I Told My Friend Not to Start a Business. Here’s Why…

I’ve made my living running this blog for the past five years. I owe a lot to this blog. It’s enabled me to travel, take on interesting side projects, communicate with thousands of people and live well.

Given my positive experience, you’d think I’d encourage other people to do the same. Except when my friend asked for advice about starting something similar, I told him not to do it.

It wasn’t because I was afraid of competition. My friend was planning to start up a business which wouldn’t compete with mine. Even if it did, that’s rarely a problem. I spend more time collaborating with people who write about similar topics than competing with them.

It also wasn’t because his idea was bad. In fact, it was actually pretty good. Which is saying a lot because literally 95% of business ideas people share are terrible. (Interesting side note: whenever someone makes me promise not to steal their idea before they tell me about it, I know it’s going to be terrible. Real entrepreneurs aren’t worried about people stealing their ideas.)

No, the reason I told my friend not to go into business was quite different. The reason is not actually about business at all, but something general enough that it can apply to many, many life decisions without you realizing it. Let me explain…

Winner Takes All and Exponential Growth

Success isn’t the same in all fields. Some areas show relatively rapid initial gains, followed by increasingly difficult long-term gains. Some areas show relatively slow initial gains, but those improvements accelerate so that improving them becomes easier and easier.

I wrote an entire article outlining the difference between these two types of growth here.

Blogging is a clear example of exponential growth. The more effort you put in, the higher the return on investment. When I started this blog, my hourly rate of income was zero—putting in a lot of effort for literally zero pay. Then I remember my first month I made any money at all, which calculated as an hourly rate would probably be only a few cents per hour.

For me, the time from zero income to earning enough to surpass the poverty threshold was about five years. The time to go from that to comfortably earning six figures was only three. That’s the power of exponential growth.

But that growth also means that if you’re not going to be in the game long-term, it doesn’t make sense to get started. I knew when I started my blog that I wanted to go full-time with an online business. I wasn’t clear exactly how I would do it, but I knew that my goal wasn’t to make a little extra side income, but to do it full time.

My friend, in contrast, already knew he didn’t want to do online business full-time. For him, it was just a side activity to generate a bit of extra revenue.

That’s why I told him not to do it. If he wasn’t prepared to invest fully, he would only see the beginning part of the exponential curve—the part of the curve where there is a pretty poor return on investment.

I argued that he’d be a lot better off doing freelance work. A freelancing business also has a build-up time, but the curve is a lot flatter than for a product business. That means you earn more in the beginning, but your final earning power is also more limited than it is with a product business. A flatter curve may be less exciting, but it’s exactly what you want when you aren’t going all-in.

Things Worth Going All-In

Of course, not all areas of life show accelerating returns. Perhaps most don’t. Fitness, relationships, health, attractiveness, cooking, travel and languages all have diminishing returns over the long-run. That means you can probably reach a satisfactory level of those attributes just through normal, daily habits.

Careers tend to be different, showing somewhat accelerating returns. The best in the business out-earn the second best by a large factor. The best programmers are an order of magnitude more productive than the average. The productivity of top performers far outpaces the median employee. As a result, the best tend to out-earn the average by a large amount.

Worse, this inequality is probably growing. Economic inequality is rising. Economist Tyler Cowen argues that the increasing inequality may not be due to corrupt governance or pilferous bankers, but simply the increasing magnification in productivity between the best workers and the worst. In his words, “average is over.”

All of this suggests to me a couple things:

  1. Skills related to your career are probably the most worth obsessing over, since non-career skills experience diminishing returns while career skills experience accelerating ones.
  2. If you want work-life balance, avoid the fields with the sharpest curves in success. Athletes, actors, architects and authors all compete in fierce winner-takes-most environments, so if you plan to pursue such a career, it better be your top priority.
  3. If you make any career moves which are only short-term or part-time, pick flatter growth curves. That means a job instead of freelance; freelance instead of blogging; blogging instead of a start-up. Sharper curves mean you’re taking on far more risk for lower reward if you don’t plan to go in one-hundred percent.

