By John Sonmez October 12, 2017

Why Don’t Developers Make Millions Like Startup Tech-Stars?

Someone emailed me with some serious questions about some economic concepts that were too difficult to understand.

Why don't Developers make millions just like some Startups Tech-Stars? Why do developers who sit all day writing code do not have the same recognition as some stars, especially in the tech field?

In this video, I'll share some opinions about this subject and how you can take that to your advantage and turn your life around.

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: 

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Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from simpleprogrammer.com. I am in Tuscany region of Italy. I'm just outside of Florence, and I'm standing on this balcony in the heat to bring you a video because I want to give you at least some kind of a view rather than the inside of a house. I'm just dealing with the heat for you. It's like 97 degrees here. There you go. All right. Anyway, I got this question from—actually, a comment on one of my videos. I got a question here from Zach and he says, “Hey, John. I got a question for you. Why are there so many software developers that know our shit work hard every day and don't make millions like these tech startup and iPhone apps? What is holding us and me, LOL, back from that pay grade? Is it as simple as being a business owner or is there some kind of catch? I'm sure you know since you have tons of experience. Thanks a lot.”

This is a great question. He's basically asking. Zach is like, “You know what? I'm a software developer. There's a lot of us that know our shit. We’re hardworking software developers. We work hard everyday and we don't make millions like these tech startup guys and whatnot and these iPhone app guys and these business owners. What's going on?” Man, I can answer this in so many ways, so I got to kind of think about how I'm going to answer it today. Right? I'll come back. I'll answer this again, but for today what I think I want to talk about is just this idea that—there's a few concepts here.

One of them is this. It's like if you're doing the mediocre—I mean working hard everyday knowing your shit, that's mediocre. I know that for most of you, you're like, “That's not mediocre. That's like being awesome.” No, it's mediocre. That's like—that's standard. That's like—that should be de facto standard. That's what you should be doing. If you're working, if you're living on this earth, you should be fucking knowing your shit and you should be working hard everyday like if you're not doing that and I most people aren't, then you're below mediocre like that's still a mediocre life. That's still not the superior. The superior is fucking going to the Olympics.

How do those guys get in the Olympics? Do you think it's like genetics? Hmm. Maybe a little bit but how do you get to the Olympic pre-qual? Anyone can get to that, right? How do you do that? You fucking work really hard. You really bust ass. You don't just know your shit. You cultivate what you know. You got to like—it's not just—like reading a thousand books doesn’t fucking matter. Reading the right thousand books, that's what fucking matters.

That's number one. First of all, just understand that, yeah, it's great that you know shit. It's great that you're working hard everyday, but that's still mediocre. That's still not superior. How are you going to get to superior? What is it going to take in order to be superior? What makes you the Olympic level athlete? If you want the Olympic level pay grade, if you want that money, if you want that success, you got to be putting in that Olympian level effort.

I mean a lot of people say—and I'll give you from my own personal experience. I mean I've talked about it. You can check out my career story and stuff and my Pluralsight story is probably more interesting too. You can check out that one as well. The links are below where there—hit the card thing if you're new to the channel, but I mean I super busted ass. I mean there were—like if you know my story like in order to make my first million dollars, it took a big sacrifice. I mean I was really busting ass like I was working a regular job, going to the gym everyday, running. I was coming home from work and I was working 4, 5, 6 hours every single night, working all weekend for several years to make this happen, busting out 55 Pluralsight courses. You can check out my 55 Pluralsight courses here, by the way.

If you don’t have a PluralSight subscription you need to sign up, by the way. Just do that. Do it now because it's totally worth it, but—what was I going to say? Yeah, so that was crazy. That was crazy shit. Fifty-five courses in like two and a half years. That's what it takes. If you're doing what's just expected of you, which I said knowing your shit and working hard, that's expected of you, you're just going to get the average result. Right? I know. It's easy to see. The thing is this is the trap of comparing yourself to others. It's because you see everyone else in their lazy fucking ass. They don't know their shit and they don’t work hard. You think, “Well, I know my shit. I'm working hard so I deserve better.” No. It doesn’t work that way because they're totally fucking it. I mean they don't deserve jack shit. I mean society is carrying them. You're at least pulling your own weight, but you want more. You want grander things. You got to think bigger. You got to think grander.

