This article might just be for me, but maybe it’s for you too. If it’s for you, I’m glad you liked it. If it’s not for you, thanks for stopping by.
This is an idea I have been thinking about for a long time (months? years?). Recently it has been striking a chord with my gut and I believe it’s something that’s a sign of maturity (and plainly, just getting older).
There’s two ideas I want to get across in this article:
- You are a servant. If you earn a living, you serve markets.
- Being a laser-focused servant in a market is more useful to you, and others, than jumping between different interesting opportunities that pique your interest.
You are a servant
Something I fundamentally believe is true: regardless of who you are, your background, your beliefs or your personality, your purpose in life is to serve other people with your skills, talents, interests, and perspectives.
This belief might be arguable. I’m sure someone could come up with an objection. But the way I see it, whether you’re an entrepreneur, employed, president of the country, a spouse, a parent, or a literal servant, you’re a servant to other people.
I guess the obvious objection would be people who don’t work a job and sit at home (or at their lack of a home) by themselves and do nothing. But more than likely, even if you have some disabilities or setbacks in life, you’re still working hard to help others with some amount of your time (even if you’re just volunteering your time).
To some people this might not be that wild of an idea. It’s something we as humans inherently understand and do without even thinking about it. But I think where people get confused and tied up is in who it is they are serving. It’s either other people, or themselves.
Serving yourself vs. Serving others
I believe both things are essential, but there is a balance. You do need to serve yourself often. No one else is going to take care of your responsibilities, no one else is going to manage your life, no else one can take care of your health or mental health. Only you can do that, and if you don’t do that you’ll lose all meaningful progress in life, or worse, you’ll die.
But, I think serving yourself is much easier to do, easier to focus on, and can cause distraction. The vast majority of people only care about serving themselves, and only serve others when it directly serves them (i.e., an employee only shows up because they’re getting paid, not because they have a burning desire to help people for free).
The much harder thing to do is to set aside some of your interests, your desires, and serving yourself directly in order to increasingly serve others - beyond what you’re minimally responsible for.
The absolute minimum service you can do for others is an entry-level job. You show up, clock in, do your work, and clock out. There’s very little responsibility to anyone other than your direct report and the family you might need to feed at home.
And I’m not saying that’s not noble - I believe if you are working, and working hard, and working consistently, you’re doing a good thing and the right thing.
But, at the end of the day it’s a means to an end. You’re showing up to get paid. That perspective and attitude limits your earning potential and your impact potential.
Why does earning potential or impact potential matter? I don’t know, to some people it doesn’t. But to me it does. I know my family, friends, and others around me could live a better life with more income. I know that I have skills, talents, and abilities that can literally increase the livelihood of those I choose to serve (impact). What else are you going to do with your time and energy? Only think about yourself? Seems quite limiting, don’t you think?
Founders are servants to markets
Anyways - the point I am trying to arrive at is something else, and it’s directed at founders of companies. You, as a founder, are a servant. And if you approach founding with an entirely selfish motive, you will not win.
I’ll push that idea further and say to the extent that you serve others regardless of yourself is the extent that you will be compensated for your effort. The value you provide to others is all that matters in business. No value, no compensation. No future value, no future compensation.
Once again, it seems trivial, but I want people to take this idea to its extreme, because exponential upside lives in this extreme.
As a founder you are a servant to a niche within a market. Your time, energy, focus, ideas, and drive are to give value to your customers, and be compensated a smaller percentage of that value. If there were no compensation, people would not do it (willingly) unless forced.
If you are a founder, you are a servant, and you’ll only make meaningful progress if you remain a servant (in service to others). I believe, the longer you remain a servant within a niche determines the upside you’re able to capture.
Pick a game and stick to it
We have different seasons in life. When you’re a child, you shouldn’t really worry about any of this. When you’re a young adult, you should taste-test and figure out what suits your unique skills, talents, interests, etc. But, if you’re a fully grown adult, and you know what makes you tick, you are better off locking yourself into that path than trying to taste-test your whole life.
I say this because, many people don’t taste-test when they are young, and then decide to taste-test later on in life because they don’t like the place they ended up. They’re serving themselves, not others, and that’s how you end up in a mid-life crisis instead of an opportunity that lands you and your loved ones in early retirement.
The fact is, if you haven’t done it by the time you are “set in stone” (30? 35? 40? 45?), you probably won’t do it. And if you want to do something different, and you aren’t taking every available opportunity very seriously to do something different, you aren’t going to do it.
This might sound negative, but it should be a relief. You’re locked in, and that’s okay. What you should do, and more easily could do, is stay where you are and begin to increase with the opportunities you have instead of trying to abandon ship and create a whole new life.
This applies to many more things than just a career. Maybe you have a failing marriage. Or you don’t have the best relationship with your kids. Or you have a job that you don’t like, but also don’t have the capacity to learn completely new skills and stay employed.
Rather than ditching the spouse you have and starting fresh, would it not be better to invest in the one you have? Rather than ditching your relationship with your kids, wouldn’t it be better to restore it? Similarly, with your career path, wouldn’t it be better to increase where you are, rather than abandoning everything entirely?
There are nuanced cases against all of those claims, for sure. And, there are a lot of things outside of your control. But you have control of yourself, your decisions, and how you spend your time. And you have the power to make things better, or worse, for yourself.
And if you are continually changing the game you’re playing, rather than sticking around somewhere and getting good, you’re probably not going to make the progress you’d like to make.
Why am I thinking about this?
I recently decided to go all in on a market. I think this statement isn’t very profound, but the next might be: I have no interest in this market.
