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Why Economists never mow their own lawn, and if you want to make money… neither should you.

ChrisV

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I had a random thought and figured I’d post it here. There’s a saying in Economics which is “Economists never mow their own lawn.” Why don’t they mow their own lawn? Well simply because they understand Economics. They understand the nuances of economics well enough to know that by doing a task they’re not trained for, they’re actually losing money.

By taking on menial tasks you’re losing the opportunity cost of another task that can be more profitable for you. Many people think they're saving money by looking something up on online and trying their hand at it. They want to be the CEO, the advertiser, product development, and everything in between. And to be fair, when you're first starting out, sometimes you have to. But as you grow and you want to take it to the next level, it's necessary to just focus on what you're good at.

How much is your time worth? To figure this out simply take your weekly profit and divide it by the amount of time you typically put into your business. How much time would you have spent mowing your lawn (mowing your lawn being a metaphor for whatever tedious task you have in your way.) How much would it have cost you to to simply outsource that task instead? I bet it's less that what you're making.

We're talking about any task that takes away from your time doing more productive things.

People who just focus on what they’re good at are more successful. It’s why income generally correlates with population density. It’s why people who lives in cities have a higher per capita income than those in rural areas. In rural areas, the shear distance of everything makes it so that peoplehave to be a jack of all trades, never specializing in one. In cities, everyone has a specialized task. There’s the baker, there’s a maintenance man, there’s a chef, theres’s dog groomer, and you’re free to do what you’re good at. Everyone does what they're good at. No one has to waste time doing a task they’re not trained for.

(A little off topic, but if you want to become ultra successful, living in a city is one of the best things you can do. In the book “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are” data scientist Seth Davidowitz asked the question “what do multimillionaires and the ultra famous have in common,” scraped the data ans crunched the data to find the answer. The answer was: many of them moved to a big city before they made their money or fame. The reason is specialization and networking, both of which are much easier in a large city.)

But back on topic: What are the things that you do that almost no-one else can do? The things that can’t be outsourced. By outsourcing everything and only doing only those things you benefit in numerous ways. First, it’s simply more profitable in the short term. Second, by continually doing those tasks over and over, you become incredibly proficient at them, which increases your profits even more. You gain an expertise at those tasks, and by being better and faster at them, your market value goes up.

My personal suggestion is to find whatever tedious tasks you do every day, and find a way to systematically eliminate each one. See what’s taking you the most time and get rid of it. By doing this you boost your expertise and can focus on the things that make you the most money.

Remember: lone wolves make terrible hunters. Let everyone do what they're good at.
 

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How much is your time worth? To figure this out simply take your weekly profit and divide it by the amount of time you typically put into your business. How much time would you have spent mowing your lawn (mowing your lawn being a metaphor for whatever tedious task you have in your way.) How much would it have cost you to to simply outsource that task instead? I bet it's less that what you're making.
What you need to take is your weekly profit and divide it by the hours in that week.

Say you're Joe Entrepreneur who's working 50 hours a week on his business profiting $1,000 a week. You could say he's making $20 per hour and that's what his time is worth (when he's working). In reality, his time is worth $5.95 per hour (regardless of what he's doing). He has the potential to make $20 per hour, but if he's not working he's not making $20 per hour.

So sure, he could pay his neighbor's 12-year-old $20 to mow his lawn on a Saturday morning, but he's losing money unless he is working on his business for that hour, actively making $20, but then it's just an equal trade (not factoring in skill gain, potential growth, etc).

Unless Joe's working on his business literally every hour ever, his time is worth less than what he's earning.

But I do agree with the overall sentiments.
 

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Great post @ChrisV

I need to do an audit of what I'm working on this week, and do some real thinking about it.

I was going to edit some photos for a couple hours, and I still may do that, but I think I'm also going to message some photo editors on fiverr and have a couple do a "test run" and compare it against my editing skills.

It's just one of those things I do, without really thinking about it, but is really a pretty low-level task.
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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I was going to edit some photos for a couple hours, and I still may do that, but I think I'm also going to message some photo editors on fiverr and have a couple do a "test run" and compare it against my editing skills.