What are some other implications of accelerating returns? Do you agree that most careers show this trend? Can you think of some exceptions? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Hi, Scott, curious about a few things:
    (1) On the mundane level: If you’ve been running your blog for 5 years, how do your numbers figure 8 (with the extra 3 involved in hitting 6 figures)?
    (2) How have you decided that pursuits easily accommodating “deep/deliberate practice”–such as language learning, travel, musical instruments, and relationships–actually have “diminishing returns” over the long run? Personally, I can only see how these paths of mastery would become richer, for any and all concerned, over time. Assuming, that is, one gives them the serious attention they merit.
    (3) If you were to meet someone much like yourself who wanted to dive into the writing life as an online biz and was willing to commit for the long haul, what would you advise?
    I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you here. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. *Cheers!* Play

  • Play Buffett

    Hi, Scott, curious about a few things:
    (1) On the mundane level: If you’ve been running your blog for 5 years, how do your numbers figure 8 (with the extra 3 involved in hitting 6 figures)?
    (2) How have you decided that pursuits easily accommodating “deep/deliberate practice”–such as language learning, travel, musical instruments, and relationships–actually have “diminishing returns” over the long run? Personally, I can only see how these paths of mastery would become richer, for any and all concerned, over time. Assuming, that is, one gives them the serious attention they merit.
    (3) If you were to meet someone much like yourself who wanted to dive into the writing life as an online biz and was willing to commit for the long haul, what would you advise?
    I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you here. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. *Cheers!* Play

  • Scott Young

    1) I’ve been running this blog since February 2006. 2015-2006 = 9 years. The first four I didn’t make a living doing it.

    2) Return on investment. Getting to a beginner level in a language takes, what? A few months? With that, you can order food in a restaurant, take a taxi, maybe have conversations with people depending on your pace and ability. Getting to a mastery level in a language takes maybe a decade or more? With that the incremental increase to your abilities for another three month period of effort is fairly small.

    That said, if linguistic abilities are part of your career or are central to other areas of your life, they may show accelerating returns over a much longer range. If I wanted to do business in China, the difference between having 95% proficiency and 98% proficiency might be huge.

    3) First write a lot. Second, if you want to get into info business that’s a related but a somewhat separate skillset from blogging which also requires practice, experimentation and iterations of development. Third, have something useful/interesting/unique to say (getting that’s easier said than done!).

  • Scott Young

    1) I’ve been running this blog since February 2006. 2015-2006 = 9 years. The first four I didn’t make a living doing it.

    2) Return on investment. Getting to a beginner level in a language takes, what? A few months? With that, you can order food in a restaurant, take a taxi, maybe have conversations with people depending on your pace and ability. Getting to a mastery level in a language takes maybe a decade or more? With that the incremental increase to your abilities for another three month period of effort is fairly small.

    That said, if linguistic abilities are part of your career or are central to other areas of your life, they may show accelerating returns over a much longer range. If I wanted to do business in China, the difference between having 95% proficiency and 98% proficiency might be huge.

    3) First write a lot. Second, if you want to get into info business that’s a related but a somewhat separate skillset from blogging which also requires practice, experimentation and iterations of development. Third, have something useful/interesting/unique to say (getting that’s easier said than done!).

  • Shadey

    This provides a very useful framework for considering major career/life decisions. Thanks.

  • Shadey

    This provides a very useful framework for considering major career/life decisions. Thanks.

  • 3) Excellent advice.

    2) ROI: Yes, I figured you were thinking in these terms. Forgive. I guess sometimes I just grow a bit weary of the “Hacker/Quantified Self/4-Hour” approach to everything under the sun by Tim Ferriss, Josh Kaufman, and co. I suppose I’m more naturally drawn to the Mastery approach of George Leonard, Robert Greene, et al. So I appreciate the distinction you’ve now drawn here. Merci. 🙂

  • Play Buffett

    3) Excellent advice.

