Like most eighteen year-olds, I struggled with my career ambitions and my ideas ran the gamut: high school teacher, environmental scientist, makeup artist. So it was a relief when I finally chose an occupation—writer.
At first I was excited, but that was quickly replaced with confusion: how do I become a “writer”? To make matters worse, I was constantly reminded that the field was “extremely competitive” and the pay was crap. (Thanks, Professor!)
With typical teenage optimism, I ignored the negativity and pushed forward towards my dream. I applied for internships with major magazines and sent letters to every publishing house, asking for the chance to shadow an editor. I crossed my fingers and waited for the responses to trickle in.
Finally, the emails came and they were all the same: No.
Every single one rejected me.
The rejections stung and I was plagued with doubt, “God, my writing must suck if they all denied me. Should I become a teacher instead?”
But then I did something powerful. I decided to get strategic.
Yes, it was true that Seventeen Magazine and Harpers Collins denied my application, but luckily, there were thousands of other magazines in the world.
Two weeks later, I was offered a weeklong internship with DIVA Magazine in London, UK. As the United Kingdom’s #1 LGBT magazine, DIVA offered me a unique opportunity: the chance to be a big fish in a small pond.
I knew that competition for the internship was almost non-existent, especially compared to the number of applicants at publications like Seventeen or Cosmopolitan. But even beyond that, I strategically chose DIVA because it provided three crucial things:
1. The opportunity to be published in an international magazine
As any writer will tell you, getting published with an established brand for the first time is difficult. DIVA’s job description explicitly stated that I would have the opportunity to write for the website and possibly be published in the magazine as well. I walked away from the internship with 8 website bylines and 2 feature stories in the print magazine.
2. Short duration
The internship length ensured that I would stay focused and accomplish my publishing goals in a short amount of time. It also freed up the rest of my summer to pursue other jobs and opportunities. (My resume does not disclose the length of the position and I never offer to clarify.)
3. International connections and bragging rights
After the internship, my resume boasted international work experience. Future internship coordinators were impressed and my next editor explicitly stated that my experience at DIVA was why he hired me. To this day, my internship at DIVA is listed on my resume.
By strategically taking The Easy Way, I was able to reap exponential rewards while exerting less than half the effort that would have been required at other internships. It’s a result I’ve aimed to replicate in every area of my life.
Tim Ferris explains the concept of The Easy Way in his book, The Four-Hour Workweek. By choosing the “easy way,” Ferris became a world-class kickboxing champion in less than a month:
“I won the gold medal at the Chinese Kickboxing National Championships. It wasn’t because I was good at punching and kicking. God forbid. That seemed a bit dangerous, considering I did it on a dare and had four weeks of preparation. Besides, I have a watermelon head–it’s a big target.
I won by reading the rules and looking for loopholes, of which there were two…
The result? I won all my matches by technical knock-out and went home national champion, something 99% of those with 5-10 years of experience had been unable to do.”
In our society, “hard” work and busy-ness are worn as shiny badges of honor. But the truth is that your time is the most precious commodity you have.
Time is more important than anything else because we have a finite amount. As a result, it’s important to reach your goals and accomplish your dreams while using as little of your time as possible.
In fact, this is the underlying belief that fuels the desire for passive income or investments. By trading time for money, you are instantly poorer in the world’s most precious commodity: time.
Yes, hard work is important in the sense that it’s critical to deliver phenomenal results. In fact, I worked my butt off during my week at DIVA. I arrived early, left late and never took lunch. When an editor asked me to write something, I delivered it within the next two hours and also included a list of ideas for future articles.
But I only did this for one week. I didn’t waste two months fetching coffee for executives who didn’t know my name. I busted my butt for a grand total of 40 hours and was rewarded with phenomenal results because I knew my goals (a full-time writing job after graduation—accomplished!) and created a plan that would allow me to achieve it while exerting the least amount of effort and wasting the least amount of time.
We have been taught to never admit to taking the easy path, and honestly, that’s absurd. You have been given a limited amount of time, resources and energy, so it only makes sense to use them sparingly while you relentlessly pursue your dreams.
The same is true for money.
Saving half of my income requires minimal effort because I automate my spending. Each month, $1,100 leaves my account before I ever see it. I don’t have to agonize over every purchase or worry whether or not I’ll be able to pay $1,000 towards my loans that month. Instead, I kick back, relax and spend my remaining money as I see fit—guilt free.
(Sometimes there’s even enough leftover for a trip to Disneyland…)
It makes sense to take The Easy Way and automate your savings. In the same way it would have been pointless for me to work a two month unpaid internship that would have yielded the same results as a weeklong internship, it’s pointless to torture yourself over whether or not you’ll have enough money left for saving at the end of the month.
By taking The Easy Way, your life becomes infinitely better.
Luckily, The Easy Way is applicable to everything:
- Salary Raise: If you’re gunning for a raise at work, ONLY focus on meaningful projects that solve a major company issue. Small, administrative tasks will never set you apart as a critical team member. Instead, solve a major problem, save the company money and establish yourself as an expert.
- Health: Intense cardio for 30 minutes a day will keep you healthy, toned and strong. There’s no need to buy expensive equipment or invest hours at the gym. All you need is 30 minutes and a pair of running shoes.
- Interior Design: Want to create a beautiful home without breaking the bank or DIY-ing for an entire weekend? Hang curtains. For a total of $30, your home will receive an instant facelift and it will only require 20 minutes, a pair of Command Strips and a set of curtains.
- College Admissions: If you’re interested in attending a top university and studying a subject that is impacted or super competitive, apply as a less competitive major and change courses once you are accepted. I successfully accomplished this by applying as a Gender Studies major at UCLA and then switching to English once I was accepted.
- Relationships: If you feel like you’re distant from your friends, family or partner commit yourself to an intensive yet short amount of quality time. 20 minutes of uninterrupted time with someone you love will instantly improve your connection. You don’t need to plan an entire day or commit yourself to a weekend “getaway.” Instead, commit to an uninterrupted, distraction-free conversation with a person you love.
Establish your goals, determine how to achieve them while exerting minimal effort and kick up your feet as you watch yourself accomplish amazing things.