This is the time of year when I make plans. It's when I decide if I will leave a job, start a business. It's a time for figuring out what I can do that will make next year more successful than this one has been.
This is not a hope. I am not sitting here hoping that next year will be better. I'm figuring out what steps I need to take to ensure that it is. And then I do them.
This approach to success takes time. It does not happen quickly and it does not happen by chance. I have also always placed a premium on diverse sources of income, meaning my time is somewhat divided. I am emphatically NOT all in. And what I feel passionate about is hardly a high return, scaleable, hot trending buzzworthy meme.
So we (my wife and I) have been poor my entire adult life. When you are 20 and poor you barely notice it. When you are 24 and poor and are newly married it is a life choice. When you are 28 and poor and have two kids, it is frustrating and humiliating at times. When you are 34 and poor but can see a path to a place of not being poor, it sits a lot easier.
A big part of why we have been poor are our own choices. We chose to be farmers. We chose to live where we wanted to live (near family) rather than follow careers. We chose to cobble together work so we had the flexibility to pursue our own businesses. We chose to have kids young and line up the extraordinary demands of caring for small children with the early, uncertain part of our careers.
So this time of year I very consciously map out what steps I need to take to move my businesses to a stronger financial position in the next year. I make a plan. I implement the plan. And year by year, our income creeps up.
Leaving my seasonal job a couple of years ago felt like a real step back, but now, two years on, I have built my spooncarving and teaching business to the point where I earn 150% what I was earning from that job. And that was this year: next year should be even more, possibly 200%.
If this all sounds very calculating to you, you are right. I am providing for my family. It is a calculated affair. I am passionate about my work and love what I do and love sharing it, but it is also, at the core, about earning money.
This is the money that pays our mortgage. It's the money that buys our propane and groceries and electricity. It's the money that will allow us to buy a new (used) car in a couple of years when the current one becomes to untrustworthy. It's the money we put into our Roth IRA, because no one is going to invest in our old age for us.
This last week I drove down to New York to help my 93 year old grandmother pack up her house in preparation to moving up to Massachusetts to be closer to us and my parents. As I was driving down I-91, I went through a short tunnel (probably just a wide overpass, but who's counting). As I all of a sudden found myself in the tunnel, I experienced this flash of joy from the sensation of being in the dark and driving toward the daylight. It was a totally unexpected feeling, but it lingered for a long time after I was out under the sky and it was much more powerful than any appreciation of the blue sky overhead that day.
In many ways, this is an apt metaphor for where we are with our income these days. We are almost (but not quite!) not poor. We can see it coming. We have been in the tunnel for a long time, and now it is almost here. Our gleeful anticipation of it is almost certainly more poignant than anything we will feel in ten years. Right now is the time, in this year and the next, when we can most clearly taste the joy of making it, the pleasure of being in a dark tunnel and heading toward the light.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.
One idea is as worthless as another until you actually do something about it, and then it is the action, not the word that matters. --Orson Scott Card