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Never Write Checks That You Can’t Cash: Career Edition

Here’s a career-building spin on the old principle “Never write checks that you can’t cash.”

Whenever you turn down a job opportunity, you’re writing yourself a check.

The amount of the check you just wrote for yourself = how much that company was going to pay you + any other perceived value you would have gained from the role (ie. knowledge, experience, and connections).

If you can turn down an opportunity, completely own it, never look back, and create more wealth or happiness elsewhere, then you’re writing yourself checks you can cash.

If you turn down an opportunity, find yourself wandering around in limbo, feeling anxious about how you’re going to pay your bills, and getting paid less or equal money to do something that makes you less happy and gives you less hope, then you’re writing yourself checks you can’t cash.

So here’s an example:

Let’s say you want to be a public speaker.

Someone offers you $300 to speak at an event.

You respond by saying “Nah. I don’t get out of bed for anything less than $1000 per talk.”

You just wrote yourself a check for $300 + the knowledge, exposure, and connections you would have gained from that experience.

Now here’s the question: can you cash that check?

By “cash the check,” I mean “afford to turn down the offer.”

Now since this concept varies from person to person, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you figure out if you’re writing checks you can’t afford to cash.

1) Can I say no to the offer without stressing out over my ability to live without the money that was offered to me?

2) Do I have alternative options (ie. actual offers, not imagined possibilities) that offer better monetary or non-monetary rewards?

3) Am I willing to fully own this choice if the other possibilities I’m imagining don’t turn out to be what I’m hoping for?

Let’s go back to my example:

If you turn down the $300 and you find yourself complaining about not having enough speaking gigs or speaking income, you’re writing yourself checks that you can’t cash.

If you turn down the $300 and you’re now forced to take less money doing other things that make you less happy and give you less hope, you’re writing checks that you can’t cash.

If you turn down the $300 because you want to test the market and you’ve already made up your mind that you’re okay with losing the opportunity if they balk at your higher price, then you’re writing checks that you CAN cash.

If you turn down the $300 because you already have another offer that either pays you more OR offers you something really valuable that’s more important to you than the money, then you’re writing checks that you CAN cash.

This invokes consideration of Isaac M. Morehouse’s infamous three words: Compared to what?

The next time you reject or dismiss an opportunity, ask yourself “Compared to what?”

Some offers may be a long way from your dream, but they also may be a long way from zero. They may be a lot less than your ideal, but a lot closer than where you are now.

In the end, you have to go with your gut. If you know you’re going to regret saying “yes” to something, don’t say “yes.”

But whatever you do, don’t write yourself checks that you can’t cash.

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