To add a bit of context, I am the solo-founder and operator at my company Closet Tools. Closet Tools is an automation tool for the platform called Poshmark. Poshmark is a reselling platform, which is in the market of reselling.
I’ve never sold something I have used in my life. I don’t even use my own product. Yet, reselling is the market that I am dedicating my life work to.
You see, I almost ditched this market, because of what I mentioned. I am not interested in this market, and I will never be a reseller. It’s not at all who I am, and not at all what I am passionate about.
But, I ended up in the reseller market, because it was where I was useful at one point in the past. Over the last 4 years I have helped thousands of people make thousands of dollars every month, as well as save dozens of hours every month. That is my passion. And it’s taken me a while to realize that how I serve others doesn’t have to be completely aligned with my interests, it only has to be aligned with how I am useful.
There are other things that interest me. I would love to be an author - or at least some who writes a lot and gets paid to write. I would love to get into investing more and take a place in the wildly-fast growing crypto market. I would love to produce music that other people would like to hear.
However, I’m not doing those things. And like I said above, if I’m not doing those things already, then I am probably not going to do them. If I am genuinely interested in those things I would have a burning desire, and I would drop everything and do them. But I don’t have a burning desire, because I don’t drop everything and do them.
Yet, the thing that I repeatedly come back to is writing code that automates things to save people time and make them more money. It’s a game that I like to play, and a game that I win regularly, and a game that I am uniquely skilled in. It’s the burning desire on the inside that I can’t quench.
That’s not sexy. It’s not distracting (at least, the way other things distract me). It’s not what my friends and family do. It’s not what the people I follow on Twitter do. It’s what I do, and what I do well, better than anyone I personally know. And it’s the thing that changed my life over the last 4 years. Why would I ditch that for something that seems like a better opportunity, when I have an opportunity in my lap?
The opportunity at hand
There’s a distinction to be made here. I don’t think Closet Tools is my life’s work. For one, it only serves Poshmark users, not the whole reseller market. Secondly, it’s something that’s a hack, not a genuine platform. It’s something that’s not even allowed on the Poshmark platform, and regardless of how useful it is to others, that’s not what I want my life-legacy to be.
The reseller market is massive, and is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. These aren’t exact numbers, but it’s expected to grow from a $25B market to a $75B market between 2020 and 2030. It’s also not a speculative market - reselling will exist as long as people are alive. There is no chance of the market disappearing or being disrupted. The way it is done might change, but the market itself will always exist (at least, as long as I am alive).
I personally have helped tens of thousands of resellers with Closet Tools. I have built a reputation, I have good rapport, I have provided much more value to these people than what I have received. I have a unique opportunity to continue to serve the reseller market and drive technological innovation forward in the space.
It would frankly be stupid of me to leave a growing market when I have an advantage to succeed right where I am.
Here are my thoughts as well - seeing as how this market is very large, and there are many millions of participants, the chance of building something large and successful relatively quickly is a reasonable assumption (especially given my network and position in the market).
I only need to build one successful company to build generational wealth for my family and friends. I am conveniently (relatively) still young (30). I can dedicate a whole decade to this opportunity and build something that enables me to never have to think about where I’ll earn a living again.
Closet Tools is “successful”, but it’s not generational wealth. It’s more of a small business on the internet. I don’t plan on growing or scaling Closet Tools. It’s not worth it for many reasons. But it is a stepping stone to my true opportunity, which is serving the millions of people on this earth that call themselves (and make a living as) resllers. I can and will do this with more products, using my unique skills, observations, and ability to capture low hanging fruit. I won’t get into specifics as to how I am going to do that, but it’s something I have decided to do.
I’m not a musician, I’m not a crypto developer, I’m not an author. But, each of those things I can still actively participate in. I can write on my blog and Twitter. I can dollar-cost-average into crypto investments. I can make music at home and enjoy good music in my spare time. That’s great, and never has to change.
And so there it is. I’m Jordan, the guy who makes products and services for resellers. I didn’t choose this life, it chose me. But I couldn’t be more grateful for what it has provided me, and I will continue to serve it wholeheartedly because I know I can help more people.
I don’t know the future, but I can see myself at age 38 having built a company that serves hundreds of thousands, or millions of people in some way, and experiencing a liquidity event that changes the life of me and my future generations for the better.
Why 38? I’m not sure. I don’t think it has to take a full decade. In a very short time I made Closet Tools (mostly working part time) and made $1M in 4 years. What could/would I do if I really tried? My goal is to serve this market until I am 40, and hopefully have exited successfully by then. And who knows, if it’s something that I find genuinely useful in the future I might just dedicate my whole life to it.
The takeaway for you
The thing I want you to see more clearly is that you should focus on helping others much more than you already do now if you want to experience exponential upside. If you don’t want that upside, then just keep doing what you’re doing.
I also think you should pick something and stick to it - regardless if you have other interests or “passions”. I think you should find a way to do what makes you genuinely useful, and not distract yourself with things that seem like good opportunities but ultimately put you in a place that’s not uniquely aligned with what makes you most useful to others.
And if you’re not doing something that is genuinely useful, and you have a burning desire to do something else, you should do everything you can to do something else as soon as you can, otherwise you’re going to be miserable.
If you’re someone who wants to be a founder of a company, there are a lot of healthy, growing markets out there that are not considered “sexy” and are not what everyone in silicon valley talks about. Perhaps your opportunity is there, and it’s waiting for someone like you to come in and help people do things a little better.
I hope this article inspires you to think long-term about who you serve, and what opportunities can genuinely create exponential upside for your future (not just things that look like great opportunities on the outside, like investing in NFTs).