June 2017 - Smart Money Seed

6/28/17

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

6/28/2017


How often do you find yourself in someone's home or apartment thinking wow this is really nice. How the hell do they afford all this stuff? Nice furniture, a huge Ultra HD TV, fancy decorations, a brand new car outside. They might be telling you a story about a great vacation they just got back from or an amazing meal at an expensive restaurant. Chances are, that person might be living beyond their means.

Before we go any further, let's make something extremely clear. The only way for you to succeed with money is to spend less than you make. This simple concept seems to be so difficult for so many people in our society and our generation. Believe it or not, you might not be able to buy something if you can't AFFORD it.

I apologize if you're too blown away by that concept to continue reading. As for the rest of  you, let's march on.

The term to describe this idea is delayed gratification.We're not saying that you can never have a new car or expensive furniture. We're just saying that you should wait to reward yourself with those types of luxuries at least until you have the money for them if not longer.

Utilize Your Resources

I currently live with one of Christian's and my best friends, Jordan. Jordan and I make enough that we could've bought some new furniture when we moved in together. Instead, if you walk into our living room, you can expect to see:
  • A futon that was in Jordan's parents' house the entire time I've known him
  • A couch that was in my aunt's house since I can remember
  • A chair that was in my grandparents' living room for years
  • A chair Jordan inherited from a family friend
I would bet that most of us could point to a few opportunities to take advantage of a hand-me-down for something that might be pretty expensive if we had to purchase that item brand new. I don't want to downplay my appreciation for my hand-me-downs-- I certainly appreciate the opportunity to have those things.

But for the sake of transparency, let's take a look at some of the items that have saved me a decent chunk of change that I've been fortunate enough to receive more as a gift rather than a hand-me-down. My privilege and the generosity of my family is not lost on me.
  • I drove a car through high school and college that I was incredibly fortunate to have received from my grandma.
  • My parents got me an awesome 60" TV for Christmas during my senior year of college.
  • After my first PS4 that I purchased took a shit on me, my parents got me a new one this past Christmas. Video games are one area where Christian and I spare no expense, so I really appreciated this gift.

Take It Slow 

If you feel like you need the latest and greatest of everything and will spare no expense to achieve that, I've got a tip for you: get over yourself. My free couch pretty much feels just the same on my ass as your $1,000 couch does. My Ford Focus gets me where I need to go just like your huge truck or fancy sports car, and I'd bet I spend a little less on gas along the way.

There's no need to rush into a life of luxury. In fact, if you try to rush into a luxurious lifestyle, you're probably going to create a lot of problems for yourself later on in life. Even if you're not racking up debt to purchase expensive things, you are incurring opportunity cost. An example of opportunity cost is that if you spend $1,000 on a couch, you could have purchased 2 or 3 plane tickets almost anywhere in the country. Or maybe you're struggling to make ends meet or struggling with a bunch of debt and could have used that $1,000 to make your next mortgage payment or pay off a credit card.

I'm not advocating against ever buying anything nice. I'm just saying that you need to consider your needs and value system before making a large purchase on a luxury item. Should you sign up for a $30,000 car loan, or do you have some credit card debt you need to clean up first? Do you need a new couch, or would you rather get one at a consignment shop or as a hand-me-down and allocate that extra money towards a vacation? What exactly can you do to answer those questions?

Think, Analyze, Act

I recently saw another personal finance blogger tweet that his family waits 6 months to a year before making large purchases. I asked him for clarification, and he essentially said he would apply this strategy to everything outside of his normal spending habits.

This may come as a shock to those of you who know how much I love to argue, but I did not respond to his last tweet. This guy left that conversation with a satisfied feeling that he had enlightened me although I thought that was the worst financial advice I had ever heard. We're new to the blogging world, so I didn't want to rock the boat too much quite yet.

Yes, slow and steady wins the race. But being arbitrarily slow in decision making for no reason is just stupid.

The key for making purchases on luxury type items is to follow a logical process that will allow you to make a smart decision given your current financial state. Sure, postponing large purchases and driving everything into the ground will help you to keep your expenses low, but we're not really interested in this idea of passively hiding from making big decisions. What's our process for deciding whether we can really afford something? Think, Analyze, Act.

     1. Think

Our 6th-8th grade reading and English teacher, Miss Wetterau, used to stress to us to always trust our first instinct when answering test questions. This mindset doesn't necessarily apply to all situations, but I think it fits pretty well with financial decisions. Take a second to think about your financial state, what value you would get out of this purchase, and what your alternatives might be. Is this a good idea? Is it exactly what you want to spend this money on? Could something cheaper provide similar value to your life, or would you be happier waiting until you can spend a little more to get exactly what you want? 

What does your gut tell you? If something inside of you is putting up a red flag, that's a pretty good sign that you need to forget about this or revisit later once you make some financial progress. If you're feeling confident that this purchase is a good idea, let's put some facts and numbers behind this decision.

I was recently considering purchasing a new computer. My old computer was a very basic Lenovo that I purchased in 2011 before heading off to Ohio State. It got the job done, but I wanted something better, faster, and more mobile so I could be better equipped to support Smart Money Seed. I had been (and still am) stocking away cash like a mad man for 2 years, and my bank account was well equipped to handle this purchase. Okay, I passed test #1.

     2. Analyze

How much exactly are you spending? Are you taking on debt for this purchase, or will you be using cash or a credit card that you are 99.99% certain (nothing in life is 100% certain-- stay woke) that you can pay off at the end of the month? If you're taking on debt, what type of debt is it? Run your financial numbers to make sure your extra debt payment isn't going to cripple your ability to make ends meet. If you're paying cash, make sure you'll have enough left over to cover your living expenses and minor emergencies.

Consider your alternatives. I am a huge proponent of reading internet reviews before making almost any decision. I probably put a little too much stock in internet reviews which is something Amanda likes to point out when I'm poring over pages of Yelp reviews before deciding where we go for dinner. Maybe there's a cheaper or better alternative that you didn't even know existed. Maybe you're validating your decision as the best possible decision. Don't try to reinvent the wheel. We can learn a lot from the experiences of people who have done the same things before us.

Would this purchase cause something else it might be replacing in your life to become obsolete? Does that item have any value that you could recover if you sell it? Even if it's not a huge part of the equation, every little bit helps. I have sold old video games to Gamestop only 1 time in my life because I was pretty frustrated with their low-ball offer. Instead of getting $2 for a game they're going to sell for $30, I now have sports video games from the early 2000s collecting dust in a box. Sometimes selling your old item can have a much greater impact on your decision such as when you're purchasing a new car. 

Back to the computer. I double checked my bank account and validated my feeling that I could make this purchase without any risk given my financial state. I wouldn't have to take on any type of debt or payment plan (and would adamantly advise against that for this type of purchase). My dad came to Findlay and took me to Best Buy. He walked me through my different options and price points, and the store associates were very helpful in laying everything out. I tested out several different computers and read internet reviews of the computers I liked. I was focusing on the positive and negative reviews specifically referencing reliability, speed, and mobility.

     3. Act

You should now be well-equipped with plenty of information about yourself and the market for the product you're looking to buy. Now it's time to pull the trigger. It's okay to sleep on the decision for a few nights, but if you've done your due diligence to this point, you know what decision you should make. Waiting a year is not going to drastically change the equation unless you're expecting some dramatic change in your financial life during that time. Make a decision.


I love my new laptop which makes weekend coffee shop
blogging so much fun! (Nerd alert, I know)

Ultimately, I decided to purchase a Microsoft Surface Book. It's one of the best products on the market today, and I expect it to last me a really long time. It's a tablet and a laptop in one, so it saved me from having to purchase a keyboard for my tablet (which isn't that great to begin with). I moseyed around in the Think stage for quite a while, but once I made a commitment, I thought about the purchase, analyzed my options and decision, and acted all in a few hours. I'm very happy to not have some stupid arbitrary rule in my life that would have caused me to wait until next year to buy this computer.

Make Smart Decisions

As millennials, most of us are currently living the least expensive years of our lives. We should also have pretty low standards since most of us haven't been exposed to much of a life of luxury. Just because you're starting to make money after high school or college doesn't mean you have to spend it. Figure out what you value the most, spend money on those things, and save on the rest for now. You can slowly add luxury items as you go-- you don't need them all right this second.

When it comes to personal finance, a little patience can go a long way. When you think you're ready to make a large purchase, Think, Analyze, and Act to ensure you're making the best decision you can make. What possible usage for your money could get you the most bang for your buck?


6/22/17

5 Productivity Hacks You Need to Know

6/22/2017

Success = ... Well, it depends

Despite what anyone tries to tell you, there is no secret recipe for success. Whether it is your job, your personal life, or a hobby, there is no magical formula that will catapult you into excellence. Trust me, if that recipe existed, I would be applying it to my golf game ASAP! The truth is each person's recipe for success is a little different. If Alex needs to work on his iron shots and I need help with my putting, it would be pretty dumb for us to practice the exact same way. To be successful, we each need to create a recipe that is unique to our situation.

"There is no substitute for hard work." - Thomas Edison

There is one ingredient, however, that we all can use in our success recipes; hard work. I know what you're thinking, this is a ground breaking discovery and I'm going to become famous for uncovering such a monumental secret. I'll do my best to remain humble.

All joking aside, hard work is probably the single most important ingredient if you're trying to find success. In my years of playing baseball, I never ran across any great hitters that didn't take thousands of swings in the cage or any spectacular fielders that didn't spend countless hours fielding ground ball after ground ball.

I can't condone drinking at work, but this graph may have a point.
Don't worry, hard work doesn't mean that you need to start spending 60 hours a week at the office. Hard work means that you need to heighten your focus and maximize your productivity each and every day you go to work. If you're consistently more productive than your co-workers, I guarantee you're setting yourself up for a promotion or a nice raise. (And if that's not the case, you need to find a new place to work!)

So, what is productivity? 

In my opinion, being productive is simply making the most out of your time. Here are five productivity hacks you can start using today:

  • Make to-do lists - having a visual reminder helps prevent forgetting assignments and allows you to easily prioritize your tasks. I like to use sticky notes for smaller, day-to-day tasks, and a white board for longer-term tasks.
  • Stop eating lunch alone at your desk - if you have a desk job, stop eating by yourself everyday. It might seem like it saves you time, but not only can taking a break provide your brain with the refresh it needs to be effective, you can also increase your network by sitting down with others. You never know when you may need to call on John in accounting for a favor, and I bet he'll be quicker to help out if you already have a relationship with him.
  • Turn off notifications - not many things can stop a train, but an email or text message can stop your train of thought right in its tracks. Before you dig in and start working on that big assignment, take a second to close Outlook and put your phone on silent. Those emails and messages will still be there when you get done.
  • Step away - walking away from your desk may sound like the opposite of being productive, but sometimes a small break is what you need to get refreshed and energized. Even LeBron needs a breather from time to time, so don't think you're some macho man that can do everything at once. Do this when the creative juices stop flowing or when you start to feel fatigued.
  • Write down your thoughts - have you ever had a great thought only to realize a few hours later that you completely forget it? Sometimes your best ideas are your first ideas, and you don't want to lose those valuable thoughts. Carry a small notebook with you to make sure your next million dollar idea doesn't fall by the wayside.

If you really want to be a productivity all-star, you can't just adopt those habits; you need to be aware of what can destroy your success. Here are four things that can kill your productivity:

  • Not knowing your bad habits - if you don't know your weaknesses, you can't manage them. Be mindful of your areas for improvement so that you don't let a bad habit bring you down. My biggest productivity weakness is stepping away for a break. When I have a big to-do list, I often try to bust through everything at once, only to feel fatigued and less engaged by the last task. One strategy I found that helps is purposefully scheduling small breaks throughout my list of projects. 
  • Too much big picture - it's always good to dangle the prize out in front of your face from time to time (i.e. the weekend, a vacation, or retirement), but if you're only looking at the prize way out in the future, you're going to trip and fall over the rocks and roadblocks you have to cross to get to the prize. Make sure you game-plan for those smaller hurdles so that you can get to the prize without too many bumps and bruises.
  • Saying yes all the time - this is difficult for many people, but learning to say no is absolutely critical if you want to be successful. Saying yes to every request is a guarantee that your work product is going to suffer on those important projects. Practice setting the right expectation by saying things like "I'd love to help with that, but I probably won't be able to until next week." Disclaimer: even though Smart Money Seed is an awesome blog, this post does not serve as permission to tell your boss no!
  • Not taking care of yourself - it seems obvious, but don't forget to get some sleep and eat right, otherwise you're going to feel like crap. If you read any article about the habits of highly successful people, one of the frequently recurring themes is having a daily routine which includes ample amounts of sleep and healthy eating. I am by no means great at this (I stay up too late playing video games and probably drink too much beer), but I still try to be mindful.

You've got the tools, now it's time to get out and kick some ass. Start using these tips so you have more time for baseball, fishing, and beating Alex in video games!


What productivity hacks did I miss? What do you do to keep yourself on track? Let us know in the comments!

6/15/17

Start With Something Small. Taste The Fish!

6/15/2017
Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.

Our society and our personal success is essentially built on that basic but powerful premise. But what if that man has never tried fish? What if he's getting by eating Ramen noodles for every meal because he has no idea how good fish is? Why the hell would he want to fish?

I wrote previously about a huge goal I met. I paid off $30k in debt in less than a year and a half. I haven't lost touch with reality. I am extremely lucky to have been in that position, and I understand that most people are not. You might not even be interested in paying off your debt or setting any sort of financial goal because you've never tasted financial success before. You've been eating Ramen your whole life.

I am asking... no... begging you to taste the fish. Just try a bite. I can just about guarantee you that you're going to fall in love. And you're going to want to go fishing every single day.

The Dave Ramsey Philosophy

If you're not familiar with Dave Ramsey, I suggest familiarizing yourself with him. To summarize,
Dave has created a personal finance class called Financial Peace University which teaches his baby steps for financial success. The baby steps say that you need to get current on all your payments, save $1,000 in an emergency fund, pay off your debt, and then save 6 months of expenses in an emergency fund and save 15% of your income for retirement while paying off your house and saving for your kids' college. Easy, right?

If that was easy, then everybody would do it and Smart Money Seed wouldn't exist. Dave knows that the hardest part of teaching people to fish is getting them to actually start fishing. He needs to convince them to taste the fish, and he knows that most of the time once people taste the fish, they become addicted to fish. Once Dave convinces somebody to taste the fish, he knows that person will fish every day for the rest of her life.

Dave doesn't allow people to think about what lake to fish in, what bait to use, or whether they should fish on the dock or in the boat. He lays out his plan from beginning to end, and people follow it methodically. His plan starts small, and it starts the same for everyone every time. The follower of Dave's plan achieves her first goal. She makes sacrifices for a month or even a few months, and now she's current on her payments. Now she's had a hit of dopamine from achieving her first goal, and she's hungry for more.

She saves up $1,000 like clock work, and now she's on to the debt. She's $100,000 in the hole between 3 different credit cards, student loans broken up into 4 individual loans, and a car. $100,000 looks daunting with her $25,000 annual salary. She's really enjoyed fishing for the past several months, but maybe it's time to give up.

But now she has a narrative in the back of her head that she can do it. Just a few months ago, it looked like she would never get current on her payments. Just a few months ago, $1,000 seemed like a pipe dream. Those smaller goals felt just like this $100,000 feels today. But now that she's found out she loves fishing because she's tasted the fish, she's determined to march on. She needs to attack this debt just like she's attacked her first two goals. Dave teaches to line up the debts smallest to largest (he calls this the debt snowball) and to enjoy the little victories along the way every time you pay off a new debt. Those little victories have been enough to inspire and motivate millions of people to keep fishing and become debt free.

Dave's program isn't the most successful financial program because it's the only right answer. It's the most successful program because it allows for those small victories along the way. Nobody would go fishing if they didn't catch any fish until years after they started. The reason people keep fishing is because they catch and eat their fish along the way. Very quickly after you start Dave's program, he's not the one motivating you to fish anymore.

Your small victories you realize every day, every week, every month, and every year allow you to become self-motivated enough to keep working harder and harder. And all of a sudden, even though you're counting on catching a fish so you can eat dinner tonight, all that hard work starts to feel like fun.

