Never Do It For the Money

I’m back from my blogging hiatus.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to write about on this blog. For years it’s been a theme-less journey. This blog has included real-life stories, lessons, experimental writing, and more. But the underlying desire I have to writing here is to learn from my mistakes. I often find a feeling of catharsis when I do a post-mortem of a lesson I’ve experienced. Therefore, I’m going to be primarily writing life lessons I’ve learned here.

The first lesson for 2016 is one that I’ve known and sworn by, but continue to defy time and time again. The lesson: never do anything just for the money.

At some point in your life, you’re bound to have your back to the wall, in the face of much adversity. If that’s the case, then yes, do it for the money. Anything. But soon we crawl our way out of it and have to better assess if the money is worth it? The answer is always no.

Never do anything just for the money. It will suck your soul. You’ll be wasting valuable time and energy on something that you don’t love or believe in. Your time on Earth is limited and you shouldn’t waste it on something you don’t believe in. You’ll resent the work and it will be done poorly. The money is simply never worth it.

I don’t want to look back on my life and regret never having achieved all my goals because I was too busy prioritizing someone else’s work, for a small sum of money. What a wasted life that would be. Unfortunately, I’ve done far too much of that in my life to date.

Neil Gaiman gave one of my favorite commencement speeches of all time a few years ago. In it, he expressed this same lesson, only much more eloquently.

The problems of failure are problems of discouragement, of hopelessness, of hunger. You want everything to happen and you want it now, and things go wrong. My first book – a piece of journalism I had done for the money, and which had already bought me an electric typewriter  from the advance – should have been a bestseller. It should have paid me a lot of money. If the publisher hadn’t gone into involuntary liquidation between the first print run selling out and the second printing, and before any royalties could be paid, it would have done.

And I shrugged, and I still had my electric typewriter and enough money to pay the rent for a couple of months, and I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn’t get the money, then you didn’t have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn’t get the money, at least I’d have the work.

Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me. I don’t know that it’s an issue for anybody but me, but it’s true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn’t wind up getting the money, either.  The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I’ve never regretted the time I spent on any of them.

The problems of failure are hard.


Watch the full speech: