Whenever I need a little motivation, I like to hop on YouTube and watch videos profiling food truck owners. A few years ago, CNBC profiled a dumpling food truck in New York. And the YouTube channel Munchies has a regular series where they profile food truck owners, ranging from complicated food truck operations with award-winning food to people doing simple things like running a hot dog stand or a breakfast cart or selling wood-fired pizza out of a pickup truck in a parking lot.
I find food truck owners to be an interesting group of people. They’re extremely passionate about what they do. They work harder than almost anyone I’ve ever seen. And, the thing I really relate to, these food truck owners value control and autonomy over their lives more than anything.
I know that a lot of the people that run these food trucks do so because they don’t have many other options. Many are immigrants simply making enough to get by. But there are just as many that rejected the corporate, 9-5 career that many of us have been told to follow. Instead of going down the path that everyone told them to take, they went a different way.
After watching a lot of these videos, I think there are some lessons we can take away from these food truck owners about how to approach work and life. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned (in no particular order).
Work Doesn’t Always Have To Feel Like Work
Growing up, I was taught that work wasn’t about finding your passion or doing something you enjoyed. My parents were immigrants, so to them, work was something you did because you had no choice. Work was unpleasant and that’s why someone paid you to do it.
My first job out of law school was precisely that. I worked long hours at my firm and hated every minute of it. The thing is, I approached work the way my parents had taught me. Work wasn’t supposed to be fun or fulfilling. It was a trade-off inherent in work. If I wanted to get the big paycheck, I had to accept that I had to work hard doing something that I didn’t necessarily enjoy. Work, as I had been taught to believe, was work.
The unifying characteristic I’ve noticed with all of these food truck owners is that work doesn’t seem to feel like work to them. They do the things they do either because they love what they’re doing or they love the freedom that owning their own food truck gives them. They’re working – and working really hard. But it’s not the same get-through-the-week type of work that many of us have gone through for much of our lives.
There’s some value in viewing work in this way. Many of us think of work as something we just have to do. But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.
Owning Your Income Source Is The Best Way To Control Your Life
A common theme in all of these food truck videos is that the people who own these trucks love that they don’t work for someone else. The income they make comes from them. They get back what they put into their business.
Most people don’t own the source of their income. Instead, their income source is owned by someone else. To make a living, they have to trade their time and energy to someone else.
I’m not one of those people that believes that working for someone else is for fools and that everyone should own their own business. There’s a lot that comes with owning your own business that is unpleasant and something you might not want to do.
But owning something – I think that’s the important takeaway that we can all use here. It doesn’t have to be the sole source of your income. But you want to own something. Whether that’s owning pieces of a company in the form of stocks. Or owning a rental property. Or even having a small side hustle that generates some income. If you want to control your life, you need to own something.
An important lesson we can take from these food truck owners is how important it is to keep at it, day after day, month after month. We’re a society that wants things to happen quickly. But the truth is, most things in life don’t happen quickly. They take time. And most importantly, they take consistency. You have to keep working on your craft every day, often for years before you start to see things happen.
You can see the impact of consistency simply by watching these food truck owners. Most of them work every day. They can do it because it doesn’t feel like work for them – at least not work in the sense that most of us think of our work.
It’s a bit extreme to work 12 hours a day every day like many of these food truck owners do. A lot of them have no choice – it’s the only way they can make a living. But you can see that when you do something consistently and for long enough, eventually, you will figure it out. Working on your craft every day, even for a little bit, can only make you better.
I started this blog 5 years ago. I haven’t always written as much as I should, but I have written a new post at least every week for 5 years. That’s over 300 posts during that span and literally hundreds of thousands of words. With years of experience, I’ve been able to create a lifestyle from writing that doesn’t make me rich, but is enough for me to do what I need to do.
Little by little. That’s the key when it comes to anything in life.
Your Job Is Important – And It Should Make You Happy
You have to work. And you have to like what you do.
Mama Jo (Mama Jo’s Breakfast Cart)
A lot of us don’t realize how much our work consumes our lives. When you think about it, most of us spend half of our waking hours during the week working. If you include the other things we do related to work (things like commuting, getting ready in the morning, etc), then it adds up to even more time.
That’s a lot of time all of us spend working. And it’s why I believe work isn’t something to merely tolerate – at least not for indeterminate stretches. You can do anything you don’t like for a short while. You can’t (or shouldn’t) do it forever.
A lot of the people that became food truck owners did so because they weren’t happy with the things they were doing before. They made a decision – if they had to work, they were going to do so on their own terms, in a way that made them happy and fulfilled.
Maybe the food truck life isn’t as fun as the people in these videos make it out to be. It seems like hard work with terrible hours. You have to camp out in a car all night, fight for prime locations, and you’re constantly working and maybe not making that much money.
But these people own something. They work on their business every day and keep getting better at it. The only person they have to answer to is themselves. And they seem happy. Those seem like lessons worth thinking about.
I’m working to build my own income stream so I can control my time as well. I think it’s the closest you can come to being FI before you’re actually FI. I’m surprised a lot of people plan to work a job they don’t really like for 10-15 years until they’re FI when they could find a way to make money that they enjoy and have more autonomy as you say. I chose to go with an eBay business and I think it’s a cool option since you don’t have to be sitting at your computer to make sales. Sure, you have to list and ship and source items, but you can choose when to do that and if your store is big enough it can coast for a while with out the need for new listings.
FI for the People says
I admire the food truck owners for the same reasons you do. In not small part because it’s a brutal business, yet so many of them persist, with a genuine smile on their faces. I’m too soft to handle that lifestyle. 😉
David @ Filled With Money says
I love that food trucks have become more mainstream. Street food is really common in places like New York but aside from there, it used to not be as common as it is today. People are more accepting of them. When I first came to the US, there wasn’t any food trucks in the area where I lived either. I’m glad I decided to move to a bigger city with a diverse food base.
I also love the fact that they control their own destiny and income source. It’s mostly up to them to get a paycheck and not up to an employer.
Dividend Power says
I like he part about owning your income. That is something that I wish I knew when I was younger.
Accidentally Retired says
” If you want to control your life, you need to own something.” – agree 100%. Great article!
Financial Panther says
Long time reader, first time commenter. This post highlighted the best parts of “going your own way” so succinctly. Thanks for writing this!
Financial Panther says