    2) ROI: Yes, I figured you were thinking in these terms. Forgive. I guess sometimes I just grow a bit weary of the “Hacker/Quantified Self/4-Hour” approach to everything under the sun by Tim Ferriss, Josh Kaufman, and co. I suppose I’m more naturally drawn to the Mastery approach of George Leonard, Robert Greene, et al. So I appreciate the distinction you’ve now drawn here. Merci. 🙂

  • Joshua Klinger

    Hey, very true. However one of Tim Ferriss’s main arguments is the importance of being the Jack of all trades. If you haven’t yet listened to his podcast, it’s a very compelling argument that I strongly agree with. As such, there is importance is operating some areas of one’s life under the Pareto analysis. Though this is not the road to mastery it is the most effective and efficient way in building up your skill set.

    Tim Ferriss also in the podcast makes it clear that being a Jack of all trades does not come to the compromise of mastery of a particular field. Taking Tim Ferriss as an example, yea he has a multitude of skill sets, he is (though I have zero right to place judgement) a master writer.

    I agree with you though, there is a growing culture of short term investments to be mediocre, check out Maneesh Sethi, he is a pretty awesome person but he does stand for the hacker mentality which seems like a life is explored on a superficial level. Unless of course, hacking IS their mastery?

  • Joshua Klinger

    Hey, very true. However one of Tim Ferriss’s main arguments is the importance of being the Jack of all trades. If you haven’t yet listened to his podcast, it’s a very compelling argument that I strongly agree with. As such, there is importance is operating some areas of one’s life under the Pareto analysis. Though this is not the road to mastery it is the most effective and efficient way in building up your skill set.

    Tim Ferriss also in the podcast makes it clear that being a Jack of all trades does not come to the compromise of mastery of a particular field. Taking Tim Ferriss as an example, yea he has a multitude of skill sets, he is (though I have zero right to place judgement) a master writer.

    I agree with you though, there is a growing culture of short term investments to be mediocre, check out Maneesh Sethi, he is a pretty awesome person but he does stand for the hacker mentality which seems like a life is explored on a superficial level. Unless of course, hacking IS their mastery?

  • Dude, this is really on-point.

    Totally agree with the business accelerating returns model – you want to invest as much of yourself up-front to start that chain of accelerating returns moving as fast as possible. Otherwise, like you say, you might be an old man by the time it starts to REALLY pay off from a part-time commitment (but in most cases you won’t make it that far).

    The career and freelance model I think fits more of a diminishing return + discontinuous jump pattern – i.e. you invest in your skills to a point where you can leverage them for new and unique opportunities that shift you to a new curve all-together (e.g. promotions and career shifts, moving up the “value chain” as a freelancer).

  • Tom Miller

    Dude, this is really on-point.

    Totally agree with the business accelerating returns model – you want to invest as much of yourself up-front to start that chain of accelerating returns moving as fast as possible. Otherwise, like you say, you might be an old man by the time it starts to REALLY pay off from a part-time commitment (but in most cases you won’t make it that far).

    The career and freelance model I think fits more of a diminishing return + discontinuous jump pattern – i.e. you invest in your skills to a point where you can leverage them for new and unique opportunities that shift you to a new curve all-together (e.g. promotions and career shifts, moving up the “value chain” as a freelancer).

  • Gregor Moniuszko

    All that you’ve written is technically true, but I would like to look at it from different perspective.

    The real advantage of a job is that you get salary for learning period. Because of that your company usually teaches you all the stuff important from their perspective to fast-track the ROI from you. Next, you’re set for corporate ladder. However, you could escape that by strategic marriage, relationships and learning important stuff (order is important).

    As a freelancer you also could be paid in learning phase but you have to be at least somewhat proficient in what you do and often compete on price.

    Blogging is completely different as you can’t get money in learning phase without compromising your future income. In his last FAQ podcast Tim Ferris discussed the blog as an audience business model. Such type of business could be profitable from start only if you already have an audience. Otherwise you’ll need to attract people. (BTW commenting on bigger blogs is one of the ways – the one I’m doing right now:-)

    The potential of three pathways listed above is surprisingly similar. Theoretically, you could become high paid manager, copy-writing master or recognized blogger and earn ton of money. But… it is much easier to go All-In as a blogger. This is the root of the difference in potential of blogging, freelance and job in real world.

