My name is Chris Maltese I have had a number of jobs throughout my life so far, ranging from seasonal jobs working for Scuba San Diego, as a Trek leader with Trek America, for Mammoth Mountain, to even working in a lion act in the Great Moscow Circus to more long term self employment working as a financial adviser. In my spare time I volunteer as the chairman of the board of directors for a small, Los Angeles based, nonprofit and as an ESL tutor. Each one of these jobs have made me happy, each one offering its own brand of lifestyle and benefits. The answers I am going to give to the following questions are from the viewpoint of someone who craves freedom and adventure and has a disdain for restrictions and routine.
What has your work experience been like?
My work experience has ultimately been quite educational. I have learned a lot about life, people and the world from the jobs I have had, which fall under two categories, seasonal and self-employment. What seasonal work and self employment have taught me is that it is much better to step out on your own and pursue your own unique vision for your life than to settle for the stable confines of a 9-5 that someone else designed. Ultimately jobs like that are designed to get the most out of you while paying you just enough to keep you from quitting. it’s just the nature of that model of employment. If you have a 9-5 office job you love, great. You’re probably one of the lucky few, or just new.
In all seriousness, there are certainly some good jobs out there and good employers and managers, but they are rare. For most people, I think we know there are other things we’d rather be doing, things we’re actually passionate about rather than just being a cog in someone else’s machine. Having a typical 9-5 is generally easy and predictable and workers slip into a pattern of doing just enough to not get fired. I think it’s fairly easy to see that this tug of war, your boss paying just enough to keep you from quitting, and you doing just enough work to not get fired, leads to an existence that is anything but fulfilling. And therein lies the trade off.
Do you want a life of ease and predictability or a life of challenge and adventure where you can dream big and maximize your potential? The later is certainly not for everybody. It’s much more difficult to strike off on your own call your own shots and be 100% responsible for your situation. See, a 9-5 shifts that burden. You can begin to make excuses and blame your boss, your coworkers and your job for your situation. Eventually you will find yourself bored to tears, and stuck in that job as life passes you by. Anyone ever heard of a midlife crisis? What do you think that is all about?
Change can be difficult, habits and routines are hard to break. Be bold! Step out and take chances. I urge you keep life exciting and plot your own course. Nobody is going to design the life you want for you. It takes work and you have to have the courage to try. However, when you do you will find life itself is much, much more rewarding. And that is what my work experience has taught me.
How did you came to the conclusion to “work for yourself?”
First off I would like to introduce a new way of viewing “working for yourself” or “self employment”. I think most people view self employment as something that only a select few of people who have created their own businesses or work in independent sales do and that may be true to some degree. However, no matter what line of business you’re in, you have customers and certain way of doing business in that you are required to perform certain duties over and over to execute your work and earn your income. Whether self employed or not you still earn money by essentially doing working for other people. Sure, you are much more in control of your time, but you never get to call all the shots all the time.
I say that as long as you choose who you work for that you are essentially the same as a contractor. And a contractor works for themselves by fulfilling the duties of contracts they choose to accept or deny. Enter seasonal employment as a form of working for yourself.
I bring this up because I believe in life it is so important to control your destiny and do work that is meaningful and that you enjoy. I learned the value of this when I worked seasonally, or for short term employment contracts. By working these seasonal jobs, I was able to keep my work fresh and interesting, eliminated burn out and stayed flexible to move around. I was able to choose my own adventure so to speak.
My first taste of freedom and self employment
The year after quitting my first post grad career was the first time I got a taste of what real freedom was like as an adult. I’m not talking about “my parents aren’t here” moving out freedom, but real “I can do whatever I put my mind to” freedom. I’ll back up and say that I was previously working a 9-5 straight out of college and getting sick of spending all my time in a office. I asked myself “is this what real life is really like?” After just 8 months or so I literally couldn’t stand it any longer. I made alternative plans and quit in the 10th month. Once I quit I felt the weight of an unfulfilling life just melt away. It was replaced by the joy and excitement that came with knowing I was free to literally do just about anything I decided to do. I was in control again. I knew then and there I was never going back to working a 9-5 in an office.
It was difficult. My whole life I had been taught that this was what growing up was like. Although looking back I think the battle was is my head because of those constructs we grow up with. As I unveiled my plan to leave and become a trek leader my co-workers and boss were all supportive, I suspect jealous even and they actually encouraged me. Not one told me I should stay in that office for 40 years until I retired. I think deep down inside they knew. They envied my position. That was huge sign I was on the right path.
I’ll never forget that feeling of total freedom. It’s quite rare. It becomes much more difficult to manage as you get older. This is the truth my co-workers all knew. If you have it, cherish it. Don’t be too eager to give it up. And if you’ve never felt it you really owe it to yourself.
The benefits of seeing myself as a contractor
Being adventurous (and debt free) most doors were open to me. Instead of wrestling with “what am I going to do for the rest of my life?” I only had to decide what I was going to do for the next 4-6 months. What a relief. All the weight of trying to plan my life disappeared and I was able to enjoy life as it came. It was in the lifestyle of seasonal employment that I learned the value of plotting your own course and the renewed excitement of change. The added bonus being that seasonal work offers you the chance to live one adventure of your choosing after another. While not always a walk in the park, it’s actually really exciting and engaging to begin to put together the plan for your next move. It’s quite an invigorating cycle.
