Sell your knowledge and experience, not your time

14 March 2021

13 min read


Sell your knowledge and experience, not your time


  • Live your life in such a way so that you will continuously grow as a person.
  • You want to be paid more for the same amount of time, not work more hours to make more money.
  • Time is not the problem; losing energy on stupid things is one of our greatest enemies.

I want to feel special, and so do you

I want to feel special, and so do you

If you have the time, I would love to tell you a story.

It was four or five years ago when I've stumbled upon an old and dusty dream that I had in my childhood. The company where I work right now has an internal contest called Best Innovative Minds. The first editions were relatively simple. You had to pitch an idea, and then a jury would grade them, and depending on how good you are with words, you had a chance to win. Nowadays the contest it’s way interesting. You have to implement a prototype based on your idea, making things a little more challenging and exciting. It's an excellent opportunity for us, developers, to explore interesting technological ideas.

I joined the party five years ago when the only thing you had to do was a 4-page presentation and then speak for 20 minutes about your idea. That’s a great rapport in terms of time/value; let’s do it; my brain said. I talked about a more strong collaboration between ASSIST Software and Stefan cel Mare University. I thought that developers could do courses with students on weekends. I also thought we could team up with some teachers and create a new web development course that is up to date with reality. So basically, I was trying to get the chance to be a teacher. The idea was simple, yet it had a romantic feel to it. You see, when I was young, I dreamed of becoming a teacher until I understood how much money the teachers make, and I decided to go in a slightly different direction. My parents were teachers, one of them is still practicing, and I love them for that. Still, the money is a deal-breaker for me; I’m “unique” that way, I suppose.

Long story short, my idea won. I would say I had more dumb luck than some merit. Still, I accepted the prize; it was some kind of fancy phone that broke after three months, so I had to buy a new one anyway; I still won nonetheless.

I wanted to feel even more unique, so I wrote a small LinkedIn post to share my enormous achievement. Because I suck at hard work, half of my post was a quote from a movie I love; the other half was some text with a diagram telling something about a feeling of flow that everyone should have when they are embarking on a new journey. I made some promises in there that I would do this and that and that I would turn the world upside down.

Where is my energy lost?

Where is my energy lost?

I wrote that post; I was excited for a couple of days, then, surprise, surprise, nothing happened. I’m lazy and quite comfortable most of the time, so I need constant ball kicking to make some moves. Now, while I’m lazy, I’m also quite stupid about a lot of things. One of the things where I don’t shine is that I tend to work a lot without always working smart. And here it comes, the blame on my 09:00-18:00 work, the obvious enemy of me not doing shit about my dreams. I have mixed feelings about blaming burnouts and the fact that I have an 8-hour job. I want to blame it, but at the same time, I know that is not the problem. I could have a part-time job, and I still will manage to do nothing regarding my dreams.

Why don’t I have the energy to work on my projects?

Over time, it seems you have less and less energy to kick start something on your own. At least that’s how I feel. One answer could be that as an employee, I’m afraid that once I’m paid more, I need to work more. I guess it’s some kind of combination between the impostor syndrome and the need to accomplish many things during one day. I’m burning out all my fuel during the day, so there is not enough in the evening.

I also tend to work after six or on weekends because I have some crazy ideas that I would love to test in the project. That is not necessarily bad, but after falling over and over again in the same trap, I’ve realized that I’m not entirely happy. Yes, I’m doing what I love every day, but I’m not building my little something special. Most of the time, people don’t appreciate all the extra work, which quickly adds to the sadness in our life. That’s why there are requirements and acceptance criteria so that you would know when to stop.

Know when to stop; the pursuit of perfection kills progress.

So I’ve been neglecting my desire of being a teacher with some excuses like: “I do what I love anyway, it’s not the end of the world If I don’t get to do that as well” or “I’m making my client happy, I’m going the extra mile so that counts for something, right?”

A little sunshine does wonder

A little sunshine does wonder

The time passed, I kind of numbed my dream of being a teacher until it popped out again last year, 2020. With the covid situation, I had some extra time which at first I’ve poured automatically into my job. Then, after a burnout or two, I’ve decided to take things slower. Around October 2020, I’ve started working on a website in my free time. I said to myself, worst-case scenario, at least I’m learning a new framework. During that time, so happened that my main project’s pace slowed just enough for me to have some energy left after 18:00. It was great; I researched a framework, made a plan, created a Trello board with my tickets organized by priority. Everything was looking good! The site was almost ready, and I also had some articles saved in my drive when suddenly the pace for my regular job somehow got fast. I don’t know what the hell happened, but suddenly, I didn’t have energy after six.

Yet again, I have fallen victim to the hungry beast.

This time around, though, I got a little taste of what it means to have energy, to have the power to work towards a personal goal. I wasn’t willing to give up so quickly. I’ve started to cook some kind of plan, how I could burn less energy during the day to have some left for my side project in the evening. I couldn’t do the work in the morning because the morning was taken by another side project, going to the gym. I wasn’t going to let go of that, no way. After I’ve been trying to create this habit for years, finally, I’m able to wake up at five and go to the gym 4-5 days a week. There should be another way!

