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Your Wealth Is Built On Your Career: 3 Thoughts From Steve Jobs

There are exceptions to every rule, but we are not interested in the exceptions. The themes in this article are high level and strategic and will not date over time.

For the vast majority your work will be the main source of your wealth. It will be your greatest asset. All other wealth that comes into your life will pale in comparison to how much you make from your career and work. If you earn $75,000 per annum for 40 years that is $3 million dollars (before we look at pay rises and inflation). It is unlikely you will ever make an investment that will make you that much money.

Too many spend far too much time and energy looking for the best investment or strategy and nowhere near enough time on the development or their professional skill set, their professional scope of competence, their career.

Put simple, if you get good at your work and you improve with time and you become better than average, you will make more money than average. The best investment most people can make is in themselves and their careers. This will translate into more money and more employability and more job security more often than not. The financial value of this will outweigh any individual investment you are ever likely to make. The better you get at your job and career, the more you are likely to be paid.

A disproportionate amount of attention is given to how to invest money and create wealth and relatively little time is granted to the source of most wealth, your career. The work you do that brings in the income upon which wealth can be created. Steve Jobs spoke about this eloquently in 2005 and highlighted 3 points about work and career that I think are worth delving into.

Lesson number one: Learn what interests you. It will probably come in useful later in life.

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever." Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs quit his university course after only six months, because he felt he was selfishly squandering his working class parent's slender life savings to gain a degree. But although Jobs quit his course, he did not quit university. Instead, the 17-year-old teenager hung around the campus for another year and a half, sleeping on friends floors and dining with the Hare Krishna, while unofficially attending only those lectures he was interested in.

Did this all add up to a wasted two years? No, says Jobs, because as soon as he dropped out, he no longer had to study subjects he wasn't interested in, and was able to study only those he was interested in. Much of what he learned just by following his curiosity and intuition turned out to be really useful, even though it didn't seem to have any practical application at the time. One example of a quirky course that paid dividends was a course in calligraphy, the art of beautiful handwriting, which taught him the rudiments of typography and letter spacing.

Jobs relates how, 10 years later, when designing the first Apple Mac computer, he built his typographic knowledge into it: “If I had never dropped in on that single course in university, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts” says Jobs. “If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.”

Lesson number two: The end of the world can be transformed into a new beginning.

"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life." Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs and his partner started Apple in his parents’ garage when he was only 20, and invented the first Macintosh computer before he was 30. By then the company had grown into a $2 billion corporation with 4,000 employees. Along the way, it had also picked up a formal management structure and a board of directors who turned on Jobs and fired him, shutting him out of his own company in disgrace.

Jobs was devastated for months before he realised that he still loved the creativity of computers, and that nobody could take away his expertise and experience. He decided to carry on doing what he loved, and during the next five years he created an IT company called NeXT, and bought and developed Pixar Studios.

Pixar produced Toy Story, the first computer animated feature film, and became the world's leading computer animation studio. Around that time, Apple found they had lost their way without Jobs, and bought NeXT to get him back on board. A smart decision, since NeXT technology was incorporated in the IMac, the new generation of Apple Mac computers that saved the company.

“I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple” recalls Jobs. “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.”

Lesson number three: You will be dead a long time so do great work while you are here.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle." Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs remembers reading a quote when he was 17 that has stayed with him all his life: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.” But even if you understand this, it's a shock when you are faced with your own mortality.

At the age of 50, Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest of all cancers. He spent a day getting used to the idea of death while the doctors did a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. And then a miracle happened. The biopsy revealed that his was one of the tiny fraction of cases of pancreatic cancer that could be operated on. The operation was a success, and he survived another 6 years until the cancer came back and took his life.

This first experience of surviving cancer made Jobs even more convinced that his belief in doing what you love is right. "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life", explains Job. "Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

The truth is that we do not know when we are going to die, and we cannot really live our lives as if every day was our last day on earth. It simply wouldn't be practical. But the essential truth of his personal philosophy is surely worth thinking about: if you hate what you do every day, you will hate your life. If you like or love what you do you will have better than half a chance at excelling at it.

Becoming really good at something is usually the best form of career and income progression.

View More Articles By Frank Paul

Frank Paul is Chief Operating Officer & Head of Advice Services with Spring Financial Group. Frank has over 20 years' experience in financial planning and investment advisory.

Frank has extensive experience in private client advising and the management of financial services operations. Frank is actively involved in the recruitment and management of advisory personnel and heads the advisory panel. He holds a Master of Commerce (Financial Planning) and a Dip. Financial Planning and has authored literally dozens of financial education publications.



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