What Will You Do with Your First Million?

It’s in reach. Trust me.

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Firstly, your issue has nothing whatsoever to do with earning a million dollars. The real issue is between your ears. The money is out there, and remains out there despite your difficulties with bills, and other financial obligations. Some of you well know those scenarios, I’m sure. I certainly do; most of us have had them. But the rest of the world doesn’t care. They’re busy earning a living. But you … your cellphone is threatened with disconnection, the power is about to be turned off, you’re late on your car payment …

“If only I had a million bucks,” you may say, “then I could finally breathe!”

No, actually that’s not the answer. Those with multi-millions of dollars have … say it with me, larger bills.

And, with larger bills … comes larger problems. Some would say, “higher-class problems” but hey, a cigar is a cigar.

Now what?

If the largest of all of your financial goals is to earn a million dollars, and you fall short … what then?

Shoot for ten, twenty even, and if you fall at one you’re a millionaire.

The old “shoot for the stars” chestnut, so soon after the “cigar is a cigar” bit. I know. But, there’s usually truth within those well-worn cliches. In the former case, you must train yourself to want that much more. Subsequently, you should by extension work that much harder to attain more. Unless you set yourself up for it, you will not earn money taking long naps, or sleeping. If you don’t work, you don’t earn.

Really, what here is anything other than good old common sense? Mark Twain, Pablo Picasso, Stephen King, Bill Gates, John Lennon … What do each of these high-achievers have in common? They all had, or have, the same 24 hours in a day as you.

So what’s with the excuses, then? Get to work.

One of the most driven-into-the-ground jokes in my business (media) goes something like this:

“What’s the quickest way to earn a million dollars?”

“Be a billionaire and invest in a film.”


As is by now patently obvious, this article is not intended to advise you on investments or jobs. My point here is to call attention to a typical plight: The perceived inability to earn a lifetime income through your passion, as opposed to the relative safety and security (no such thing as either, incidentally) of a “normal job.”

End-quote. I’m a writer. I sit at my home desk for a living, and pound my fingers on an iPad keyboard, while Spotify blasts in my ears and MSNBC plays on the television in the background. Usually, there’s a bagel and peanut butter inches from me, with a Starbucks Venti coffee tempting me at its side. What, this is not “normal?” I need stimuli. I was built that way. You don’t approve?

Then adapt. Set your goals and meet them your way.

Some logic: You work a 9–5, and then the job ends. You get laid off. The company closes. Or, you get fired. Well? Most of us have heard from our parents about preparing for a “rainy day,” and having money put on the side and into our “savings accounts” in the event of an emergency.

And those parents were 100% right. Good advice. Thing is, not everyone has that luxury. If you’re barely earning enough to pay the bills, how can you save enough to invest, or otherwise put anything away?

That job ends, and you — and your family, if you have one — are stuck.

Here are a few pointers that may be able to provide the freedom you seek: Whether you work a day job or your passion is your vocation, learn the myriad sides of that business. If you are an artist (encompassing writers, actors, musicians, or anyone in a creative arts field), then learn the various facets of your art. As in, not just creating, but also the selling, the distribution, the marketing … becoming a multiple-threat with your work. Otherwise, you will surely leave some beautiful art behind and few will see it.

My first writing assignments were for a series of newsstand professional wrestling magazines in the 80s. I was supplementing my income as a teacher of Special Education, living in Brooklyn with my parents. A wrestling fan since I was a kid. Suddenly, I began earning a few hundred monthly sitting in my underwear (sorry for the visual) writing on an old Smith-Carona Word Processor. Then I started doing the math: If I submitted double the articles, I’d earn double the money.

And then I could write naked if I so desired. What the hell? I’d have earned that right.

And so, I earned double the money, and ultimately moved to Los Angeles with my savings to pursue a proper writing career. Still, I had racked up some relocation debt, applied to appear on a game show … and won a few thousand dollars to pay off my creditors. I met Wink Martindale; it was an optimistic beginning. Though I now write and produce for a living, the career has had its ups, it’s had its downs … It’s been a continual learning experience.

The head trip is this: Before going into business for myself, I worked 100 day jobs, and actually once wrote a book about it (long out of print). I never hit 101. If only I had reversed-engineered this process from the beginning, for example, continuing to work on my passion with the knowledge that I could always find a day job if I wanted one — as opposed to stressing over bills and working jobs I usually despised while working on my passion as an avocation — I may have made financial matters that much easier for myself. That much less stressful, that is. But, alas …

As I said in my opening, above, the money is out there. If a piece of that pie is not yet yours, ask yourself why. Model success from others who have been there before. Network, network, network. Find a mentor. Or, if you’re homebound for whatever the reason, there are numerous opportunities on the web to work for a legitimate income. But you need to spend the time to look for those opportunities.

Unless you’re comfortable, of course. I think comfort is anathema to continued achievement, but that’s just me. That’s my own vibe.

What’s yours? What do you want out of life, and how are you going to get there? How will you climb that golden ladder?

My suggestion is this: Define the top rung of your ladder as winning the lottery, then define descending rungs as something less. Set your sights on the proper rung for you, and do whatever you need — legal, within reason, and without hurting anyone! — to get there. But don’t ever negate that top rung if you don’t have to. If you could afford a lottery ticket, go for it. Always set your sites to the extreme, and let the chips …

You know the rest.

Originally published at .

Written by

Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.

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