Scott H Young

Average Doesn’t Mean Secure


Just because it’s common, that doesn’t mean it’s not risky. Many people fall into the misconception that if a lot of people are doing something, it must be the safest path. If you were born several decades ago, you would have thought smoking was safe because everyone was doing it.

Is Having a Job Safer?

I earn my entire income from running this website. I love working on it and there is incredible potential for growth. But one of the common criticisms I get is that I’m taking on a riskier path than someone getting a job. In their minds, because a job is more common than online entrepreneurship, it must be safer.

Tell that to the factory workers from big auto companies that recently lost their jobs. Was it safer to adapt to an overpaid job in an aging industry? My income in the next few years may suffer because of the recession, but at least I can’t be fired.

The Standard American Diet

I eat an ovo-vegetarian diet (although I also avoid eggs when I can). This certainly isn’t common as only 1-3% of the population is vegetarian. A common criticism is that I don’t receive enough protein. My own diet logs estimate my protein intake at around 65-90 grams per day, well within the estimated 10-15% of daily calories necessary for health (some experts argue even less, 5-7% is still healthy for an adult).

The mistake here is assuming that an “average” diet is the safest diet. However, when you look at the rising levels of obesity in western countries, and the higher incidences of diabetes and heart disease, it’s more likely that “average” is killing you.

Unconventional Wisdom

The common self-help dichotomy is the safe and mediocre path versus the risky and virtuous one. Entrepreneurship is risky, but it’s also more satisfying than being a widget producer.

This dichotomy is false. Often the best option is actually the least risky over a period of time.

Take this online business. I didn’t pay any start-up costs, so if it flopped, I would only lose a bit of my time. My income stream is split through multiple different sources (and I have the option of easily pursuing new ones), so I’m diversified if one stream dries up. Finally the intangible assets I’ve built up in terms of skills and connections mean that, even if the worst case were to happen, I could use those skills to earn revenues elsewhere.

I’m not arguing that you should pursue an online business because it isn’t risky. You should do what you’re passionate about. However, I reject the argument that because I’m taking an unconventional approach to income generation, I’m at a bigger risk.

Don’t Shortcut Your Thinking

Conventional wisdom is a shortcut from actual thinking. When you rely on the majority to give you career, diet and spiritual advice you avoid thinking about these issues for yourself. Often when you peel off the covering, and start to understand the systems behind it, you can come up with more satisfying and less risky solutions to your problems.

When you peel off the outer layer from your career, you see that a job isn’t just working for money, it’s building skills that provide value in exchange for money. That’s why programs designed to give people jobs, but don’t provide value are insane. It’s also why, if you don’t produce value at your job, you are in a far riskier position than any entrepreneur.

Peeling off the layers to your diet and you’ll see that, while people have been omnivorous throughout their evolution, few societies have consumed the same volume of meat as people do today and none ate as much processed foods. Look closely and it makes more sense for meat to be a side-dish than the main course.

The Only Security is Within You

Personal development, far from being a risky choice, is probably one of the safest. You can always lose your job, but only rarely can you lose your skills. Businesses can die, but the lessons learned from failed ventures make future businesses stronger. Your health can falter, but your skill in changing your habits can stay strong.

If any investment of your time doesn’t build internal assets, it isn’t worth doing. Even the most lucrative job isn’t worth the paycheck if you aren’t becoming more skilled or knowledgeable as a result. One of the reasons I believe running a business is safer than working at a job is that I’ve learned far more from entrepreneurship than I have from any job or class. Even if my external assets fail, I’ve still built internal assets that can’t be taken away.

The Illusion of Security

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men experience it as a whole. Avoiding danger, in the long-run, is no safer than outright exposure.”Helen Keller

Security doesn’t come from following the masses. With an economic collapse, terrorist attacks, obesity epidemics, and third-world flood-relief efforts in an industrialized country, I don’t think anyone can argue that the world is inherently safe. But in that fear you have two choices: to blindly follow the masses over the edge of a cliff, or to think for yourself.

Personal development and unconventional choices often lead to the most success. But despite their appearance, they often hold the least risk. Businesses can fail and diets can be flawed, but every day people lose their jobs and eat hamburgers. There is no such thing as complete safety, and if there was, it certainly wouldn’t be existing in the millions of mediocre choices made by the majority today.


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19 Responses to “Average Doesn’t Mean Secure”

  1. Enrique S says:

    Well said. People often question my unconventional ideas, even after I’m successful, because they fear change. I hate the answer “because that’s how we always did it.” I embrace change, and I like pushing the envelope, despite the occasional ridicule.

  2. Valentina says:

    Another great post, Scott! Especially enjoyed the part about your vegetarian choice. Thanks for bringing it up.

  3. Vlad Dolezal says:

    Well, Scott, you’ve just given me plenty to think about!

    I like to think A LOT about psychology and personal growth (I’ve spent hours considering the fact that we’re motivated by two simple things – pain and pleasure). But I don’t think I’ve ever thought of the angle you talk about here!

