5 lessons I learned working $2 an hour for 22 months

I started by making $2 an hour and still thinking I had it great. I knew this was barely the minimum wage. I knew everyone else was getting paid much more. Despite all of that, I still felt like the richest man. This job allowed me to achieve my grandest aspiration as a 20-year-old. Take care of my family.

Despite getting paid low, I had an amazing time in the first ten months. I was connecting with people, making contributions that mattered, and earning the respect of my peers. Or so I thought.

Then somewhere along the end of the first year, things started to go wrong. Or maybe they started to go right. The infatuation was gone, the dust of new opportunity cleared, and I began to see things for what they were.

I learned valuable lessons in those two years and they’ve held true for years since.

1. We manifest our realities

Manifestation is very real. What you speak about yourself will always be brought to reality. - Natalie Mooney

Our thoughts are extremely powerful and the manifestation can either help us get through the darkest times or plunge us right in. When we start believing in our talents, we can achieve the heights seemingly impossible considering our talent. Similarly, when we start cultivating self-limiting beliefs they soon become our reality.

I was on the later spectrum of manifestation. I was constantly feeding myself self-limiting thoughts without realizing it.

I don’t deserve to be here.

Look at that guy! He is far smarter than me

I’ll be exposed soon and sent back home

I don’t even belong in this industry. What the heck am I doing here?

They are paying me so much money for doing stuff I would do for free anyway.

On and on it went.

There was that spark of confidence now and then which made me think that maybe I did deserve everything I was getting. Then I would stomp it out and ensure it doesn’t rekindle again.

No wonder I stayed on the same salary for a year and a half without questioning anything. Then it hit me when increments were being gifted left and right and no one bothered to send a penny my way.

Maybe I’m not the best but I’m not performing worse than that guy. Or this one. I thought to myself. My eyes slowly started to open to possibilities when I started to dedicate a portion of my mornings to looking for opportunities online and taking on freelance work. That’s when I learned that: you are always worth more.

2. You are always worth more

Imagine that you are more than nothing. Evil made you, but you are no more evil than a child unborn. If you want, if you seek, if you hope, who is to say that your hope might not be answered? - Dean Koontz

It sounds reasonable to try to prevent yourself from being too greedy. It makes sense to adjust to your surroundings. It is tempting to fool yourself into promising to change in the future. This fact remains the same whether you act upon it or let it stay buried inside.

There is always room for improvement in what you earn just as your boss believes you can always work harder.

If you possess the skills that you were hired for and have delivered more than expected of you consistently, then you are in your right to expect more from the management. If you don’t stand up for yourself and believe you should be paid fairly, then no one else is going to do that for you.

3. Ask and you shall receive

If you don’t ask you don’t get - Stevie Wonder

You’ll never get what you don’t ask for except getting stuck in the chin by life unexpectedly. The first step is believing in yourself. The next is convincing the higher management.

Prepare your proofs. Get the documents ready. Polish up all your accomplishments and prepare yourself to be questioned like you’ve committed a crime by asking for a raise. Stand your ground firmly and convey your message backed by solid proof. You’ll win in the end. If not now then pretty soon in the future. But you’ll only get more if you ask for it.

4. The fire within knows the truth

I stood up for myself and got what I had asked for. A few weeks went by happily until something else started to happen. I discovered an even deeper level of what I wanted.

I started running calculations. Alright. So this company usually provides increments once per year and they do so by x%. If they give me an x% raise next year, I’ll get to this point and then to the next year after that. I remember running the numbers standing in the parking lot on a bleak December night before heading back home. I was stunned.

The numbers didn’t align with the vision for my life. I wanted to do massive things for my family. I wanted to get rid of all of the substantial debt (considering salary), buy them a big house and a car. I couldn’t see all of this happening without requiring a decade of slowly crawling the corporate ladder. I couldn’t have it.

The weeks to follow were disgruntled. I could feel my gut telling me something. I could hear my internal voice begging me to get the fuck out. I could see all the signs pointing towards that. But how could I quit?

I had a family depending on me. What would I tell my siblings when they ask for next quarter’s tuition fees? What am I going to buy them for New Year? How am I going to continue paying for the household expense? I was bombarded with questions and felt lethargic all the time.

I decided to ditch temporary freelancing gigs and started hunting for a full-time job. I soon found one. I would’ve never dared to think higher pay was possible when I started my first job but analyzing my plans and listening to my internal voice steered my life in a much better direction.

5. Hard work isn’t always the answer

I’m a sucker for going in clanging and banging and brute-forcing myself through problems. Yeah, it is an awesome quality to have but barbaric hard work isn’t always the answer. You can only push yourself so far without risking your health falling off the edge. I’ve been there and done that and I wouldn’t recommend it.

You need to work hard and smart. You need to keep in sight of where you’re headed and try to align your current actions accordingly. Think. Analyze. Plan and then go all in backed by consistency and patience.

Conclusion

I’m not hating on my experience of working $2 an hour for nearly 22 months. Looking back, I can see I wouldn’t be where I am without having worked that job. Those two years opened countless new doors for me and I’ll forever be grateful for that. Just as I’m grateful for having made the call to get out of there.

If you take one thing from this article, let it be this. Don’t ever stop questioning the possibilities and pushing your limits.

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