    Summarizing, considering only long-term income there is no real difference in career choice if you can concentrate on what you’re doing for living. Considering other benefits it might be worth to start a blog if you don’t need money right now and you’re passionate about blogging. If you love it (and could do it for fun not for profit at the beginning) just go for it. Otherwise chose different career.

  • Gregor Moniuszko

    All that you’ve written is technically true, but I would like to look at it from different perspective.

    The real advantage of a job is that you get salary for learning period. Because of that your company usually teaches you all the stuff important from their perspective to fast-track the ROI from you. Next, you’re set for corporate ladder. However, you could escape that by strategic marriage, relationships and learning important stuff (order is important).

    As a freelancer you also could be paid in learning phase but you have to be at least somewhat proficient in what you do and often compete on price.

    Blogging is completely different as you can’t get money in learning phase without compromising your future income. In his last FAQ podcast Tim Ferris discussed the blog as an audience business model. Such type of business could be profitable from start only if you already have an audience. Otherwise you’ll need to attract people. (BTW commenting on bigger blogs is one of the ways – the one I’m doing right now:-)

    The potential of three pathways listed above is surprisingly similar. Theoretically, you could become high paid manager, copy-writing master or recognized blogger and earn ton of money. But… it is much easier to go All-In as a blogger. This is the root of the difference in potential of blogging, freelance and job in real world.

    Summarizing, considering only long-term income there is no real difference in career choice if you can concentrate on what you’re doing for living. Considering other benefits it might be worth to start a blog if you don’t need money right now and you’re passionate about blogging. If you love it (and could do it for fun not for profit at the beginning) just go for it. Otherwise chose different career.

  • sarab

    I am agree with what you said. As every task or work or job that you want to do, if you do it with your full potension, you can find success in it

  • sarab

    I am agree with what you said. As every task or work or job that you want to do, if you do it with your full potension, you can find success in it

  • Scott Young

    I don’t think there’s *no* difference in long-term paths, but you’re right that a lot of the short and mid-term differences wash out over time.

  • Scott Young

    I don’t think there’s *no* difference in long-term paths, but you’re right that a lot of the short and mid-term differences wash out over time.

  • Scott Young

    Care to share a link to that particular podcast?

    I like Ben Casnocha’s “T” model. Where you invest deeply in a few skills but broadly as well. I’ve written a lot about specialization before and breadth vs depth for career skills.

    One thing I’d like to point out is that in a profession like Ferriss’ and mine, breadth is unusually valued compared to other professions. Part of what makes Ferriss a great writer is his unusual life experiences. Had he just been grinding out excellent prose he’d have a lot less to draw on.

    The role of breadth is a little less clear in a profession which doesn’t care how interesting/well-rounded you are.

  • Scott Young

    Care to share a link to that particular podcast?

    I like Ben Casnocha’s “T” model. Where you invest deeply in a few skills but broadly as well. I’ve written a lot about specialization before and breadth vs depth for career skills.

    One thing I’d like to point out is that in a profession like Ferriss’ and mine, breadth is unusually valued compared to other professions. Part of what makes Ferriss a great writer is his unusual life experiences. Had he just been grinding out excellent prose he’d have a lot less to draw on.

    The role of breadth is a little less clear in a profession which doesn’t care how interesting/well-rounded you are.

  • I was just thinking the other day how some things benefit from the ‘all or nothing’ type approach while it leads to illogical choices in other areas.

    For instance, fitness is an area where five minutes of daily exercise is generally better than zero minutes, but some people won’t opt for the five minutes because it’s not the 30-60 minutes they feel “counts.” Rather than see the benefit of doing a little and establishing a habit, they feel like if they can’t do a certain amount of exercise, it’s pointless to do anything at all. Even sillier is when people “mess up” their diet so they say screw it and binge eat with the idea that they’ll just start over again later when they can get it right.

    However… in other contexts ‘all or nothing’ is the ideal approach. For project type tasks that have a certain minimum threshold of investment within a period of time to be successful, it can make sense to put something off or avoid it altogether unless you can really devote the amount of effort into it that’s needed to see a payoff.

