Someone once asked me: “What differentiates you from thousands of Google (or any large tech company’s) employees. How come you’re so much more successful than them? Are you simply a better coder, more creative, or just got lucky and was the first one at the gold mine?”
This was my response:
Google’s (or any large tech company’s) employees code things for other people and let their boss and company benefit from the profits their code generates. Last I heard, corporations like Google are making billions in profits. If they gave their employees the profits, the employees would be much richer (some maybe richer than me). However, there are always employees who are willing to work for less, so these corporations hire those instead and keep the profits. But there are also people who are hard to replace, such as CEOs. So those guys get paid millions (usually in company stocks) to stay on board.
I’m No Genius
I will not lie, there are some Google employees who are probably smarter than me and can probably code better, too. Sadly, the money that should belong to them is taken away and redistributed to shareholders and upper management. And the company gets away with this by giving their employees only specific tasks in a much larger project. That way it’s hard for the employees to determine how much money their work generated, because the amount was all pooled together. All they know is that they are paid X dollars per hour to do those tasks. And usually they work long enough hours so that they’re too tired to try other things and work on their own projects. (Side note: I heard that Google does give their employees chances to work on side projects. But in reality, how much can you get done if you’re already working 40 hours a week?)
Taking a Risk
If they were brave enough, they’d quit their jobs and use their time and skills to make apps or some other project where they can see 100% of the profits. They’d escape from the time-consuming 9-5 office job and work alone like I did. It’s much easier said than done. I wasn’t really that brave in the beginning. It’s quite scary to have no stable source of income. Instead, I stayed in my 9-5 job while I worked on my apps. What separated me from the rest is that I worked during the night and weekends as well as during the day. There were many days in the beginning years when I didn’t even sleep. I would work for 72 hours straight and take only 2 or 3 hour naps between days. I kept working and working because I had to provide for the family and for myself. And even though I made millions now, I still sometimes code non-stop and have sleepless nights (though much less frequently now). At this point, it’s not so much about the necessity, but more about doing what I’m capable of and earning more resources which I can use to help others.
Then was it Luck?
I’m not some genius who can do something much better than anyone else. I don’t even think Google would have employed me if I applied. I’m more street smarts than a genius. And I’m willing to share what I know from my street smarts with others.
It’s also not about luck. I have several apps that went on to make a lot of money. If I was a one-hit wonder, then I’d say it was luck. But I had three separate apps in the top 10 overall app charts at the same time (at #5 paid, #5 free, and #7 free) on April 19th, 2013. And almost every day, I have several apps in the Top 100 categories at any given moment. At some point, it’s no longer about luck and more about the person behind the apps. I have strategies for marketing apps, and they work. I even wrote a book called Lifehacked revealing in detail how the strategies work.
Don’t be a Cog in the Corporate Machine
I also didn’t want to just be another cog in the corporate machine. Just because they gave me a chair and a cubicle to work in then I should have my wage limited by how much the next guy is willing to replace me for? Screw that. I’ll buy my own chair and computer, and I’ll form my own company. And it’d be a company that’s 100% employee owned. No bosses. No stock holders. No BS. If you contributed 50% of the code in this app, then I’m giving you 50% of the profits. It’s as simple as that. To put it into perspective, if I were to be paid a wage for the number of hours I worked on my apps, it would be in the 4 to 5 figure range per hour. And I’m not saying that to gloat; I’m saying that if you took the billions that corporations made and redistributed it to the employees based on their contribution percentage, then the employees would be paid much more than what they’re paid now (with the exception of some of the upper management - who some may be overpaid).
Like a BOS5
My license plate may say “BOS5” on it, but it doesn’t mean that I’m the boss of anyone. I’m actually the boss of no one. And I don’t even like it when my business partners call me boss. You are the boss of yourself, and I am the boss of myself. I may give you great advice on what you do for your project, but I will not turn you into a money maker for me. That’s the corporate way, and I want to avoid that.
I know that I could be making millions more (maybe even billions) if I started employing coders and giving them projects and a wage that is only a fraction of what their projects will make. Then I’d get to keep all the profits left over and become even richer with every new employee I hire. But that’s not me. I don’t want to be “the Man” or “the Machine”. People shouldn’t look to me for an income. But if that’s what they want, then there are plenty of corporations with open positions. If they want to be like indentured servants working in an office to pay off their mortgages and student debt and being told what to do, then so be it. I will not judge them if they chose that, because I was that person just a few years ago. It’s safe and the money flow is stable, so there’s a reason for choosing that path.
I Rather Be Your Teacher than Your Boss
I rather teach people how to work on their own and become self-employed. I rather teach them to support themselves and reap all of the benefits of their work. I rather not be a greedy middle man. That’s just not who I am. There are plenty of those in this world already. I rather see people producing products and selling them directly to the consumer. I’m not saying that we should replace all corporations (you wouldn’t be reading this right now if corporations didn’t exist). I’m just saying that for those who choose not be a puppet, I’m offering them a way out.
The Rich Get Richer While You Climb that Corporate Ladder
We look down upon corporations like Nike with their shoe factories where employees in low-income countries get paid in cents for the work they generate. Nike in turn takes those sneakers that took them a few cents to manufacture and redistribute them for much more (sometimes hundreds more). What we don’t realize is that office employees are not much different than those factory workers. Although they’re paid a wage, they, too, are being exploited for their labor. And if they are working less than they are contributing then they’d be fired and replaced by someone who would work more for less money (usually an intern or someone in a position for a raise). And that’s why the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And the poor are letting the rich get away with this. Who are the rich? They’re the ones in upper management. They’re the ones holding onto stocks (your 401k is nothing compared to the assets they hold).
They dangle their position, wealth, and power in front of you and make you believe that if you work hard enough, you’d become like them one day. This is their lure to get you to work for less and make you climb that ladder. And you have to brown-nose your way up. Sometimes it’s not about how hard working you are. If you’re hard working, then they want to keep you in that position. Why would they want to take you out of it and make you a manager instead? That’s what’s so sick about the corporate ladder. You don’t even climb the ladder based on your performance. It’s more about whether the upper management likes you or not.
It’s a joke. The whole corporate ladder system is a joke. In a company of thousands, there can only be one CEO. You’re likely not going to be that CEO. And why do they even call it a ladder? It should be called a corporate pyramid. If you look at the corporate structure, doesn’t it look like a pyramid with the CEO on top, employees at the bottom and managers in between? That should tell you a lot about how this world is being run.
Why Most Schools Suck
And most schools are to share some of the blame for this as well. These schools are churning out more employees who don’t think for themselves and form their own companies. They only teach them skills to make them fit for employment. Why aren’t they teaching them how to form LLCs, file 1099s, and hire employees? Why aren’t they teaching them how to sell things directly to customers instead of teaching them how to work in an office environment where they have to let their bosses package their labor into a consumer product? I honestly had to learn all of these things on my own even though I went to some prestigious schools. My college degree was a joke. Everything I needed to know to become a millionaire was all available for free on the internet.
Learn to Learn How to Learn
So go out there and learn. Too lazy to and want to just coast in your office job? That’s fine; some people like that. But for the rest of you, learn, learn and learn. Learn to learn how to learn (books and internet resources are your friends). Learn to be self-sufficient. Learn to be an individual (i.e. someone who is not replaceable in your line of business). Don’t be a cog in someone’s money-making machine. Build the machine yourself and reap your own benefits.