Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Posts Tagged ‘Career’

The Greatest Ability One Can Have

I work in the service industry. My job requires that I have a specific skill set, writing code in a few different languages. From a job perspective, my ability to write code in those languages is of extreme importance.

However, from a career perspective, the ability to perform a core job function is not the valuable ability to have.

The greatest ability one can have is the ability to acquire new skills quickly.

This is especially true in the service industry, but it can be applied anywhere. You never know when you will have to step beyond your job description to save the day. Without a doubt, this is also a very important ability for business owners.

Doing your job well is one thing. Saving the day is another.


This is from a programming perspective, but you can apply the concept to your own industry. As a programmer, I must stay up to date and at the top of my game when it comes to the platforms in my core skill set. However, researching, adopting, and practicing different technologies is also a must. If you try out new languages regularly, your mind will adapt to learning new syntaxes, new methodologies, and making sense of things that initially seem foreign.

The result is a mind that is versatile and (to your employer and/or clients) valuable.

Why Should You Be Building A Personal Brand?

Personal branding is something very few people consider as an investment in their career. How do you get a more enjoyable or higher paying job? Education, portfolio, experience. Once you have enough of those, you can look for your ideal job, submit your resume, and stand a better chance than the rest at getting it.

Who benefits from a personal brand?

I commonly talk to people about the benefit of name recognition for entrepreneurs. If you start a business and thousands of people already know and trust you, your business will have an immediate kick-start customer base. In the web services industry, it is all about staying afloat until you hit critical mass and become profitable. The sooner you can do that, the better. With that in mind, the name recognition and established trust can have a significant impact on the likelihood of success of your business.

How does personal branding plug into the job-seeking paradigm?

While the entrepreneur discussion is very interesting to discuss, there is also great value in personal branding for working professionals.

I have learned this first hand while building a brand around my name during the last year. To help establish a reputation as a skilled developer, I worked on various weekend projects and released them to the public with my name attached. Some of the projects yielded tens of thousands of visitors while a couple even hit the 6 figure mark. Right now, it is remarkably difficult to find good or great Flash developers. Guess what happens when tens of thousands of people view a simple Flash tool you built. Some of them are likely to be business owners or managers that are in need of a Flash developer.

Obviously, the more you put your work and yourself out there, the more you will regarded as an expert on a topic. Also, the more your name is seen and discussed around the industry, the more job opportunities will come your way. From here, we can take a look at your situation from an economics perspective. If you are receiving job offers, especially in an industry that is lacking good workers, the supply and demand scale is tipped in your direction. The supply is you, which is constant, and the demand is the number of companies that want to hire you.

By establishing yourself in the industry and building your own personal brand, you put yourself in a position to choose from jobs that are seeking you rather than settling for which ever employer will accept your resume.

The Allegory of Time Investment

It has been said that ‘time is money’. The association is generally drawn between the two in reference to billing hours. If you are not doing something that brings you money, you could be doing something else that would. Therefore, the profitless activity is costing you the money you could be earning.

This concept should not be new to most, since the phrase exhibits fairly widespread use. However, it serves as the perfect introduction to a deeper metaphor between time and money.

I am going to illustrate how successful people — often subconsciously — embrace this metaphor, while others may be limited to thinking of investment in terms of dollars and cents.


If we begin to examine the concept further, we will notice other striking similarities indicating that time is very much like a currency.

First, we can note some coincidences in the English language. The word ‘currency’ can either relate to time or money, depending on context. Time, like money, can be refered to something you can ‘spend’ or ‘save’. With these similarities being part of everyday dialogue, it would seem like this allegory is dangling under our noses in the most conspicuous way.

Both time and money can be wasted or invested. This is another seemingly rudimentary statement. Everyone knows you can invest time into something (e.g. “I invested a lot of hours in that video game!”). In many cases, the term ‘waste’ should have been used instead (e.g. “I wasted a lot of hours on that video game!”). Investing generally implies that the amount spent was done so with the intent of receiving some sort of return. For the sake of this discussion, I will only use the term ‘invest’ when a return on investment (ROI) is expected, and use ‘waste’ otherwise.

Yes or Uh Oh

All the time you spend can — and should — have some sort of positive ROI. You should be able to ask yourself what I call a “Yes or Uh Oh” question: Am I investing my time right now? This is a “Yes or Uh Oh” question because if the answer is either ‘Yes’ or you come to the realization you are making a mistake (hence the ‘Uh Oh’).

It may take some creative thinking to figure out what the return on investment is. This is because the return for your time typically does not come in the form of time.


As an example, we can examine two different breakfast habits. In one situation, we have an individual who wakes up, rushes to work, and eats a cereal bar in the car during the commute. On the other hand, we have an individual who wakes up, prepares a hearty breakfast, and eats it while reading the newspaper. While the second individual may be late, studies indicate that he or she is likely to be more productive at work. The time spent having a full breakfast and preparing the mind for the day can be viewed as an investment. The return on investment in this case would be a productive work day.

Investing Wisely

Successful people are known for investing their money wisely. Typically, they also invest their time wisely. Many people, aiming to become successful, are diligent in their finances and think that is all they have to do. If your goal is to be wealthy, you should ask yourself the question “Is what I am doing right now going to bring me closer to my goal?” regularly, and try to make the answer be “Yes” as often as possible.

As a Web Developer

For example, my profession, web development, provides many situations where wise time investment can make a great impact. Time needs to be taken into consideration as much, if not more than, money when approach some types of work. If a project is not going to become a valuable part of your portfolio — something that will lead to more work in the future — or if it is not going to be a valuable learning experience, what value does it have? If the only value (ROI) the project has for you is “paying the bills”, then that is all it will do and all that it will ever do. Portfolio pieces and educational experiences are not the only types of returns you should require, just two common examples.

Keep in mind that successful people do not generally ‘waste’ their time on work that will only provide immediate return. Instead, they focus on investing their time into work that provides long-term, accumulating returns.

Invested Time Returned As Time

In some cases, the time invested can return time as profit. As an example, someone can build a widget that reduces the amount of time a certain task takes. Every time that widget is used, the creator gets back the time he or she would have otherwise spent. The saved time can then be reinvested into other things.


The idea, of course, is for the ROI to end up with monetary value. It does not always have to have a direct monetary return. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In the sense of investment, the value of time can change much more dramatically than money, since it is not tied to anything tangible. By investing your time wisely and reinvest it when possible, you will increase the profitability of your accumulated time investment.


This article is intended to illustrate how time can be invested as a currency to accumulate value and wealth, to give a fresh perspective on personal growth, and to motivate others to invest time, rather than waste it.

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