    At the end of the day, we have to remember that context determines what’s wisest.

  • Derek Doepker

    I was just thinking the other day how some things benefit from the ‘all or nothing’ type approach while it leads to illogical choices in other areas.

    For instance, fitness is an area where five minutes of daily exercise is generally better than zero minutes, but some people won’t opt for the five minutes because it’s not the 30-60 minutes they feel “counts.” Rather than see the benefit of doing a little and establishing a habit, they feel like if they can’t do a certain amount of exercise, it’s pointless to do anything at all. Even sillier is when people “mess up” their diet so they say screw it and binge eat with the idea that they’ll just start over again later when they can get it right.

    However… in other contexts ‘all or nothing’ is the ideal approach. For project type tasks that have a certain minimum threshold of investment within a period of time to be successful, it can make sense to put something off or avoid it altogether unless you can really devote the amount of effort into it that’s needed to see a payoff.

    At the end of the day, we have to remember that context determines what’s wisest.

  • Ionut Toma

    Good advice and arrived on the moment, I was going to start a blog, perhaps I will follow…

  • Ionut Toma

    Good advice and arrived on the moment, I was going to start a blog, perhaps I will follow…

  • BookMan

    This is off-topic from the current post but I wanted to get your attention, Scott.

    I’m a 20-something in the process of replicating your MIT Challenge and I wanted to know how you managed your environment, specifically, where did you do your day-to-day studying?

    Studying at home could introduce distractions and so could studying in a public or university library. My next thought would be to perhaps rent a small quiet office and use that as my study room.

    Thanks Scott. I’ve found great value in both your MIT and language challenges, frankly, they’re just so damn inspiring.

  • BookMan

    This is off-topic from the current post but I wanted to get your attention, Scott.

    I’m a 20-something in the process of replicating your MIT Challenge and I wanted to know how you managed your environment, specifically, where did you do your day-to-day studying?

    Studying at home could introduce distractions and so could studying in a public or university library. My next thought would be to perhaps rent a small quiet office and use that as my study room.

    Thanks Scott. I’ve found great value in both your MIT and language challenges, frankly, they’re just so damn inspiring.

  • Scott Young

    I studied at home, but that may not be good for a lot of people.

  • Scott Young

    I studied at home, but that may not be good for a lot of people.

  • Scott Young

    I think this fits into the logarithmic/exponential paradigm I outlined earlier. Fitness has diminishing returns and business has compounding ones. With diminishing returns there’s more value to smaller investments.

    Second, the all-or-nothing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Here I was advising my friend to do freelance instead of starting a product business. That’s a tradeoff between two competitive options, one which shows a flatter curve than the other.

    If there were fitness areas which showed differences in curves, I might make a similar suggestion, although I can’t think of any for the life of me (maybe sports vs exercise since sports also require learning coordination skills before the physical aspect of the sport can be utilized?)

  • Scott Young

    I think this fits into the logarithmic/exponential paradigm I outlined earlier. Fitness has diminishing returns and business has compounding ones. With diminishing returns there’s more value to smaller investments.

    Second, the all-or-nothing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Here I was advising my friend to do freelance instead of starting a product business. That’s a tradeoff between two competitive options, one which shows a flatter curve than the other.

    If there were fitness areas which showed differences in curves, I might make a similar suggestion, although I can’t think of any for the life of me (maybe sports vs exercise since sports also require learning coordination skills before the physical aspect of the sport can be utilized?)

  • Great points.

    What I noticed throws some people off with health and fitness is when they treat it like an optional thing they can decide whether or not they want to take on – like a project. Instead, health/fitness is a part of your life whether you want it to be or not. Every meal, every night’s sleep, and even the thoughts one is thinking is a ‘health choice’ so to speak. There’s no luxury of deciding not to start it.

  • Derek Doepker

    Great points.

    What I noticed throws some people off with health and fitness is when they treat it like an optional thing they can decide whether or not they want to take on – like a project. Instead, health/fitness is a part of your life whether you want it to be or not. Every meal, every night’s sleep, and even the thoughts one is thinking is a ‘health choice’ so to speak. There’s no luxury of deciding not to start it.