It's just one of those things I do, without really thinking about it, but is really a pretty low-level task.
Well that's another thing. If you enjoy mowing your lawn (or editing photos, or whatever) then I think that has to be taken into consideration as well. If you enjoy it then it actually pays in other ways, other than financial. And if editing photos is a skill you can add to your toolbox that will be helpful, then it will have payoffs in the future. There's actually an entire field called Behavioral Economics that explores these things.

Not saying you do or don't like editing photos, I just wanted to add that in there.
 

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Well that's another thing. If you enjoy mowing your lawn (or editing photos, or whatever) then I think that has to be taken into consideration as well. If you enjoy it then it actually pays in other ways, other than financial. And if editing photos is a skill you can add to your toolbox that will be helpful, then it will have payoffs in the future. There's actually an entire field called Behavioral Economics that explores these things.

Not saying you do or don't like editing photos, I just wanted to add that in there.
It takes me about two hours to mow my lawn, and one of the reasons I continue to do it is that it's forced quiet time. I can't answer client phone calls, or send emails, so it gives me a chance to think about big-picture items, and mull over some of the thoughts that have accumulated.

While I understand the efficiency argument of outsourcing everything below your hourly rate, I think there's a lot to be said for mindless tasks, in terms of energy recovery. If we're doing $1,000-an-hour tasks all day every day, is that sustainable? Maybe it is, but my inclination is that you need some recovery time to be able to operate at peak efficiency/effectiveness.
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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@CareCPA .. yea, this is all just something to think about.

You may be losing money, but money certainly isn't the only pleasure in life.

In practice there are a lot of things to take into consideration... ie. someone who's working a job may be limited by the numbers of hours they can work. So by outsourcing X task, it's not like they can spend that hour doing work

The way I grew up... my dad was one of the best engineers in the country, but was a huge do-it-yourselfer. He made great money, but still changed his oil himself. Looking back, I think this may have limited him and certainly limited me. I just grew up thinking that's what people did. You save money doing it yourself. It took me a while to break free from that conditioning.
 

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I respect this philosophy! I get out of doing the dishes by telling my wife I'm working on Facebook ads all the time.
haha, don't reveal the secrets!

The way I grew up... my dad was one of the best engineers in the country, but was a huge do-it-yourselfer. He made great money, but still changed his oil himself. Looking back, I think this may have limited him and certainly limited me. I just grew up thinking that's what people did. You save money doing it yourself. It took me a while to break free from that conditioning.
Yup, I'm getting away from this mindset as well. Feels weird still to not change my own oil, I did so for over a decade! 100% slowlane mindset.
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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Feels weird still to not change my own oil, I did so for over a decade!
Its a hard habit to break. When something goes wrong I usually just Google it, but a lot of times it ends up taking me longer than if I just brought it to a professional. Plus the fact that we tend to get stressed out when we do things that we're not familiar with. I've definitely made significant progress though lol
 

Kak

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I read a few books from Rabbi Daniel Lapin...

The reason being is that the Jews are disproportionately the highest earning demographic in our country by a WIDE margin.

Their culture is programmed to operate like this and it makes sense. A lot can be learned by a culture of high earning.
 

Kak

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He made great money, but still changed his oil himself.
Great thread Chris. There are a few things that I must say I operate in contrast to this.

I mow my own lawn. It takes less than an hour, but I know I shouldn’t be wasting my time on it. I hope to find an enterprising neighborhood kid instead of a service. I'll sell all of the equipment and get some garage space back.

I have found that the lube shop dog and pony show takes an hour+ when I can just order my oil and filter on amazon. Literally it takes me 10 minutes to do it myself. The only way this can get better for me is if I sent my driver to do it. So until I have one of those, I'll change my own oil in whatever car.

Haircuts? Same deal. No appointment, no waiting, no driving, just 20 minutes of my own time instead of an hour+ and I like the result.

Flying my own plane? That is just fun, but I will want a pilot.
 

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ChrisV

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Dude these books look great. "Business secrets from the Bible," "Ten Commandments for Making Money" Any recommendations on which are the best?

