In today’s society children are taught at an early age to go to school, get good grades, and grow up to get a good job. What makes a good job? Decent pay, opportunity for growth, and it doesn’t make you miserable. There’s no shortage of blogs, advice columns, and articles on how to get and keep the perfect job. The topic of careers is hot and heavy in the world today, and too often money is the main way we function.

From data collected in 2014, the average person worked 39.2 hours per week. Your career takes up about 35% of your life if you work for at least 50 years, accounting for well over one-third of your waking hours. If you’re going to have a career, you might as well make sure it’s one you enjoy.

Q1: How can I land a successful, well-paying job in today’s competitive job market?

I think the very first thing we have to do is define what “well-paying” means to us. This can (and should) lead to a deeper conversation about what money means to us and those who depend on us. This is a relative discussion – what money means to me may not be at all what it means to you. But it means something, and we have to define it for ourselves. Money, at the end of the day, is an inanimate object. It doesn’t breathe, think, act. It doesn’t have an opinion. It is just the medium of exchange for what we and others value. Pay is a hammer, what we build is up to us.

Generally accepted accounting says there are about 2000 work hours in a year. The question we have to ask ourselves is how much time are we willing to work in order to earn the pay we want to take home. If we make $100,000 per year but work 4000 hours per year … we effectively make $50,000 per year. But when you love what you do, it often doesn’t feel like work … so who’s counting. The point is, only you can answer this for yourself.

I asked my daughters and my Bride if we wanted to be a family that “had stuff” or “did stuff.” Unanimously – we want to do stuff: travel, adventure, play, see, etc  …  So the way I view money is through the lens of what it allows me to do, or get done, for my family and those I love. How I determine what is “well paying” is driven not by the gross amount but by (i) the amount, (ii) how much time it took me to make the amount, and (iii) the amount of time I have to “do stuff” with and for my Bride, my girls, and the people I care about.

Q2: What’s the best way to ask for a raise?

In order to do this well we have to understand the value proposition our companies consider when investing in talent. Once we understand this metric, the ROIT (Return on Investment in Talent), it can be pretty simple. How does our company make money, how much money have we helped our company make, how much more are we willing to do to help our company? These are some of the questions we’d better ask ourselves before we go asking anyone for more pay. And truthfully, when we’re honest with ourselves, it will help us better understand what we actually deserve, how to argue it in the language of the decision-maker, and how to put ourselves in line to take on more responsibility and earn more.

Q3: When dealing with stress and anxiety at work, how do you best resolve your issues?

First, I have to slow down and determine whether or not I’m the reason for the stress and anxiety. I have a habit of getting in my own way sometimes. Most of the time – nothing happens to me but me. I happen to me all of the time. And when I turn the lens inward and start smoothing those elements that produce stress and anxiety, the external contributors tend to become more clear. I learned about wildfires from an amazing and heroic friend. He told me once that when there is a wildfire … everything is on fire. But if you look hard enough, you can find the hottest spots and work those places while denying the rest of the fire fuel. Doing both of those things is what wins in a wildfire.

If you have questions you’d like Clint to answer, tweet @ClintBruce using this hashtag: #AskClintBruce