  • kipki

    I take this advice only to be true if the goal of the side project (in this case blogging) is to gain extra revenue.

    Not all what is gained by starting a blog is exponential in growth: revenue surely is, but things like improving your writing/communication capabilities, deepen your knowledge about a field, add some structure to your thoughts etc are rather logarithmic in nature. These could also be the reasons why one would start a blog, certainly if one has sufficient earnings.

    So the advice should rather be: only start a side project if you’re satisfied with the logarithmic benefits, if this is the case, there might be a chance that you’re around long enough to eventually get some exponential benefits, but don’t count on it. If you’re really only interested in the exponential benefits, you have to go full and make it your career.

  • kipki

    I take this advice only to be true if the goal of the side project (in this case blogging) is to gain extra revenue.

    Not all what is gained by starting a blog is exponential in growth: revenue surely is, but things like improving your writing/communication capabilities, deepen your knowledge about a field, add some structure to your thoughts etc are rather logarithmic in nature. These could also be the reasons why one would start a blog, certainly if one has sufficient earnings.

    So the advice should rather be: only start a side project if you’re satisfied with the logarithmic benefits, if this is the case, there might be a chance that you’re around long enough to eventually get some exponential benefits, but don’t count on it. If you’re really only interested in the exponential benefits, you have to go full and make it your career.

  • Aditya Choubey

    Thanks a lot Scott, for this article. It is especially helpful for me, as I have passed class 12th recently, and will soon join college for engineering studies ( computer science, most probably). I have planned to learn a foreign language during these four years, during free time. I prefer to learn Chinese. But most of my relatives have advised me to learn either French or German, as they have more future prospects, according to them.
    I still prefer Chinese. I would ask you if it will really help me in my career later, or it will just become a useless waste of time?

    I also want to tell you that there are certain skills that one can learn, and sometimes they can really help him/her, even if they seem useless or irrelevant in the beginning, like knowing a foreign language for an engineer. Can you advise me upon my decision, whether it is right or just wrong. What else should I do to add more value to my degree?

  • Aditya Choubey

    Thanks a lot Scott, for this article. It is especially helpful for me, as I have passed class 12th recently, and will soon join college for engineering studies ( computer science, most probably). I have planned to learn a foreign language during these four years, during free time. I prefer to learn Chinese. But most of my relatives have advised me to learn either French or German, as they have more future prospects, according to them.
    I still prefer Chinese. I would ask you if it will really help me in my career later, or it will just become a useless waste of time?

    I also want to tell you that there are certain skills that one can learn, and sometimes they can really help him/her, even if they seem useless or irrelevant in the beginning, like knowing a foreign language for an engineer. Can you advise me upon my decision, whether it is right or just wrong. What else should I do to add more value to my degree?

  • Scott Young

    Learning Chinese is useful if you plan to work in China or with Chinese companies. It’s also a possible specialization that you could acquire which might give you some added value. However, I’d strongly caution against taking Chinese simply because it has an allure of being a “good investment”.

    There are two main reasons why I think learning to speak Chinese may be a poor economic investment:

    1. The Chinese diaspora is large and that results in a large amount of people who are both mostly fluent in English and Chinese, often from childhood. Not only do these people speak Chinese, but they have the cultural knowledge and contacts that can often be essential for doing business with the mainland. At the end of the day, nobody cares how much work it took you to learn Chinese, they only care whether you are fluent, so keep in mind you may be competing against people who have a huge headstart, if not a permanent advantage.

    2. Chinese takes a long time to learn. Again, unlike French or German, it simply takes a lot longer, and more effort to become functionally fluent. I believe a year in a European country is sufficient to get to a C-level ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages ). For Chinese? Maybe 3-4? This means, once again, you’re “paying” essentially 3x as much to have the same level of functional ability. Normally I would say hard-to-acquire skills are more valuable, but that isn’t the case with languages as some children grow up speaking both Chinese and the language of the country they reside in.

