5 Passive Income Myths Blocking You from Earning Passive Income, Debunked

Money notes

Hi guys! :D In a few days’ time on Dec 6, I’ll be starting a new run of my passive income course. This is my third year teaching the course (3 2 seats left by the way, so secure your seat asap to join! Update Dec 5: Our seats are all filled up and registration is now CLOSED!), and I’m super excited to work with the latest batch of participants. :D While waiting for the course to start, I thought to debunk some common myths about passive income (P.I.) that prevent many from earning it.

1. I need to invest / trade forex / get property / etc. to earn passive income.

When I was at Never Work Again years ago (essentially a pitch fest seminar for trainers to sell their courses), I saw trainers pitching specific instruments they used to earn passive income and how each was this effortless tool to generate massive P.I. (This was followed by a 20-minute hard sell on why you should get their course.) These instruments ranged from investing in stocks, to forex trading, to options trading, to tax liens, to lease investment, to creating mobile apps, and more.

While good to know that these tools have worked for others (assuming their claims were legit), there was a fallacy in the whole spiel, in that passive income isn’t exclusive to any of these tools — it’s something you can create in any business, as long as you have the right setup. (Note that I said “business” and not “job,” as most day jobs are active-income-based, whereby the job contract requires you to trade your time (and effort) to earn money. With a business however, you get the leeway to make it anything you want it to be, including earn passive income if you like.

Take for example, my business. I’m in personal development, and I coach and train (active income). I earn passive income as well, and this passive income comes from as many as 15 different P.I. streams, all of which I’ve built around my business over the years. Below are some passive income transactions I get in a week:

Passive Income Transactions for November 2014

Some of my passive income transactions in the past week (in USD)

These are transactions that take place without me hustling for them, and they happen independent of my time and involvement. Here, I’ve not included my active income earnings like coaching and training, and I’ve also not included other P.I. streams like Google advert earnings, my book sales outside PE, as well as a miscellaneous affiliate programs — which form another chunk of my P.I. The above are examples of passive income transactions that have been flowing into my business since four years ago, when I started creating my passive income setup. Today, my passive income earnings give me a very comfortable lifestyle, and active income has become a choice, as opposed to a necessity like in the past.

For the same reason, passive income isn’t exclusive to MLMs (multi-level marketing), even though some pitch it as such. Passive income can be earned in any work and industry, as long as you’re running a business (as opposed to a day job). Though to be clear, MLM doesn’t actually generate passive income in that it provides residual income, in that passive income doesn’t involve any time or effort at all, while residual income is recurring income you need to work to maintain, such as recruiting downlines, meeting them, training them, etc. 

So is passive income limited to a particular channel or tool? No, not at all. It’s not unique to stocks, trading, MLMs, affiliate marketing, investing, or whatever tools you may have heard being touted as “P.I.” tools before. (By the way, stocks and trading aren’t passive income tools either unlike popular belief, but are simply alternate forms of active income, because there’s a lot of work involved in doing it, from active monitoring the stocks/currency, doing chart analysis, consulting your broker, micro-decision-making in whether to buy/sell/hold, etc. — and that’s assuming you even make a profit at the end of it, because most people actually don’t.) Passive income is simply the philosophy of earning income independent of your time and money, and it’s something you can build around any business–if you want to.

Truth: Passive income is not specific to any instrument, channel or tool; one can earn P.I. via any business, as long as he/she has the right passive income setup.

Myth #2: I should earn passive income first, then pursue what I want to do.

Many people have the mindset to earn passive income first (be it using a financial vehicle or something else), then pursue whatever they want to do. Logically it makes sense. Earn passive income first, so that your time is freed from making money. With P.I. coming in, you can now pursue whatever you want.

However, there’s a flaw in this thinking. This theory holds true if passive income is something you just spend three months, six months, or even a year to set up, then collect money afterwards. The reality, though, is that it isn’t. You may get $10 or $20 perhaps, $100 to $200 even, perhaps $300, but that’s not money you can retire off of. To get measurable returns, you need to master yourself in the vehicle you’re using first. The 10,000 hours rule applies, and until you’ve done your due work and built yourself to “expert” status, there’s no reason why (huge) P.I. is going to fly your way.

That’s why I’ve seen so many people burn out trying to earn “passive income.” They pick up some financial instrument, join MLMs, sell insurance, learn real estate, create affiliate pages, start a blog, start a random internet business, etc. (nothing against these by the way, just giving examples based on what I’ve seen) all in hopes of securing quick passive income. In a matter of a year or two (some even months), they get burnt out (even disillusioned) when they realize that it’s not as easy as it seems. Imagine facing rejections, working on something you don’t particularly enjoy, learning about things you don’t really care about, having to network and hustle things that you don’t believe in, etc. plus seeing minimal to no results month after month – it’s really not easy, and it quickly dampens your soul over time.

And that’s fine if all you lose is time, but there have been many who lost money too — plenty of it. The most benign would be money spent in qualification courses and miscellany to start up in the “passive income” vehicles, and the worst would be losing a chunk – if not all — of your life savings in stocks / bad investments (and this has happened to too many people I know, unfortunately — all smart people too, and it wasn’t that they were “stupid” or “unskilled” but that some financial instruments just can’t be profited from ultimately).

This is why it doesn’t make sense to blindly pursue passive income. Firstly, the goal itself is hollow; secondly, you need to achieve expert status in anything to profit massively from it (assuming the vehicle does work), which means at least five years of time invested; thirdly, it’s possible to earn P.I. around anything, as mentioned in Myth #1. So rather, what I recommend is to identify something you like to do instead – be it your passion, a fun interest, or a business idea you care about. Work on this, build your skills, and build a P.I. setup around it. This is a lot more sustainable than pursuing P.I. as a blind goal; it’s no different than building a cake that’s hollow.

Truth: Rather than chase after P.I., identify what you like to do, then create a P.I. setup around it. This way, you can earn passive income and do what you love, which is really the key to success in a P.I. journey.

Myth #3: Passive income is only for online businesses.

Earlier this month I received this query:

Passive income myth #2: Passive income is only for online businesses and selling of e-books/e-courses

Mar’s question is a great one, because too many people have the perception that passive income has to do with just online, e-books, or e-courses. The funny thing is that I have people thinking that The Passive Income System is on e-books, e-courses, and blogging, even though I never said anything of this sort on the 6,000-word product description page! (My Blogging Success Program, on the other hand, is about blogging and blogging success.)

The reality is that earning passive income is a whole lot more than just online, e-books, or e-courses. It’s a philosophy that can apply to both online and offline businesses, like how passive income isn’t limited to just one tool or channel (Myth #1). Online is just more widely associated with P.I. because the medium does lend itself to a convenient passive-income setup (zero marginal cost of selling an e-product, easy systemizing, etc.). In my passive income business course, my participants have all kinds of business ideas, from starting a pastry business, to starting a medical practice, to (offline) training, to hotel booking solutions, and all of them can be passive-income-tized, online or not. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with e-books, e-courses, or blogs.

On a side note, productizing is a great strategy to create P.I. for any business, and that’s something that I cover in The Passive Income System. Not only does it offload demand on your services, it creates scale as well. And lest you say, “But I’m in a service-based industry, I can’t productize!” there are ways to productize even in service-heavy businesses like life coaching and graphic design, as I share in Module 3 of the program. Even then, this is simply one of many steps to create a P.I. business, and there are other steps such as automating, systemizing, layering with multiple streams, and more.

Truth: Passive income isn’t limited to online businesses or e-books or e-courses. Passive income is possible in any kind of business, be it online or offline, such as training, coaching, graphic design, web design, baking, fitness, music, martial arts, blogging, etc. It’s about creating the right passive income setup for P.I. to happen.

Myth #4: It’s hard to earn passive income. / I don’t know how to earn passive income.