25872
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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And yes, I agree. There are definitely some legitimate counterpoints to outsourcing. I think it's about finding your balance. For instance I cut my own hair as well. The reason is: I cut my hair almost almost every time I shave. Doing it myself it takes all of 10 minutes. Plus I have this great tool that makes it even easier:

25874
Side note: this device a great example of how simple it is to create value. Some kids from the inner city created this, and it's one of the best purchases I've ever made.

I have found that the lube shop dog and pony show takes an hour+ when I can just order my oil and filter on amazon. Literally it takes me 10 minutes to do it myself. The only way this can get better for me is if I sent my driver to do it. So until I have one of those, I'll change my own oil in whatever car.
That's a business idea for someone: an oil change service that comes to you. Those waiting rooms can be brutal. A service that just packs the back of a work van with oil change materials and does your car while you're at home or work. Add in some cool branded trucks and that's a hit. I think a lot of people would pay an extra 20 bucks or so to have it delivered.
 

Neng Her

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For those who discovered what their great at, what’s your experience in doing so.

I had a deep conversation with myself to see what exactly is 1 thing I do great in. Unfortunately I find myself being able to talk about many many things but only to a certain depth.
 

Kak

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Dude these books look great. "Business secrets from the Bible," "Ten Commandments for Making Money" Any recommendations on which are the best?

View attachment 25872
Thou Shall Prosper and Business Secrets are the only ones I have read. Worthwhile reads for sure.
 
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ChrisV

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For those who discovered what their great at, what’s your experience in doing so.

I had a deep conversation with myself to see what exactly is 1 thing I do great in. Unfortunately I find myself being able to talk about many many things but only to a certain depth.
This is a tough question, but I'm confident that I've found what I'm great at. What does your intuition say? Ask your brain 'what is my purpose in life' and just wait for an answer. Don't try to think of an answer, just let your intuition answer the question for you.

After that, I also found this concept to be really profound:

 

Real Deal Denver

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I have found that the lube shop dog and pony show takes an hour+ when I can just order my oil and filter on amazon. Literally it takes me 10 minutes to do it myself. The only way this can get better for me is if I sent my driver to do it. So until I have one of those, I'll change my own oil in whatever car.
To make you feel better @Kak - the oil shops suck the old oil out through the dipstick tube and therefore do not get a lot of it out. They also use recycled oil, usually a cheap brand like Penzoil (which is one of the worst), and they use 50 cent Chinese oil filters.

To make matters even better, there are huge time savings, as you mentioned (10 minutes tops). When I have gone to the oil change shop (even with an appointment) it takes them an hour and a half minimum.

Needless to say - for quality alone - I do my own oil changes. I have extensive tools, and I make it easy by having the correct box-end wrench identified with a wrap of electrical tape. I'm putting in quality oil and filter - and I'm draining over 90% of the old oil out using my method. It's such a better method. Here's a trick you may, or may not know - fill up the filter with oil before you install it. Your engine will not run dry while it is filling it the first time you start it.

Some things are just much much better done yourself. I know a lot about cars, and therefore go the extra mile to take care of them better than most people do. More to follow on other "ways to save money and do it better yourself" on another thread when I get around to it.
 

Neng Her

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This is a tough question, but I'm confident that I've found what I'm great at. What does your intuition say? Ask your brain 'what is my purpose in life' and just wait for an answer. Don't try to think of an answer, just let your intuition answer the question for you.

After that, I also found this concept to be really profound:

Right on.
 

Tourmaline

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Its a hard habit to break. When something goes wrong I usually just Google it, but a lot of times it ends up taking me longer than if I just brought it to a professional. Plus the fact that we tend to get stressed out when we do things that we're not familiar with. I've definitely made significant progress though lol
Engine of the old corolla started acting funny. Spent like an hour researching, decided it was probably the spark plugs. I spend 30 min finding new spark plugs, 30 min learning how to change them, 1 hr changing them.

