I know that a lot of my blog readers are interested in passive income, and many of them are already building (or living off) passive income streams. Some people, however, complain about being stuck because they don’t know where to start. One issue that comes up is: Where do I even begin?
I get it. There are so many ways to generate streams of income, especially online, that it feels like you’re swimming in a huge pool of possibilities. Should you start with ebooks? Build a website? Create an online course? Make an app?
Even if you somehow make a choice and get started, you might doubt if you’ve made the right choice, and you might get distracted from it and not finish. That happens to a lot of people. Confusion sets in. They get derailed.
Furthermore, what if you don’t have the skills to do anything promising yet?
As Neo said, the problem is choice.
There are just too many possibilities. Too many different directions. And a lot of those directions could be dead ends for you.
Okay, that’s a real issue. It truly is. But we can solve this. We know it’s solvable because lots of people are already doing it. How did those people do it?
Here’s the secret you may not know. The people who succeed on this path have the same issues and concerns you do. They all had to face that same demon of a problem regarding where to get started. They can and do have doubts along the way, even after they decide. And sometimes they stumble and don’t finish what they start. But eventually these same people do succeed. They succeed because they keep deciding and taking action.
Are you aware that all of these doubts and concerns and uncertainties will probably still be with you even after you’ve created several different income streams? They don’t actually get resolved. The problem of choice is always going to be there, even after you’ve decided. What’s stopping you is the false assumption that you need to get past this uncertainty before you take action. You don’t.
So let’s get into the solution. How can we help you get around this problem of where to begin?
I think the problem and its solution are easier to understand if I share a similar problem first. This problem also slows many people down, and yet lots of them can and do solve it.
Suppose I want to travel more. Where do I go next? There are too many possible destinations in the world. How can I decide where to go?
I want to have good experiences. I want to learn more about the world. I want to experience other cultures.
Where should I go next?
What I really want to know is: How do I make this decision intelligently?
If I ask my friends, I’ll get many different answers. If I invite suggestions from my blog readers, they’ll be all over the place too.
Even if I pick a country, I still have to pick a city.
I’ve never been to India, yet I have many friends there, and they keep asking me to visit. So I ask them, “Ok, which city?”
I still haven’t been to India yet. 🙂
Now we could go on about the various reasons this isn’t an easy decision, especially when you’re spending time and money to do it, but I think you get the idea. The problem is about how to choose when there are more possibilities than you can reasonably consider.
You could make the decision to travel impulsively, haphazardly choosing which place to go next. You could do the same for passive income streams. But you may not have a very good experience.
Doing some research seems wise, as long as you don’t overdo it. If you spend too much time researching your decision though, you could get stuck in analysis paralysis and never get out there and create the results you want.
At some point you have to go beyond research and get moving. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of endless research and never feel a clear signal to make a decision and start taking action. You may even get bored or overwhelmed with too much research and just set the whole idea aside and not do anything. This happens to people often.
Too much research can even make the problem worse. You learn about even more places you could go. You learn about even more income streams you could create. The field of possibilities only gets bigger the longer you look at it. Isn’t the whole universe like this?
So what’s a good way to solve this problem?
Maybe we should look at people who’ve already solved it. How did they do it?
There are a lot of possible solutions, but I’d summarize the most common strategy with one word: accessibility.
People who make decisions in a vast solution space tend to get into motion and stay in motion by favoring those options that are closest to them. They essentially follow the path of least resistance – not always but most of the time.
Look at other common decisions you’ve had to make, and you’ll probably see the accessibility aspect waving back at you.
How do you decide what to eat each day?
Where did you get your clothes?
How did you end up in your current living space?
How did you connect with your current social circle?
How did you get your last (or current) job?
How did you connect with your current relationship partner?
I drive a Hyundai Sonata. Why that car? When my ex-wife and I separated at the end of 2009, we only had one car at the time, and it made sense for her to keep it. So I temporarily got a rental car for myself. I just drove what the rental car company gave me, which happened to be a Hyundai Sonata. I had that rental for a few months, and I got comfortable with it. After a while I began to think of it as my car. When I finally decided to buy a car, I went to the closest Hyundai dealership and bought a car of the same make and model, just a different year. I did a little bit of online research first, such as on pricing, but I only went to one dealer and test drove two cars. Then I bought one of those two and took it home. My decision was largely based on accessibility. I went with the familiar.
