Money Might as Well Grow on Trees Once You Pursue Work You Truly Enjoy

If you're on the career path you're meant to be on, financial freedom will take care of itself.

learn more about Stephen Key

By Stephen Key


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Who doesn't want to be free? To possess the ability to do what you want, when you want. I've always felt like life is too short. It's definitely too short to be unhappy.

When I was an undergraduate at Santa Clara University studying business, I was unhappy. Most of us aren't sure what we want to do when we're young. Some of us follow the advice of our parents -- I had. The only thing I knew at age 19 was that I didn't want to major in business. I didn't want to work for anyone else. And as far as I could tell, that was what I was being taught to do.

Related: How to Make Lots of Money...Your Way

To get away from the business department, I signed up for an art class on a lark. I discovered magic. I loved working with my hands, it turned out. Suddenly, it became clear to me: I wanted to be creative. But how do you make a living as an artist? I didn't just want to make a living -- I wanted to have the financial freedom to live life on my own terms. I wanted to live comfortably.

Somehow I knew pursuing work I truly enjoyed, even with the understanding most artists never make much, would lead to opportunities. One great thing about committing to being creative -- it never gets old. There's not so much burnout.

This is what I've learned over the last four decades about how to create financial freedom.

1. Become an expert.

The only way to do so is by dedicating yourself and your time. (If you find something you really like to do, it will feel less like work.) Once you become an expert, you'll grasp the big picture -- how things actually work. You'll discover that sweet spot where the dollars are. I'd argue becoming an expert is easier today than ever. You can study up on, observe and identify individuals who are doing exactly what you want to do from every corner of the Internet.

When I first started out, I became an expert at creating 3D plush toys. Today, I'm an expert on licensing. I worked with my hands when I made 3D plush toys. But licensing afforded me the financial freedom I so desired.

2. Surround yourself with talented people.

I was fortunate enough to meet my mentor Steve Askin early on. He invited me into his much bigger world. He challenged and coached me. Really, he opened my eyes to a world of possibility. What can you do? Focus on continually upping your game. To become a better player, you need to be around better talent. Don't settle. Seek out others who are doing well. Attend meet ups, join organizations and make a point of going to events -- whatever you have to do, find those individuals who are succeeding at a higher playing field.

Related: 5 Steps to Ensure That You Thrive in Your New Job

3. Create flexibility for yourself.

By that I mean, don't overspend. Don't live beyond your means. Be frugal and smart with your finances instead. You need time to look for the right opportunities. When you're so busy chasing every dollar, you inhibit your ability to look forward. When you completely stress yourself out, if you put yourself in a financial situation that is unthinkable, you lose the power to say no. And really, that power is everything. You need to be able to turn down opportunities that don't fit into your plan, and say yes to others.

When we're younger, we want material things. But once you obtain financial freedom, those things become less desirable. You only want them, because you can't have them. When you have financial freedom, those things do not have power over you. What am I saying? Never let your sense of self-worth be defined by the job you have. Just make sure what you're doing fits into your plan. Don't be afraid of taking jobs that will lead you towards opportunities you actually want. Don't be afraid of taking jobs that you know will teach you the skills you need.

4. Seek out the multiplier effect.

My father gave me great advice when he told me that to earn financial freedom, I needed to find something that didn't require my two hands -- my physical presence. I'm talking about creating a multiplying effect. I could be sleeping or vacationing: Either way, passive income would lead me to freedom. When I discovered it was possible to license my ideas in exchange for royalties, I was sold. I could be creative, but I wouldn't have to manage a business.

5. Don't waste your time, which is precious.

This is one resource you must protect. Make time for yourself. Carve out time to participate in the pleasures of being human -- learning, observing, enjoying. Have a sense of wonder. Find things that excite you, things that make you nervous. Avoid people who make you unhappy.

When I graduated, I thought, "If I just work harder than everyone else, I'll be fine." That working harder was the key, the magic formula. I succeed playing sports by doing just that. I know now it takes much more. You need to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right experience and the courage to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. You create your own luck when you hang around long enough.

Related: Want to Be Successful? Have Fun. Seriously.

Financial freedom is not about how much money you make. It's that which allows you to create the life you seek. Remember: Time is the new money.

Stephen Key

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series

Stephen Key is an inventor, IP strategist, author, speaker and co-founder of inventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nevada-based company that helps inventors design, patent and license their ideas for new products.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This 61-Year-Old Grandma Who Made $35,000 in the Medical Field Now Earns 7 Figures in Retirement
A 'Quiet Promotion' Will Cost You a Lot — Use This Expert's 4-Step Strategy to Avoid It
3 Red Flags on Your LinkedIn Profile That Scare Clients Away
'Everyone Is Freaking Out.' What's Going On With Silicon Valley Bank? Federal Government Takes Control.

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.


Working Remote? These Are the Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

As more and more businesses go remote, these are ways to be more effective and efficient on conference calls.

Growing a Business

The Best Way to Run a Business Meeting

All too often, meetings run longer than they should and fail to keep attendees engaged. Here's how to run a meeting the right way.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Business News

Amtrak Introduces 'Night Owl' Prices With Some Routes As Low As $5

The new discounts apply to some rides between Washington D.C. and New York City.

Business Solutions

This Highly Rated App Could Help Business Owners Stay Organized

Get your business in order with this personal organizer app on sale for $60.