Ends up being a blown fuel injector. :bored:

It was fun...but ultimately do I care? Nope. 3 hours gone.
 

minivanman

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Check your mechanic. Mine is just down the street and they come get mine, change the oil and bring it back. They are a small mechanic shop. My wife does the same with her Honda. A shop in downtown goes to the museum and picks it up and either brings it back or when she gets off work they will come get her, which ever she prefers that day.

As for mowing, my grandson does it but he came in the other day and said we are out of string for the weedeater. So I told him it's done..... let's sell all that crap and just pay someone to do it. Gas/oil/string/blade sharpening..... too much of a hassle. That's part of why we like apartment life......
 

Real Deal Denver

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Check your mechanic. Mine is just down the street and they come get mine, change the oil and bring it back. They are a small mechanic shop. My wife does the same with her Honda. A shop in downtown goes to the museum and picks it up and either brings it back or when she gets off work they will come get her, which ever she prefers that day.

As for mowing, my grandson does it but he came in the other day and said we are out of string for the weedeater. So I told him it's done..... let's sell all that crap and just pay someone to do it. Gas/oil/string/blade sharpening..... too much of a hassle. That's part of why we like apartment life......
You got it figured out. I've never read a post from you @minivanman that I didn't like.

As for the apt. lifestyle - I life in a townhome. The landscaping is pristine - landscaping magazine quality - and I go swimming every night in a big heated pool, which I usually have all to myself. Heaven, man - heaven.

BUT I pay for that lifestyle. $330 a month HOA. With my health club and country club, I almost can't afford myself. Wouldn't be bad if I made the bucks MJ makes...
 

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zoeyallen6

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I had a random thought and figured I’d post it here. There’s a saying in Economics which is “Economists never mow their own lawn.” Why don’t they mow their own lawn? Well simply because they understand Economics. They understand the nuances of economics well enough to know that by doing a task they’re not trained for, they’re actually losing money.

By taking on menial tasks you’re losing the opportunity cost of another task that can be more profitable for you. Many people think they're saving money by looking something up on online and trying their hand at it. They want to be the CEO, the advertiser, product development, and everything in between. And to be fair, when you're first starting out, sometimes you have to. But as you grow and you want to take it to the next level, it's necessary to just focus on what you're good at.

How much is your time worth? To figure this out simply take your weekly profit and divide it by the amount of time you typically put into your business. How much time would you have spent mowing your lawn (mowing your lawn being a metaphor for whatever tedious task you have in your way.) How much would it have cost you to to simply outsource that task instead? I bet it's less that what you're making.

We're talking about any task that takes away from your time doing more productive things.

People who just focus on what they’re good at are more successful. It’s why income generally correlates with population density. It’s why people who lives in cities have a higher per capita income than those in rural areas. In rural areas, the shear distance of everything makes it so that peoplehave to be a jack of all trades, never specializing in one. In cities, everyone has a specialized task. There’s the baker, there’s a maintenance man, there’s a chef, theres’s dog groomer, and you’re free to do what you’re good at. Everyone does what they're good at. No one has to waste time doing a task they’re not trained for.

(A little off topic, but if you want to become ultra successful, living in a city is one of the best things you can do. In the book “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are” data scientist Seth Davidowitz asked the question “what do multimillionaires and the ultra famous have in common,” scraped the data ans crunched the data to find the answer. The answer was: many of them moved to a big city before they made their money or fame. The reason is specialization and networking, both of which are much easier in a large city.)

But back on topic: What are the things that you do that almost no-one else can do? The things that can’t be outsourced. By outsourcing everything and only doing only those things you benefit in numerous ways. First, it’s simply more profitable in the short term. Second, by continually doing those tasks over and over, you become incredibly proficient at them, which increases your profits even more. You gain an expertise at those tasks, and by being better and faster at them, your market value goes up.

My personal suggestion is to find whatever tedious tasks you do every day, and find a way to systematically eliminate each one. See what’s taking you the most time and get rid of it. By doing this you boost your expertise and can focus on the things that make you the most money.

Remember: lone wolves make terrible hunters. Let everyone do what they're good at.
Thanks for sharing this valuable information with us. I feel good to read your post because it has given a lot of good things to you.
 

