On Monday, I picked up the official lecture notes for my “Fundamentals of German Law” class. It’s 180 pages long. The exam is in exactly four weeks, and I don’t know the first thing about law.
In a slight rush of feelings — mostly panic mixed with determination — I sat down and went through the first half the same day. Before this day is over, I’ll have done the rest. But not before writing this.
Yesterday, I answered 30 emails from readers. Tomorrow, I’ll have two coaching calls and another one on Friday, plus a lecture. The list goes on.
My to-do list is full of items created by other people. I’m sure you can relate.
No matter if it’s a school requirement from a professor, someone I’m freelancing for, coaching a client or responding to reader requests, I treat all these the same way:
However, there’s one client I have to serve first. That client is me.
Two Kinds Of Clients
In her 2008 biography of Warren Buffett, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, Alice Schroeder asks him about the beginnings of his long-term business relationship with Charles T. Munger.
Buffett recalls considering Munger a success, long before the two even met:
Charlie, as a very young lawyer, was probably getting $20 an hour. He thought to himself, ‘Who’s my most valuable client?’ And he decided it was himself. So he decided to sell himself an hour each day. He did it early in the morning, working on these construction projects and real estate deals. Everybody should do this, be the client, and then work for other people, too, and sell yourself an hour a day.
This simple idea builds on a psychological error most of us fall prey to.
Think about it this way: If you had a 9 to 5 job, where you earn $20/hr, went home on a Tuesday and received a call from your boss at 6 PM, asking you whether you’d like to come in again at 7 for an extra hour — would you go?
Would you go out of your way to give up more of your time at the same going rate you’re implicitly accepting at work every day?
I doubt it. Because outside of work, your time is worth much more to you than whatever dollar amount you happen to trade it for when you’re there.
The problem with this is it lets us take jobs we know aren’t even remotely paying what we’re worth and then volunteer way too much of our time them. The upside is it becomes easy to justify selling yourself an hour a day — you’re only losing $20, after all.
What you call the things that demand your attention every day doesn’t matter. Work, to-do’s, clients…we spend an enormous amount of time obsessing over the order in which to tackle them.
People like Charlie Munger don’t do this. They know the only distinction worth making is the one between you and everyone else. They only separate two categories of clients:
- The rest of the world.
I know what you’re about to say:
I’d Love To, But…When?
Finding an hour in your day is hard enough as it is. Finding a good hour is even tougher. Let’s turn to the quote again.
He did it early in the morning, […]
Forget morning routines for a second. This isn’t about that. The reason you should make an effort to hire yourself for an hour early in the day is a lot simpler:
The more time advances throughout the day, the less hours you have left, the less likely it becomes you’ll put in your hour. Not even considering willpower, logic alone explains why this is a good idea.
When you do it first thing in the morning, before going to your job, it’ll remain done for the rest of the day. No one can take that away from you.
How Far Can Working For Yourself Take You?
Let’s say the craft you want to master is writing.
With a little practice, you can easily write 500 words in an hour. In Word, about 300 words are a page. That’s 1.66 pages per day — 606 per year.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has 636 pages. You could write an epic novel of that length, just in your first year.
Most ebooks on Amazon are a lot shorter. At 1.66 pages/day you could publish a 90 page ebook every 2 months, or a 45 page ebook every four weeks.
Now imagine the possibilities at 1,000 words per day. That’s almost two Goblets of Fire in a year!
You could also:
- Write 365 blog posts that rank on Google and attract 100,000 visitors to your website in a year (which I’ve done).
- Answer 3-5 questions on Quora every day.
- Publish 2–3 times a week on Medium.
- Ghostwrite articles, and later even books.
- Learn copywriting, which pays a ton of money, once you’re good.
- Start publishing your own magazine.
In addition, practicing a skill like writing will automatically teach you a ton of other things, like:
- A great vocabulary
Wether you start at 100 words, 300, 500 or 1,000 doesn’t matter. Neither does the specific skill. What does is that you don’t forget who it’s all for in the end: