Original question from Quora:

Is it possible to make money by doing nothing?

My Answer:

Yes, you can get paid a lot of money for doing nothing, but before you do that you have to do something very, incredibly, insanely important…

You have to work very hard, improve your skills a lot, over a long period of time - at least ten years.

Gosh, maybe I shouldn’t have given the answer so directly, so I’ll give more explanation…

Here is how it sort of works in “the real world” (whatever that is)

Very often you will start out with little or nothing in terms of skills or resources. If you are lucky you might have some connections, but for the average person say graduating high school you are starting out at or close to zero.

Some people go to school and get a degree, some might go to a trade school and start an apprenticeship, others might live in their parents basement and do nothing for the first few years.

Practically speaking, a lot of people end up working very hard for 2-4 years after high school and end up making between $10 and $20 an hour or the equivalent salary by their early 20’s.

(If you are on the coasts the salary number post college could be higher, but your cost of living is higher too…)

Anyhow, you aren’t going to become a millionaire anytime soon at say $30,000 a year in salary, even if you live cheap. So if you are industrious, you might find yourself looking to make more money.

There are a million different ways to make some extra money, so I’m going to say it largely doesn’t matter because there is a progression that many people follow and I believe you end up having to experience many of these things to get rich anyway.

So, those who become wealthy at some point decide to do extra work to make extra dollars. Some will go to night school to get an MBA, which might take them from $30k a year to $70k a year and if they end up in upper management, it might turn into a six figure job for them. That is a good start towards being rich and doing nothing, but it’s probably a 30 year journey to wealth.

Some might work overtime or a second job which will make them extra money, but might take them from $30k to $40k or $50k per year. It’s progress, but not enough.

Some will end up trading/selling junk on eBay and Craigslist, which is far closer to wealth if only because there is not really a cap on how much money can be made. Also, this group will learn some sales skills that come in handy over time.

Some will end up trying Amway or the 50 different “sell to your friends at a party you host” multi level marketing businesses. By their nature, about 1 in 20 or maybe 1 in 100 will make good money doing this and the rest won’t. Again, some valuable skills learned, but not getting rich anytime soon.

And a very, very, very small group out of all of these will end up starting their own business of some kind, either running their own trade business as a plumber or electrician or something, or perhaps they will have some other lucrative business they run. This is the quickest path to wealth and also the hardest.

Along the way for all of these experiences, those who end up wealthy will at some point lose their job, have major business crises, possibly go bankrupt, and one way or another learn some important lessons about living cheap and saving money.

Also, along the way those who “make it” also learn the value of learning over time and improving their skills and abilities. Usually these are specific to selling more, thinking more positively, managing people, and building wealth.

So, over a period of ten or more years of success, failure, learning, more success, more failures, and more learning as an ongoing loop, a few will manage to do the one thing that makes people wealthy…

They will keep the money they earned.

Usually at least 10-50% of what they earn they will save and invest until they have millions of dollars “in the bank”.

And after all that work, they can earn money by “doing nothing”.

Now, paradoxically, those who work so hard to build their wealth couldn’t imagine wasting their time “doing nothing” when they could be doing what they love to do.

So, they keep working.

-Brian

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