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Would You Work For Minimum Wage?

The other day I got into a backward and forward exchange on Twitter with Norcross that was littered with misunderstandings on both sides after I posted the following tweet:

“If you wouldn’t do your job for minimum wage, then you’re probably in the wrong job”

He responded by saying it was a bullshit statement as it’s almost impossible to exist on minimum wage.

Let’s leave to one side over 1.5 million people do indeed survive on minimum wage because that will just muddy the waters. And anyway, I take his point because I really don’t like the thought of anybody having to make do on less than $20k per annum, not in the US anyway.

The precursor to the tweet was a conversation I had with a women at a local Church. I had stopped by to drop off some copies of How To Be Rich and Happy and she started to talk to me about her grandson.

She was worried that he wanted to become a lawyer. I never found out the reason for her concern (although I could make a good guess), but I did ask her to pose him the following question.

“Would you want to be a lawyer if it paid minimum wage?”

In sales one of the most important aspects of closing sales is objection handling, and the most important part of objection handling, is isolating the objection.

If somebody says your product or service is too expensive, you want to know if that’s the real reason they aren’t buying?

It could really be that it’s one of many reasons, or even a false objection altogether. Maybe they just don’t like to tell you it’s because they hate your tie and you stink worse than a skunk after a heavy session at the gym.

By asking the question “Would you buy the product if money wasn’t an issue?” you get much closer to finding out the real reason.

A ‘yes’ means you know finance is the real issue and you can concentrate on that. A ‘no’ tells you that it’s one of the other reasons and you’ve not done your job properly.

If this ladies grandson came back with, “Are you frickin nuts old lady? No way would I do that for minimum wage, what’ve you been smoking’?” you may have a problem.

Firstly, the kid needs to learn some manners and treat his grandma with a bit more respect, and secondly he could be about to embark on a path that may well lead to decades of misery.

In her situation I’d follow up with, “What about $50k” and if it was still no, maybe $75k.

A barrage of no’s and dirty looks would let you know the real motivation is money (and/or status) and that kid is in all likelihood going to be unfulfilled in a job he doesn’t love in years to come.

Asking ourselves if we’d continue to do our job for minimum wage is really asking ourselves “Do I love what I do?

Would I move heaven and earth to carry on doing what I do, even if that meant making huge sacrifices?”

It is not to suggest you should work for minimum wage or would want to work for minimum wage.

If you answer no to that question, then you may be in the wrong job. Not you definitely are in the wrong job and not you should quit this instant, because there may be some great reasons why you can’t leave.

If you have huge financial commitments to your family then leaving your $250k per year job to become a circus clown may be problematical.

And this is exactly the reason why we want to get How To Be Rich and Happy into the hands of teenagers, to help them make better choices earlier on.

Many people get ‘golden handcuffed’ into their jobs way too early in life because they think money and prestige will make then happy and therefore they chase the jobs that seem to offer both without stopping to wonder if they’ll actually like it.

If you leave school with $250k or more of debt after qualifying to become a doctor or lawyer and then realize that your dream job is really gardening, you’re in a mess because you’ll struggle to ever get the debt paid off unless you’re a bloody good gardener!

I have had a great many clients that were in jobs they hated and very often they’d tell me they were doing it to provide for their kids.

I then usually ask them if they’d have wanted their parents to do a job they didn’t like to provide for them? The answer always comes back something like “Of course not!”

“Well what makes you think you’re kids will want you to do it for them? Wouldn’t you be better serving them by being a brilliant example and showing them that it is possible to have a job you love and not be working 80 hours per week?”

Kids love to model their parents you know!

I would encourage any parent to sit down with the kids on a regular basis from the age of about 12 or 13 and ask them one simply question:

“What do you really love to do and how can I/we support you in doing that?”

Not tell them what they’d love them to do, not tell them what’s a ‘good career’, not tell them to be realistic and get a real job if they have their eyes on something a little bit left field.

No matter how well intentioned that kind of advice is, it’s nearly always crap advice.

