Principle 1. Create something you own
Spend time and energy making something that: (1) you own fully (2) is of value to others (3) you can exchange for value
This is because you can only ever give what you own. Examples: a mobile app, personal skills, bookshelf. Even raising poultry/vegetables in your backyard counts - you exchange these with yourself for money (a.k.a. 'saving cash').
Note, 'Writing code for cash' fails on point (1), but 'Honing C++ skills' ticks all three points. A life devoted tohelping others is the best deal of all - you exchange your life for treasure in heaven.
Principle 2. If you cannot work for yourself, search for a workplace like how long term investors search for stock.
Consider the most famous one of them all - Warren Buffet. He uses 'intrinsic value' to value stock. Companies with price to intrinsic value ratio (lets call it 'P/V' for this post) lower than 1 are more likely well-managed but undervalued -- and hungry to be valued higher -- so Warren 'buys' those companies.
My pet theory: unlike Warren, you want to 'buy into' workplaces that are consistently profitable and whose P/V ratio is as close to 1 as possible. This is because such companies are typically profitable, well run and will treat you fairly -- leaving you enough time and energy for Principle 1.
Let take a look at Netflix (NFLX) -- a well regarded company with a demanding work environment -- their ratio 1.85
(To check others, replace 'NFLX' in the URL with another stock ticker - remember, its the median ratio we're looking for)
NFLX (1.8) , AMZN (4), and EA (2.5) for instance, have high 'stock price/intrinsic value' ratios. So, while these are very successful companies, these are more likely high-pressure work environments with little time to yourself outside of work. Even GOOG (1.6) and APPL (1.5) are getting a bit up there.
Going lower: SPLS (1.3), MSFT, WMT (Walmart), BA (Boeing) (all 1.2), and INTL (1.1).
Now the magic unity figure -- BRK.A (Warren's Berkshire Hathaway itself), BAC (Bank of America), PFE (Pfizer) - all around 1. Strangely, so is ODP (Office Depot - 0.97).
Further down seems to be the domain of banks -- FNF (Fidelity National -- 0.9), PRU (Prudential - 0.28), MS (Morgan Stanley - 0.26), JPM (JP Morgan - 0.27)