We’re going to play with some simple economics for a moment here. It’s okay, this is very safe. I’m a University of Chicago graduate, and we’re quite famous for our economics departments full of Nobel Prize Laureates. I will grant you that none of those Laureates are me, nor did I ever take anything that remotely resembled an economics class at U of C, but my boyfriend did, and he was a conservative Republican Texan Marine, so we argued about economics a lot. And I always won. Which allows me to speak now with authority, and alacrity. And alliteration.
Pretend you work in a company.
You get paid a salary for doing a job. Picking a job entirely at random, let’s say you screw the heads onto plastic bunny rabbit wind-up dolls. You screw on 200 a day. If you do that, your boss is fine with your level of performance. That’s what he hired you for. 200 bunny heads a day.
Now, if you’re like most of us, you figure out pretty quick that it only takes you perhaps 3 hours of your eight-hour workday to screw 200 bunny heads. The rest of those five hours you spend fooling around online, daydreaming about churros, and trying to remember all the words to the Rubber Ducky song. That’s okay, though, because your boss only expects 200 bunny heads, and as long as you screw all 200, you will still get the same salary that you would if you screwed them all day long.
In fact, if you are in a job right now and you are vigorously screwing on 600 bunny heads a day in a company full of other people who screw 200 a day for the same salary, you are a damned fool if you don’t insist on a raise or slow the fuck down. Women apparently have a particular problem with this, so to all women out there, I beseech you: only screw vigorously for an appropriate salary. That is all.
Now. Pretend you are a freelancer.
Works a little different now. Now, a guy calls you up. He says, “I’ll pay you a dollar for every bunny rabbit head you screw on.” You say, “Can I do it from home?” and he says sure, because you’re a freelancer, and those are the perks. So instead of screwing bunny heads on in an office, you’re screwing them at home, on your couch, wearing yesterday’s underwear (this is the theoretical ‘you’ we are talking about. I personally have never done this.) And you screw 200 bunny heads.
Pop Quiz: What do you do then? Do you keep screwing, for another 5 hours and another $333.33? Or do you stop and go check out i-am-bored.com for the rest of the afternoon?
We will now bid adieu to our bunny rabbit head screwing analogy, somewhat regretfully, since it turned out to be more entertaining than we had anticipated, and come to our point.
When you work from home, every single minute that you spend being bored is wasting your money. You are no longer getting paid for your time, you are getting paid for your output. If I tallied all the time I spent just yesterday watching this blog’s stats go shooting into the stratosphere (and thank you all for making it possible), it would amount to about the same time period it generally takes me to write an article. You know what a good personal essay runs for in an online magazine? About $500. I just cheated myself out of $500. Just TODAY.
The idea of tallying how much money I have cheated myself of over the last few months is terrifying. I suspect it numbers in the tens of thousands. I am scared to calculate it. And I could use that money. I have student loans and a chocolate habit.
People in Hollywood are always bored. This should be a warning to us all.
I was talking to an actor friend of mine in L.A. Now, everyone knows that Hollywood is where young wannabe actors go to become waitstaff, but my friend is doing very well out there, which is baffling. He shouldn’t be doing well. He fits none of the demographics for a successful Hollywood actor. He’s about 5’5”, half-Japanese, half-Chinese, with an overbite and an Asian ‘fro (honey, if you ever read this, forgive me, but it’s all true). Yet he’s making a living as an actor in a place where actors go to die. How?
Most actors out there work the way most 9-to-5ers do. 3 hours a day. The absolute minimum. They go to their auditions and they go to parties and scan their customers for celebrities and the rest of the time they are being, quite attractively, bored. My friend goes to his auditions, comes home, works on a monologue, writes a screenplay, networks, pitches a TV show idea to a bunch of people, attempts to seduce Jennifer Love Hewitt . . . you get the idea. He puts in twelve hours a day or more into his job. And because of that, he’s beating all the odds. The reward of which is a new car, of which I am deeply envious, because it’s a Mini Cooper, and Mini Coopers were the only good thing about 2003’s The Italian Job remake.
If I put in twelve hours a day – if I even put in the EIGHT a day that we all theoretically work – if I actually WORKED during that time, I’d be making six figures, easy. So would you. Because all of your competition is only working three hours a day. They have succumbed to the boredom.
They have an excuse. Screwing bunny rabbit heads is boring. Running your own business doing something you enjoy, however, is deeply exciting. In a shiny new Mini Cooper way.
Running a business is hard. But it isn’t boring.
Here’s the thing: I like my work. Writing for a living is good times. Being my own boss rocks, because I enjoy working barefoot and sneezing without covering my mouth (forgive me, it’s true). Every tiny little thing I figure out to make my business better gives me a little thrill of glee, right here, in my Glee Center, located somewhere left of my femur and south of my coccyx (which is, by the by, the best word you can’t play in Scrabble).
All of that is because this business is MINE. When all is said and done, working your tail off to improve someone else’s company isn’t nearly as cool as working your tail off to improve your own. It’s satisfying, it’s terrifying, it’s a little magical, and I am never bored when I am doing it. I am psyched, in fact. I call folk up to tell them I got a new client, or figured out how to design a webpage, or – and this is true – changed the layout on my invoices. If you are truly bored with running your business, you are in the wrong business, and you should get another one.
But but but, you say. Running a business makes my head hurt. I need an aspirin. And all the episodes of Sex and the City, in order by season, on YouTube, to make the pain go away.
Yes, it is true. Being bored is easier than running your business. But it will also bankrupt you, and it will make you no less bored to indulge your boredom. Let’s face it, the things we do when we are bored are not things we would ever admit to doing if asked at, say, a dinner party, what we did that day. We never say, “I commented on Yahoo reviews for mediocre movies that I subsequently saw out of guilt for being mean-spirited with no firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of 10,000 B.C.” If you ever uttered these words aloud, I am willing to bet no one talked to you at that dinner party – or indeed in that area code – ever again. The things we do when we are bored are, in and of themselves, inherently boring, and we are generally a little ashamed that we did them.
Except for watching the Rubber Ducky song. That’s just pure joy. With bubbles.
Brief Unrelated Announcement.
I will be flying to NYC tomorrow and shall not be responding to comments as promptly as I have been wont to do. But I will respond! It will just take me until I change planes in Tennessee.
What, like you’ve never been routed through Tennessee?
Oh. You haven’t.
Me neither. I’m a little scared.