Would you work for the bare minimum if you were doing something you really loved? If you have kids, what would you want them to do? I’d love to get your take.

38 comments to Would You Work For Minimum Wage?

  • Hi Tim,

    I worked my current gig/business for a hell of a lot less than minimum wage for an extended period, and although living in poverty made me miserable – although trim and fit from not eating much – I wouldn’t have it any other way. I genuinely enjoyed what I did, even when making no money for months on end so yes, I certainly would work for minimum wage.

    Great advice here. Teens and their parents would be wise to take your words to heart.

    Ryan Biddulph

    • Cheers Bud, and I see and speak with lots of people like you that have done and are doing this.

      Nobody WANTS to have no money, but nobody wants years of misery in a high pressure job they hate either.

  • Hey Tim, this is a great question to ask yourself and to ask others to get to the root of a ‘Do I love my job’ scenario.

    About the kids talk as well: We’ve recently been speaking to our sons, aged 13 and 15, and speaking about the various job. It’s been pushed into their heads that university is the way to go and we have advised them if they don’t want to go to uni we’ll still support them and back them. My youngest wants to be a mechanic and we have told him this is a fantastic job to have and told him about all the options either working for someone else, setting up his own business once he has learned the trade etc. the oldest wants to be an architect , so we have set up him to go do some work experience for 1/2 day per week for 1 year at an architects office. I always tell them if you find something you love there’s a chance you can make a living from it, but don’t let the money cloud the love.

    Sorry, ranted a bit there. Anyways, great post :)

    • Good for you mate that is exactly what I’m talking about.

      Now can you please make sure every pother parent in the UK does the same. I’ll handle the US if you can do that ;-)

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  • Yeah, really interesting stuff my man.

    When I went to university to study law, I probably would’ve said “Yes! I’ll do it for minimum wage” … (I’d been reading John Grisham books for too long)

    But after a term (or “semester” to you lovely Yanks) I would have paid SOMEONE ELSE minimum wage so I’d never have to do it again!

    Oops. So a bit of research is useful, too!!

    But yeah – you gotta do what you love. For sure. And I think it’s a great idea to get kids thinking about this as early as possible – because doing a job for status or money is about as much fun as a daily kick in the scrotum.

    Good stuff Mr Brownson. Now I’m doing what I love (and I KNOW I’d do it for less than minimum wage – cos’ I did!), I’m even more thrilled that I’m starting to get paid “proper money” for it.

    Life is super sweet when you get to do what you’d love to do. :)

    • YOU went to Uni to do law?

      Holy crap, that would have been funny seeing you sum up in court

      “Dudes and dudettes of the jury, we all need to chill a little and kick back. If we don’t BOOM! we send some poor kid to jail just for a bit of weed where he’ll probably learn some other villainous type crimes! Need I say more?”

  • I think your point about golden handcuffs is key. People get in jobs that they might love to start out with, but then it fades, or they decide their passion lies somewhere else, they are at the point where they have expanded their lifestyle too far, and can’t get out.

    Which is why it is so important to get good financial and life education in the hands of young people.

    Our educational system is failing our kids in these important areas, and we need to get that changed. Cheers!

    • I went to see The American yesterday and prior to the movie there was a trailer for another film the name of which escapes me now.

      It’s a documentary on the US education system and one stat really caught my eye.

      Even though the US ranked only 27th (I think) worldwide for aspects of education, it ranked 1st for confidence of its pupils.

      So we’re sending a bunch of kids out in to the world that think they know more than they do.

      I’m all for confidence, but that can be a scary mix!

  • Helllz no I wouldn’t do it for minimum wage. Doesn’t mean I don’t love it. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. I write for a living, and I love having written but mostly hate the part where I have to write.

    But I always love making money. And that’s what keeps me going when I hate doing the work. The jobs that pay more, I love more. The ones that pay less, I hate more.

    If I didn’t have to make any money, I’d probably just watch TV all day and update my facebook status. I’d be really happy with that.