Could I have made a better choice? Probably. But following the path of least resistance got me a car to drive. It was actually a pretty good decision. The car has been reliable and never broke down.
If you pay attention, you’ll probably see that accessibility (i.e. the path of least resistance) is already a huge part of your decision making process. The problem is that you aren’t applying it equally well to other areas of life where you’re feeling stuck, such as creating passive income streams. There are some good reasons for that, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Accessibility and Travel
Up until my late 30s, I’d never traveled outside the USA. Even within the USA, I didn’t travel that much. When I did travel, it was usually short road trips to nearby cities (like L.A. to Vegas), or it was for business trips or conferences. Note the accessibility factor in those decisions.
Now I’ve been to about 15 countries, some of them more than once. What got me to start traveling internationally? It was due to a shift in the accessibility factors.
I travel to Canada a lot. I spent most of August there, and I’ve been to six Canadian provinces so far. Yes, it’s close to the USA, but what really made it accessible was having a Canadian girlfriend. I’d never been to Canada before meeting her. During the first several months of our relationship, she went on tour for one of her plays, and she invited me to join her for part of it. I said yes and visited Montreal, Toronto, and London (Ontario) with her. We also spent a day at Niagara Falls, which is close to Toronto. That was my first of many trips to Canada, and it began with a relationship with a Canadian.
Where did we meet? We met at my first workshop in Vegas. I even have a photo of her sitting in the front row. Again, it’s all about accessibility.
In fact, the best connections I’ve enjoyed with other women too have largely been about following the path of least resistance. I don’t chase after women who may or may not be interested. I don’t go approaching strangers on the street. I tend to explore interesting connections with the women who naturally flow into my life and who seem interested in me. Pursuing less accessible options feels like too much work. I’d rather pay closer attention to the women that are right in front of me. Is this a super lazy strategy? Perhaps. But does it work? Yes. However, it does require setting up the right conditions first. I’ll share more about that a bit further on.
I’ve been to many other European cities, and most of them were chosen for accessibility reasons. I went to Oslo, London, Berlin, and Zurich for speaking invitations. I spent a week in Spain when someone from a conference invited me to stay with her. I spent a few weeks in Bucharest when a friend invited me to visit him there. I visited Holland thanks to an invitation. Getting an invite (and a place to stay) makes a destination more accessible. It means there will be someone to help me get my bearings when I first arrive. I don’t need that to travel, but it does get me traveling more.
I’m a pretty lazy traveler. I follow the path of least resistance most of the time. I could follow a more challenging path, but this approach works. It gets me to the airport and on a plane now and then.
Many other travelers I’ve met follow a similar strategy, including digital nomads. The accessibility factors may be different for each person, but accessibility usually plays a big part in choosing destinations. The more you travel, the more connections and possibilities open up, and this makes more destinations increasingly accessible.
Accessibility and Income Streams
Now let’s apply this same idea to income streams.
People who stay stuck generally make this too complicated. They’re too focused on choosing the right income stream, as if there can be only one. They’re too concerned with making mistakes, as if that matters much. What they should be focused on instead is what’s right in front of them. There are probably just a handful of highly accessible streams to start with, and it’s good enough to choose from among those.
I created my first passive income stream by selling computer games in the 1990s because it was accessible to me. I knew how to program, I’d previously written some commercial games that were published, I understood the business model, and I knew a good artist. I was a gamer and had lots of gaming experience. The pieces were there. I still had to do more research and to learn a few things, but the accessibility factor was key to getting started. So I started.
I didn’t do well financially though. While the game development side was accessible to me, the game selling side wasn’t. I was able to create some games, but they didn’t sell well enough to cover my expenses – not even close. I had to fix that, and accessibility was again the solution. I had been a member of a trade association with lots of other software developers, but I was never an active member. All I did was read their monthly newsletter for the first three years. I started volunteering, which began with a highly accessible offer to do so, and I became a lot more active in the group. I made friends with other developers, and that opened up the whole marketing and sales side of the business. Through these friends I learned what I needed to learn, I applied their advice, and soon my business began doing well. It was all about following the trail of accessibility crumbs, one crumb at a time.
