High-performers routinely make this ONE mistake

Meet my friend Jenny.

Here’s a bit about her business.

She works 20 hours a week.

Her business generates $505,000 in revenue.

Her take-home pay is $330,250 in profits.

Now the financial metrics are good. But here’s where it gets spicier.

Jenny rarely checks email from her phone.

She takes 2 months off each year.

And Mondays and Fridays are her no-meeting days.

(You can read the full list in her fantastic book Free Time: Lose the busywork, love your business.)

Jenny’s clearly figured out a thing or two.

She’s ditched the low-value, $10 work that doesn’t move the needle.

She’s also set up systems, processes and assets to scale herself (and her delightfully tiny team).

And she’s a creative polymath and entrepreneurial force of nature.

But Jenny’s steered clear of giant trap.

A trap that snags the highest-performing executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The $1,000/hour trap

Let’s revisit our $10K Work matrix and zoom in on the bottom-right quadrant of $1K Work.

$10 Work is low-leverage, low-skilled work that you can do when you’re hungover.

$100 Work is when you leverage the wrong thing – and get immersed in productivity systems, SOPs and meta-work.

$10K Work consists of the high-leverage skills that exponentially grow your business and bring you closer to your dream life.

But the quadrant people high-performers really get stuck in is the $1,000/hr quadrant.

This is the domain of unique skill that have no leverage.

If you are a lawyer, it’s doing legal work.

If you’re a software engineer, it’s coding.

If you own a bakery, it’s baking your specialty cakes.

If you’re a solopreneur, it’s writing (or podcasting or leading workshops).

$1,000/hour work is the reason you are well-compensated.

You have a unique skill and set of experiences that the market pays you a premium for (in the form of a salary or profits).

And so you gotta just DO THAT THING.


Well, sort of.

The challenge with $1K work is that it doesn’t scale.

If the lawyer wants to take two months off, the billable hours will trickle to a halt.

If the baker has to fly to home for a family emergency, the cakes will not be baked.

This lack of leverage has some pernicious downstream consequences.

Working “on your career” (vs. “in your career”)

In Michael Gerber’s timeless (small) business classic The E-Myth Revisited: Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it he asks an incisive question:

Are you working in your business? Or on your business?

And this question can easily be extended to your career:

Are you working in your career? Or on your career?

What Gerber is trying to make crystal clear is that if you’re only working on what’s directly in front of you, you’re playing a short-term game.

And short-term games usually don’t lead to autonomy, freedom and wealth creation.

Which brings us back to the inherent tension of $1K Work.

Let’s pick on our lawyer friend again. We’ll call him $1K Juan, to make things easier.

There’s a big legal case that requires $1K Juan’s years of case law expertise to navigate all of the details.

Furthermore, the client is paying a premium for $1K Juan’s expertise.

And with these funds, $1K Juan is able to reinvest in the law firm that he owns.

But there’s a catch.

When he does the legal work, no one learns $1K Juan’s special sauce. It will always be trapped in his head.

$1K Juan is completely blocked out from making investments in his practice. (He’s “working in his business.”)

And this path inevitably leads to frustration and burnout.

Balancing three different personalities

According to Gerber, every high-performer needs to balance three conflicting personalities: The Manager, The Technician and The Entrepreneur. Let’s look at each one:

The Manager is highly pragmatic and craves organization. The Manager is responsible for planning, order and predictability.

The Technician is “the doer” and loves to tinker. The Technician is “a resolute individualist, standing their ground, producing today’s bread to eat at tonight’s dinner.” Whether it’s a bakery, a law practice or investment management firm, most small businesses are started by technicians.

Last, there’s The Entrepreneur the visionary, dreamer and energy behind the organization. The Entrepreneur is “happiest when left free to construct images of “what-if” and “if-when.” Gerber continues:

The Entrepreneur is our creative personality – always at its best dealing with the unknown, prodding the future, creating probabilities out of possibilities, engineering chaos and harmony.

Whether you work for yourself or at a Fortune 500 company, everyone needs to think about the appropriate mix (and inter-play) between these three personalities.

And here’s where it gets interesting.

The Manager focuses on the $10 and $100 work. Says Gerber, “Without the manager, there could be no business.”

But too much manager and “without The Entrepreneur, there is no innovation.”

There’s no business.

The Technician relishes $1K Work. $1K Juan loves the details about the law and his law practice. But according to Gerber, that comes at a tremendous cost:

To The Technician, thinking is unproductive unless it’s thinking about the work that needs to be done.

And next comes The Entrepreneur, with their vision, pie-in-the-sky ideas and seed-planting. The Entrepreneur is ONLY doing $10K Work. And that’s not a good thing, because $10K Work entails a lot of dreaming that doesn’t keep the lights on.

Gerber argues that the typical small business owner (and I’d add, high-performers in general) has the following mix:

  • 70% Technician
  • 20% Manager
  • 10% Entrepreneur

Gerber doesn’t say that there’s a right mix, but is emphatic that a 70% Technician is completely skewed.

And if we return to our friend Jenny Blake – there’s no way she’s building her dream business and working 20 hours a week by being the Technician who is drowning in $1K Work.

So what’s your allocation?

Let us help you find your perfect mix of $10K Work. Beginning Tuesday 9/20, we’re offering the free $10K Bootcamp to help you get more done (by working smarter). It’s 3-days and totally free, you can sign up here.

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