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3 Steps to Escape the 9-5 and Pivot for Success

Solve the survival-cost problem and start to live the life of your dreams.

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For many people, the ultimate dream once involved landing a lucrative job at a blue-chip corporation, cashing in year-end bonuses and sailing in the Bahamas on paid vacations.

Some of us are just graduating college and anticipate getting our first big tech job, and some of us have been working at the same job we hate for years, just to stay afloat. For those looking for long-term success, it's important you recognize the trap you might be stepping into, or the prison you have been living in for years.

Most people don’t realize that the years they spend trying to climb to the next rung of the corporate ladder are precious hours lost that could be invested into building a company they truly love. The reason we have jobs is to feel secure, but when we work solely for financial stability, the depletion of our mental resources becomes the real cost.

Related: 5 Steps to Gaining Financial Freedom

A prominent pitfall that an aspiring entrepreneur may face has to do with beating the survival-cost problem. The survival cost pertains to the bare essentials needed for us to survive, such as rent and food. Often, in the successful pursuit of high-paying careers, our survival costs will increase based on factors such as location. For example, moving to Silicon Valley for a tech job will cost you four times the amount in rent. When our life becomes consumed with meeting inflated survival costs, it leaves very little room for harnessing our intellectual capital to create long-term success.

Similarly, for those that work to make ends meet, it is important to identify creative ways of lowering living expenses. Identifying the root cause of what is stopping you from pursuing what you love to do is essential to finding a resolution. One of those root issues is survival costs, and overcoming this barrier means freeing your mind from daily worries and investing that capital towards your long-term aspirations as a successful entrepreneur.

Your priorities will position you for success, and your current priorities should not focus on making money, but rather honing your skills, becoming a master of your trade and offering a stellar service. 

Here are three steps to overcome the survival-cost problem. 

1. Go back to the drawing board

Pretend that money didn’t matter: What would you do? That should be your long-term goal.

It is far easier to devise a way to make money doing something you love, rather than doing something that makes money with hopes you'll fall in love with the process. You know you’ve found the right profession when you find yourself wanting to do more work, not less. So much that the concept of a vacation seems all that less appealing. 

We are often held back from doing what we love because we fear it simply won't pay the bills. It helps to think about your skills through an abstract lens: Can you leverage these skills in some other form to add value to the marketplace? For example, you may not be able to pay the bills as an average artist; however, you may be able to utilize graphic design to earn extra cash flow while sharpening your artistic skills. More importantly, you can operate in an environment where you will flourish as an artist and one day find success in your specific passion. Your first priority should be to identify your strengths and how you can leverage those to create a solid pattern of cash flow that can slowly trickle into your long-term goal.

Related: How Millennials Can Reach Financial Freedom

2. Break out of the “bad contract” 

Having a job that is a means to an end is perfectly fine. But you need a definitive plan on paper and a crystal clear exit strategy. We all want success, but how many of us are willing to make the sacrifices for it? Do you want success more than your nice apartment, your eight hours of sleep or your party-filled weekends?

It is necessary to prioritize building capital and restricting your living expenses, which means you have to give up some things you enjoy in the meantime. You need to assess your survival costs and bring that cost to as close to zero as possible.

Go through your monthly statement and organize it into “luxury” and “necessity.” Cut out everything you don’t need to survive for a year and focus on building your craft. This might mean moving back to your parents' house temporarily to save on rent and food or swapping out dinner plans for cooking at home. Once you organize your priorities and streamline them in a way where your costs amount to only what you need, you will be well on your way to freeing up some capacity to work on your bigger picture.

3. Become a master of your trade

Now that you have identified your passion and your priority is no longer about meeting the day-to-day needs, you must develop the discipline that comes with endless hours of hard work. Pick a skill and create a six-months-to-a-year plan on how to practice, refine and execute it. You don’t need a degree to become a programmer; you have the internet at your fingertips and the time needed to take control of your future. Like the prior step, creating clear milestones with defined dates is your highway to success. This journey you're embarking on is a lengthy one, with many stormy nights ahead. Beyond getting your priorities in place, it’s crucial you develop the personality needed to make it to the finish line. 

Related: 3 Ways to Get Back on Track for Business Growth and Financial Freedom

This is the trap, and going against common sense and intuition is the secret. The less you can focus on money, the more you can focus on honing your skills and becoming an indispensable asset, offering unique skills that others simply cannot compete with. You are now in a place few are, and you need to set your eyes on the prize. Becoming a master at your trade takes dedication and may mean giving up comfort for the time being. But if you really want to escape the trap and live life according to your own rules one day, these sacrifices will become the backbone to achieving your long-term success.

Michael Peres

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Michael Peres is a journalist and software engineer, best known for founding various tech and media startups. Peres has developed an interest in exploring the mindsets of those who've overcome their limitations and has a passion for sharing such stories, giving strength and inspiration to others.