I continued to follow this accessibility trail through many other forms of income. I created streams of income by taking actions that were right in front of me. I just had to keep leaning in the direction of the types of streams I liked and the lifestyle options I felt good about.
Don’t think of this as a maze of options that you have to fathom in advance. Just enter the maze, and start exploring. You’ll find your way eventually.
The more I leaned into the accessible income streams, the more I met other people who were into this type of lifestyle, and the more possibilities opened up.
I see this same pattern again and again, especially among my friends. Look to your hobbies because I’ve seen lots of people build successful income streams around their hobbies – music, art, dog training, baking, herbal remedies, corset making, media coaching, social media skills, beer making, travel skills, etc. They started with what was right in front of them, sometimes literally right in front of them. Just pause for a moment and look around you. There’s probably a potential new income stream in your field of view right now.
One woman is doing million-dollar launches teaching people dog training. Her name is Susan Garrett. You can visit her website and learn how she does it if you want. And as she’ll tell you herself, she is NOT tech savvy. So if you really don’t know what to do, maybe get a dog, and perhaps it will help you. And if you already have a dog, then fire its lazy ass and ask Susan what dog you should get instead. Her dogs are helping her do million-dollar launches.
Many of my entrepreneurial friends these days either earn money through ongoing passive income streams, or they use a launch-based strategy to earn a surge of income in a short period of time. I’ve only been getting into the launch-based approach this year, and I do have to say it’s a lot of fun. It’s not passive income per se, but if you enjoy the process, then so what?
It is possible, however, to turn a launch-based model into an ongoing passive income stream. That’s called an evergreen launch. I’ve been using a variation on that model in my own business for more than a decade for some streams of income, but I’ve recently learned that there are even better ways to do it.
Following the Accessibility Trail
Leveraging accessibility gets you into action. With travel it gets you into motion. With income streams it gets you building your streams. But you aren’t limited to just one round of this. Once you’re in motion and have some momentum, more options will become accessible to you. With every step you take, another step reveals itself.
If you place a high value on accessibility, then the process of building income streams becomes like following a winding path through the woods. You can’t see the entire woods, but you can see part of the path ahead of you, and you just have to follow it. As you go a few steps forward, you’ll see more of the trail. Occasionally the trail may branch, but some of those branches will be more accessible than others. You don’t have to understand the entire woods nor the whole trail in advance. Just walk.
With income streams it’s common to create one stream and then build upon it. New opportunities become accessible once you’re in motion and taking action.
About 10 years ago, I signed a publishing deal for my book, Personal Development for Smart People, simply by following the trail of accessibility. I started blogging in 2004. Blogging was accessible since I’d already been writing articles on the side for five years before that, and WordPress came out earlier that year. It wasn’t difficult to start a blog. It’s even easier today. In my first few years of blogging, I went to some personal growth events and reviewed them for my blog. One of those events was Hay House’s I Can Do It! conference. My review of their event put me on their radar, and some of their staff started reading my blog. Eventually that led to a meeting with their President, Reid Tracy, who offered me a book deal, and the book was published in 2008. I still receive royalties from the sales. That’s a very passive income stream since I really don’t have to do anything to maintain it. I just deposit the money. All the work is done up front to create the stream. After that it just runs.
If I had tried to target a book deal directly from the get-go, that would have been much harder because such a goal wasn’t very accessible yet. Waiting for the goal to become accessible was a lot easier. I didn’t have to get an agent or submit proposals to a bunch of publishers. I never had to receive a rejection letter. My book was greenlighted before I’d written the first word of it.
Accessibility may seem like a lazy strategy, and you could choose to see it that way. But it’s not about sitting on your ass and doing nothing. It’s about taking action – lots of action – but you keep taking the actions that are accessible to you. You do what’s staring you right in the face. This doesn’t require giving up on big goals. It just means waiting till those distant goals are more accessible.
Don’t overcomplicate this. There are income ideas that are right in front of your face, and you’re blind to them because you’re making things way too complicated and slowing yourself down unnecessarily.
The people who succeed on this path take a lot of action. They usually do some planning and research too, but nothing works like pure action does. To get into action, move on those simple ideas that are right in front of you, not locked in some far off castle in your mind.
