As the vast majority of high school students, I had no clue about what I wanted to do professionally. I decided to study Economics because it was a versatile course. It would allow me to work on several segments (e.g., banks, consulting companies, corporations), and it would also help me to start a business, should I follow that direction down the road.
After getting my degree I went to work as a Market Analyst for a multinational company. Quickly I learned that the corporate environment is rife with politics and bureaucracy, and I wasn’t particularly fond of that.
Exactly one year after starting at the job I gave in my resignation letter. Technology and the Internet had always been passions of mine, and I already had a couple of websites I built during my university years.
Every day I would arrive from work anxious to get in front of the computer to work on them. I figured that if I liked it so much I should try to build a business around it, and that is when I started a company to build and manage blogs and websites, called Online Profits LLC.
For eight years or so I had a blast. Building and managing my websites was pretty cool. People invited me to conferences to talk about the strategies I used to promote and monetize them. I learned how to code to develop web and mobile applications. Heck, the United States Government asked my help to launch one of their websites! Those were the days!
During those years money was not my focus. I was just having fun and working on things I found interesting. Money was a consequence.
But one day, around four years ago, things started to change. I guess I started caring more about what other people would think of me, so I decided that I had to make more money if I wanted to be seen as successful and powerful.
The mobile market was booming at the time, so I decided to start a company to develop mobile apps, called Kubic. My brother was my partner. I handled Android development, he handled the iOS part, and we hired a designer and a marketing guy. We had fun on some projects, but as soon as we started doing more client work, the headaches started multiplying. The clients never knew what they wanted, so constant changes to the projects were needed. Providing support was a pain because clients would call any time of the day or night. So on and so forth.
Still I wasn’t making enough money, so I started a third company with a good friend of mine, called SmartShop.com.br. The company buys and sells second-hand smartphones, both via the website and physical stores. It was my first offline business, and I learned a lot with it. Needless to say that the headaches started coming pretty soon, too. We purchased phones that were never delivered to us. We purchased defective phones without realizing it. We sold phones that stopped working within days. We even got robbed!
Not happy with what I had on my plate, around six months ago I decided to start yet another company, called MySushi. The idea came from my co-founder, who owned Japanese restaurants for the past seven years. We created small and practical kiosks that sell ready-to-go sushi combos. We want to franchise it and expand quickly throughout the country, given that the kiosks can fit pretty much anywhere, from malls to corporate centers and subway stations.
Obviously we have employees helping to run the companies, but managing them still take a lot of work, and I started to feel burned out. I have already gone through periods in the past where I had to work 60+ hours per week, but it was for projects that excited me. This time I was working hard solely for money, and it felt like a heavy burden. One I no longer wanted to carry.
That is when the whole idea of “retiring” came to me.
According to the dictionary, “work” can be defined as “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income.” I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to trade my time for money.
Instead of “earning income” I want to work on stuff that I find interesting, exciting and fun. Stuff I would do for free, and that therefore won’t feel like work.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want to make a lot of money, but after this burnout I decided that I want to make money for the right reasons and through the right means.
For the right reasons means to identify clearly what money can provide for me that is aligned with my values and principles. I don’t want to make money to feel powerful. I don’t want to make money to buy fancy cars or clothes. I don’t want to make money to look successful for other people. I want to make money to provide for my family, to have financial security, and, most importantly, to have freedom. Freedom to choose where I want to live, on which projects I want to work on, how often I want to travel abroad and so on.
Through the right means involves focusing on projects I find interesting and exciting. Projects that will make me wake on a Monday morning eager to start working on them. If you believe you must choose between making what you love and making a lot of money, think again. I believe it’s possible to have both. In fact, I believe that if you focus on doing stuff you love your chances of making a lot of money will be much higher than if you focus on doing stuff you believe will make you money.
Obviously I will need to re-organize my priorities and re-structure my current projects, but it’s certainly going to be worth it!