I discovered Nils and Jonas when researching the topic of Stoicism to support Fiology Lesson 43: The FI-losophy of Financial Independence. Since then, we have interacted on a number of occasions and their professionalism and positive energy always stands out and leaves me even more impressed.
I reached out to Jonas and asked him to share their story and lessons learned. As usual, he generously obliged. I believe you will find their experiences insightful and inspiring.
On Loyalty, Living, and the Long Game
By age 14, I was sold on the idea of turning my hobby into my profession.
When my class visited a career planning center, I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was following my friends when I suddenly stumbled upon a sign saying, “make your hobby your profession and become a sports teacher.”
As an athletic young boy who enjoyed all kinds of sports, I thought this was brilliant. I asked what I had to do to become a sports teacher. For the next eight years, I went down this path without even thinking about the decision again.
During my first internship, I realized that sports education wasn’t really what I wanted. I had to find something new.
Long story short, I found my new dream. I still based that dream on the idea to do what you like and earn a living doing it. My brother Nils and I have always been passionate about getting the most out of ourselves. Call it self-mastery or personal development.
We set an ambitious goal: write a blog about the things that help us get better and the things we like, and earn a living doing it. We dreamed about working from anywhere, writing about what we enjoyed most, and earning a living through passive income in the long-term.
What an ambitious goal. So what did you do to get there?
We were young, ambitious, and motivated, but also naïve, overconfident, and impatient. It was bound to happen: we failed miserably.
The idea was simple. Write a blog, learn from the best online marketers, and earn what they earn. We thought, this will work out within a few months. We had to learn the hard way that success won’t come overnight.
We started out in summer 2015 but it wasn’t before early 2016 that we launched our blog NJlifehacks where we’ve been writing about what helps us most improve ourselves. We always did our research, read countless books, wrote about different topics on self-improvement. Now, we are experts in Stoicism and procrastination.
The early attempts to earn something from the website all failed spectacularly. We realized that we must play the long game if we want to make it. We were willing to invest time and sweat to reach our ambitious goal.
Despite all our struggles earning something online, we stayed at it – we were in this together.
At some stage, we decided to quit our part-time jobs and the apartment to move to Egypt where we could live off our meager savings and work full-time on the blog. We burned the boats and went all in.
Several failed attempts later – disappointed, a bit desperate, and broke – we were fortunate enough to move back to our parents (thanks mum and dad). This was the first time we were doubting ourselves and our goal to become independent online entrepreneurs.
We quickly found ourselves labor jobs, moved into an apartment together, and only invested the remnants of time to maintain our blog. However, the work we put in over the years seemed to finally pay off and NJlifehacks grew in popularity.
“Success is a lagging indicator,” Nils always said.
After several months we were completely back on our feet. While I was still working a full-time job, Nils invested all his time and energy in our shared goal ever since. We’ve successfully published my book The Little Book of Stoicism, launched Nils’ online course Procrastinator to Producer, and built a remarkable online community with thousands of self-aware people. Today, we are closer to making a living from doing what we’re passionate about than ever before.
Great story. What does it take to successfully work as a team from home?
Hah! It takes a lot. But mainly two things: A healthy team spirit and the right mindsets to consistently put in the work.
We’re brothers and always had a good relationship. When we started working together, knowing that the business depends on the other’s well-being, we took care of each other. We’re highly respectful and supportive of one another. Over the years, we’ve learned to openly speak about everything and thus have become a duo full of trust.
It’s been important to know that the other is all-in on this. That we’re in this together. That we both made many sacrifices. And the firm belief that we will go through struggles together and play the long game.
We split up the tasks. For example, I’ve always been working a part-time job to pay our bills, while he’s been investing his time in the business. Money has never been an issue, like who paid more for the common welfare. This never mattered because we always believed that at some point we’ll make enough money and it won’t matter anymore.
It was always clear that we’ll make it together. There was never really a plan B. We’ll stay at this till it works. Sure, we haven’t made it yet, but we both firmly believe that we will make it. This certainty that the other will stay in this has always been crucially important.
The Right Mindsets and Skills
When you work for yourself, you just have to get up in the morning and start working. This takes iron self-discipline. And often it’s not clear what you do. When you’ve tried many different strategies and none worked, you have to keep digging. Persistently.
We try to focus on the process. That’s where Stoic philosophy has been immensely helpful. You focus on what you control – hard work, energy management, healthy habits – and accept the outcome as it comes.
You put in the work whether you feel like it or not. That’s where our research in procrastination has helped tremendously. You learn how you get things done no matter what. You can’t build a business if you don’t get work done. Every day. Consistently.
It’s no coincidence that we’ve become experts in said topics, as we necessarily had to master them ourselves to become more effective in work and life.
And now what?
We keep on doing what we’ve been doing for the last four years: We consistently put in the effort to reach our ambitious goal of earning a living by doing what we’re passionate about.
At the same time, we don’t want to neglect a healthy personal life. We schedule time with friends and family, leisure activities, and personal down time. Let’s call it work-life balance.
By Jonas Salzgeber of njlifehacks.com