A good way to build new income streams, especially passive streams, is to make more friends who are working on similar goals. I have dozens of friends doing this sort of thing, so it’s very accessible to me for social reasons. I created my first online income streams by creating and selling computer games, and I learned much of what I needed to know by making friends in the field, such as through online forums, by going to conferences, by volunteering in a trade association. I went outside and talked to people.
If you want to build passive income streams, I really think you should have at least 10 colleagues in your social network who are doing something similar. I’m serious. They don’t have to be super close friends, but they should be people you could email and expect an intelligent reply from. Otherwise too many possibilities will remain inaccessible to you. You can build such a group slowly on your own, but it’s faster to join an existing group of some sort. That’s usually going to require paying for the privilege. Paying to join a networking group or coaching club is generally worth it (if the group is strong) because all the other members are paying too, so it filters out the non-serious. Everyone wants to get their money’s worth, and so they make an effort to participate, connect, and leverage their network in ways that you don’t normally see in free communities like a public forum or Facebook group.
It’s so much easier to make rapid progress when you have friends in your social circle who are already doing it. This includes people you can ask for help and advice along the way. Some of my biggest income leaps happened after major shifts in my social circle. Changing your social network is just such a powerful way to transform any part of your life. And this part is largely under your control. A new social circle is often enough by itself to make the previously inaccessible utterly accessible.
What are your current streams of income right now? How did they come into your life? There’s a good chance that you discovered these possibilities through your social network. And if your current social network brought one form of income into your life, then another social network could bring other forms.
My social network is rich in people who are doing 5- and 6-figure online launches. I’ve met some who are doing 7-figure launches. Imagine making more than a million dollars in the span of about two weeks. And imagine communicating with such people regularly, as a normal part of your workweek.
If it seems unreal to you to even do a small launch and make an extra $20K in a week, why is that? Why does it seem like such a stretch? People less intelligent than you are already doing this. It only seems like a stretch because such a goal feels inaccessible to you. But for many people, this sort of experience isn’t a stretch at all. It’s an accessible and straightforward thing to do. Now it may blow you away when you first encounter it, and that’s to be expected, but try to imagine a reality in which this might actually feel normal. For the people who are already doing it, it is normal. Whatever you’re already doing will usually feel normal to you. For a billionaire it will feel normal to have billions of dollars.
Imagine a reality in which you cover all of your expenses with passive income. Imagine doing a launch and earning $50K in a week or two. And imagine that feeling perfectly normal to you. That’s just how your life is. It’s not exceptional or extraordinary.
Realize that there are people living in other parts of the world who’d find your current lifestyle insanely abundant. It’s beyond anything they’ve ever experienced. They live off a tiny fraction of your income. Their education is nothing compared to the rich opportunities you inherited. Your current level of wealth is inaccessible to them. Yet some people from those same cultures have massively transformed themselves. They grew by taking action, starting with what opportunities they could access.
You can do something similar and step into new possibilities. This requires two things. First, keep taking action on what is accessible. Second, keep expanding your accessibility options.
Embrace the Flaws and Love Your Dog
Don’t waste time or energy worrying about the overabundance of possibilities. That isn’t good for travel, and it isn’t good for income. Same goes for complaining about not knowing where to start. The people who did start had that same complaint available to them. That complaint is valid for everyone on earth. But only keep using it if you want to stay stuck. If you’d rather get different results, just set that complaint aside for the next decade or so, and just take action on the accessible items.
Start with what’s right in front of you – with the article you could write next, with the new friends you could make, with the dog at your feet. There are income opportunities staring at you right now. Stop dismissing them because they’re flawed. Every opportunity is flawed. Every city is flawed. Build flawed income streams. Travel to flawed cities. The flaws add humor to the experience.
Would you rather do a flawed $50K launch… or no launch? What if you fail and only make $30K? Is that game over?
Would you rather create a flawed $5K per month income stream… or no income stream? What if you miss and only make $3K? What if you miss the other way and accidentally make $10K?
Not taking action is the worst decision of all, and every day you don’t act, that’s what you’re choosing. If that’s you, you should cry. Really… you should cry every day that you choose not to act on the accessible items.
And then maybe while you’re crying, your dog will come comfort you, and she’ll look up at you with eyes that say, Ok buddy… it’s alright. Stop crying. Let’s go do a million-dollar launch together. I’ll help you. But first… take me for a walk. You’ve been reading Steve’s blog for a while, and I really need to pee!