my perception of how much I make.
That’s great news to me, because I can control what I feel and think, which lets me have a rosy, shiny attitude on my life, rather than a dark, grumpy grey one.
See, beside someone like Beyonce, who pulls in double my average salary in a day ($140K), I’d feel downright poor if I chose to feel poor.
(And she looks .. incredible to boot, with perfect hair and symmetrical features. Of course she does.)
It’s easy to think: It’s not fair. She has more than I do.
..until you realize what she did to get to that fame and stardom.
Example: I can’t imagine going on a crazy fad diet of just drinking cayenne-laced water with lemon and maple syrup just to lose weight — that is some serious dedication to your craft, albeit unrealistic and unhealthy.
If I was told to do that diet to keep my job, I’d find another job.
Seriously could you say no to foie gras!? Photograph I took of homemade stuff.
That’s the lazy and rather ridiculous way out, saying how people with more, should share it freely with people who haven’t done jack squat to earn any of it.
It also depends on who you end up socializing with that colours how you look at money.
I’ve never really felt guilty about making a lot of money, although I can understand (somewhat) the people who do feel like they don’t deserve it.
I MAKE MORE MONEY BECAUSE I TOOK THE RISKS WITHOUT A GUARANTEED REWARD
I started making that kind of cash at 26, because I did a few major things that no one else in my profession did at my age:
- Took the risk of not having a steady paycheque to become a freelancer
- Quit a very solid company only after having been there for a year or two
- Learned very quickly how to budget my irregular income as to not let it go to my head
Can others say the same? If you don’t take the risk, you can’t get the potential reward.
(Please don’t liken this to buying a lottery ticket so you can be in it to win it.
That’s not even close to what I’m referring to.)
A bit of luck was on my side because I quit at the right time, but luck is what you create for yourself, by putting yourself in front of a wide range of opportunities, and seeing what sticks.
I could have just as spectacularly failed with my little strategy, but that’s the whole point of risk versus reward.
WORKING HARD IS ALSO RELATIVE TO WHAT YOU DO
If I worked hard for it, I deserve it.
Maybe your idea of working hard, is that you have to be there at 5 a.m., work with only a short 10-minute break every hour or so (as dictated by your union), and then punch out at 3 p.m., free to go home, put your feet up and eat a can of beans, forgetting and putting aside the entire day you just had.
It’s more physical than mental.
You absolutely deserve every penny of that paycheque you got.
(Assuming it’s fair wages…)
Mine, is that I have to (as part of my job) basically put up with people for long hours, who don’t care about their jobs enough to do a good one.
I have to step in to fix it, cajole them into working properly and make sure that they can’t do weird (or illegal) things to sidestep putting in the effort, and screwing their colleagues around them who are expecting Result A, but get Result X2471 and end up creating a company snowball of crap that spreads everywhere like a disease.
It’s more mental than physical.
I have to try and convince everyone to do their jobs correctly for the sake of their colleagues, but I can’t be there, babysitting them for every minute of the day.
I always tell them I WILL be leaving at the end of the project, which means they can’t just say: Oops, sorry. I need you to come and fix this. Again.
I may not seem like I’m “working hard” because I’m not getting down and dirty in the furnaces and come out with a sore, aching back, covered in soot, but I am equally as (perhaps more) exhausted at the end of the day.
On top of it all, I am unable to switch my brain off after work because I’m trying to figure out how to solve the 10 problems I ran into this morning in an efficient manner without costing more money in the long-run, or making people’s workload heavier for no reason.
The physical job is in some ways, a lot easier, and dare I say that most people wouldn’t be able to handle the mental part of it, or would choose NOT to?
(Yeah, I said it.)
So I too, absolutely deserve EVERY penny of the paycheque I got.
SOME PEOPLE FEEL GUILTY BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS MADE FAR LESS
Another way that people choose to let themselves feel guilty is because they don’t know anyone else around them who makes that kind of money.
It’s a limiting world view.
My parents made near to nothing for most of their lives, working mostly at minimum wage, half the time.
They accepted that they weren’t good enough at that point in their lives to make more money (or were just downright lazy and delusional about winning the lottery.)
I too, have accepted that I have less of a net worth from the past 2 years because I didn’t work.
I’m not mad about the situation because I chose it for myself. The key is to choose these things, rather than have them chosen for you.
I am not my parents, and they are not me.
It’d be like comparing a raspberry to an orange. They’re two different things.
They couldn’t imagine quitting a steady job just to give something a shot, with a 50% chance that it would stick.
My mom almost cried and pleaded heavily upon hearing that I wanted to quit, but now she’s just mollified and proud that it worked out so well in the end, because I took the risk to do it.
She freely admits that the whole idea of quitting one’s steady job is the antithesis to how she has been raised to think about life and work. She didn’t get it then, but she does now.
Instead of being jealous, she’s thrilled.
OPPORTUNITIES ARE MISSED EVERYDAY
It’s also a question of opportunities you come across, and I don’t feel guilty because I tried to take every chance I had presented to me.
