Something I wish I learned earlier in my life is what I now come to call Earn, Learn, or Burn.

It’s a very simple concept.

What it means is that you will find yourself in one of those three camps when it comes to employment:

  • Earn – You have equity in a company as a founder, investor, or share holder. You are earning the value of not only the company’s collective production but also the tangible valuation of the entity itself. This is the best place to be as you are creating capital and financial reward on everyone’s time.
  • Learn – You are trading your time for a financial reward which is capped at your particular salary and has a definite ceiling within the organization. This is a transaction in which you will never be on the better side of. Your goal is to make sure that the intangible value of what you are learning is worth that gap that is created between being an “earner”; otherwise you are…
  • Burn – You may be trading your time for some financial gain but you are certainly not learning much except the fact that you now know with 100% certainty that what you’re doing sucks and you don’t want to work for this type of company, with this type of culture, with this type of leadership, and with this type of pay. You are burning your most value resource.

I’ve spent most of my life being a “learner” as I worked in corporate America at some sort of deskjob for ~12 years or so and as a full-time self-employed individual for about 3. My entrepreneurial endeavors started prior my official leave but I was able to transition out of very nicely.

It’s worth noting that one is learning all the time. Just because you may be in the earning camp doesn’t mean you’re not learning – on the contrary, you’re probably learning even more and at an even greater and more accelerated pace. These stages are just the large buckets where you find a primary outcome being earning, learning. or burning.

It’s also worth mentioning that not everyone is cut out to be in the earning position – most people will live and die in the learning camp and they will be fine. In fact, they may live very happy and fulfilling lives. You may be one of those people. Good for you and keep on keeping on.

But for those that have a bit of an entrepreneurial bug in them you’ll find that dissatisfaction at every turn until you’re on top. Time to get moving my friend.