For example, my first seasonal job was working as a trek leader. We had quite a large amount of freedom in the trips we planned for our clients. There is nothing like being on the open road deciding where to go and what to do next sharing adventures with other travelers. As that season ended I decide to go work at Mammoth Mountain resort for the winter. I lucked out and in that 05-06 season we received record snowfall. In the summer, I moved back to Los Angeles to pursue learning to work with big cats as my next big adventure. Several months later I was working with a lion act in the Great Moscow Circus, in Taiwan, I might add. That kind of freedom and variety does not come with any 9-5. Anyone still want one?
The freedom and flexibility of seasonal work is remarkable in that your imagination is the only limit. I strongly encourage everyone to do it. It offers enough short term stability without pinning you into any one job for too long. If you really love it, you can always do another season, but the choice is yours. Think about how many people you know that are pinned down in jobs they’re tired of and they can’t figure a way out. Seasonal work keeps you from getting too comfortable and planting roots. The whole world is open to you, literally.
What was that process Like?
It was great. It was interesting as I always seemed to learn skills that helped me in my next endeavor. Eventually, as I got older I started working as a financial adviser. This type of work is much more in line with what people typically equate with “working for yourself” and I guess I kind of naturally gravitated back towards it. I say that because my father was a financial adviser and like growing up as the son of a mechanic it was a subject that was around and that I became comfortable with. I had always enjoyed analyzing and problem solving and getting to do both while helping people was something I found intriguing. I think ultimately what I liked was that it was one of the few jobs where you can make good money but still have freedom and flexibility. Your daily activities are pretty much entirely up to you and there is no office to punch in at and no cubicle to sit in.
Working as a financial adviser is key in that this is where I discovered the powerful combination of passive income and a flexible schedule that continues to give one free time. Whatever the format, passive income involves work that you do yielding income to you long after that initial work is done. Essentially you are making money while not at work which frees you to focus on other things. I quickly learned that this is the key to acquiring wealth.
When I say “wealth” I am not simply referring to money and material items. I actually hate that definition. When I speak of wealth I am simply referring to the idea of having enough to provide for your happiness and well being. See, one thing I have learned is that your time and life experiences are much more valuable than any material item. Having the time to do what you love to do should be your primary goal in life. Sure we need money for things, just don’t make it the priority. By making the money the priority you jeopardize all else that makes life worth living.
There are plenty of soul sucking jobs that will pay you close to $100,000 or more, and trust me they will all still be there if you ever come back from your own life design. Take the risk and stay away as long as you can. The danger of starting these jobs out of college or after high school is that you build your life around it. One day you’ll wake up and realize that while you have found ways to spend that money, real life is passing you by and you’re on more of hamster wheel than you realize. Sure you’ll have your two, maybe 3 weeks a year to yourself, but is that truly any way to live?
How Has That Been Going?
For me, it’s been going pretty well. I make good money and I have more free time than any of my friends. I eventually made a third discovery. While I have passive income and a good amount of free time, I began to realize that it all centered around my job and living here in Los Angeles. I was no longer truly free to move around as I had been during my seasonal work. That was when I realized the third and missing piece of the puzzle. Location freedom. Location freedom is just what it sound like, the ability to work from anywhere, or better yet to generate your passive income from anywhere. That is my next chapter in life. Mastering location freedom. I already have some plans in the works.
What were some things that were difficult?
Learning how to live working for yourself. The mindset of being able to work for yourself is one that you must cultivate. Ever since we were young we have been given tasks to complete. Go to school, get good grades, go to high school, get good grades, go to college and graduate and so on. Our educational system is a long procession of tasks given and completed. We become conditioned to look for someone to tell us what to do next. We become responsive, not proactive.
What is also difficult about working for yourself is that there is little to no accountability. Nobody is looking over your shoulder to check your productivity. If you want to slack off and watch TV all day you can. However eventually it catches up with you so I’d say the hardest thing is being self disciplined. You must create beneficial habits that keep you on track or the whole thing falls apart.
Why have you felt that this was a good choice?
As I said earlier, ultimately what self employment taught me is that it’s about maintaining control of your life. It’s very easy to get comfortable and slip into routine and get stuck in a 9-5. To start racking up debt as quickly as people do. I would contend in an effort to make the boring routine lives they’ve settled for exciting. It’s fairly easy to get a typical 9-5, learn the ropes, get comfortable and stay there for years. Seasonal work requires you to keep learning new skills and meeting new people which ultimately expands your perception as well as your options.
Working for myself has kept me sharp and always thinking about my next move. As long as you decide where you work and for whom, you are working for yourself and pursuing your dreams and goals. That is a fulfilling life. Design your own life. Do not let someone else design your life for you. There are those out there that will be happy to and you just may not like what they have in store for you. Make your own plan and then execute it. It is one of the greatest feeling you will know in life. Freedom.