    • NOBODY loves making money. People love the thought of what that money may give them and think it’s the money they love, but it’s not the same thing at all.

      Earning money creates a temporary dopamine rush not dissimilar to cocaine, especially when it’s a large amount (of money that is).

      Wouldn’t you rather do a job you love all the time rather than one that you love when you get a pay check?

    • andrea

      You love your job (write for a living), but you hate writing. ergo: you do not love your job. You are competent enough to earn money at it, hence you do it.

      I love my job. My employer offered me more than I dreamed in wages. Wages were not one of my concerns. I would continue with this job at 1/2 the wages. My clients are inspired and become motivated. They see in me: enthusiasm, commitment, passion, belief in what I do. Why do they see that: because I love what I do.
      I spend hours of MY time, researching for my job. UNPAID. Why? So I can do an even better job in working with my clients. Its what I do and love.

  • Hey Tim!

    I was thinking about this a lot the other day, because I was in touch with a friend who comes from a poorer background than me – and it made me realize how much I take some basic comforts for granted (like a reasonably new laptop to get my work done on).

    And I realized I LOVE life coaching and personal development blogging.

    And if I couldn’t earn enough money through that, I would find other ways to get my income up to a reasonable-ish standard of living, beyond which I would spend the rest of my time coaching and making a difference in other people’s lives :)

    (So, thanks for introducing me to this whole life coaching thing, o shiny headed one!)

    • It’s Mr Shiny-Headed One to you Dolezal.

      When we do what we love, sacrifices don’t seem quite so sacrificial.

      Ten years ago I’d be appalled if you’d told me I couldn’t afford to spend $12k per annum on vacations, because then I needed them to recover from working my tits off.

      Now, I’ve had one 5 day break in two years and couldn’t give a monkey cuss. Whatever one of those is.

    • andrea

      Poorer Background-take for granted.

      Interestingly this came up in one of my workshops. My clients see me as confident, educated, moving forward in life…lucky I had such a good life.

      LUCK, LUCK YOU SAY! I worked my buns off thank you very much. Grew up in poverty (had homemade bread for lunch in school; how embarrassing), abusive parents.

      I discovered what I loved, then did what I had to do to make it real. Now I work with people, love my job, love what I do, and earn enough to live. Someone once said, do what you love and the money will follow.

      Parents: ignorant immigrant peasants.
      ME: labourer, drifting from job to job I didn’t like, eking out a living, moving nowhere and doing it quickly, alcoholic, high school grad.
      Discovered my passions. Stopped drinking, got an education (2 degrees-I love learning, got a job I love.

      5 years ago: nothing; no job, no vehicle, no toys, no future.
      Today: great job, money in bank, education, my daily driver, my porsche 914 (childhood dream), sailboat (another childhood dream)
      2015: retired: teaching sailing on a new boat. Living on boat full time. Sail away whenever I want, running the occasional workhshop on lifeskills (never will lose that passion)

      What have I sacrificed for this dream/goal. Nothing, I planned instead and had a bit of patience.
      Until I was 50 what did I sacrifice by not having dreams/goals and a passion. FIFTY YEARS OF OPPORTUNITY.

      How much money will I make on this job? As much as I need to be happy because happiness and money do not belong in the same sentence.

  • Did I mention I also love spending money? I love making it (I really do), having it, spending it. I wouldn’t do something I fundamentally hated for it, which is why I’m not on Wall Street or some other place that makes a true buttload. But I’ll do something I sometimes hate and sometimes really love.

  • I have one son who’s passion is cooking so we’re often turning the kitchen into a disaster zone. I even let him watch Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares even though it makes me cringe because he swears so much the bleeper person can’t keep up! My other son reads all the time so I have no idea how he’ll turn that into a career but someone gave me some good advice when they were younger – expose them to all sorts of things and then when a spark ignites, go for it like hell. I think that’s fantastic and I couldn’t care less how they do at school. If they want to do something badly enough and *they are allowed to* they will find a way to do it. Did you know that when a child is ready, they can go through the K-8 math curriculum in 6 months even if they haven’t done any math to that point? Usually happens when they are in their early teens and they need math for some passion they are interested in. Saw it happen to two unschooled boys who wanted to become pilots. They got their license shortly after that. I’m all for turning things on their head. Anyway, where am I going with this…I have no idea. I’ll stop now.