Veloman

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There's a home cleaning business here that has the slogan "life's too short to clean your own home".

Since we live with a guy who rents a room in our house and he is not very clean, I've thought about just hiring a maid. Once I get busy enough with my business I probably will.

Mowing my lawn is part physical activity for me. I agree with the OP sentiment though. I use to run a mowing business and I knew that many of my customers were saving their precious time by outsourcing to me.

Financial success is certainly supported by specialization. It goes with efficiency and leverage.
 

WJK

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I had a random thought and figured I’d post it here. There’s a saying in Economics which is “Economists never mow their own lawn.” Why don’t they mow their own lawn? Well simply because they understand Economics. They understand the nuances of economics well enough to know that by doing a task they’re not trained for, they’re actually losing money.

By taking on menial tasks you’re losing the opportunity cost of another task that can be more profitable for you. Many people think they're saving money by looking something up on online and trying their hand at it. They want to be the CEO, the advertiser, product development, and everything in between. And to be fair, when you're first starting out, sometimes you have to. But as you grow and you want to take it to the next level, it's necessary to just focus on what you're good at.

How much is your time worth? To figure this out simply take your weekly profit and divide it by the amount of time you typically put into your business. How much time would you have spent mowing your lawn (mowing your lawn being a metaphor for whatever tedious task you have in your way.) How much would it have cost you to to simply outsource that task instead? I bet it's less that what you're making.

We're talking about any task that takes away from your time doing more productive things.

People who just focus on what they’re good at are more successful. It’s why income generally correlates with population density. It’s why people who lives in cities have a higher per capita income than those in rural areas. In rural areas, the shear distance of everything makes it so that peoplehave to be a jack of all trades, never specializing in one. In cities, everyone has a specialized task. There’s the baker, there’s a maintenance man, there’s a chef, theres’s dog groomer, and you’re free to do what you’re good at. Everyone does what they're good at. No one has to waste time doing a task they’re not trained for.

(A little off topic, but if you want to become ultra successful, living in a city is one of the best things you can do. In the book “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are” data scientist Seth Davidowitz asked the question “what do multimillionaires and the ultra famous have in common,” scraped the data ans crunched the data to find the answer. The answer was: many of them moved to a big city before they made their money or fame. The reason is specialization and networking, both of which are much easier in a large city.)

But back on topic: What are the things that you do that almost no-one else can do? The things that can’t be outsourced. By outsourcing everything and only doing only those things you benefit in numerous ways. First, it’s simply more profitable in the short term. Second, by continually doing those tasks over and over, you become incredibly proficient at them, which increases your profits even more. You gain an expertise at those tasks, and by being better and faster at them, your market value goes up.

My personal suggestion is to find whatever tedious tasks you do every day, and find a way to systematically eliminate each one. See what’s taking you the most time and get rid of it. By doing this you boost your expertise and can focus on the things that make you the most money.

Remember: lone wolves make terrible hunters. Let everyone do what they're good at.
My tenants have that attitude. They won't do anything that they don't wanna do. OK. That's why they are my tenants rather homeowners. And yes, I can hire someone to do all the chores around here. At times I do. BUT, there is NO chore that I'm too good to do. Sometimes it's just easier to do it myself rather than hire someone and then have to supervise them. Also, outsourcing can put you into the poor house fast. Every dime you spend comes off of your bottom line.

Why not find a way to make those chores easier and faster? You could have less stuff to dust and clean. Throw stuff away and then save money by just buying less. Like Grandma said, "Waste not, want not." You could turn your lawn into a low maintenance garden. You can do chores rather than working out at the gym. Create good habits that save time -- like rinsing and putting the dishes in the dishwasher as you use them. If you really look at your life, there are a lot of ways to make life simpler. Hiring someone doesn't make things easier most of the time. It costs money and creates a new type of headache.
 

AlexCornila

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I had a random thought and figured I’d post it here. There’s a saying in Economics which is “Economists never mow their own lawn.” Why don’t they mow their own lawn? Well simply because they understand Economics. They understand the nuances of economics well enough to know that by doing a task they’re not trained for, they’re actually losing money.

