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From Wedding DJs to Aquarium Reviews, All Hail the Side Hustle

From Wedding DJs to Aquarium Reviews, All Hail the Side Hustle

A Harvard MBA, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger, and one of the most popular TED speakers in the world, Neil Pasricha is “a pied piper of happiness”* who dazzles audiences with ideas and frameworks that skyrocket happiness into the stratosphere. With infectious enthusiasm, heartfelt authenticity, and a “what works” authority, Pasricha draws on the latest research in happiness to increase individual performance and create a more positive and productive workplace. In this column for The Toronto Star, Neil explores the positive benefits of “the side hustle”:

Strange ride.

That’s what I remember thinking as I walked into work one day at Walmart head office and noticed a car parked in the employee lot with big stickers pasted down the side advertising wedding DJ services.

It was a few months before I met the wedding DJ face-to-face. We were in a meeting together and it somehow came up that he DJed on the side.

“Wait, is that your blue van?” I asked him.

“Yeah, I DJ weddings a couple nights a week. Amazing extra income.”

I couldn’t believe it. Somehow it felt like a violation of the invisible social contract at work. I mean, wasn’t he getting paid for a full-time job? This guy wasn’t stretching to make ends meet by adding a graveyard shift at Taco Bell. He was in middle management making a good chunk of change. So why was he playing Rump Shaker at 1:30 a.m. in a banquet hall?

A few years later my blog 1000 Awesome Things suddenly took off. I was coming home after work writing about knowing your remote control so well you don’t need to look at the buttons and the feeling of peeling a large blanket of lint off the dryer trap when the traffic started spiking.

Within months, I had a book royalties and people calling me up to speak at their conferences. I suddenly had a couple more income streams on top of my full-time job.

What happened?

Here’s the important point.

Although it felt uncomfortable at first I soon noticed that I was seeking more risk and becoming more confident in both worlds.

At Walmart I started speaking truth to power a little more often. Asking leaders questions during town-hall meetings. Making more aggressive recommendations on project teams. Speaking my mind in meetings. I had a backup writing career now so I felt I could afford to take more risk. And what happens when you start doing things? They promote you.

What about my writing? I felt more risk seeking there, too. A lot of terrible posts about my digestive system can confirm this if you’re curious. The point was I had a full-time job at Walmart. I had a day job. So I had a fallback plan if the blog, book and speaking all fell apart. So I wrote what I wanted to write. I took risks.

So the side hustle doesn’t just help financially. It’s a psychological and confidence booster, too.

New York Times bestselling author Chris Guillebeau has a great podcast called Side Hustle School where every day he features a short interview with somebody starting a side hustle. It’s a fascinating show. A guy wrote detailed reviews of aquariums on a website and still collects affiliate sales cheques. A kid buys and sells autographed baseballs for thousands of dollars. And, of course, there are wedding DJs.

The blue van guy was right all those years ago.

Think of your income streams like legs on a table.

Do you know those tall wobbly cocktail tables they have in the bar under the sea of flat-screen TVs? Those things only have one leg. Your tipsy friend in a buffalo-sauce stained T-shirt bumps into it with his pot belly and the table falls over.

What about a table with two legs, three legs or four legs? I’m guessing your kitchen table doesn’t fall over too often.

There’s a lot more holding it up.

When you create extra income streams you aren’t as reliant on any single one . . . so you never feel as “all in” as people who only have one stream coming in.

We all have 168 hours in a week. Most full time jobs are contracted for around 40. I’m not telling you to spend all your evenings and weekends DJing weddings. I’m just saying: Could you have a side hustle?

It’s worth asking if you’re fully allowing your natural loves and passions the breathing space to possibly to expand into extra income . . . because if you do you may gain the confidence to do everything a little bit better, too.

Neil Pasricha/Toronto Star/August 2017