  • That’s it! I’ve finally got it. I need to get a job where I take the piss out of people and call them names. Mate, I’d do that for free.

    Actually, you’ve caused me ask myself whether I love what I’m doing right now. And the answer is no. Not the way things are at the moment. Do I like what I’m doing? Yes. But love it? No.

    Would I love it if it earned me a million a week? No. I’d love the million obviously, but I still wouldn’t love what I’m doing.

    What could I change so that I’ll love it? I’ll have to give it some thought – because love it I could under the right conditions.

    BTW I think your site looks a bit girlish you colossal wazzock. (See, I told you, I’d do this for free!!)

    • I think like is good mate, I really do. Loving our job is the aim, but many hate it and that’s what really worries me. If you spend half your waking life liking what you do and the other half loving, then I think you are one up on 95% of people.

  • Love this post, Tim.

    It took me some time (and some help from you) to solidify the belief that it doesn’t much matter what kind of money I’m putting away – I just want to go to sleep with a fortitude for the day ahead and gratitude for the day before. Money is just a variable in that equation.

    The “safe, lucrative” job is just another “should” – and you get it loudest from from the people who dashed their own dreams on the marble of a predictable, stable wage.

    • Mike, go an grab yourself a copy of Your Brain At Work and stick it to the top of your book queue, I think you’ll get a lot from it, I really do.

      • Already on my Amazon wish list – but I’ve moved it to the top. I’m reading Learned Optimism next on your recommendation, but it’ll probably suck.

        • Hey true story. I left my first copy of LO on a plane. Helen said “Are you going to buy another one?” and I said “Nope I’m confident it will be mailed back to me within a week”

          It wasn’t, so it obviously doesn’t work!

  • I think money should have nothing to do with your motivation. I believe LOVE is what give you the joy of work. MOney can make you turn EVOL( love in reverse), based on your greed. DO it for the love people, not for the Benjamin Franklin’s and Andrew Jacksons! =)

  • Rob

    Alison Golden – your son could become a proof-reader :)
    Juicy post, Tim!

    The thing about having (plenty of) money is it gives the opportunity to forget about money for a bit and worry about something else…

    My belief is that money IS important but time is more precious and how we spend that determines our ‘relationship with life’.

    There’s plenty of evidence to suggest burning out in the wrong job for big pennies, under the false belief it will eventually make you happy, will rob you of your precious time.

    Would I work for minimum wage in a job I love? YES

    And I would find ways to make more money doing what I love.

    • Yeh agree on that. Money is important of course and I’d love to have a load in the bank so I can shop in Whole Foods all the time go to any restaurant I wont when I want, but not as much as I love loving my job ;-)

  • Rob

    Such a great topic I had to post another comment, hoping that I don’t go too off topic.

    I believe in doing what you love, income second.

    With plenty of first-hand experience I have found you can lead an amazing, rewarding, fulfilling comfortable life on a lot less money than perhaps thought.

    Of course, best things in life are free. (Except maybe a DB-7)

    For example, my income this year will be (likely) a quarter of what I was earning just two to three years ago. We’ve downsized, relocated and figured out where every penny is going and we don’t go without – we still treat ourselves to lovely stuff we just don’t waste it materials and events in an attempt to anaesthetise the original conditions of being unhappy. And we are happy.

    I don’t believe in the excuse of “I can’t afford to change jobs…” to maintain a particular lifestyle if you don’t LOVE what you do.

  • I had almost same problem when I started working. Everybody is expecting for me to work in big auditing firms and be their slave. However, despite of these expectation, I know that it isn’t my dream job at all. I want to be my own boss. I want to work based on my own plans, decisions. My life right now is just a result of these reasons.