By taking on menial tasks you’re losing the opportunity cost of another task that can be more profitable for you. Many people think they're saving money by looking something up on online and trying their hand at it. They want to be the CEO, the advertiser, product development, and everything in between. And to be fair, when you're first starting out, sometimes you have to. But as you grow and you want to take it to the next level, it's necessary to just focus on what you're good at.

How much is your time worth? To figure this out simply take your weekly profit and divide it by the amount of time you typically put into your business. How much time would you have spent mowing your lawn (mowing your lawn being a metaphor for whatever tedious task you have in your way.) How much would it have cost you to to simply outsource that task instead? I bet it's less that what you're making.

We're talking about any task that takes away from your time doing more productive things.

People who just focus on what they’re good at are more successful. It’s why income generally correlates with population density. It’s why people who lives in cities have a higher per capita income than those in rural areas. In rural areas, the shear distance of everything makes it so that peoplehave to be a jack of all trades, never specializing in one. In cities, everyone has a specialized task. There’s the baker, there’s a maintenance man, there’s a chef, theres’s dog groomer, and you’re free to do what you’re good at. Everyone does what they're good at. No one has to waste time doing a task they’re not trained for.

(A little off topic, but if you want to become ultra successful, living in a city is one of the best things you can do. In the book “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are” data scientist Seth Davidowitz asked the question “what do multimillionaires and the ultra famous have in common,” scraped the data ans crunched the data to find the answer. The answer was: many of them moved to a big city before they made their money or fame. The reason is specialization and networking, both of which are much easier in a large city.)

But back on topic: What are the things that you do that almost no-one else can do? The things that can’t be outsourced. By outsourcing everything and only doing only those things you benefit in numerous ways. First, it’s simply more profitable in the short term. Second, by continually doing those tasks over and over, you become incredibly proficient at them, which increases your profits even more. You gain an expertise at those tasks, and by being better and faster at them, your market value goes up.

My personal suggestion is to find whatever tedious tasks you do every day, and find a way to systematically eliminate each one. See what’s taking you the most time and get rid of it. By doing this you boost your expertise and can focus on the things that make you the most money.

Remember: lone wolves make terrible hunters. Let everyone do what they're good at.


Great point but let me expand on that idea and play devils advocate here if you don't mind ;)

So the idea of labor specialization is a Econ 101 concept which works nicely with the example you have used here but I think like all models, it works on a very specific set of circumstances but fails in others.
Lets say your expertise is in driving a taxi in NY. Now imagine that a company called Uber enters the market and your presumed expertise becomes your unique point of failure. What was your strength now has become your weakness and you have no way to quickly switch to a different circle of competence. To extrapolate from that , the same idea is used in macroeconomics to some extent.
The concept is that countries should produce goods for which its domestic opportunity costs are lower than the domestic opportunity costs of other countries and engage in exchange those goods.
What happens if a country focuses its entire Economic development lets say on the oil extraction. Assuming new technological advancements in battery capacity and renewable energy sources there's a shift in demand for its products and now its strengths become a single point of failure who can destabilize an economy.
Now on the individual level imagine you have to take your car to a mechanic for a problem. Assuming car knowledge is outside your circle of competence there's an asymmetry of knowledge between you and the mechanic that puts you in the position to be taken advantage of. Additionally there's an incentive problem here since the mechanic incentives are to charge you as much as possible but till keep you as a customer. The solution I believe is to learn some of the mechanics trade, just enough to be able to understand in general terms the issue at hand and be able to ask the right question. It seems that the model should also include risk management, reason for diversification in portfolio investing

My philosophy would be to specialize in a area that doesn't have a low barrier of entry but at the same time have a wide set of mental models that allow you to jump between fields and allow one to have a general understanding of different fields. This should serve you well in problem solving.
For the past year I have collected some of these mental models on a personal notebook and btw I think it would be cool to have a section on mental model on the forum.

cool story on single points of failure CNN.com - Suspect in custody in Atlanta airport incident - November 16, 2001
 
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socaldude

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I love discussing economics because it's one of the many disciplines that literally has principles that help you be successful.