I took on some strange jobs for a kid, but as Steve Jobs would say, I connected the dots in hindsight:
- Paper route as a kid (then I corralled other kids into working as a group while I took a small cut)
- Selling virtual items for real cash on eBay (story coming up on this)
- Selling thrifted clothing but putting in the hours to present it well on eBay
- Freelanced in high school on weekends while working a minimum wage job flipping burgers
- Worked as an assistant superintendent of a building to get subsidized rent & deal with cranky college students…..while attending the same college as these tenants
All of the above (to some extent) let me see clearly, and craft an opportunity out of what I was given once I started working.
I saw that jobs were not black and white, neatly typed titles in companies that came with “roles” and “responsibilities”.
They were what you made them out to be, if you chose to work differently.
Even today, some people have the best job in the world (mine, obviously), and can’t see the forest for the trees because it is a job they are not meant to do, but they can’t quit because the money is holding them into a job they hate.
I’ve always thought: “What an awful way to live your life, chained to your job only because of salary.”
If you don’t love your job, it is an awful way to live, just to work for the money.
Why would you do something you aren’t meant to do?
You are meant to do it, if you love to do it, would do it for free and most importantly: are good at it.
We always gloss over the last part of being good at something we love to do.
I can understand that not everyone can become a singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, chef or fashion designer, but they aren’t meant to do those jobs either.
I love playing the piano, but I am not as good as people who are naturally talented. I got to where I am just from hard work, but it’s not enough, and my passion is not there.
Those are hobbies, not careers, if you don’t have any recognizable talent. It means you haven’t searched deep down inside yourself and honestly said: I suck at this. Maybe I should do something else.
(Yeah I said it again.)
You’d be surprised watching reality shows how many people think they have talent.
The ones who do have any scrap of talent, don’t understand that they don’t have AS MUCH talent, relative to others, and should stick to it as a hobby and find something else to do as a career.
They are mediocre in the face of those who are simply better than they are at their chosen field.
Even the ones who win those singing competitions — do we know who they are?
Are they as famous or more famous than singers like Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morissette, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Rhianna, and other solidly A-or-B-List vocal powerhouses?
I think not.
(And those are the ones who “made” it, and won the singing competitions or other talent competitions!)
They’re good, but they weren’t meant to sing for their bread. (Literally.)
REALLY LET’S JUST CALL IT WHAT IT IS — LAZINESS & DENIAL
I chalk that up to sheer laziness and denial, actually.
Denial is a strong, effective drug that most of us are happy to drink in, and coupled with laziness, it’s a perfect cocktail for doing nothing.
They’re too lazy to get up off their asses, go back to school, find another job, quit, start a side business or do anything that could potentially change their life for the better.
Do that singing, designing bit as a hobby.
If it takes off, it takes off and you were just an undiscovered diamond in the rough, but don’t bet your whole life on something that probably won’t pay your basic bills, and then moan about how you are SOOOO freakin’ talented but no one sees it.
If you can’t do the job (sing, dance, write, cook, design, etc), then you should be the one trying to teach and help others achieve greatness.
Be the agent, the broker, the coach, or the in-betweener.
All the hard work in the world will not make up for the lack of natural talent, especially up against someone who has natural talent in spades and who works hard. They’re wasting their precious energy and time on something that is not meant for them.
You will reach a level of competence from hard, HARD work, but you’ll never surpass those who are simply better than you are.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE EXCUSES I HEAR:
Other people, can’t even see the opportunities in front of them because of a number of reasons:
- “That’s beneath me and I deserve a better job than that”
- “I have no clue what I’m doing in that field”
- “It sounds so hard / I don’t have the money” (Read: I’m lazy and I don’t want to change)
For those who think a job is beneath them, maybe the hard truth is that it isn’t.
It’s exactly the job that you deserve.
There are people who start out at fry cooks at McDonald’s, and after 30 years, have worked their way up to Director at a company.
It was exactly the job they deserved, and they saw the opportunity in rising in ranks, doing something they enjoyed and were good at.
But if they started as a fry cook with the mentality moaning about how they don’t deserve to flip burgers, they’ll never see the missed opportunities in front of them, and will work there for the rest of their lives as a fry cook.
Or maybe that’s just what they deserve for all that whining and lack of action.
I can understand people who freak out because they have no idea what they’re doing in that particular field and think they need years and years of experience to do it right, but the reality is that NO ONE knew what they were doing before they started.
Are you smart enough to learn and figure it out in a short amount of time?
I’ll let you in on a secret — about 50% of the time, I encounter things I can’t remember or have never done before. I make lots of notes, obviously… but still.
I can’t remember everything all the time.
Instead of freaking out or saying: I dunno, I dive right into learning all I can about it, in the shortest amount of time possible, and I usually come out of the situation to realize that I know more about that subject than someone who has been doing it for 25 years.
I have a lot of confidence (obviously) in my ability to figure things out, and to deal with unknown circumstances.
The last group of folks that don’t want to change, can just refer back up to my paragraph about being lazy.
So as this long-winded answer comes to the same end I started with at the top of this post:
No. I don’t ever feel guilty for what I make as an income.
Why should I? I worked for it and I’m good at it.
(Incidentally, women are always the ones who feel guiltier and less deserving than men.
Stop thinking that, it’s a stupid way to limit your income-making potential. You are no less deserving than anyone else.)