Taste The Fish

We're not going to pretend to have as much financial expertise as Dave Ramsey. We're not going to tell you exactly where to fish and how to do it. But we are going to plead with you to taste the fish. Set a small goal. Achieve it. Set another goal. Achieve it. Taste the fish and you'll be motivated to keep fishing for the rest of your life.

Set a Small Goal


You need to start small. Don't run out and buy a $100 meal at a fancy seafood restaurant. Go to McDonald's' and buy a Filet-O-Fish. Maybe your goal is to stop hemorrhaging money this month. Keep your lights on, pay your water bill, and don't add to your credit card debt. Maybe you're already getting by and need to save up $100 or $1,000 in an emergency fund. Maybe you want to pay $50 extra on your debt this month.

Whatever your situation, you need to start with the smallest goal you can make that will put you further ahead tomorrow than you are today. Attack that goal with reckless abandon and kick its ass. Then go find a new lake to fish in. Set your next goal. Kick that goal's ass. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My very first financial goal was to make enough money by mowing through middle school and high school to mostly financially support my social life. I wasn't very cool and spent most of my time at football, basketball, or tennis practice anyway, so that didn't really take much. My parents certainly helped, but I enjoyed the freedom to not constantly have to beg them for money.

Once I graduated high school, I really wanted to save up $1,000. That didn't take very long working full time at Home City Ice. Especially once I started doing delivery driving, I had begun dealing with much larger amounts of money than I ever had in my life, and that was exciting to me. I made a few thousand dollars that first summer after graduation, and my parents and I had reached the agreement that I needed to save $3,000 per year to cover the portion of my education that wasn't covered by my loans and scholarships. I reached that easily freshman year, and I kind of took it upon myself to start saving enough for my rent every year after that which ranged anywhere from about $3,800-$5,000 per year the last 3 years of college.

And obviously I needed enough extra for beer money. Lots of beer money.

My small goals added up, and as I continuously realized small successes, I fell further and further in love with fishing. I didn't follow a blueprint like Dave Ramsey's, and I still don't. I learn about ideas and strategies for financial success, and I tailor those to my own life. If you think Dave's blueprint is best for you, then go for it! If you want to make your own plan or just set one small goal for now, great!

What Are You Waiting For?

If you want to improve your financial situation, PLEASE end your steady diet of Ramen. You have no idea what you're missing out on. Just push yourself to taste the fish. Taste the fish, learn to fish for yourself, and I promise you that you will be motivated by your small successes to keep fishing and to work toward your own financial success for the rest of your life.

6/7/17

Be a Leader. Make a Difference. The World Needs You!

6/07/2017
What's your vision of a leader? A CEO, a powerful politician, or maybe your boss?
What if we told you that EVERYBODY has the opportunity to lead, regardless of position or job title?
What if we told you that we NEED you specifically to lead?


Let's do something different this week.

We're all here for a reason. We're all here for unique reasons. None of us are here to simply follow the status quo. None of us are here to simply push along someone else's idea of what's right without analyzing, challenging, and improving upon that idea.

Very rarely will you be explicitly asked for your opinion. It happens, but it's rare, and you generally are asked your opinion within some specific parameters or between a couple of defined choices. People don't ask for your open-ended opinion because opinions aren't safe. Facts are safe. The status quo is safe. Safe is comfortable to people. Safe makes people feel good. But safe is the furthest thing from good we could possibly experience.

If What You Want Doesn't Exist, Create It!

Let me walk you through the most basic example of this I can think of. You order your dinner at a restaurant. As long as the restaurant doesn't feel that their dish is an especially good idea, you are generally allowed to make modifications. You can substitute a side or ask them to omit an ingredient no problem. But what if that restaurant doesn't have exactly what you want? Would you ask them to make it for you so they can provide the best possible experience for you at that time? Would you change their idea on their menu to make it better at least for their specific goal to satisfy you tonight?

I'm not suggesting going to McDonald's and asking them to grill you some filet mignon. When I was younger, I would usually drink pop at restaurants. I'm happy to report that I've mostly kicked that bad habit and never order pop at restaurants anymore unless it comes with whiskey which is healthy since corn is a vegetable. But as the waitress brings me my 20 ounce craft beer, I am often reminded of my dark pop guzzling days. Cherry Coke was my favorite drink, but shockingly few restaurants carry that.