One of the most common blockages that my passive income course participants have is that they feel it’s hard to earn passive income. They are not sure how to start or where to start (that’s where the course lays the framework for them) and what exactly to do.

Well, three big facts that may help:

  1. It’s not meant to be easy. (As in it’s not about just opening a laptop, clicking some buttons, and waiting for money to roll in.)
  2. It takes time and effort. (There’s no free lunch in the world. But the great thing to know is that as long as you focus on delivering value, success is yours.)
  3. It’s about having a strategy and proper framework to earn P.I. (All of which are covered in The Passive Income System.)

If it helps, my P.I. journey was not an overnight one. It never was, and I don’t think anyone who has tried to earn P.I. can claim that they earned massive money right away. (If they did, then it’s either (a) they’re lying or (b) they were never starting from scratch but had a pre-existing platform to market to.)

So for me, I earned my first passive income in the third month of my business, and it was… guess what…  five cents (which happened to be the first five cents I earned in my business too). Five whooping cents, which I didn’t sneer at, but instead felt extremely ecstatic and excited about, as I saw this as the very first sign of my success. As I built my business and P.I. streams, I generated more P.I. Over the next three years, my monthly P.I. gradually increased from $0.05 to $50–100, to one grand, to over two grand, to over five grand, to at times nearly 10 grand. And I continue to build my P.I. as I go along.

My Passive Income Over Time (Monthly)

My average passive income / month over time. Peaks/drops are typical of a business income cycle — focus on the overall trend here that’s upwards. This is a P.I. only graph, not including my active income.

Did the money fly in by itself? Hardly. There was a lot of work involved, from building my audience, to understanding their needs, to creating my P.I. streams, to creating a robust P.I. setup. Every step of the way, I’d focus on giving value as my first and utmost priority. Every step of the way, I’d focus on setting my foundations as opposed to being distracted by monetary earnings which is more of an effect than a cause. And with the right elements in place, I began to earn P.I. steadily and continue to do so even today (even with minimal involvement in my P.I. streams), because they are robust passive income streams that been properly set up to begin with and can’t be easily knocked off by one or two external factors.

Similarly for you, know that P.I. isn’t meant to be an overnight result. It’s not easy like ABC, it’s also not easy in that you can see “instant” results in three months, six months, or even a year. But it’s also not hard as long as you invest due time, due effort, and apply the right strategy (including knowing your audience, giving tremendous value, focusing on productizing, building multiple P.I. streams that are linked and add value to your business, and more). When you have that, results will come to you soon enough.

Truth: Earning P.I. isn’t hard, and it’s about having the right strategy and investing due time and effort. Don’t get overwhelmed by the idea of P.I. but rather, focus on giving real value to others.

Myth #5: I’m happy with active income. I don’t need passive income.

Perhaps there are people who don’t mind working. Perhaps they don’t care about trading their time for income. Maybe they’re in a decent job that they like, that gives them decent pay, and hence they are okay with remaining status quo.

Consider my scenario though: Before I moved to a passive-income setup, I was coaching and training full time. I was earning healthy income, having constant coaching clients, and enjoying my work. Not only that, what I was doing is my passion; there’s nothing else I’d rather do for life.

However, there were many issues with the picture, hidden issues really:

  • Having a limit to how many people I could serve. Work-wise, I was constantly having a wait list of clients –  people with goals/issues they wanted to work on, but needed to put their goals on hold due to my coaching bottleneck. I wished to help them, all of them, but it was not feasible for me to have more than X clients at any one point for quality reasons. (Eight clients was the optimal number; any higher and it would be too taxing.)
  • Neglected Quadrant 2 goals. I was constantly distributing my time between coaching, training, and article writing, with the first two being priorities for cashflow, income reasons. I was constantly putting off higher-level Quadrant 2 business goals in the face of urgent Quadrant 1 activities.
  • No personal life. In terms of personal life, I was dedicating a lot of time to work. I barely had time for social. Even worse for dating/romance.
  • Neglecting of self. I was neglecting my health and fitness, and I definitely had no concept of “me” time (defined as me taking a break and relaxing, not me alone working).

