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11May
May 11th, 2012,
career advice college

By Albert Okagbue

Have you ever wondered what makes people successful? Have you ever wondered what makes people wealthy?  There are a lot of opinions on this, but one common theme.  Successful people work for free.

This idea is made clear in the book “Good To Great”, by Jim Collins and it is called the hedgehog concept.  As derived from research, the concept comes from successful companies, but its concepts are easily transferable to individuals.  In fact, it is very similar to the attitude that Billionaire Warren Buffet has, which worked out well for him.

The Hedgehog Concept

The first circle of the hedgehog concept is passion.  This is the thing that wakes you up in the morning and keeps you up at night – it doesn’t matter what it is.  It’s a no-brainer that when people love what they are doing, they will work harder at it, and by doing so inevitably get better.

After you’ve identified your passions, you can move on to the second circle, which is the opportunity for leadership.  What can you be the best at?  This is important, because not being able to outperform the competition means longer time spent unemployed. You don’t want any employer or customer to feel that you are replaceable and you want to be able to ask for raises.

The third part of the hedgehog concept – money – is the least important one, and the reason for this article’s title.  You have to ignore money and only prepare yourself to compete for jobs you would do for free. Exercise caution when it comes to really high-paying jobs because they are typically compensating for tasks that the average person finds difficult or stressful.  You will find that when you identify your passion and opportunity for leadership, it won’t take much money to make you accept a job in that field.  Since even employees at non-profits get paid, you will get paid too – you just don’t need to think about it so much.

What You Can Do Right Now

If you are a high school graduate or college student, congratulations, because you have the most time to find your hedgehog. It helps to consider what you would do for a living even if your friends didn’t like it, your parents had never heard of it, and it doesn’t pay a lot of money. You will need to find informational interviews, job-shadowing opportunities, and/or unpaid internships in that field, and see how you really like it. If you are asked why you want an unpaid internship, simply cite this article or the “Good To Great” book.  You can even say “I know you don’t work for free.  First, I want to know if this is a fit for me.” You might impress someone.

If you are a college graduate or an experienced worker, it’s not too late. It took me a total of thirteen years from my teen years to finalize my hedgehog, and I haven’t completely implemented it. The most important thing for you is to never give up. Identify what field or industry you like, and work slowly and steadily to get into it. It’s hard, but advisors at MyFootPath will be a great resource in your journey!

The Bottom Line

Warren Buffet once said in an interview that he is lucky to be doing what he loves.  In another interview, he said that he would do the same thing for a living if he was paid in sea shells. That sort of thinking is ultimately what will make you successful, and until you can say that about your job, you will be under-utilized and unsatisfied. So please get to it. Find your inner hedgehog!

For more information about how to become great, find “Good To Great” on Amazon.

Albert Okagbue is a Certified Public Accountant with a passion for helping people make great financial decisions.  He specializes in helping young adults manage college expenses, pay off student loans, and strategically increase the long-term earning potential of their careers or business.  He writes regularly at www.studentloancpa.com and is on Twitter @Studentloancpa.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3234139 Ian Kinzel

    What if what you love isn’t lucrative? I don’t just mean that it doesn’t make you affluent…what if there’s literally NO money in it? Or what if there’s no money in it for YOU?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3234139 Ian Kinzel

    What if what you love isn’t lucrative? I don’t just mean that it doesn’t make you affluent…what if there’s literally NO money in it? Or what if there’s no money in it for YOU?

  • Anonymous

    It depends — what kind of career you are referring to? Can you supply some specifics?