When Rising Tide approached me to share my best tip on creating passive income streams, I was thrilled. Only I had a big problem: the deadline was right in the middle of “busy season”.
Many of you might feel like you’re in the same situation. You might feel like you don’t have time to even read this article.
A couple years ago, I would let negative thoughts stop me from moving into new opportunities such as this one. Thoughts like, “I don’t have the time”, “I can’t afford it”, or “I’m don’t know how” would keep me stuck.Today, I want to give you my #1 mindset shift that allowed me to put those thoughts behind me and level up my income and influence. When one of my coaches, Myron Golden, taught me about the Four Levels of Value, something just clicked.
Now before we go on, please note the numbers and levels I am describing are averages. You may not fit into one of these boxes exactly. In fact, many people find themselves in many levels at once. If you take anything away from reading this article, remember that the secret to leveling up is simple: to level up, add more value to more people’s lives.
The Four Levels of Value are Implementation, Unification, Communication and Imagination. As I describe these levels, take a moment and think about where you are currently at. Then dream a little and point to where you want to go.
Level 1: Implementation
In Level 1, you are the person who does the thing—Implementers are the people who actually complete the tasks. You take the picture, you bake the cake, and so on. There is value in Level 1, but the downside is that there is only so much time in a day. Because you’re trading dollars for hours, your time limits your value. The average wage range in Level 1 is between minimum wage and $80,000 per year. Level 1 is often very active and the opposite of “passive income”.
If you’re in Level 1 and want to level up, you may have to overcome some lies. People in Level 1 often believe that life dealt them a bad hand. That the key to success is hard work. As an Implementer, you can work 20-hour days, but you will always find an income ceiling above your head. Because money is an exchange of value, and you can only serve so many people by yourself, you may feel stuck in level one, even in high paying occupations. That’s because if you stop working, your paychecks stop, too. To level up and create a more “passive income”, you need a Level 2 mindset shift.
Level 2: Unification
A key factor in leveling up your income is positioning yourself in the Unification Level. The more parts of your business you can shift to “Level 2 thinking”, the more impact you can have. Your greatest resource to make money on Level 2 is your management skills. In this level, you manage the people who “do the thing”.
Last year, a company approached me to do a job that I knew was impossible for me to do alone. After doing the math, it would have taken me six years to complete. The problem? The company wanted it done in six months. However, I said yes because I knew I’d be kicking myself if I passed this opportunity up. Immediately after, I thought to myself, “what did I just get myself into?” But I jumped in the deep end, hoping I’d learn to swim fast.
Often times, businesses move into Level 2 out of necessity. If the amount of people you want to serve is greater than one person can do alone, you need to hire others to help. In our case, it worked out. We assembled a dream team of independent contractors. We completed the job in six months, and I got paid to stay home and manage the Implementers.
The average income range in Level 2 falls between $80,000 and $250,000. In this level, you’re focused on buying back your time by hiring whos for your to-dos. Moving into this level starts with this: write down your favorite part of what you do. What is your “#1 thing” that you do best? Then, write down ALL the other things that go into running your business that hold you back from that thing.
Can you serve more people with your #1 if you outsource some of those other tasks? Your #1 thing might still be in the Implementation level, but that’s okay. As long as you’re outsourcing everything else you can so you can do that thing better and faster, all while serving more people, you’ve leveled up.
Small business owners are often guilty of trying to do everything themselves. They believe they’ll save money by doing all the things. I used to think this, too. In my first year in business, I decided to tackle our taxes. It took three days away from my own work and ended up costing me thousands because I messed everything up. The next year, I hired a professional and outsourced that job to someone who was better than me. He may have cost a few hundred dollars, but he ended up saving us five figures on taxes that year.
Level 3: Communication
In Level 3, you use your words to create wealth. You might not be an actress, singer, or public speaker, but your resource on this level is your voice. It’s about communication that creates a higher income for yourself while helping others. The income range for Level 3 is $100,000 to $10,000,000.
As a creatives, we are often most hesitant to level up in this area. The widespread belief is that no one else can “do the thing” as good as you do. I’d like to challenge you to question this thinking.
I struggled for years to find a video editor who could edit in our style. Editing was one of the most time consuming tasks, and I knew if I wanted to level up, I needed help. Then one day I had this massive epiphany (and ego check): It wasn’t the editors that were failing, it was me. I was failing to communicate exactly what I wanted.
