Have you ever felt that life is lacking? Like, there must be more to it than this? Perhaps it was a fleeting thought that gave you a big picture view of your life. Somewhere between the 13th customer service complaint or 20th sales call you had to deal with today. Or maybe it was something more life-shattering that jolted the realisation.
Back in the day, our parents believed in job security. In getting a job and working hard at it everyday, so you can then be afforded the privilege to stay with that company until you retire or die of a stress-related heart attack. Whichever came first. Can you even imagine having one job your whole life? Seems like a ridiculous impossibility these days.
Technology is more advanced, people have become fiercely competitive, the economy has its ups and downs, many businesses just fail, businesses are having to compete on a global level, consumers are getting harder to please and having shorter attention spans, employees aren’t satisfied, there’s just so much choice out there… People and job roles have become expendable. There is no such thing as job security anymore. Change is the only constant.
The truth is, if you work for someone else, your job, your paycheck, your security, is dependent on someone else. You have to work twice as hard at your own job these days, so that the next sly ass-kisser or fresh grad doesn’t drag it out from under you, all the while making sure that you’re up to date with technology and what’s going on in the world in your industry.
And even if you’re the top dog in your job, that’s no guarantee that the company won’t go bust or need to downsize or get bought out by another company who has their own people. Sure you can get another job, but you’re always having to start again.
If you work for a boss you hate, I can only imagine how unbearable the workplace must be. Or maybe you’re stuck with a boss that just hasn’t got a clue; got promoted up the chain because of who they’re related to or who they know, not because of talent. Working for someone like that would be frustrating, not to mention debilitating. You know you could do a better job at running the business. And let’s not even mention the fact that there is no equality in earnings for women. So where’s the appeal?
Was it a job you even wanted, or was it just a job you went for because they were hiring at the time? People get jobs through classifieds and online, but they’re just jobs that are available. Not often dream jobs. How passionate are you about your job? Is it what gets you up in the morning, eager and excited at the day’s possibilities? Or does it drain you of energy, eat into your quality family time, cause you health problems and have you popping Prozac from a Pez dispenser?
Do you feel trapped? The only reason you got the job was probably for the money, but maybe the money is no longer enough.
The Hamster Wheel of Misfortune
As for me, I’ve worked for multinational corporations and small local businesses. I’ve worked in companies at home in Australia and overseas. Every job I had, I worked my ass off. My employers always loved me and wanted me to stay on, but I, for some reason or another, had other plans. Also, just as lucky, my bosses were always people I could look up to and respected. But at the end of the day, I always wondered if there was more to life than this.
I detested the interview process, putting up with ass-kissers, office politics, the bitchiness of people being nice to your face but who you know would throw you under the bus if it meant they could gain the upper hand. I hated being overworked and underpaid; feeling exhausted and drained of energy after a days work. Feeling like 2 days off a week is never enough time to rest let alone fill it with something meaningful.
Then there’s the creeping dread of Sunday because the workweek is about to start again, the stress and pressure of deadlines and the people who can’t handle their own stress and their own emotions, who are depending on you and if you have kids to come home to after all that? Well, you deserve a f**king medal!
I call it the hamster wheel of the cubicle life. The constantly going round and round chasing your tail, putting out fires, dealing with d**kheads, meeting your deadlines, kissing ass, much stress, little sleep, no energy, life sucks, day after day after day. All for what, to make just enough money to pay the rent and your bills? Or worse, to make a lot of money that you’ll never have the chance to enjoy spending.
What are we all saving for? Our own headstones? Retirement? That time of your life when everything you’ve put off wanting to do in your life, you now get to do, except now you don’t have the energy, the ability, the confidence, the health, the capability, the resources, the care factor. So looking back you see your life was really just all about the work.
Surely we aren’t just all put on this earth to live groundhog day, to work our asses off and accumulate stuff that we keep in our containers called houses for 60+ years. Surely, in the grand scheme of things, there’s more to life, right?
My Last Stand
In 2010 I had a great paying job in a global management, engineering and development consultancy and I lived in a 35th floor apartment in downtown Vancouver, across the street from my job. I put my head down and worked hard. There was even talk of training me for a higher position. Then with the economic downturn, I got let go, along with a bunch of other people. Not because I was bad at my job, but because I had only been there a year. Last in, first out, thems the rules.
When they called me in, to fire me, I gave them the best sending off they ever had. I felt bad for them, the people who had to deliver the bad news to so many people that day. I explained to them that I understood their position, I thanked them for the opportunity they had given me, I wished them the best and looked forward to working with them again in the future.
Unlike other employees who left with abuse and anger, I left with hugs and some compensatory stationary. A few months later, when they needed the help, they called me back for a temporary gig. No one else got a call back. Moral of the story: Never burn your bridges, don’t shoot the messengers and always have options.
While most of those that were fired that day, walked out like they were on death row, I was walking on a cloud. I had options. My boyfriend had been working freelance for a while and now was the perfect opportunity for me to start working for myself in some capacity.
Always Have Options
When you’re not so committed to a location, a place, a job, a salary, a life of a certain standing, then you have options. When your goals and ideals in life are not connected to money or physical things but instead are rooted in your values, then your dreams are flexible and you have options. And when you have options, you’re free.
Sometimes it takes a firing or a letting go, to force you to wake up from your groundhog day or to push you off that hamster wheel and see the bigger picture. To see your life as a whole or from a new perspective. Because life is short. Change is inevitable. You need to be flexible enough to roll with the punches and strong enough to withstand the changes or brave enough to start again.
But when you work for yourself, it’s different. You’re still going to face changes, setbacks, challenges and maybe even failures, but you’re more in control of how much you earn, your time, your location, what you do and how you do it. You take control of your own security and make decisions that will support your lifestyle. You create your own options and spend your time doing what you love on your own terms.
Whether that looks like writing blog posts on your laptop on the beach in Costa Rica or taking inventory of your product stock on your phone from the ski slopes of Chamonix, the choice is yours to make. I’d choose freedom over a cubicle life any day. How about you?