Feel trapped in your current job? Career hit a dead-end? Or maybe you’re just sick of the corporate grind all-together.
Many people feel this way. The problem is that most think this is “just the way it is” and that’s that.
I’m here to strongly proclaim that the nonsensical existence many of us lead is neither the way it could be, nor is it even “natural” in terms of the evolutionary path our ancestors traversed.
I firmly believe you can change your life situation to be much more in line with your natural tendencies. A life of meaningful work inline with your inborn talents. Spending your time doing the activities you value. In other words being “The Real You”.
All that’s required is patience, discipline and a bit of knowledge.
The “apparent” problems related to your shitty job
Let’s start by talking about the problems that you think you have. I call these “apparent” problems because they are your most obvious problems, but aren’t the real cause of your misery, only the effects of other underlying causes. I’ll discuss the “real” problems in the next section.
Lack of Time
You may lack time to do things you value. Running the kids to school, then off to your crummy job. Working over the lunch hour, getting in stuck in traffic. Then doing it all over again tomorrow…week after week. You may feel your time is always consumed by doing something for someone else and you’re constantly being swept up by circumstances beyond your control.
Lack of Money
Just scraping by, trying to make ends meet? You have what seems like an endless parade of bills that consume your paycheck each and every month so you feel like you’re treading water or at best, growing your nest egg so slowly it feels like you are working for pennies per hour.
You Feel Trapped
Working in a thankless job? Just getting by week after week, not experiencing any real meaning in your life or work? Feel like a pack mule getting his life drained out of him for years, doing work you couldn’t give a shit about? This is a common problem and dare I say “the norm”.
The “Real” Problems
As I mentioned, the apparent problems above are side effects of your real problems. Until you recognize and address the real problems, your apparent problems will continue to plague you.
Problem: Dependency / lack of emotional self-reliance
This is a big topic. Emotional self-reliance, or it’s opposite, emotional dependency, is a mental state that is deeply ingrained in most of us without us even being aware of it.
In short, emotional self-reliance is a state of being in which you’re OK handling things in your own life without feeling you have to lean on other people to emotionally prop you up.
Emotional dependence on others is at the root of most of the stresses and anxiety we face today, simply because we are relying on things outside ourselves to solve the problems we are experiencing in our lives.
Self-reliance (or lack thereof) is ingrained in us starting in childhood, with patterns established by the interactions we had with our parents. In theory, as we grew up we become more and more self-reliant, until the time came when left the nest and were totally capable of handling life on our own.
The dependency problem arises due to a combination of less-than-ideal parenting and a modern culture that encourages dependence. A state of emotional dependency results in us feeling inadequate to handle things on our own and always wish for some outsider (person, organization, luck) to handle our problems for us. This in turn reinforces a feeling of weakness and inadequacy.
How dependency drives the “apparent” problems
If you aren’t emotionally self-reliant, you’re always going to question yourself and have a very hard time dealing with uncertainty. You’ll be too scared to branch out to something that society may not agree with. The fear of being yourself and dependence on others (including your employer) to provide your life structure is a non trivial factor in keeping you stuck.
What do to about it
To start building your self-reliance you’ve got to first recognize those areas of your life you are exhibiting child-like dependencies and then take steps to become more independent in those areas by doing more for yourself, even if you are uncomfortable.
This is such a big topic that I’ve written a couple articles that can help you along these lines. Both articles are based on information found in the amazing book Beyond Success and Failure: Ways to Self-Reliance and Maturity.
Problem: Not realizing how small decisions cost you big money over the long run
Most people think they require a lot more money than may actually be the case because they have lots of little (or not so little) financial inefficiencies built into their daily habits. These inefficiencies add up to a lot of money over time, especially when compound debt interest and lost investment opportunities are considered.
To give you a small idea of the waste in our daily lives check out the following examples. I borrowed most of these from Mr. Money Mustache (a guy who ‘retired’ at 30 using his mastery of frugality.)
- Working at a job that’s far from your home. A 40 minute commute for two cars over a 10 year period adds up to $125,000! (source)
- Taking lots of trips to the store. Many of us think nothing of popping over to the store at a moment’s notice. This horrible habit adds up to thousands of dollars over the long run. (Mr. Money rant)
- Getting into debt for anything other than absolute emergencies. It wasn’t too long ago that debt was viewed as something to be rarely taken on, now it’s something we routinely do. A way of thinking about debt is: you committing your future self to work for someone else in order for you to enjoy things now (sounds a bit like indentured servitude, doesn’t it?). Mr Money considers almost all debt an emergency.
- Eating out. Eating out costs a lot of money over the long-term. Say you eat out every day for lunch and dinner, with an average price of $8 a pop. That’s $16 / day which equates to $5,840. If, instead you cooked and bought groceries, you could slash that at least in half to $8/day, or $2,920. If you are in the 15% tax bracket with payroll tax taken into account, you are spending an extra $3743 pre-tax per a year, per person!
How not paying attention drives the “apparent” problems
Adopting financial habits that even half resemble what a typical westerner does means you have a lot of holes that you had never considered before. These holes will quickly suck up any money you have, ensuring you remain financially dependent on your current job.
What to do about it
Rather than go into all the various ways you can save money and improve your financial habits, I’ll send you over to the people who have spent serious time and effort into these matters:
Mr. Money Mustache. Go to the site Mr. Money Mustache, read everything you can and subscribe to his newsletter. If you follow even a quarter of suggestions I guarantee your financial situation will be much better in a year’s time.
