Today was the last day of school here in Finland. Again thousands of young people graduated from their schools. Most notable of these graduations is the high school (lukio) graduation.
Graduating high school means a big party.
I was invited to one of these parties held by my wife’s relative. More interesting than the party itself was the atmosphere of success. The 19-year old girl who graduated was a straight-A student. She was obviously up for a scholarship for her success. Here’s basically what happened:
- She worked her ass off for 13 years in school to get to this point.
- She still doesn’t know why she’s doing it.
- But luckily the school does, they awarded her with a scholarship worth 85 € for a job well done.
Apart from Harry Potter, who has ever been sorry that the school term ends?
In Finland we have the compulsory education (oppivelvollisuus) sometimes called “koulupakko” as in “forced school”. Learning new things, basically the most fascinating thing out there, is turned it to a compulsory duty.
On top of that the school system has crappy incentives. It’s not like 85 € was in any balance with the amount of work and dedication a person puts into their studying in order to get there. The only real incentive for doing well in school is that you on average get a better job.
I will argue that such a distant incentive is not motivating for almost anyone. In order for people to do well in school they must adopt a personal incentive on the meta-level. You have to learn to like what you’ve been told – not to learn more about whatever you like.
In the recent months I’ve detected a growing interest for downshifting in the Finnish media. Simply put, an increasing number of people are being fed up with what they do and want an easy way out.
People think shifting down is a solution.
I will argue that downshifting is actually a symptom, not a solution. Here are five reasons commonly heard against downshifting:
- Having to give up on the small pleasures of life.
- Ending up bankrupt.
- Losing one’s market value as an employee.
- Being a bad role model.
- Becoming an outcast of society.
All of these are possible scenarios but utter rubbish if you ask me. These objections are relevant only if you analyze your life top-down. Instead, you should start looking at things from the very fundamentals with a bottom-up method.
Assume for a second that you’d own absolutely nothing.
Pretty difficult to start downshifting from there. If you start from the bottom, you can only start upshifting.
- Instead of giving up something, you can enjoy anything.
- Instead of risks, all you see is possibilities.
- Suddenly the small things in life make a difference.
Instead of downshifting, start from zero and upshift a bit to the level you’re comfortable with.
Now after 51 days of tinkering with this project it’s time to put an end to this charade.
It’s better to quit before it starts to hurt.
So here is my testament to all my readers who believed this could become something:
- After nearly two months it’s evident that one cannot make a million.
- Posting in this blog has taken me nowhere.
- Recent weeks have shown that things take a lot more time than I hoped.
- I‘ve been forced to disregard my studies during this project.
- Losing my own savings is the worst possible outcome.
- For now, I should save my money for buying an apartment for my wife.
- Obviously, my priorities have to be on the reality, not the future.
- Openness doesn’t work if I’m the only one doing it.
- Lots of people have shown their support but haven’t really done anything.
- So, my next step is to get a real job. Let me know if you have one.
Over and out.
I have been the CEO of a company called Selki Fabrik for over a year now. I still consider this position to be my day job although I’ve never gotten paid for doing it.
The contrast between this project and my day job is enormous. In my project, things seem to proceed like magic and in my day job I have a list of miscellaneous tasks that feel unapproachable. Ihmeparantaja Iiro saw my concern for this and offered to help.
Our biggest concern in the company has been getting the products sold. Iiro suggested that he could go and sell everything we had in stock. This sounded like a good idea, so we went along. However, the stuff needed to be finished. While finishing the products, we ended up discussing the true meaning of our actions. Why does the company do what it does?
Within minutes Ihmeparantaja Iiro had identified the strategic flaws we weren’t brave enough to say out loud ourselves.
Although Iiro does not use the professional terminology, he was able to point out that:
- We are lacking strategic vision
- We are fiddling with details that are not important to our business
- We are too emotional about sunk costs
- We are product-oriented not people-oriented
Selling the few products to make some money is definitely not the strategy we should pursue even though someone would do it for us for free. So we decided not to. What we did decide is that we will have an answer to all the painful questions by the end of the week.
Suddenly I’m confident that Selki Fabrik has a bright future in front of it.
Let me tell you a true story on how a person should start a business.
My youngest brother Iiro is 20 years old. He doesn’t intend to have a job for the rest of his life. He has zero respect for making money which means integrity. But his respect for other people is enormous.
His coaching has contributed to my success.
When I make my million it is much to his credit. His coaching is by far the best I’ve ever received, from anyone. I told him his service is immensely valuable so we set the price at 10,000 € + tax.
Within hours, my brother had become from an unemployed person to the highest priced life coach in the country.
That is how you start a business. Check out his advertisement (in Finnish) on his new website ihmeparantaja.com.
You have to be a bit of an idealist to become an entrepreneur
Most people tend to think realistically or want to reason why they aren’t capable of starting a business. Others take the risk. But do people become entrepreneurs for the wrong reasons? When thinking about starting a business people get stuck to obvious barriers.
What if I can’t get any customers?
If you can focus your resources on the things you like, the only possible outcome is that you become good at what you do. This can’t be ignored by the customers. People prefer services from professionals. But more importantly, people want to buy services from people who love what they do.
I need steady money to pay for my expenses
The steady money is not a real need. People think they need money to maintain a quality of living. You have to understand that quality of living isn’t about money. It is about your happiness and the happiness of people around you. And that can’t be bought.
I don’t like the extra paperwork
None of this matters if you set your target high enough. Think of the energy you have for your job if you can concentrate on the things you like. There really are people who love accounting. If you outsource your accounting you’re helping two people to be happy.
I don’t love my job but I still want to do it well
If that sounds like you, then this post is especially for you. One of my readers pointed me to an e-book Työn hyväksikäyttö (utilization of work) by Sampsa Kiianmaa. This book is about the purpose of life. How to find your own purpose and achieve happiness.
Most people consider work to be the most important part of their life. Seeking employment is seen as the ultimate challenge. People optimize their life and studies to make themselves best suited for getting a “great” job.
Now, think about what really counts in your life
Kiianmaa has realized the importance of happiness. What really makes you happy? How would you like to be remembered when you grow old? Who would really answer that they want to be remembered by their material possessions? Still that seems to be the one and only form of achievement in this rat race we call life.
How can I find my happiness?
You are happy when you can utilize your strengths in whatever you do. Kiianmaa links to a test you can take to determine the strengths that are behind your happiness. The test is called VIA Survey of Character Strengths. But a word of caution to all you busy people: taking the test takes over 30 minutes and you will need to register to the website to take it. After registration you will see plenty of tests but take the one I named here that has 240 questions.
And now what?
You will receive a result of your top #5 strengths. Think about them. Do you live your life for the things that make you happy?
And finally, I dare you to post your result here as a comment. I have to say that this test worked for me.