Let's get into the second point of this and there's a few different points of it. The first one and just to summarize that is that you got to do some exceptional shit. Right? Think about what's exceptional, okay? I'll pull this all back together somehow at the end. That's number one. Number two is this: The thinking has to change. You want to upgrade the pay grade, upgrade the thought process. This is one of the things. I was just talking on the Entreprogrammers episode. I was talking about how like I haven't seen—I've never seen a successful pessimist. Not really. I mean, yeah, maybe there are some examples or whatever, but for the most part that holds true. I've never seen a really successful pessimist because optimists are successful. People who think big, who believe that they can do it, who have that kind of spear. They manifest things in their lives. They believe that shit is going to go good for them, not that it's all wrong and bad. The people who believe that life is all wrong and bad for them, it is. They get fucked all the time.

I did a video and I'll do another video about talking about my _____ [inaudible 00:06:26] on life. Shit just—the road rises up underneath my feet and it fucking makes a way for me because I believe that will. I get everything I want. I get everything I want on life. I always talk about this. Why? Why? I mean that's a whole another video, but part of it is because I believe it, because every—you throw some shit at me, I'm going to figure out a way to utilize it. What's that David Brinkley quote? I think it was David Brinkley. You know, like the wise man picks up bricks that others throw at him and builds a wall. I think that's the quote.

Anyway, that's the thing. It's like mindset, how you develop the mindset. Man, this was hard. I sat in the cubicle for a long time, dude. I did for 15 fucking years and I made some progress. I did good. I was a hard worker. I made some money, but I didn’t—I wasn't traveling Europe or traveling Tuscany on vacation for two months like traveling the world with—not caring about money because I could spend whatever money I want, like I wasn't doing that. What happened? What changed? How did I get this? How did I live on the beach in San Diego and all this shit? It came from changing the fucking mindset. It didn’t come from the—you got to change your mindset. Again, books, books, books. I'm going to go through the playlist on the book reviews. I've got some videos on like top 10 books and stuff. Ooh. The bell fucking scared me. Ooh. All right.

Anyway, what was I going to say? I mean Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill. The Richest Man in Babylon. The Alchemist. Psycho-Cybernetics. Tony Robbins' stuff. Awakes the Giant Within. All of these kind of books, right? I could list a ton of books. Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl. Man. What's that? That really good—anyway, my point is like you can find all that stuff on my videos and stuff, but you got to change your mindset. You got to—it's good that you're watching this channel. That's good. Hopefully, I'm changing your mindset. That's what the fucking point of this channel is, by the way, is to expand your fucking mind. Show you what is possible. That's why I'm shooting videos. Some people said, “Hey, John. Maybe you shouldn't shoot some videos while you're traveling.” I said, “Well, first of all, it's pretty awesome scenery and background,” and some people said, “Well, maybe it would seem like you're bragging.” I am fucking bragging.

I'll tell you what. This is a lifestyle. Do you want this lifestyle? Do you want to be able to travel the world to see the world, to be able to do the kind of things I can do? It's not because I'm a stellar fucking programmer. It's not because I worked super fucking hard. I mean it is those things, but not the first one, but it's because mindset. It's because I changed my mind because I believe this was possible because I heard enough people that were doing it. I said, “Well, if they could do it, why the fuck can't I do it?” Right? I said, “Well, I guess I can.”