I stopped dreaming about the perfect freelancer who could read my mind. Instead, I learned how to use my words to create the perfect freelancer. In Level 3, you communicate words that unify the people (Level 2) who manage the implementers (Level 1). A key tip to remember with Level 3 is these are often not words about you—you should use words to bring value to others. Do this and you will shatter the ceiling of your previous income and influence.
Level 4: Imagination
Your mind is your greatest resource to create wealth. People in Level 4 are the idea people. The ones who find a way to better the lives of everyone. These are the dreamers who change the very structure of entire industries. But you don’t have to be Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, or Oprah Winfrey to be in Level 4. You can integrate Level 4 thinking into any business.
The income for Level 4 can range from $1,000,000 to Billions. The bigger your ideas, the more people they serve. And the more people you serve, the more value you will receive back from the marketplace. In Level 4, all you do is focus on creating ideas that serve the masses.
Here is an example that breaks down what a progression through all four levels can look like:
Say you’re a mechanic with a passion for working on cars. You work at an auto body shop, and you’re in Level 1. As a little side hustle, you start teaching a class on the weekends to people who want to learn more about their cars. It gets so popular that you hire your mechanic friends to teach the classes for you. And with that, you just moved up to Level 2. You decide to start making videos to train more mechanics. Then, you start a podcast and record your classes so online you can reach even more people. Now you’re in Level 3! Later, you decide to outsource your online work to other capable people. You now dedicate your time to coming up with more effective ways to teach people about cars. You put these ideas out to your team, and the system you’ve built makes them come to life. Congratulations, you are now in Level 4.
This is a simplified example, but you can see how powerful leveling up can be. As you level up, your influence and impact grows. You provide value to more people and you get paid more because of it. As you level up, you use systems and talented people to handle tasks—you work on your business instead of in your business. You buy back your time so you can pour more of it into your “why”, your passion, your calling.
How to level up right now
Take a moment right now and think of all the things you have to do to run your business or life. This can be anything from writing an article to cleaning your house. Make sure you write them down. Now, circle the ones that are taking your time away from your “#1 thing” we mentioned above. This will become your “Not-to-do list”.
Now ask yourself: who can you hire to do these things for you? Make sure to pay these people well to attract talent and keep them around. Remember, time is more valuable than money. You can always make more money, but you have a limited amount of time in your life.
Millionaires and billionaires have done this for years. And with the rise of the internet, you can do the same for a fraction of the cost. If you find the right freelancers, the quality you can get for fantastic prices will amaze you.
If you’re still skeptical, here’s proof. Remember my problem of wanting to write this article but not having the time?
Let me tell you a secret. . . I didn’t write this article.
I recorded a quick video of my idea (Level 4), then I used my words to communicate exactly what I needed done (Level 3). I then used my management skills (Level 2) to unify the implementers (Level 1). I hired a graphic designer to make that graphic and a ghostwriter to draft up the article. BAM.
Is leveling up worth it?
If you want to know the numbers, let’s break this all down so you can see how easy and affordable this was.
Step 1: I recorded a video of me blabbing about my idea for this article. I then took the video and uploaded it to Rev.com to have it transcribed. Rev is $1/min, so it cost me $5.
Step 2: I hired two ghostwriters from upwork.com. I hired two because you should never expect love at first hire, and spent $8.30 on one and $15 on the other. I took what they wrote, combined the best parts, and threw it into hemingwayapp.com to do some final touch-ups.
Step 3. I have a graphic designer on retainer, so he whipped up that graphic. However, you could have something like this done for you on Fiverr.com or Upwork for as low as $5. I actually posted on a Facebook group first and had three people offer to do it for free!
I estimate this article would take me three hours to write if I tried to do it all myself (I’m slow and I procrastinate when writing). Instead, I spent around $30. With my $30 investment, I bought back hours of my valuable time. With that time, I did what I do best and came up with more ideas to serve more people (and made $1000/hr doing it). Would you spend $30 to make $3000?
I don’t share these numbers to brag, but only to inspire. Today, you can level up your income and influence, all while working less. Start small by buying back your time and outsourcing the “minimum wage” tasks first. Work your way up from there. Take action to take steps towards passive income, give more value to more people, and Level Up today.