Skills, money, & the marketplace

I heard this remark the other day on some video that I can’t remember:

“trading your skills for money in the market”

Essentially, that is why we work. It sounds so crass. We try to avoid recognizing the brute brutality of what we do for our survival.

As an undergraduate, I did not want to admit that. I wanted to believe in some higher purpose for my efforts. I was naive.

Of course, we can find meaning and fulfillment in our work. And we should strive for that.

But face the reality: that we need skills, that we need to offer something of value to others, that we are putting forth our efforts, our learning, our expertise. In exchange, we get something of value for that.

The value of our skills: are we sacrificing our passion and replacing it with drudgery that provides our substance, our living here on planet Earth? It’s not an either/or.

But we need to learn how to articulate the skills that form our passion for work.

We need to clearly define and elegantly describe our value to the market.

That’s marketing.

Marketing, an easily dismissed concept by those who value the intellect, the arts and literature. We fool ourselves by slotting marketing into that seemingly mundane category of business administration.

Knowing how to present yourself, your professional self, your unique viewpoint, your chosen set of skills, your hard-earned expertise: that will make all the difference in your quality of life.

Quality of life is not at all about obtaining massive amounts of money. But you do need some money to live the life you want. And it’s often not much. There are many places in the world where you can live extremely well on less than $2,000 USD a month. With the growing acceptance of remote work, as demonstrated by an increasing number of digital nomads, you can find your spot in the world.

Learn how to articulate your specific value, not to the whole world, but to a niche, a small set of people who share your vision, a tribe of like-minded followers who value what you are doing, who willingly exchange their own money for the gains that they receive from you.

It sounds so easy.

But it’s one of the biggest challenges in building a creative life. Most will never approach this path. Most will accept their place in a cubicle, participating in the daily toil. And even when you are on your own path, somewhere in the world, much of work, of generating value for others is like chopping wood. You have the tasks. You do the work.

The vexing question: how to translate what you know into skills when you think you have no skills?

Figure that out. You probably do have skills but may not know the words for describing the value you offer. And most definitely, you surely need to acquire more skills to enhance your offering. Our work life is a long journey of many decades, for most of us. A set of static knowledge gleaned from college at age 22 will only go so far.

At some point, you may despair, “Why won’t someone give me a chance?”

They don’t know you.

That’s all. There’s no animus, no malice against you.

They don’t know you.

And even if systemic forces press you back. What good is it for you to stress over that? You do what you can. You always have that choice.

Accept that the choice of how to present your value to others is yours.