Once you believe that, once you're like—once your world changes and I'll tell you this, again, from my perspective because I was sitting in the cubicle for 15 fucking years. I was or more than that and my perspective was that—what was it? It was that like this is—people just work. They just work. You know, my co-workers. I'm chatting with them. What did you eat for dinner last night? What did you watch on TV? Blah, blah, blah. Bullshit. Whatever. My car broke down. All this kind of bullshit and living these mediocre lives. Can't wait to like go on vacation. Can't wait until I'm done with this or get a nicer vacation or hope I get a pay raise. I hope my boss lets me. I hope the man lets me do something.

Bullshit. That's what I thought life was and most of you watching this channel think that. You think you got to do what your boss says. You got to go and work for the man. You got to do all this and live by all these rules, and you got to go to school and get an education and get a good job, and save up for retirement and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Pay your speeding tickets. Fuck. No, it's not like that but you can't just change. You can't just say, “I'm going to refuse to believe all that shit anymore.” You got to—you can't change your beliefs automatically, but what you can do is you can reprogram yourself and you can do that by changing what comes in.

Stop watching fucking TV right now. Stop watching TV. Go take your TV, throw it out the fucking window. You don't need that shit. Instead, watch good YouTube channels that give you uplifting advice, but don’t just watch YouTube channels. That's fucking lazy. Just watch my videos that's—get some books. Go buy my books. Go buy other people's books, the books I recommended. Read those fucking books. Go to the gym. Fucking work out. Bust your ass. Push yourself to the fucking edge. Right? I talked about in point one being an Olympic level athlete. Become that. Fucking change your mindset. Believe that you—this is how you do it. This is how you do it. You take a lot of good inputs. Control your input. Control your friends. I've done videos on this as well. I'm not going to put a link to every single video that I've ever done in my life, but I've talked about this stuff. Okay?

That's point number two. What is point number two summary? Change your fucking mindset. Point number one is this. What did I say? Point number one was be Olympic level. Be a fucking exceptional, not mediocre. Working hard and knowing your shit, that's mediocre. Okay? Be exceptional. Number two, fucking change your mindset. Number three. I'm going to give you the third one here and that's all for today, although there's lots of points we can make here, is risk taking. The reason why those tech startups, the reason why those app developers, the reason why those entrepreneurs make the big bucks is not because life is so unfair and they're fucking privileged and all this bullshit, and victim, victim, victim mentality. Check out my video on victim mentality if you disagree with any of those things or the playlist. Fuck. We need to talk about this all the time. It's risk taking. They take a risk, okay?

Now, sometimes they take a risk with someone else's money. This doesn't fucking matter. If you can get someone else to take the risk with their money, but you benefit from it, that's fine. Somewhere along the line. Whenever someone has a huge amount of profit, whenever there's higher to mediocre amount of wealth created or success, there's risk taking involved. It is, believe me. Hey, you want to get the girl? Risk taking. You want to know how that guy ends up with the really hot girl in his arm, for you guys out there? Risk taking. He takes the chance. He takes the rejection chance. He does it a lot of times. He invests in himself. He takes a risk of looking like an idiot of may be dressing like a douchebag. I don’t know. I mean like takes some risks, right? You got to take risks.

You want to be the tech start—whatever it is. The tech startups, these guys, they risk years of their lives. It's a stupid risk, I think, doing the venture capital. Some people have to do it because this isn't the way. I'm not going to recommend that you create a start—everyone thinks they're going to get rich with a startup. No. It's mostly a fucking risk. Right? I mean, yes, you're risking someone else's money, but you can risk all your time and stuff, and that will actually even work. If you're just sitting there in your cubicle and you're just working hard and you're collecting your regular paychecks, there's nothing wrong with that and you know your shit that's not a lot of risk taking. Right? Reward and risk go together, right? When you invest, you make money because you're willing to risk some money. Right?

When you go to fucking Vegas, they don’t just say like—well, you know, on the black jack, you don't get to bet until you see the cards. No. You fucking put the money, you put your balls out there first and then there's the chopping blocks there and it's like how much you want to risk. That's how much you can make. That's how life works.