    By the way, you reminded me of one quote I read somewhere. I thought I’d share it:

    “Take a Hummer, and load it with self-made millionaires. Drive them into the middle of the desert. Strip them of all their money, possessions, fame, and connections. Then leave them there. I’ll bet you that within 5 years or less, all of them will be millionaires again.”

    Keep up the great insights!

  4. I love this article. Put some of my own thoughts into writing. Great job Scott! And you have a really nice site :)

    And remember…Success is not by chance, it’s by CHOICE! (but, I bet you knew that already) ;)

    Cheers!

    Making The Best Better Team

  5. Peter says:

    I love this blog. If the ideas you put forth here are a good representation of your interests, which I must assume they are, then we are interested in very similar things. I love your general commentary on health and nutrition, and I couldn’t agree more with the point that the security is within you – it’s such a simple but crucially important idea, one that I’ve been more aware of lately.

    (Please include “it” – “In their minds, because a job is more common than online entrepreneurship, [it] must be safer.”)

  6. I thought I had posted a comment already, but for some reason it did no appear. Was just saying, good post. Especially the point about making sure you are getting valuable skills from certain work. If you are in a job and you are not adding value to it, you will most certainly be “managed” out of the company!

  7. Scott Young says:

    Thanks Peter! And it looks like I may have to partner with you as a proofreader, you’ve caught two errors in two weeks!

    AfriqueDeluxe,

    First time commenters must have their comments approved by me before they go on the website. This is done to reduce spam. Now that you have a comment, they should appear immediately.

    Vlad,

    I think self-made is a bit of a myth (financial success is only earned through others), but I do agree with you that individual will is a more valuable (and necessary) asset than all the rest.

    -Scott

  8. Loren says:

    Well Scott, You hit the bullseye with this one! I, like yourself, am in a job position that most had considered too risky. “…Yeah but is this ALL you do for a living…” I just smile and say “sure beats working for a living” (wink wink) For those that care, I teach guitar. I have always had a facination and love for the instrument.
    My dad and grandfather would always ask “are you getting your 40 plus benefits?” to which I’d always squirm a little, and answer
    “no, but I really enjoy what I’m doing and I feel like I’m making a difference in peoples’ Lives.” What’s funny is that I am actually making twice what I used to make working full time and only working part time. This is not to brag, but only to demonstrate that if you line yourself up with your passions, you will definately
    make a good living and LIVE BETTER. Another point is that when Scott mentions following the norm as not always being safe, He’s not kidding. Everyone with a 401k or over-inflated mortgage is feeling the sting of either the stock market, the pressures of forclosure, or both. Yeah, my online banking may not “keep up with inflation rates”, but I haven’t lost a penny. All of my alternative thinking is rewarded with compounding interest and
    restful sleep, thanks to just following my own road. Keep up the good work Scott. You are a Philosopher, free thinker, advisor, an honest human being. These are all things desperately needed in our world today.

  9. [...] the blogosphere for some insights, I came across Scott H. Young’s blog. He offers a rather uncommon take on life and reading some of his post lets you evaluate your life [...]

  10. Maureen says:

    Interesting post. You raise a lot of good points but I feel you make it appear that working for an organization is somehow less creative and interesting than self employment.

    When you say:
    “Entrepreneurship is risky, but it’s also more satisfying than being a widget producer.”

    There are some really great jobs out there both in the profit and not profit sector – not everyone who works at an organization is a widget producer (or has a similar menial job).

    Good for you for knowing what you want at such a young age but don’t knock working for others unless you’ve tried it a few times. :-)
    Cheers

  11. [...] 27, 2009 in Finding Your Path Scott Young’s blog post today lays out how following the masses isn’t quite the secure path we would like to believe.  He [...]

  12. Am writing this from my client’s office, Scott,

    I’ve told you before, but as everyone who has commented on your blog is coming to realize, you really ARE wise beyond your years! May your tribe increase!

    As someone who has earned his own paycheck for the last 35 years, you are so correct in saying that there is no such things as ‘self-made’ people. We are only people who follow our passion(s). I like what Seth Godin said about only three things needed to succeed in business:
    1. A group of possible customers you can identify and reach.
    2. A group with a problem they want to solve using your solution.
    3. A group with the desire and ability to spend money to solve that problem.

    Even huge companies sometimes miss this. I cannot tell you the number of people I have run into over the last 35 years who have followed their dreams who have confided in me, “Steve, I can’t belive I can make a living doing this.”

    Thanks again, Scott.

    Best regards,
    Steve

  13. Scott Young says:

    Thanks for the great comment Steve!

  14. Scott Young says:

    Maureen,

    Obviously there is overlap. There are some businesses which are dull and some jobs that are thrilling. My point wasn’t to generalize, but simply state that the stereotypical tradeoff for entrepreneurship that you get more interest with more risk doesn’t always exist.

    -Scott

  15. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  16. [...] conventional path isn’t necessarily safer or more pleasant. If you were one of the autoworkers who lost your job along with many of your [...]

  17. […] Average Doesn’t Mean Secure – Scott explains brilliantly why “safe” probably isn’t as safe as you think it is. […]

  18. […] Average Doesn’t Mean Secure […]

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