    That being said, I love learning Chinese and it’s the only language at the moment I’m actively trying to improve. The culture is fascinating as is the linguistic system. More than that, learning Chinese is an interesting mental challenge so the difficulty is also what makes it more appealing to me as a goal for mastery.

    TL;DR – Learn Chinese because you have a passion for it, not for economic reasons, unless you have a strong desire to live and work in China/Taiwan.

  • Scott Young

    Learning Chinese is useful if you plan to work in China or with Chinese companies. It’s also a possible specialization that you could acquire which might give you some added value. However, I’d strongly caution against taking Chinese simply because it has an allure of being a “good investment”.

    There are two main reasons why I think learning to speak Chinese may be a poor economic investment:

    1. The Chinese diaspora is large and that results in a large amount of people who are both mostly fluent in English and Chinese, often from childhood. Not only do these people speak Chinese, but they have the cultural knowledge and contacts that can often be essential for doing business with the mainland. At the end of the day, nobody cares how much work it took you to learn Chinese, they only care whether you are fluent, so keep in mind you may be competing against people who have a huge headstart, if not a permanent advantage.

    2. Chinese takes a long time to learn. Again, unlike French or German, it simply takes a lot longer, and more effort to become functionally fluent. I believe a year in a European country is sufficient to get to a C-level ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ). For Chinese? Maybe 3-4? This means, once again, you’re “paying” essentially 3x as much to have the same level of functional ability. Normally I would say hard-to-acquire skills are more valuable, but that isn’t the case with languages as some children grow up speaking both Chinese and the language of the country they reside in.

    That being said, I love learning Chinese and it’s the only language at the moment I’m actively trying to improve. The culture is fascinating as is the linguistic system. More than that, learning Chinese is an interesting mental challenge so the difficulty is also what makes it more appealing to me as a goal for mastery.

    TL;DR – Learn Chinese because you have a passion for it, not for economic reasons, unless you have a strong desire to live and work in China/Taiwan.

  • Scott Young

    True. But if I’m being picky, that’s why I told my friend not to start a business, not a blog. In fact, he did start a blog earlier and I supported it.

    You could start a business for non-financial reasons too, but earning money is the purpose of business (not the only one, but most other dimensions of impact of a business scale with money), so if you’re getting into business the assumption is that you’re doing it for revenue (as my friend was).

  • Scott Young

    True. But if I’m being picky, that’s why I told my friend not to start a business, not a blog. In fact, he did start a blog earlier and I supported it.

    You could start a business for non-financial reasons too, but earning money is the purpose of business (not the only one, but most other dimensions of impact of a business scale with money), so if you’re getting into business the assumption is that you’re doing it for revenue (as my friend was).

  • I believe Joshua is referring to episode 19: “The Top 5 Reasons to Be a Jack of All Trades,” where he riffs on a quote from Robert Heinlein. http://podbay.fm/show/863897795/e/1405710085?autostart=1

    And, hey, I’m all for the living paragon, l’uomo universale. 😉

  • Play Buffett

    I believe Joshua is referring to episode 19: “The Top 5 Reasons to Be a Jack of All Trades,” where he riffs on a quote from Robert Heinlein. http://podbay.fm/show/86389779

    And, hey, I’m all for the living paragon, l’uomo universale. 😉

  • joe

    I’m a chinese , if you want to learn it ,maybe I can teach you .

  • joe

    I’m a chinese , if you want to learn it ,maybe I can teach you .

  • leili ghazizadeh

    hi

  • leili ghazizadeh

    hi

  • leili ghazizadeh

    Thanks a lot Scott,

  • leili ghazizadeh

    Thanks a lot Scott,

  • Great article. I just started a blog (mostly around languages and language learning) a few months ago, and it’s great to read more information and advice on online businesses from people who have actually been there. Just found your blog today, and I’m looking forward to reading more! I might try out an MIT challenge myself 🙂

  • Rachel

    Great article. I just started a blog (mostly around languages and language learning) a few months ago, and it’s great to read more information and advice on online businesses from people who have actually been there. Just found your blog today, and I’m looking forward to reading more! I might try out an MIT challenge myself 🙂

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