The number one principle operating all around us is SCARCITY.

Yes, you should focus on what you are good at but ultimately that skill must be 1. in demand and 2. scarce. Otherwise you are just as commoditized as the dude who mows lawns.

What if all of a sudden lawn care is super expensive because the equipment or the labor is more expensive or in demand. What if it now costs $400 to mow a lawn. Is it worth it to mow your own lawn in two hours? probably.
 

WJK

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Great point but let me expand on that idea and play devils advocate here if you don't mind ;)

So the idea of labor specialization is a Econ 101 concept which works nicely with the example you have used here but I think like all models, it works on a very specific set of circumstances but fails in others.
Lets say your expertise is in driving a taxi in NY. Now imagine that a company called Uber enters the market and your presumed expertise becomes your unique point of failure. What was your strength now has become your weakness and you have no way to quickly switch to a different circle of competence. To extrapolate from that , the same idea is used in macroeconomics to some extent.
The concept is that countries should produce goods for which its domestic opportunity costs are lower than the domestic opportunity costs of other countries and engage in exchange those goods.
What happens if a country focuses its entire Economic development lets say on the oil extraction. Assuming new technological advancements in battery capacity and renewable energy sources there's a shift in demand for its products and now its strengths become a single point of failure who can destabilize an economy.
Now on the individual level imagine you have to take your car to a mechanic for a problem. Assuming car knowledge is outside your circle of competence there's an asymmetry of knowledge between you and the mechanic that puts you in the position to be taken advantage of. Additionally there's an incentive problem here since the mechanic incentives are to charge you as much as possible but till keep you as a customer. The solution I believe is to learn some of the mechanics trade, just enough to be able to understand in general terms the issue at hand and be able to ask the right question. It seems that the model should also include risk management, reason for diversification in portfolio investing

My philosophy would be to specialize in a area that doesn't have a low barrier of entry but at the same time have a wide set of mental models that allow you to jump between fields and allow one to have a general understanding of different fields. This should serve you well in problem solving.
For the past year I have collected some of these mental models on a personal notebook and btw I think it would be cool to have a section on mental model on the forum.

cool story on single points of failure CNN.com - Suspect in custody in Atlanta airport incident - November 16, 2001
You have a very good point. How can you properly supervise someone if you don't know the job they are doing for you? My men are amazed when they find out that I can jump in and work next to them if needed. Daily, I show up on my job sites to see what's going on for myself. I know what the job takes to complete and how long they should take to complete it. Many times at my construction meetings, I ask how they are going to do the job. What are their steps? I have replanned jobs to make them faster and cheaper. There's no substitute for all of those years of experience. And the difference between a beginner and an expert is knowing the short cuts. I guess I'm not too good at being retired...
 

JScott

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How much is your time worth? To figure this out simply take your weekly profit and divide it by the amount of time you typically put into your business.
Even better, figure out what you WANT your time to be worth, and then only focus on tasks that generate that level of return.

For example, when I quit my corporate job a decade ago, I decided that $1000/hour is what my time was worth. If I couldn't make $1000/hour, I'd rather spend that time with my family, hanging out with my friends, focused on a hobby I enjoy, etc.

This litmus test has helped me decide over the years what I should be working on and what I shouldn't be working on. It's also forced me to systematize my businesses to the point where I could earn this amount for the time I put in (and yes, it often takes a while to get there...I'm not necessarily making $1000/hour from day one when I start a new business).

Btw, for those who decide their time is worth $X, but then say they can't find any tasks that generate $X/hour, I would suggest that you're not thinking big enough. I know people who make $100/hour selling stuff on eBay; I know people who make $200/hour doing freelance consulting; I know people who make $500/hour investing. And if you can grow and scale a successful business, it shouldn't be difficult to make many thousands of dollars per hour.

But, you have to have the mindset that this (whatever your number is) is your baseline and if you don't see a path to get there, you should be doing something else.
 

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