The Last Time I Paid $15.00 for a Sandwich

The Last Time I Paid $15.00 for a Sandwich post image

The last time I paid $15.00 for a sandwich I was at JFK international airport. Something got screwed up with my flights, so I got stuck at the airport for the night. Even though the airline gave me a food voucher to make up for it, the only shop open in the airport wouldn’t take it.

At the time it was just another frustration to add to the list, but later I always used to think of it as an illustration of the different types of currencies– time, cash, and mobility– and how they work together as a system.

How the hell do they charge 15 bucks for a sandwich?

Their customers, sorry saps like me who were stuck in the airport, had no time or mobility.

It’s plausible to think that if I had an abundance of time and mobility, and I was willing to spend them on the task, I could have found myself a free sandwich.

Who says there’s no free lunch?

*  *  *

Thinking of cash, time, and mobility as a system is useful for those of you seeking to employ people as well, as our experiments with various types of internship have shown us. Here’s some ways to think of the system as an employer:

  • “Professional” = Jobs that maximize for income, but stifle time and mobility. Examples are lawyers, doctors, executives.
  • “Expeditionary” = Jobs that maximize for mobility, but stifle time and cash. Examples are tour guides, flight attendants, certain outside sales positions, foreign office posts.
  • “Transitory” = Jobs that maximize for time, but stifle mobility and cash. Examples would be bartenders, baristas, retail clerk.

You could also take the system and apply it to modes of being or stages in your life. Here’s some examples:

  • “Hustling” = maximizing for cash by sacrificing time (working a job, doing client work, or building less scalable businesses) and mobility.
  • “Building” = maximizing for time by sacrificing cash and mobility.
  • “Traveling” = maximizing for mobility, sacrificing time and cash.

When I first heard about the way these currencies interact with each other, there was one combination that stood out above all the others:

If I can reduce my cash needs, and optimize my location, and I can regain my time.

It’s possible to build a business that replaces the type of income you’d see from a high paying professional job in about 3 years of full time work. If you are frugal, and work full time at it, you could be making enough to pay the rent sooner than that.

I’ve seen it happen 100’s of times now, but I think even way back in 2006 I knew it instinctively that the only thing between me and earning money from anywhere was time.

Of course, there are issues of mindset, confidence, and priority that prevent people from taking the entrepreneurial leap, but if we could see it as just a matter of time, it might be easier to get to work.



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Published on 07.18.12
  • Ever since I heard you talking about this it’s been something I’ve tried to figure out.

    I finally think I’ve got it. I’ve picked up some work doing a few articles per day for a client. In a few months time I should be able to live in South East Asia and work on my business full-time, while writing a few articles to pay the bills.

  • Frank Bonetti

    It’s really fun for me to reflect on how far I’ve come over the past 6 months (which was around the time I started listening to this podcast). I’ve tried about a dozen different ideas and finally found one that’s highly profitable, has no overhead, and allows for location independence. Getting paid from my first couple clients was a huge boost to my spirit.

    Right now I’m saving up about 4-5 months of runway so that I can quit my job in six months. Setting this deadline will help me focus and hustle hard, knowing that my shot at freedom is so close. Thank you for all the awesome podcasts! Keep it up!

  • Its always that saying when people tell me “oh you’re still young, you still got time” … and I say … uh no I don’t. Can’t be wasting too much of it doing nothing.

    Really like your breakdown and categorization of cash, time, & mobility. I always only thought of cash & mobility, but without the time factor. Interesting to see that “time” really does play into the two other variables.

  • TJ

    Does anyone have a resource that kicks your butt into making a decision about what your business should be? I really just want something to pour my time and energy into that I know as having a “chance” at success instead of blindly choosing something,
    I’ve looked at Internet Business Mastery Niche Selection series, Four Hour Workweek method of identifying your interests that have magazines, etc.
    Or maybe I’m a wuss spinning my wheels and I just need to sit down one day in the woods with a notepad and just choose one.

  • TJ, have you read about Lean Startup and testing markets? As long as it’s something you don’t hate, get out there and find out if anybody will buy. Passion is great, but if there’s no market and no interest, you won’t get far. If you have 3 ideas, test them all, see which gets best response.

  • Yep, good food for thought here. You can have what you want, but you can’t have everything you want. Set your priorities and move forward.

    Me, I’m hustling front and center while building on the side. If I had it to do over again I would not do both at once. But no matter, will make it work. Only question now is when I can transition from hustle to build full time.

  • Joe

    “If I can reduce my cash needs, and optimize my location, and I can regain my time.”

    Exactly what Ive been thinking…

    I’m willing to give a $40 HR job to gtfo this rut!!!

  • Shen

    Great article. Currently staying at an airport overnight right now. This article’s very relevant.

  • Great post Dan. I love how you break down the lifestyles based on what-is-scarce.

    “Of course, there are issues of mindset, confidence, and priority that prevent people from taking the entrepreneurial leap, but if we could see it as just a matter of time, it might be easier to get to work.”

    This is one the most liberating things about this entire journey. Once I realized that success online is inevitable so long as I keep working at it every day, my ability to be patient with myself started compounding. :)

  • Dan

    Thanks Danny! It’s that “inevitable” part I’d like to work on more in the future. Of coures people can muck it up, but it’s as inevitable as many other career paths that we traditionally believe so much in. Thanks for the comment!

  • Dan

    haha, i don’t envy you !

  • Dan

    Cheers man! That’s exactly the decision I made, but it worked out well for me.

  • Dan

    Always great to hear from you Mike! Good advice there from in the trenches, I’d agree, it’s tough enough to get this stuff done when it is your soul focus… also, and this might not be an insignificant thing, it’s really fun to go to war with a singular focus.

  • Dan

    TJ– one thing to consider if you are having trouble seeing opportunities, it might make sense to go apprentice for an entrepreneur or work directly with people who are ‘in the game’ so to speak. Once you start hanging out with entrepreneurs more regularly, it should be easier (in fact it becomes almost a bit of a problem in it’s intensity) to spot opportunities.

  • Dan

    +1 lean start-up, great stuff there.

  • Dan

    Thanks!! !

  • Dan

    Cheers Frank thanks for sharing your success!!! Congrats on the first few clients and be sure to keep us updated on your progress. Sounds like fun to me!

  • Dan

    cheers see ya when you get here! :D

  • Simplifying the process (and the next action) is crucial (love the “if we could see it as just a matter of time…”).

    If the goal is to just get started, then discussing mindset, confidence, productivity, and so on is actually not that useful.

    It will be. And it will be necessary.

    But not to get started. All those things mentioned (along with strategy, networking, etc) are multipliers. If it’s not applied to anything, you still get 0.

    Get started, have something tangible, then go nuts with all the rest.

  • Dan

    That’s a great point… the dreaded “zero” multiplier!!!

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