It hit me that as long I was in this current active-income setup, I’d be stuck with these issues. Sure, perhaps I could prioritize better, use time pockets, be more efficient, whatever (all of which I was already doing very well, and all of which I cover in my book 10 Rules of Super Productive People), but the underlying bottleneck was that X hours had to be frozen in my day every day just for income-generation / sustenance. Even if I just spent eight hours a day working (rare, usually more), that’d leave me with little time for anything else, considering time needed to eat, shower, commute, cook, etc. And there were a lot of things I wanted to do besides what I was doing daily, such as socializing, traveling, working on new business projects, exercising, being healthier, spending time with loved ones, personal care, etc.). The only time I ever got to do a smidge of these would be during the weekends, but the weekends would end as quickly as they came. And then the whole cycle would continue.

It was clear: the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t working fast enough or long enoughThe problem was simply the inherent limitation of the active income setup, which limited my free time a day. (And based on what many of my coaching clients and course participants constantly tell me, I suspect they struggle with this exact same problem too.) Something needed to change, and it was the way I was running my business.

So, I changed things around. I changed to a passive income setup. I moved from active income, to passive income. I created systems, processes, for my business to run well without me. And I set things up such that my business can go on auto-pilot without me around, be it a week, a month, or even a year if I wanted to.

And with that, came significant shifts in my life. I began to pursue higher-level Quadrant 2 goals that I kept in the back burner before, such as experimenting with online webinars (which paved the way for the PE courses that you see today), creating videos, and writing a book, because I now can. I began to embark on long travels without a limit on my return date (month-long trips are normal; the longest I’ve away so far is seven months). I’m able to embark on work projects for the value that they bring to others, without a focus on profits (such as free PE challenges and investing in equipment for my videos). I can go on temporary hiatus as and when needed (such as when I was preparing for my wedding, house hunting, and moving to my new home between last year and this year — I took probably a good four to five months of time away from work in total), without an impact on income. And I’m definitely spending significantly more time fostering friendships, spending time with my loved ones, and having “me” time today than I ever had in my entire life.

I still coach and train today — both active income streams — but I do these at my own pace, in my own time, out of interest and passion, as my agenda permits. Because I want to and love to, not because I’m obligated to to secure my bottom/top line.

Obviously passive income is not for everyone. But it’s important to be aware of the possibilities that passive income can bring to you. It’s not about going, “Heyyy look at meEE, I’m earning pAsSiVeEEE INCOMEEE!!!!” It’s about freedom (of agenda), where you’re not bound by never-ending work to-dos nor the need to deliver X work per month to meet your income needs. It’s about freedom (of time), whereby you can take time to travel, take extended breaks, pursue your personal goals, and pursue other work goals, without worrying about money. It’s about freedom (in life), where you have all the time in the world to dedicate to your relationships, both with others and yourself, because they’re no longer in battle with the work area of your life.

If you ask me, beyond surface monetary rewards and freedom of time, passive income is really about living a fuller life at the end of the day, because instead of battling for the two biggest commodity scarcities that the modern man faces (time and money), you are able to reap the rewards of having an abundance of both time and money. And that is really what life should be about at the end of the day – creating and living in abundance, as opposed to locking ourselves in scarcity (of time, because we’re trying to use our time to earn money).

Truth: Passive income isn’t about being lazy, not wanting to work, or [insert negative fear-based factor]. It’s about really about abundance at the end of the day: doing more, achieving more, living more, and being more. Because now instead of battling with two biggest scarcities that modern man faces (time and money), you’re now able to enjoy an abundance of both, to now live the life you never thought off.

