I subscribe to a ton of email newsletters and digests, but the only one I regularly read is from personal finance expert Ramit Sethi, whose smarmily named personal finance tract I Will Teach You to Be Rich is probably the single most helpful book I've ever read. (Giant h/t to local artist Able Ingle for recommending it to me.) His newsletter regularly contains great tips and interesting links—I've passed this link about how to make money as an artist, for example, on to plenty of friends. Sethi recently linked to the website of Chris Guillebeau, a blogger who made a career first of helping people game the frequent flyer mile system in order to travel the world, and more recently as a kind of motivational small business consultant.
Buillebeau will be at Powell's next Wednesday reading from his book The $100 Startup—the Powell's blog just published an essay he wrote entitled "Don't Polish Your Resume, Opt Out of the Whole System" in which Guillebeau provides a few examples of Portland entrepreneurs who have created their own opportunities:
Three years ago, Michael Hanna went into work at his job for a downtown Portland media company, just as he had done for years. That day, however, he left work early — unexpectedly sent home by the HR department, with box in hand and a stack of unemployment forms to fill out.
After recovering from the shock, Michael dutifully pounded the pavement, looking for work but without success. Michael was a great worker with plenty of experience, but he wasn't the only one job-hunting in difficult circumstances.
Michael had a friend with a furniture store who offered him an unwanted truckload of mattresses. "That's random," Michael thought at first. But nothing else was happening, so Michael bought the mattresses. He then found a vacant car lot that he could rent on the cheap from a dealership. He didn't know much about mattresses, but Michael focused on service: creating a no-pressure environment where customers felt welcomed and families could visit.
In 2012, Mattress Lot is now a booming, $1 million a year business, delivering mattresses by bicycle all over the city from their Northeast location. "It wasn't what I expected," Michael told me, "But getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me.""It wasn't what I expected," Michael told me, "But getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me."
There's a sort of starry-eyed smarminess to these internet guru types, but that doesn't mean they don't occasionally have very smart things to say.
(And one more plug for Sethi's book: If you're already on top of your finances it probably won't have much to offer, but if getting your money in order is something you've been "meaning to do" for ages, I Will Teach You to Be Rich will almost certainly motivate you to actually do it. It's a very straightforward, action-oriented guide that includes word-for-word scripts you can use to do things like lower your credit card interest rate, and that emphasizes automating savings and bill payments rather than scrimping and budgeting. I've found it incredibly helpful—the thought of my bank account no longer paralyzes me with anxiety, and I would never have been able to fund a giant recent trip to Southeast Asia without it, so.*)
**I like Girls now.