My firm places creative leaders at great brands. This work produces insights that you wouldn’t believe. Those get distilled into career advice for the creative elite.

The whole point? Nudging talented designers and marketers toward financial independence. So let’s define a new version of that.

Modern financial independence begins when these two things are happening simultaneously:

Your effort* is steadily reducing over time.

Your income is steadily increasing over time.

*For the purposes of this framing, “effort” = energy spent on activities that deplete you.


If your income and effort are in lock step with each other, you might just be starting out. That’s cool. If they STAY in lock step with each other, you are not headed toward freedom.

We have been fed an outdated idea: run hard on a career treadmill for 45 years, then suddenly get off.

If you can afford to.

But it’s a new world. We work with our minds, and the same minds we use to build professional skills can also be used to strategically organize our lives into a K-shape. Starting now.


We each have ~4 decades to accumulate and compound our skills until they reach a peak marketplace value.

Why then, would someone arrive at that peak level and then… quit?

Maybe they burned out. Maybe they just don’t enjoy it anymore. Maybe it never gratified them in the first place.

Maybe they failed to inject micro-doses of retirement into their younger years, so now they crave an overdose of Mai Tais on the beach... forever. (Mai Tai approach)

Some people hate work entirely. They reduce their quality of life to maximize retirement savings. (FIRE approach -- especially restrictive to those of us who love sportscars, architecture, travel, and living indoors)

Others love their work, but hate money. “I’ll never be able to retire, so I’ll just work forever.” (Head-in-the-sand approach)

They're all missing the point.


You want to enjoy work, while having the eventual option to work less, backed by the resilience of high income.

Yes, all three.

Just like investments, your skills and effectiveness should be compounding over time. You get better, it becomes more fun, your value goes up.

In a K-shaped reality, you’re still engaging with challenges, but each hour spent on “work” is increasingly rewarding, even as those hours are reduced, and each one becomes more lucrative.

It starts to click when your team is trained to make decisions without you. Busywork is being gobbled up by your assistant. Your average meeting is now 15 minutes. A side gig funnels money straight to your brokerage account. You won your last three clients without pitching. Your 2 decades as a full time design leader have positioned you as a design consultant. You have time to think.


Some of you are already on the path. Leapfrogging to new levels by being indispensable at your job, hiring thoughtfully, setting up systems and crushing PTOs in heroic fashion.

And some of you are... SVPs still doing your own data entry.

Whichever group you’re in, there are ways to improve. How might you tweak these two trajectories in your own life this week?

Start where you are, and embrace the adventure. Life and career are messy. Pivots happen, walls are hit, breakthroughs are made. When you zoom in on the graph, it’s choppy.

The goal isn’t a spotlessly smooth professional life — the goal is to fight the battles, ride the waves, and return to balance.

Set your own intentions around income and effort. And keep it K-shaped.