The very best waiters and waitresses would offer me Coke with grenadine which actually became my favorite version of Cherry Coke. It usually came with a cherry or two on a fun little sword. After I had this offered to me several times, I started asking every restaurant if they could put grenadine in my Coke even if they didn't explicitly offer. I was able to get my Cherry Coke (or Cherry Pepsi) about 90% of the time I went out to eat. Before I started asking, that was probably closer to 50%.

Sometimes your new ideas can even help other people and not just yourself. During our years growing up in Bucyrus and especially our summers at Home City Ice, Christian and I would frequent the local sports bar, Baker's Pizza. Baker's didn't have a buffalo chicken sandwich, which is my favorite thing to order at a sports bar, but on several occasions I asked them to make one for me and they obliged. Then a couple years ago, Baker's made some slight modifications to their menu and, lo and behold, the buffalo chicken sandwich had made its way onto the menu.

I don't give a shit if I don't deserve credit for inspiring Baker's to make that change. I'm taking it.

I'm getting pretty hungry, so I'm going to stop talking about food now.

This Isn't Going To Be Easy

Making a difference is hard work. Making a difference takes a ton of effort and commitment. And hardest of all, making a difference necessitates that you step outside your comfort zone. But the only way to make your life and your world exactly the way you want them is to make the differences you need. The only way to make that change is to step up and be a leader.

Being a leader doesn't mean being the president of the United States or the CEO of your company. Being a leader means standing up for what you believe in. Leaders are often criticized and not well received when they first begin leading. But leaders build trust and respect over time even if the people respecting the leader don't necessarily like that leader's ideas.

What makes you unhappy or frustrated? Is there something at work that you think should be done differently but nobody else seems to think that way? Maybe you've complained to co-workers or passive aggressively suggested to your boss that you're unhappy about that thing. But I bet most of you haven't stepped up as leaders and said "ENOUGH!" Why not? Because stepping up as a leader is scary. But how do you expect to see change without proposing change?

One of the first things I did at Marathon was creating a PowerPoint presentation about how much my department's onboarding program sucked including a very specific program for improving the process. I talked to my boss about it in a very healthy manner, and he asked me to send it to him. By the end of the week, my presentation criticizing the department was sent to every single person in my department, probably over a hundred people all across the country, with my name in big, bold letters right on the title slide.

As you can imagine, this was quite uncomfortable for me. I wished so badly that my manager had not sent it to the entire department. But then shortly after, a guy who had mentored me during my internship emailed me and told me how bad of an idea it was. He explained how I shouldn't rock the boat and how I didn't want to step up like this and incur the risk of putting a black mark on my resume. As I read his email, I realized how wrong he was. I realized how strongly I felt that creating that presentation was the right thing to do.

About a year after my presentation was sent, Marathon created an onboarding and training focus group to research and propose a solution for the onboarding and training process. I won't bore you with the details of that process or our recommendation, which took a few months to finalize, but the moral of the story is that as I type this article, our onboarding and training program is going to be drastically improved in the very near future.

Go. Act. Make a Difference!

Has anybody ever told you that you're not good enough? Deep down, do you feel like you're not
qualified to make a difference in our world?

I'm here to tell you that you are definitely qualified to make a difference. We all have the ability to make a difference. It's going to be scary, but we all need you to do it. We all need you to step up for our sake to make our world a better place. If you find something you believe in and work hard to support it, you will have achieved your purpose in life.

6/1/17

Stop Getting a 2% Raise

6/01/2017
We all want to work less, be our own boss, and make more money. Everyone wants to get out of the rat race that is our day job and start doing something we truly love and get paid for it.

While we can certainly strive to be our own boss, let's be honest; many of us are going to be in the working world for years to come, and that's not a bad thing! There are many careers that not only challenge us to grow as individuals, but are also very fulfilling and rewarding. To keep your bank account happy and to make saving for retirement easier, however, you're going to need some raises. Here are a few steps to ensure your paycheck gets a little bigger each year.