You see the smart people, the people that are successful and these are not the startup people usually, right? I mean they take a risk and someone is going to make some money there. That's more of a lottery ticket. I don’t want to say things—I mean not to knock everyone in the startup. There's a lot of good people there and a lot of smart people and follow what I'm about to say here, but the thing about risk taking is this. Okay, the smart risk takers, what they do is they look for arbitrary situation. They look for situations where you're at the blackjack table and they don't have to—they have to bet five cents for the chance to win a dollar. They take a smaller risk to that reward ratio and they're able to play a lot of times until they win. It's in their favor. They have—if you're familiar with the term EV, positive EV for you poker heads out there. Expected value. Expected return. They are in an arbitrary situation. Find arbitrary situations. Find that out.

A lot of times it is going to be an entrepreneur. You want to make some money, you're going to have to take some risk. You can risk someone else's money, it's fine. There's a lot of people like—broker deals, a lot of entrepreneurs that put together deals. They don’t even have money of their own, but their risk their ass. They risk their neck. They risk their reputation. You got to risk something and you got a risk of failure. You got a risk of humiliation. You got to risk all of these things. It's not just money, okay?

If you are living a life that does not involve risk taking, you're not living a life and it's going to involve high levels of prosperity and success. Right? Slow and steady may win the race for the fucking tortoise, but it doesn’t work in life. Again, you need consistency. You need commitment. You got to stick to the line, but you got to have some kind of risk taking. There you go.

I'm going to tie this altogether here. Three points. Three things at least for this one. One, be Olympic level. Be fucking stellar, okay? Two, change your mindset. You have to know what it is that's possible in order to believe it and then you have to feed yourself with the inputs that you take into yourself in order to fully change your mindset. Okay? I was a cubicle dweller. I didn’t know what was possible. I'll link to one more video of what I was like seven years ago, what my life was like seven years ago. It's maybe eight now but check that out. Okay? Trust me. I was just a pretty good programmer working hard, but things changed when I changed my mindset. The third one is risk. Again, same thing here. Quit my fucking job. I put a lot of time in the things. I invested. I invested in real estate. I did all kinds of stuff that was risky, right? You got to take some risks, but they are calculated risks.

One of my friends, _____ [inaudible 00:16:53], I did an interview with him. I'm sorry Rodrigo, a lot of links here. He did some blogposts. He's a very smart guy. I mean this is a complicated question to answer. I could answer this for two hours and still not give you enough information, but I think if you follow those three points, that's going to lead you in the right direction. There's other angles, other ways of doing the same thing, but it's all going to come down to the same essential core thing, which is all about just changing your mindset, doing the exceptional, not the mediocre, and taking some risks along the way and not being afraid to fail. Get out there. Face rejection. Face fear. Face failure. Get out there and do something and be better. Right? Take the best person you know and ask yourself every fucking day, “What does it take to beat that person?” I even did a video on that topic, but this is the question you need to ask yourself. Every single day you need to ask yourself, “What is the best person you know and what does it take to beat them?” That's your fucking training schedule. That's your—their exceptional workout needs to be your regular workout. That's how it's going to be. If you want to guarantee success.

It's not a road for everyone . Some people are better off just watching TV and eating microwave dinner in front of it and working a nine to five job. It's fine. You'll just be entertained by my videos. It's fine. If you want it, you got to pay for it. I'll end this with one of the quotes I love. It's an anonymously attributed quote. Of course I'm ending it when there's a nice breeze and it's nice and cool here. It says that—”Take anything you want, but pay for it, says God.” I love that. Don’t you? Life is like that. “Take anything you want, but pay for it, says God.”

You can take whatever you want. Life will give you whatever you want. There's a poem. I can't remember what the poem where it was talking about whatever life will offer and I'll put a link to it below, but true. Whatever price you ask of life, it will gladly pay. You got to pay. You got to pay the price in order to get it. That's all I got for you. Great question. Click that Subscribe button if you haven't already. Click the bell to make sure you don't miss any videos. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."