A middle-aged man was dining alone at his favorite restaurant. Suddenly, he starts choking; he falls out of his chair, struggling to breathe.

Other patrons flock over, panicked and yelling. The waiter frantically scans the room. “Can anyone here help this man?!” he shouts.

A young man walks up. “Well, I think I can help,” he says meekly.

“Thank God,” the waiter breathes, relieved. “OK, what should we do? CPR? The Heimlich Maneuver? What??”

The young man looks uncomfortable. “Well…I’m pretty good at Excel, and I know my way around Microsoft Word.”

The crowd murmurs, confused. The waiter blinks.

“What?” the waiter responds in disbelief. “No, what should we do to helpthis man? He’s suffocating, he can’t breathe!”

The young man fidgets nervously. “Well…I’m a fast learner and I always work hard. I have a college degree in communications and a minor in marketing.

“Wh-what? Who cares?” the waiter replies angrily. “Can you help this man or not??”

The young man is frustrated now. “Look,” he says, flustered. “I’m a good guy, I’m nice, I can show up on time, and I can follow directions. What more do you want from me?”

Just then, the ambulance arrives. The paramedics rush in and immediately treat the poor choking man. He thanks the paramedics for saving his life.

The young man pays for his meal and goes home, annoyed and frustrated.

The marketplace is brutally efficient. If you can solve problems, you get paid. If you can’t, you don’t.

One of the hardest truths I learned after college was realizing that companies didn’t care about me; they didn’t really care where I went to school, what my degree was, my GPA, my extracurricular activities.

They just cared if I could solve their problems.

According to Gallup Research, 4 out of 10 workers in the U.S. feel they’re underpaid. But the problem is, most people who feel they are underpaid aren’t asking themselves the right questions:

Can you solve the problem? Can you solve it faster or better or cheaper than someone else?

If You Want More Money, Solve More (and Bigger) Problems.

Your compensation is directly correlated with how many (and how big) problems you solve in the marketplace.

If you don’t solve problems, you don’t get paid.

The most basic entry-level cashier at a McDonald’s solves problems. The problems aren’t that big, so McDonald’s cashiers don’t get paid that much.

A neurosurgeon, on the other hand, solves incredibly difficult problems. They literally cut people’s brains open, fix something, and patch them up. As a result, they get paid a lot. (Same with bomb defusers!).

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a neurosurgeon or bomb defuser to earn a lot of money. There are 2 ways to increase your income: you can either solve very difficult problems for a few people, or solve simple problems for a lot of people.

As Peter Diamandis, entrepreneur and net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars, once said:

“Want a billion dollars? Then help a billion people.”

If you feel underpaid, ask yourself:

What problems are you solving? Are they big enough? How many problems are you solving? How can you solve more problems?

As soon as you start answering those questions, you’re on the right track.

When I first started writing, I had big dreams to be a famous writer and write on all the big-name places like magazines and Forbes and Huffington Post so I could brag about it.

I tried pitching guest posts to these places for years. I had spreadsheets of every editor’s email from every big-name blog you’ve ever heard of.

No one ever got back to me.

I couldn’t see it, but I was completely unqualified. My work wasn’t even close to being good enough for that level. Nothing I wrote would’ve helped their audience. I couldn’t solve any of their problems.

Now that I’ve spent years working on my craft, learning how to write well (instead of spending most of my time begging people on social media to read my work!), these editors of massive blogs started reaching out to me, asking if I could write for them.

I learned that the second you start actually solving problems, you get paid. Not before.

The day you stop losing sleep over your business and start losing sleep over your customers’ lives is the day your business will grow.” -Donald Miller

Take Ownership That You Aren’t Where You Need to Be (Yet)

The moment you accept total responsibility for everything in your life is the day you claim the power to change anything in your life.”

-Hal Elrod

If you’re realizing you don’t quite know how to solve big problems yet, or don’t know how to market your services to people, don’t worry. The first step to solving this problem to take ownership of it.

Because when you take ownership of your problems, your problems get solved.

The difference between the professionals and the dreamers is that the professionals actually become students of their craft. I had plenty of old coworkers who were resentful at our boss for not paying them more. But instead of actually learning valuable skills that solved company problems, they insisted their current skill set should’ve been good enough.

Amateurs want more money just because. Professionals study their craft — they buy books about it and learn from others about it — and attract more money by the person they become.

It’s not just 10,000 hours of getting better, either. Becoming a student means developing your deep work abilities. It means you practice deliberately. Simply put, an accountant can still be a terrible accountant after 10 years of work.

Most people will never take the time to ever become great. This is largely because for most people, “good” is good enough. As Jim Collins famously wrote in Good To Great:

“Good is the enemy of great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

If you’re ever going to be “great” at anything, you need to become a serious, committed student of it. That’s how you get paid big-time.

Most people will never do this, which is why most people will remain stuck in mediocrity.

“If you want good things, you must do your best. Go hard. Fight.” -Ahmad Ashkanani, professional body builder

You Make More Money In a Results-Based Economy, Not an Efforts-Based One

“Don’t stay at the job for safe salary increases over time. That will never get you what you want — freedom from financial worry.” -James Altucher

Lots of jobs are more focused on effort than results. You have to solve problems, sure; but it becomes very easy to coast by putting in the minimum effort to not get fired.

You typically don’t get a lot of money in these environments. You hit a ceiling pretty quickly.

If you want more income, you need to switch to a results-based economy, doing work where you can charge high prices to solve difficult problems. In his best-selling book Choose YourselfJames Altucher went as far to put it this way:

“In this era, you have two choices: become a temp staffer (not a horrible choice) or become an artist-entrepreneur.”

Altucher explained that if you want more money, you can’t rely on just one person (your boss) to choose whether you succeed or fail, whether you keep getting paid or not. Instead, you need to build your own market, providing high-quality services in ways where you choose how much money you get.

If you stay in an efforts-based economy, you’ll hit an income ceiling pretty fast. I worked in a corporate desk job for years, and the most I could hope for was my 1–2% annual salary increase, and then trying to negotiate a bigger raise from my boss (I tried many times, it rarely worked).

Now that I’m working for myself in a results-based economy, I make farmore money. I can charge hundreds of dollars an hour for my services. I can automate everything and make passive income. I can raise my prices whenever I want (as long as I deliver!). I also work far less, because there’s no need to pretend to work when I’m finished.

Want more money? Do more results-based jobs for high prices.

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  • Anthony Moore

    Success = pain + hard work. Business Insider, CNBC, Thought Catalog.

    Hi there. My name's Anthony, and I write about how to become an incredible version of yourself. 5 years of therapy, counseling, and 12-step programs helped me escape my addiction to pornography and mediocrity into being extraordinary. I want to help you become the best version of yourself.