Be Careful What You Chase

March 16, 2007

I have discovered that, when you are chasing wisdom, it will sometimes turn around and bite you. It gathers one tooth at a time.

I first learned from career counseling guru Barbara Sher’s books that one great way to begin to transition to a new career, or to try out a new field of work, is to develop your own “internship.” I put the word in quotes because the real word would be practicum. An internship is usually paid, although very little, because it offers on-the-job training. A practicum is unpaid. During graduate school I had practicums (practica? practicii?) to learn psychological assessment, consultation, behavioral intervention, and therapy. I paid the school for the class and provided my services to the partner organizations for FREE.

My wife, a family practice physician, had an internship after completing medical school. She was paid. With the crazy schedule it worked out to less than minimum wage, but it was money.

Back to my point, or Barbara Sher’s point: spend time working in the field and you will gain knowledge and experience that will make you more valuable and help you see ways to transition to paid work.

Another tooth in the bite: students getting training for life coach certification are encouraged to have a few “pro bono” clients at the beginning. “Pro bono” means “for the good,” specifically the public good. It does NOT mean for your own financial good, because it means for FREE.

Joanna Rowling, AKA J. K. Rowling, finished the manuscript to her first novel while “on the dole” in England. That meant she was getting government assistance because she was not working. Why wasn’t she working? She has a master’s degree, for goodness sake, and had been teaching in Portugal before that! She wasn’t working, meaning getting paid a salary, because she was dedicating herself to writing. She did not get paid while she was doing it. At the time she was actually doing the work, she was doing it for FREE.

She did, of course, eventually get a publisher and some royalties, and a multiple-book deal and a multiple-movie-rights deal. And she is now worth about a billion dollars, because Harry Potter is phenomenally popular. But she built up her worth by working for FREE.

Internet marketing experts and internet business consultants point out that one of the best ways to start making a steady stream of income is by developing information products, like e-books and audio courses. Once they’re produced, you can sell them with little production cost if downloaded by the buyer, or a nominal cost if you produce copies to mail out. An information product that keeps selling, even one or two per day, can generate a steady stream of income for a long time. But if you’re not already established in your practice (that’s me), the whole time you are creating the product to sell, you are working for FREE.

Here’s how it all came together to bite me. I need to be looking for every reasonable opportunity to do what I want to do, which is to mentor people in discovering and nurturing their gifts and helping to developing welcoming and nurturing communities where people are able to mentor one another and help each other discover and develop their gifts. I have to start by doing the work, even if that means working for FREE.

As my competence builds and my experience grows, my value will become more apparent to more people and I will be in a position to charge for my services. As I gain experience, I will be able to develop relevant information products to sell. But I have to start doing the work and building up my value with the faith that I will be paid in the future for what I am doing and learning now. Which means I have to start by working for FREE.

So far, I’m doing great at not making money! But I am beginning to do the work and find my rhythm. I will be paid in the future based on the expert I am becoming today. Until then, I get to make sure that I’ve chosen work I love, which feeds my soul and helps me feel energized, because I’m working for FREE.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey


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