End Notes

I wrote this post and kept it real as possible (with my personal knowledge/experience earning P.I.) without fluffery and gimmicks, so hopefully you guys found it useful. This post ended up being longer than I expected, but I kept it that way as I felt many of the points are critical. Passive income isn’t a luxury, a scarcity or some BS scam/fad, though unfortunately many internet marketers and personal finance “gurus” do turn it into such and scam many people along the way (which is unfortunate and I actually hate them for that). I believe everyone has the right and ability to earn passive income — authentically, in a value-adding way to the society, without the scams and gimmicks — if they want to.

The Passive Income System: How to Start Your Passive Income Business

If any of you are interested to start your business be it now or in the future, and you’re interested to earn passive income from it, The Passive Income System is a six-module self-administered program (complete with video recordings, audio podcasts, and slides) to teach you the nuts and bolts of starting your passive income business.

Doesn’t matter if you don’t have a business idea yet – the course frameworks and principles will be applicable to any business. This is a business strategy course that will teach you to look at revenue generation and business development in a different way, such that you don’t have to be involved in your business just to earn money. I’ll be teaching universal and timeless strategies on how to create a P.I. setup — regardless what your business is — and this knowledge will go a long way in your future business journey.

Even if you don’t have a business idea or you don’t plan to start a business till a couple of years later, the program may get you thinking about what you want to do next time (be it in one year, two years) as you listen to the examples and business ideas that others share in the recorded sessions. (Who knows, maybe you’ll get ideas during class!) I recall when I was working in my corporate job, I was listening to materials regarding passive income / business building, even though I had no plans to quit my job in 6 months or 2 years. (I subsequently quit my job after a year to start PE.)

If you’ve a clear business idea or you’re already running a business, all the better as you can apply what you learn right away! No short-term tactics, but timeless frameworks and strategies that’ll carry you to success, just like how PE doesn’t focus on short or quick tips. The very same timeless frameworks and strategies that I have applied myself.

Read more about here: The Passive Income System

Images: Money notes; Other images: Personal Excellence

  • JadePenguin

    Hi Celes,

    How did the person with the pastry business make it P.I.? I haven’t really seen baking robots yet!

    Also, don’t you still have a queue of coachees waiting? You said you used to see it as a limit to the people you can serve – do you see it differently now?

    I’d like to add that passive income doesn’t have to be money only. I think of fruit trees as a passive income source :) (though of course you can sell/trade the fruit as well)

    • http://personalexcellence.co/ Celestine Chua

      Hi Jade! Passive income comes from creating a business that runs without you, so that can happen in any business, pastry or martial arts, etc. I share examples of the specific “how” in the course itself. It involves a lot of streamlining, automating, and systemizing first, and then engaging help where needed, in the end managing a business as a business owner should, not being stuck inside the business, ergo self-employment. Of course this is just one aspect of it, and there are many other things of creating it into a robust and abundant P.I. setup (identifying new P.I. streams, expanding them, busting P.I. blocks, etc.) that I cover in the course.

      I’ve further limited my active coaching clients from last time and close my coaching signup page whenever I’m working with enough clients or when I’m busy with other projects. (Last time I work with 8 or 10, now I work with 4, sometimes 2, 3, or even none when I want to concentrate on other things.) The reality is that there’ll always be a limit to people that I can actively serve (or for any human because of the nature of an active service) but what has changed is (1) I’ve a lot of scale-based options now, including self-administered courses as well as live group courses like this upcoming P.I. course that allows me to serve many more people (20-25 at one go usually) (2) because of that, I’ve the option to choose whether to coach or not (independent of income) and to focus on other more scale-based activities which creates more (1) and creates a positive ripple effect (more ability to serve more people whereas in 1-1 I can only serve 1 person, albeit in a very targeted way).

      Funnily fruit frees is one of the analogies I share in the P.I. course right in the first module. :) I totally agree that income isn’t just money, just as income is only one of the effects in life (like our relationship status, our emotional well-being, and so on). In many cases it’s really a means to other goals in life (though sadly some people pursue it as an end and that’s where they get miserable during / at the end of the “chase”).

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