Why I Work for Free

Since becoming the first (and only) additional member of Team 3D Muscle Journey (3DMJ) in in late 2015, many emailers and interviewers want to know how in the hell I pulled that off.

The full story is longwinded and you can find it in a previous podcast interview or two, but the short version is that I have spent enormous amounts of time performing work for free.

I discovered the incredible gentlemen of 3DMJ back in 2012. By 2013, I was producing my own video and written content throughout the internet, and quite often I would relay information to my audience that I had previously learned from the guys who I am now proud to call my colleagues. And of course, I would always give credit where it was due with references, back links, and mentions every chance I could get.

This continued this for at least another year with ZERO intention of ever coaching alongside these mentors of mine. It was all simply in the name of education, to provide quality content for my subscribers, and to pay homage to the dudes who helped me navigate my way into natural bodybuilding.

By early 2015, I had the opportunity to assist them in posing clinics and aid in planning their seminars. I would profit very little (if at all) from spending countless hours figuring out how to help these men on their mission to assist this community we all loved so much.

All the while, when people asked what I did this for, I could not really explain why I was compelled to continue. I would give canned and expected answers like “Being close to 3D’s operations helps me build my audience” or “I do get SOME money from it and I know it will grow and make more.”

Sure, those statements were objectively true in concept, but not in emotion or intention.

To be absolutely 100% honest, it just felt right and I was learning so much about myself, my skill set, and these incredible coaches that I looked up to so much.

IT’S ONLY “FREE” WORK IF YOU SEE IT THAT WAY

Unless you are one of us who is lucky enough to actually work because you WANT to, this probably sounds cheesy or made up. You probably think I’m being self-righteous and hoity toity about the whole thing.

But whether or not I’ve never really been able to explain it well, it is a very real thing to me.

And just yesterday, while brushing up on one of the most impactful quick reads that I own, I re-stumbled upon a phenomenal piece that says it way better than I ever could.

Enter Steven Pressfield, author of “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work”:

A MARINE GETS TWO SALARIES

There is a well-known gunnery sergeant who, when his young Marines complain about their pay, explains that they get two salaries:

A financial salary and a psychological salary.

The Marine’s financial salary is indeed meager. But what about the psychological salary — the feeling of pride and honor, the sense of belonging to a brotherhood with a brave and noble history, and knowing that, no matter what happens, you remain a member of that fraternity as long as you live? How much, the Gunny asks, is that worth?

You and I, as artists and entrepreneurs, receive two salaries as well.

The first might be called conventional rewards — money, applause, attention. That kind is fine, if we can get it. The problem for most of us is we can’t. We bust our butts training and practicing and studying and rehearsing and nobody shows up, nobody notices, nobody even knows we exist. No wonder people quit. The struggle requires too much agony for too little payoff.

That’s the conventional reward.

Then there’s the psychological reward.

…Does the monk only meditate to achieve enlightenment? What if that never happens?

What does the dancer take from ballet class? Is it fun for the actor to perform? Why does the singer sing or the filmmaker shoot?

When we do the work for itself alone (I know how easy that is to say and how hard that is to do), we’re like that Marine who sleeps in a foxhole in the freezing rain but who knows a secret that only he and his brothers and his sisters share.

When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career (or a living or fame or or wealth or notoriety) turns into something else, something loftier and nobler, which we may never even have thought about or aspired to at the beginning.

It turns into a practice.

While my personal ratio of free vs. paid work is very much skewed toward the former, I now know that it only seems that way if talking about my conventional rewards.

Every day, I am proud to say, is heavily balanced toward earning the highest maximum psychological salary possible.

This is why training to be an athlete for three or more hours per day makes perfect sense. This is why reading books and learning skills on end (sometimes to the point of missing other work deadlines) is still so justifiable in my head.

Sure this leaves me with months that are more financially sparse than others. But in the end, I always get paid back on my investment by the opportunities that fall in my lap and always eventually provide me with enough of both salaries to continue onward.

Whether the dollar signs show it or not, with the highs and lows and aches and pains, I am becoming a more valuable person with every passing day. This forever encourages the right people and endeavors to find me, and ensures that I am ready to handle them upon arrival.

In short, everyone needs to make a living. But if you’re only getting one salary, what is the living for?

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