Read the book Early Retirement Extreme. This book is a lot bigger than simple money-saving tips – it’s a book about completely shifting your mindset on work, consumption and learning to do more for yourself. I refer to this as my “Red Pill” book – as in, once I read it I saw the matrix for what it was (the life-stealing consumerism industrial complex). Don’t let the title put you off – even if you have NO intent of retiring before age 70 (or is it 68 now?) you really must read this book. It’s really a philosophy book that shows how we have all been duped into being highly dependent on outside entities to allow us to survive. The book demonstrates that with some knowledge and a lot of discipline you can unshackle yourself from your current job situation because we don’t need nearly as much money as we think to open up our life options. Also, don’t be put off by some of his more extreme suggestions, but rather just absorb some of the wisdom he shares. You’ll never look at money the same way again.
Get on a Budget. To get you spending under control you should probably be on a budget. I recommend the software You Need a Budget which helps you sure you are only spending what you actually earn and don’t rely on the month to month credit card float.
Problem: You lack skills because you’re too specialized
Our economy rewards specialization. Most of us know a few things really well and we are nicely paid for that. Then we take the money we get from our jobs and pay others to do and make things for us to compensate for our lack of skills and knowledge in areas outside our specialty.
How specialization drives the “apparent” problems
Your lack of skills creates a massive dependency on others since it requires you to pull in a fatter paycheck so you can pay others to do all the things you can’t do for yourself. Thus this is one more thing that keeps you chained to your job.
What to do about it
Generalize your skills. Become more of a generalist by doing more for yourself and acquiring more skills outside of your area of specialty. This will allow you to make do with less which has the effect of dropping your budget and reduce your dependency on the general economy (something outside of yourself – once again fitting into the general theme of increasing self-reliance and decreasing dependency).
As in the previous section an amazing resource for this is the book Early Retirement Extreme. Jacob goes to great lengths to discuss how our over-dependence on specialized jobs dramatically cuts back on our life options and utter dependence on jobs created by other people
Read the book Early Retirement Extreme. I’m going to highly recommend this book again, this time for learning to become more of a generalist and why. The book explains how our lack of a more generalized skill set creates our absolute dependence on having others do everything for us, except for our highly specialized skill set which we get paid handsomely for. If you haven’t gotten the book after my glowing review in the previous section, quit screwing around and get it now.
Start your own business. Starting your business or even dabbling in a small side business that may bring in a couple hundred a month is enormously helpful. It does so many things, including:
- Teaches you how money really works. The standard corporate model is you getting a paycheck fed to you like a zookeeper feeds an animal does not teach you about money, it only teaches you how to sell your life. An amazing place to start is to read (warning: cheesy title coming up but don’t let that turn you off!) The Millionaire Fastlane. The author of the book, MJ DeMarco, is a multimillionaire who built up and sold limos.com. I’ve read this book three or four times. It has so many amazing business principles and I consider it absolutely required reading for anyone moving from a consumer mindset to someone who wishes to become a business owner.
- Teaches you self-discipline. Having to do things when no one is looking over your shoulder telling you to do something or trying something that has a decent chance of not working out is a great exercise in self-discipline, something most of us greatly lack.
- Potential to move out of the time for money trap. Wage workers know nothing other than working x hours and getting paid y dollars. Owners of product businesses know this is a dead-end proposition because it doesn’t scale for one but more importantly, it dictates how you spend your valuable life. When you go into a product or investment type of business you can earn money while you sleep or even when you’re on vacation! Check out the site Smart Passive Income get your feet wet in the world of Internet businesses that throw off “passive” income.
- (Re)Discover skills and interests. Once you start working on a business for a while you’ll realize you have a broader interest and skill-set than you may be accustomed to just working at a desk (or other corporate) job.
- Gain confidence. Learning how to earn a bit of money outside of the corporate system will give you confidence and you’ll realize that you have the potential to earn your own way and don’t have to be stuck doing something you hate for the rest of your life.
Problem: Need for immediate gratification
A problem that pervade one’s life is the need for immediate gratification. This causes problems on many levels because it prevents you from establishing new habits or thinking long-term.
The question is why do you have the need for immediate gratification? I personally think this points to an even deeper issue, one possibly related to self-worth and lack of vision or meaning in one’s life. If you have hope for the future and a meaningful vision you’re driving toward, battling immediate gratification isn’t nearly as difficult.
What to do about it
Take time by yourself, get away from TV/internet, and reflect on what you find important. It’s very easy to just go to the job day in and day out and routinely do things because of some external stimulus (most commonly, money). However, it’s important to take time out of your schedule and really ponder where you are going, what you find important in life, etc.
Most of us are so busy with the day-to-day activities we never have a chance to think deeply in a quiet environment. When you are busy all the time it’s easy to bury the needs and wants of your true self. Once you start identifying and listening to that more many things will more easily fall into place.
Journal your problems daily. On a daily basis journal the things you are struggling with. This helps get things out in the open so you can more constructively deal with them and so they won’t sabotage your efforts.
Work on changing one habit at a time. Don’t try to change too much in your life at the same time. Focus on one or two things at the most. If you try for more you’re going to get discouraged and are likely to start doing things that are counterproductive. See the free book Transform Your Habits by James Clear (Submitting your email required).
You Can Greatly Improve Your Life – With Disciplined Effort
I know the above areas may seem like a lot to tackle, and it is, but the good news that over time you can greatly improve your personal freedom and meaning in life, away from your standard corporate job.
Good luck with your journey and if you have any thoughts on this article I’d love to hear from you.