When you work in the personal development space, you run across a lot of charlatans. It’s not hard to understand why. If you’re looking for advice on how to improve yourself, you’re saying you’re willing to trust someone.

It’s a sad reality, but there will always be vultures out there looking to scam anyone who makes the mistake of trusting them.

One of the most common scams these people advertise is the promise of “passive income.” I don’t put passive income in quotations because I don’t believe in making your money work for you — I “retired” from Goldman Sachs at 29, I understand investing. I put it in quotations because most passive income schemes are scammy nonsense designed to prey on insecurity and ambition.

I get it, money is important, and having more of it is nearly always a good thing. But what is it specifically about passive income schemes that is so attractive? If you’re interested in making your money work for you, there’s the whole world of finance and investing for that, so why the fascination with the “side hustle” and building “passive income streams?”

It’s because passive income schemes aren’t speaking to your desire for greater wealth, they’re targeting a different part of you entirely. To really understand this, ask yourself these three questions.

1. What Does Money Mean To You?

This is a big question, and it’s one people in all income brackets take for granted.

We all understand the value of money on a basic level. Want a house, a car, groceries, or clothes? You’re going to need money. But beyond that simple understanding, money means a lot more.

For all of us, what money means to us is directly tied to how we make it.

An artist who has to work 50 hours a week at Starbucks to pay the bills because their art isn’t selling sees money as a nuisance. It’s something that they need to do what they love, and they have to sacrifice part of their life for it.

It’s easy to see why someone in that situation would find passive income appealing.

Many of my clients see money in a completely different way. They view it as the natural payoff to hitting their goals. Passive income schemes wouldn’t hold any appeal to them, because my clients aren’t just in it for the payoff.

If passive income schemes are appealing to you because you don’t like the way you’re currently making money, it sounds like there are different changes you need to make — namely finding a way to quit the job you hate.

2. Do You Want Easy Money Or An Easy Life?

Think about the most common passive income strategies you hear pitched:

  • Escape the 9 to 5 by dropshipping sketchy supplements!
  • Join the sharing economy and rent out every room of your house on Airbnb!
  • Build a popular Instagram and hawk other people’s products!
  • And of course every home purchase and stocking trading scheme in town…

None of these strategies are designed to make you rich, they’re designed to make you enough money to survive without working. That’s why a common piece of passive income strategies is moving to somewhere like Thailand where your money can go farther.

Do you want an easy life, or do you want to make something of yourself?

Because if all you want is to live without working, then passive income schemes are probably as close as you’ll come to living your dream life. If, however, you have a larger vision for your life, if you want to build something of value in the world or achieve something incredible, you will have to work.

As I learned after leaving Goldman Sachs, however, working less doesn’t automatically make your life easier. I actually found it harder to do nothing with my time because I liked achieving things. If you’re an ambitious person, living the kind of life espoused by the people selling passive income schemes might be nice for a week, but soon you’ll be looking for something more active.

3. What Do You Want To Do?

There are two questions that have guided most of my life:

  1. What do I want?
  2. How do I get it?

It’s really that simple. Some five years ago, I wanted to ski, so I moved to the mountains and skied for the season. I didn’t do this by spending the other 265 days building up some passive income scheme. Instead, I found a way to fit skiing into my day while still doing business.

Doing what you want isn’t an indulgence. You don’t have to do something you hate to justify it. You can find a way to do what you want and make your money.

The question is, how do you do it?

Passive income strategies are alluring, and indeed there are many “passive” income streams attached to my business (e.g. books), but there is nothing passive about building a business or earning yourself an income so you can eat every week.

There are strategies, techniques, tactics, plenty of hacks, and shortcuts to help you along the way, but in the end, the only sure way to build your passive and active income is to find a way to deliver value.

Whatever that is for you, figure out a way to build a life out of doing that. Think of the ways that you drive value in the world, and how you can get other people to pay you for that.

Originally published at medium.com