1. Find Something You Enjoy

Even if you don't love it, you need to find something that you like more than you hate. It might seem obvious, but so many people get stuck in professions they hate and just sacrifice 40+ hours a week to collect a paycheck with a nominal 2-3% raise each year. To get a raise or promotion, you need to intrinsically motivate yourself, and in my experience it's pretty difficult to motivate yourself if you don't like what you're doing. 

I am a very competitive person, but if I'm playing a game I don't care about (usually some Disney game that Rosie makes me play) I care much less about the results. If I'm playing Alex in MLB The Show, however, I want to kick his ass by 10 runs. For many people, I think this holds true for work. You need to find something you enjoy in order to find that intrinsic motivation.

Finding something you enjoy is sometimes a little easier said than done. If you're anything like me, sometimes you have no clue what you like until you've actually tried it. My recommendation to overcome this obstacle is to seek diverse experiences. While most companies probably won't let you switch jobs every few weeks, I doubt there are any rules about getting involved and networking. Find out if your employer has any resource groups you can join or simply ask a colleague from another department to grab a cup of coffee. Exposing yourself to broad groups of people across your company not only gives you a better understanding of the enterprise, but it also builds an extended network that can help you transfer to that position you might enjoy.

2. The Little Things Matter

Once you find something you like, you're naturally going to going to tackle the big projects with effort and dedication. If you're craving a steak and you pick up a sirloin from the grocery, you're going to focus on cooking that steak to perfection with just the right amount of seasoning. But what about your side of mashed potatoes or vegetables? Are you using the same attention to detail to make sure they are prepared with excellence? That's the difference between good restaurants and great restaurants, and if you want a raise, you need to pay attention to the side dishes, too.

So, how do you pay attention to the little things?

Check your work. You're right, this sounds like a very basic step, but it cannot be overlooked. Once you've completed an assignment one of the most satisfying feelings is crossing it off your to-do list, but don't let that rush you into sending off that PowerPoint slide deck. Take a step back and go for a quick walk to the drinking fountain or read a few emails; anything to clear your mind of the project. Come back with a fresh palate and scrutinize those slides with magnifying glass. Have you checked for mistakes you've made before? Are there any careless errors? How does the formatting look? Sure, we're all going to a make a few errors from time to time, but the important thing is to learn from the mistake and ensure it never happens again. So cliche yet so damn true.

"The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more." - Jonas Salk

A Quick Rant

There's nothing worse than telling someone you don't care about their problem and that you have better things to do. Not only is that bad office politics, you're just being an asshole. Sending an email littered with typos is telling your recipient you don't have time for them, and if you don't proof read your emails, you might be an asshole and not even know it. Please, take an extra 30 seconds and check for mistakes. What if this email got forwarded to an executive? Are you using the right tone? Show your recipient that you care and send them something that is mistake free and easy to understand.

Note: this rule applies regardless of the recipient, subordinate or superior.

3. Solicit Feedback

Everyone thinks they deserve a raise, but ultimately only one person determines if you're worthy of more cash: your boss. You may think you've crushed your last few projects and a promotion is on its way, but what if your boss thinks that last PowerPoint presentation was only average? It's crucial that you align expectations with your boss, so don't be afraid to ask for some feedback. Here are a few questions I like ask my boss and/or co-workers from time-to-time:
  • How would you have handled this situation?
  • What should be my top priorities right now?
  • What are my biggest areas for improvement?
  • Who could I benefit from shadowing or working more closely with?
  • What are the next steps I need to make to be ready for a promotion?
Don't just wait and ask these questions at your annual review; by then it is too late. There are small moments everyday to gain bits and pieces of feedback. Don't take these moments for granted.

So, what's in it for you?

Cash, plain and simple. Don't believe me? Here's a quick example.

If you have a starting salary of $30,000 and get a 2% raise every year, you'll be making a little over $54,000 after 30 years. But if you're able to get a 4% raise each year, you'll be making over $97,000 in 30 years. That's quite a difference! In case you're curious, the average annual raise over the past years in nearly all industries has been close to 3%.



Obviously there are many other factors at play, but the point is simple; consistently bigger raises make a huge difference to your salary over time.

Cash isn't the only benefit to landing those big raises though. If you're able to find a job that you can rock, chances are you're going to find more pleasure and fulfillment. So don't waste any time, get out there and start getting those big raises today!