The amount of work it takes for me to survive nowadays seems absurdly low. This isn’t true for all people, so at the risk of inclusivity I’d like to write mostly about my personal experiences here.
Sometime early in college I started seriously building things for other people. Websites, apps, one-off advising about software stuff. Compared to just sitting through lectures, I was learning more faster and getting paid for it. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
This led to starting a little consultancy business, going from place to place and solving interesting problems. I would say I knew virtually nothing about running a business at the outset, but there are lots of incentives and resources for people who want to learn that kind of thing. One of the most helpful things was finding a small set of experienced advisors who’d “seen it all before”. I used to say the average age of my friends was somewhere around 55.
There’s a great deal of freedom with doing your own thing like this, which I enjoyed immensely. I was able to read what I wanted, learn what I wanted, spend my time how I wanted. There’s also a fair amount of work that has to be put in though, especially on the sales and marketing side, which is the exact stuff I enjoyed less and found more difficult to do well. I could have hired somebody to help with those things, but I eventually decided to just find a technical role at an existing company, not least because I wanted to do more engineering in a team instead of by myself.
One thing I learned is just how little hard work it really takes to survive if you happen to be doing things as lucrative as software dev. If I had wanted to, I could have worked maybe one or two months and taken off the rest of the year. Merely existing is really easy for someone in my position, and I’m incredibly thankful for that. It lets me spend a lot of time thinking about what I should do better, learning new things, etc.
There’s plenty I could do to increase these multipliers as well. Moving to a lower cost-of-living area would help. Being less picky about interesting work and more picky about well-paying gigs would help too. I don’t think I want to do this, but it’s nice to know that I could probably not work for the majority of the next 10 years if my only goal were mere survival.
I’m still not sure what to do with that kind of available time, but I think that my major lesson is that I really should take more risks. If I get down to it, bare survival isn’t that hard, and so “the worst that can happen” really isn’t bad at all. This opens up a lot of doors to focus on taking leaps towards my goals, without worrying at all whether I fall a few times along the way.