Day 16: The 3 Ms of Compensation

How does your job compensate you for the work you do? The obvious answer that comes to most of us is: money. But did you know that there are three forms of compensation? And what if I told you that these forms of compensation matter more to people at different stages in their lives?

I was listening to The Art of Charm, Episode 381 which is an interview with Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise. Adam outlines three Ms of compensation, one that is most important for those starting their careers, one for those who have important responsibilities beyond their careers, and one for those who have been in their careers for a while already. And obviously, these are soft divisions. Ultimately, all three forms are important to everyone.

The first M of compensation is money, as you might have expected. But this is actually the easiest form of compensation to come by, and, after obtaining enough of it, matters the least. Adam says that money is a tool, not the goal. It helps you do things (like pay your rent, buy gas for your car, put food on the table) but doesn’t provide a lot of fulfillment by itself. That’s why Adam doesn’t recommend just chasing after the highest paying job, especially if you’re just starting out. This is most valuable for someone who is a bit more seasoned in their career, but life outside of work (and there is such a thing!) is creating more financial demands. Buying a house, getting married, having kids, etc. are all things that require increasing amounts of money. But if you’re not at that stage in your life yet…

Pursue Mastery, the second M. Mastery is skill. It’s filling out your talent tree, particularly as it applies to your career. As an Operations Analyst, I’m constantly developing my skills with Excel, and will eventually need to learn much more about data analytics, SQL, supply chain, and more. I also need to continue to hone my interpersonal skills, because I’m constantly interacting with people as I try to communicate how I feel we can better optimize a system or process. And I’m sure there are more areas that I’ll need to develop, but I’m currently too inexperienced to even be aware of. When you’re just starting your career, more than anything else, you need a job that will help give you mastery. And the great thing is that mastery naturally leads into getting more money, because masters are highly valued assets.

Finally, that brings us to the third M, Meaning. Meaning is a tricky one, because it’s not as easily measured as the other two. Money is fairly straightforward to measure. Even mastery can be measured by the number of skills and the depth of skill you’ve developed. But meaning is deeply personal. It changes for everyone because it is linked to each individual’s idea of legacy. Typically, this type of compensation comes after you’ve mastered your craft and you’ve earned enough money to be comfortable. That’s when the mind naturally drifts toward impact. What do you want to be known for? How do you want to influence the people around you? How are the people coming after you going to be better because of you? As you find the answer to these questions and others like them, you find meaning.

So there they are: 3 Ms of compensation. Money, mastery, and meaning. I’ll be honest, I’m mostly balancing somewhere between seeking mastery and money. I’m relatively new to the workforce, so I’m compensated most noticeably through the development of skill. But I’m also seeking out meaning as I regularly challenge myself to look beyond the daily grind.

What stage are you at?

Day 15: Focus Breeds Excellence

Dave Ramsey is known for one saying more than any other:

Live like no one else so that later you can live – and give – like no one else.

This one small saying has helped inspire millions of people to get on a plan, get out of debt, and begin managing their money wisely. Many people have a daunting amount of debt, and they can’t fathom how they’re supposed to get out. After all, a lifestyle of paycheck to paycheck is what got them into this mess in the first place. Or they’re like me, burdened by student loans used to get a degree that may or may not be profitable in the marketplace. How is anyone supposed to get out of debt?

Today, Dave shared the key to getting out of debt in one neat little quote:

Focus breeds excellence.

Focus is the secret to getting out of debt. For that matter, focus is the secret to accomplishing anything worth doing.

When I was getting out of debt, it was basically all I thought about. How can I cut back my lifestyle a little bit more to make extra headway? How can I earn a little bit more to throw at the debt? If I pay off this debt rather than that one, how much will I save on interest? It was pretty annoying to the people around me, I’m sure. (Sorry, Olivia!)

I threw all of my weight into this task. Graduation money, birthday money, freelance money, superfluous savings, everything got thrown at my debt. I kept $1000 as an emergency fund and tried to have a little fun here and there, but ultimately I was focused on getting out of debt.

The end result? I paid off $15,000 in 13 months. Some months, I threw gobs of cash at the debt, taking out smaller loans in one shot. Other months, I had overestimated income or underestimated my spending and just barely hit the minimums. I cut back and sacrificed. I cooked a lot of chicken and rice. I continued to drive my 1996 Camry (which just hit 310,000 miles today), rather than upgrading. I Grouponed and DIYed a LOT of cheap dates (Sorry again, Olivia!).

And I did it. I paid off my last student loan back in April and breathed a sigh of relief, basking in my accomplishment.

And then I set about for the next thing I would focus on. Because focus breeds excellence, and excellence requires growth.

What are you focused on?

Day 14: 5% More

This isn't some earth-shattering "blow your mind" kind of lesson (but if I'm honest, that's how most of my posts are). However, I know that this principle has a ridiculous ROI if applied consistently.
The magic principle? Do 5% more. Some call this "Never walk past a problem." Others call this ownership.
Every day you and I have countless opportunities to do a little more. The dishes are dried in the rack? Put them away before you wet them again with your own dishes. There's a piece of trash next to you? Pick it up and throw it away. A coworker's having a rough week? Grab him/her a coffee when you stop for yours. Leave a thank you note. Top off the gas tank. Now your neighbor's lawn. And don't draw attention to your deed.
None of these are gargantuan tasks. Most of them require very little additional effort on our part. Yet the effect is profound. We slowly become the sort of person that others like to have around. We craft in ourselves a spirit of generosity. We develop an attitude of service. And others will be grateful. It's not hard, but the extra step will do wonders in strengthening a relationship, in building rapport. Not that we do these things for that specific goal. That's just gravy. The real meat and potatoes is the character development that is occurring within our own hearts and minds.

Day 12: Inadequacy

This will be short because it's late and I'm tired.
Today I was listening to The School of Greatness Episode 520. In it Lewis Howes talks to personal trainers Chris and Heidi Powell marriage and weight loss and celebrity. In the middle of it, Chris confessed that even as he was at the top of his game, he still felt like he wasn't good enough. Heidi was able to come alongside him and remind him that what made him special, valuable, and worthy wasn't what he had accomplished or what he could do. It was who he was as a person, and the lives that he had helped to transform.
All of us have days where we feel inadequate. We need to remember that our worth is not found in what we do, but in who we are.