The Last Time I Paid $15.00 for a Sandwich

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?

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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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