How Prioritising The Wrong Things Enslaves Us

And how to turn the mental switch to free yourself.

From time to time I share my unsolicited opinion with people.

During one of these encounters, I felt the urge to address the mindset of a young creative I know.

He is very talented, but keeps falling into the ‘quick money trap’.

The quick money trap is looking for the fastest way to make money. It’s how you get scammed. And if you’re not getting scammed, you’re most likely into something unethical. Or something you’re not passionate about.

Although the last part doesn’t seem important at first. It’s what makes it harder to keep your A-game going in the long run.

I had some side hustles that thought me this. They worked, but I found it very hard to motivate myself to put in the effort.

The solution has all to do with asking yourself the right questions.

First, you have to determine what you’re good at. Think about the things that feel effortless. Often these are not common because they are so easy for you. They feel natural.

  • What can you talk about for hours?
  • What excites you?

For the young individual, it was drawing, art, and designing.

If you struggle to come up with these skills yourself ask your friends and family. They can sum up what may feel natural to you.

Once you’ve identified the 1% which motivates you. You can use it to better identify the right opportunities that come along.

The young artist currently has a job at a local clothing store. He folds jeans the whole day. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. But when he received a job offer recently. Where the tasks consisted of 95% marketing and 5% design. He didn’t jump on it because it paid 0,50$ an hour less. He said he didn’t feel like working a new job that required him to do a majority of things he didn’t like AND earn less.

I told him he was crazy. It’s not about the 95% of tasks that you don’t feel like doing. It’s about the 5% that does. If you put it like this it might sound more obvious:

Your current job requires you to do 100% non-related tasks. Folding jeans has nothing to do with your goals. This new job consists of 5% of tasks that bring you closer to your goals.

It’s not about the paycheck, it’s about recognition. If you don’t know where you’re headed, you don’t know what opportunities to jump on.

Now, the main motivation for rejecting this job offer was because of the salary. This brings me to the core of this article.

We tend to enslave ourselves by prioritizing the wrong things.

I’ve read an anecdote the other day.

We all know of the familiar dream people share.

“I’m going to work my ass off until I hit 35. Then I’m going to retire.”

But in comes the luxury. We earn good money so we start to spend more.

We buy a house. We buy a new car. And even a second car. We get the new iPhone every fall. With unlimited data. Do you see the trap closing?

While your expenses keep rising, you get sucked into your own prison. You need to keep working long days because you’ve got a lot of bills to pay. You need to maintain your fancy lifestyle.

And before you know it you’re trapped. You’re now a slave of your own priorities. A slave of materialism.

I recognized this pattern with the young artist. He prioritized a luxurious life. He bought a house, bought a motorcycle, buys expensive clothing. And now he decides to stay at a job he hates because he can’t afford to cut 50 cents an hour.

He starts looking for side hustles to make more money. Hustles that are eating away his time. Time that is no longer available to grow his skills.

The trick here is to self-assess.

It’s easy to put in hard work if you’re working towards your goals. Even if 95% of the work bores you. It’s the small fraction that keeps you motivated. As soon as you remove money as your primary driver, and shift to doing great work instead, you get rewarded.

The first visible rewards are new opportunities. Opportunities to do more of what you love. People recognise talent, and they are happy to pay for it.


The young artist asked me what I would do if I was him. And the answer is pretty easy.

  1. Make a list of the things you’re good at.
  2. Cut back on your expenses. Identify what you actually need and lose the rest.
  3. Jump on the other job opportunity. It will teach you a new basic skill and gives you the opportunity to do a little more of what you love.
  4. Spend your free time making art and sharing it with the world. Get out there.
  5. Find the people that inspire you and connect with them. It could be as easy as following them on social media. Get in their circle. If you can find an opening with any of them, jump on it, even if it means working for free.