Week 1 - Funding and Income for change-makers

Weighing up the options for young people looking to work on, and fund, their own big things... Gandhi tried to do without, but everyone needs to eat... even those creating change.

Most of Albert Einstein’s findings came before he was 30, Wolfgang Mozart died at 33, Steve Jobs was 21 when he started Apple, Zuckerberg and Gates got started very young also.

Youth and innovation go hand-in-hand. Look at your own family dynamics… the grand children are the family’s tech support crew. Don’t think this is limited to digital technology. Social technology, ideological technology are all driven by the young (remember this post about the Fourth Turning?).

Time to empower the youth. But, they need to eat.
(This is part of a longer series on the shopping list for change-makers. Week one is on funding.)

Where’s the money?

There’s a law of physics being applied here… if I spend all day sorting carrots, I can’t also have spent that time skydiving. In the same way, young people can’t make change by any way other than working on change.

So why aren’t they doing it? Well, a major obstacle is usually funding.

  • People have misaligned financial goals — easy to do when you are young and have just watched The Wolf of Wall Street

  • The Minimum Viable Lifestyle is a very important concept… our first financial goal is and should always be sustainable living. After that, money is just a sweetener.

  • The concern for a change-maker is not luxury and riches, but actually affording their basic MVL needs… a sustainable lifestyle that has minimal to no financial stress.

Caveat: For the extreme, stress is energising

  • Some people actually thrive better under stress.

Key Principles

  1. Know your MVL — what’s the least your life can be? For me, it can be AU$1,000—$2,000 a month… if you gave me an extra $5k to spend on my lifestyle, I wouldn’t know what to do with it… I’d put it in savings.

  2. Know your runway — If you don’t have a source of income, divide your savings by monthly MVL.

  3. So if you have $20,000 in savings, and your monthly MVL is $2,000, then that’s ten months (20k/2k = 10). In startups, this is called your runway, as in, how much you have left before you have to lift off.

  4. Know what you’re comfortable with — as a writer, I’m not comfortable at this point cutting into savings. I like to have a source of MVL funding so I can think and operate long-term.

How to fund MVL?

Conversations around the MVL are a major trade-off between time and money.

  • Do I give myself more time to work, or sacrifice a bit of time for the sake of higher income?

  • Should I work five, four, three or no days a week? How much time can I chop off working on my dream?

What have others done? (MVL job stories)

  • Albert Einstein struggled to find academic work, and worked as a patent clerk alongside his research for years.

  • Gandhi was first a lawyer by trade

  • Phil Knight, co-creator of Nike, worked as an accountant and then as a casual academic for years whilst building his shoedog empire.

  • I own and operate Sydney Listings, which sustains me whilst developing 18 & Lost and the Constant Student.

  • My friends Will Scuderi and Scott McKeon of espresso. Will had a full-time job for the majority of the first year before their large crowdfunding campaign, Scott worked as a casual academic (part-time) before going cold turkey (no salary for two years).

Who has run down the runway?

Funding Options

My caveat on this is that you should first be drawn to a mission or problem. Making 18 & Lost? So Were We was about solving a real problem in the world. It made sense to tell stories through a book, but then, look at what would come after the book, as a book on its own does not remove the troubles of life after high school.

But, the anti-lesson is, sometimes realising what you can do is just exciting… so, in that case, go for it!

Authors

  • The traditional book journey involves a publishing deal and an advance. The advance can be a runway — say, $X,000 paid to you — but you have to pitch for this the same way startups attempt to raise capital. Personally, I think this model is least ideal for first-time authors, who are, ironically, the people we need to empower most. See more on this from Tim Ferriss.

  • Crowdfunding: see example here from my friend Jonathan Cramer, author of a great book called Mind Leap. You can cheaply and efficiently advertise the concept for your book, then get community support to pre-buy the product for certain perks or incentives. With say, $5,000 in pre-sales, you can use this money to help cover costs like editing, marketing, development and proofing and so on.

  • Having another MVL job… I’d pick one that would ultimately help sell the book. It makes sense to write an investing book whilst working at some sort of fund management company, leveraging their connections and so forth.

Entrepreneurs

  • Raising capital from outside investors makes sense from an MVL perspective. But, you might have to validate your idea first. There is also the issue of balancing control… whilst funding the dream might look like a short-term consideration, it has long-term consequences.

  • Companies like Spanx and Athletic Greens have done the bootstrapping approach — going it without raising investment. Athletic Greens used debt to finance their work.

Grants

  • In Australia, Westpac Scholars awards scholarships to people doing meaningful work.

  • The Thiel Fellowship gives US$100,000 to young people who want to build new things instead of stay in the classroom. It includes alumni such as Vitalik Buterin, co-creator of Ethereum.

MVL Jobs

Don’t write off the MVL job. Constant Student at this point in time is not taking outside investment because we believe it would limit our creative freedom, and creative destruction.

  • Gabriella Monardo, the youngest co-author of 18 & Lost? So Were We started her own podcast in 2020, became a co-author of the book, studies law at university and has a part-time job as a paralegal at fast-growing startup company Stake, after starting there as an intern. She’s 19.

  • MVL jobs with their own opportunities, that will glimmer on your CV, accelerate your learning curve, and give you connections that will be useful for future work and mentorship are the go — you can still learn a lot in a hospitality job but for the average reader of this newsletter, it will pale in comparison.

  • That does not make finding a stimulating, door-opening MVL job easy. We are cultivating these at Constant Student.

Struggling to decide?

Consider:

  • Risk-taking should be proportional to clarity. My example of co-author Gabby is a young person with a side-project (podcast)… she’s not set, at this point in time, in ‘scaling’ or developing a mission through it. At Constant Student we call this ‘mission searching’. When you have something clearer to pursue, e.g. myself and Constant Student, it justifies more risk-taking.

  • Calibrate the cannon before firing the shot. There’s a great story told by Jim Collins on the Tim Ferriss Show about taking his ‘Thelma & Louise Moment’ (aka the ‘fuck it’ moment where you quit your MVL job) to pursue entrepreneurial research on the road.

  • He describes it as loading a bit of gunpowder for a weak shot, testing your aim, before loading in your remaining gunpowder for a more mighty shot that you know will hit the target.

  • In other words, don’t go cold turkey without 1) validation, 2) good runway, or 3) clarity.

  • Also, sometimes it can be healthy to have different things to work on and think about.

Next up…

  • You need a system for continually delivering better ideas.

    Subscribe now

Reading Recommendations

  • I’m halfway through Daniel Pink’s book, Drive… a fascinating breakdown of motivation 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0… “management does not emanate from human nature”… in other words, managing people is unnatural.

  • Remember, a searchable database of notes and book recommendations of 100+ books I’ve read is available to members of The Constant Student.

Question

What if young people had more time to work on things that make them come alive?


See you next time

Keep opening doors.

Share