There is always another way!

I’ve been a team leader for a couple of years, and although it’s satisfying, depending on the project, it can be a stupidly busy job. It’s not that I’m the best or the smartest, but boy, I’m the one that is being tagged the most when there is a question. I’ve started to see some patterns; I had days and days where I wouldn’t have the time to code a single line of code. I was thinking, what the hell I did today, and I couldn’t fill the gap for 3-4 hours. I know I’m not wasting time with social media because I didn’t even have some accounts until recently with this website. I have a single 3-hour long chill song on youtube that is always on repeat, so where the fuck did my time go?

Where the fuck is my time lost?

Find out the truth about how you spend your time

Find out the truth about how you spend your time

I could write an entire post, answering what my problems are regarding spending energy. The short answer for me is, I’m trying to be proactive, the stupid kind. Yeah, you know the word; you hear good things about it, like, you should be more like that. Well, the truth is that always trying to be proactive sometimes converts slowly into being busy. Being busy sometimes means you are doing useless shit that is bringing close to no value. Yes, I’m friendly, and I’m trying to answer all the damn questions. Yes, I’m joining on ad hoc calls because I want to be supportive. Yes, I will accept your meeting even though I see no description and I have no idea what we will discuss. The list goes on with different small and big stupid things that I do during the day, which don’t bring me closer to my long-term goals.

I was losing energy being busy and a fake productive person.

What to do, what to do?

What to do, what to do?

See a short dialog between Robin and Pooh.

“What to do, what to do, what to do?” Robin said. “What to do indeed,” said Pooh.

I guess I need a plan; usually, having a plan is a good approach.

I know!

I need to remove most of the useless tasks that drain my energy and focus instead on things that will bring long-term value to my client, the company where I’m working, and, surprise, surprise, value to myself.

Remove the useless and focus on things that will bring you long-term value.

Step 1. Get some confidence, read some books

Get some confidence, read some books

Get some confidence that what you are doing is worthwhile. I needed to solve at least parts of my impostor syndrome. I know I’m a good programmer, I’m a decent team leader, I deserve the paycheck, and I deserve more time to work on more complex things. I need to trust my instincts more and shake part of the fear. I’m saying part because being scared is not always bad; it could mean you care. A lot of anxiety, on the other hand, is terrible because it’s paralyzing me.

I’ve read the following books, which I warmly recommend:

I’ve also read a lot of books on Blinklist. I don’t always have the will to read an entire book, so with Blinklist, I found my silver bullet. I can read a summary of the book in 15 minutes, then I can also buy it if I want, but I get a lot of value from the summarized version.

Step 2. Get serious about the problem

Get serious about the problem

Find a practical solution to my problem. Maybe not being a team leader could do the trick. I’ve suggested that to my superiors, and it seems they are on board. I no longer will be a direct team leader, which does not mean in any way that I will have less work. It means that I will do more quality work and delegate the things that are draining my energy. I had such luck to have a wonderful person in my team who wanted to be a team leader and has all the right skills. After making sure that I’m not throwing a hot potato to someone else, I’ve asked what she thinks about being a team lead. She said that it’s an excellent opportunity for her, and she is more than glad to take on this responsibility. Win, win, I love these kinds of problem-solving.

Step 3. Step away for a moment, disconnect

Step away for a moment, disconnect

Get a vacation to get on track with my little dream.

I need to nurture it, to believe in it. For me, any new journey feels like this moment.

I’m on a three-week vacation, somewhere in Sibiu right now, a gorgeous city from Romania. It’s 09:35 while I’m writing this, and I’m leaving this Airbnb place at 10:00 to get breakfast, then I’m heading to Alba Iulia, another beautiful city. I’m hoping to get some peace and inspiration for my burnout mind. Because of Covid, I didn’t take half of the vacation days from 2020, so I can now squeeze in a more extended vacation which I have to tell you, it’s so helpful for my mind, body, and soul. Not sure about the body because I’m eating a little bit of junk food these days, which I don’t usually do because of the gym and other crazy thoughts.

I will get back with new forces and a better plan to preserve my energy and keep pursuing my dreams. I don’t yet have it, but It has something to do with,

Sell your knowledge and experience, not your time.

Last thoughts

I hope this article will help you in some way. We are all full of doubts and fears. I think we all have a great list of excuses, no matter the subject. We should figure out our problems and try to fix them with the knowledge we have. Don’t just wait to have more time one of these days; no one will give you the time. It’s your responsibility to manage it. Find ways to preserve your energy, and don’t strive to be busier. You do not impress anyone with how many things you have to do, even if you may consider yourself quite important.

Time is not the problem; losing energy on stupid things is one of our greatest enemies.

Keep trying to improve without comparing yourself with someone else.

Have a great day!