Here’s how I define it:
- Impressing bosses
- Working for by-the-hour pay
- Overworking as a badge of honor
- Working towards the American Dream full of debt
- Chasing luxury purchases as if they’re the meaning of life
- Seeking a form of success you can’t even define (that has no meaning)
The rat race is where you follow what everybody else does as a way to find happiness and fulfillment. The more you don’t know the more you follow others, hoping to find your nirvana.
And you never find it.
It’s a hamster wheel to nowhere and it’s the default path in life taught by the education system and reinforced by the institutions that employ the masses.
I quit the rat race 2.5 years ago for three reasons:
- Got tired of being told what to do
- Wanted to get out of my comfort zone
- Wanted to find a deeper meaning than money
There’s one thing I didn’t expect…
I sometimes feel guilty for escaping the rat race
You’re not supposed to admit this.
None of the cool laptop lifestyle bloggers will ever say it — but it’s true. One colleague I used to work with reaches out to me every three months to have lunch. I can’t bring myself to sit down with him.
I like him but all he wants to do is talk about his job. It’s boring and I don’t understand that life anymore.
How do you explain to someone you’re friends with that you think their way of life is bullsh*t and it’s wasting their life, and forcing them not to reach their potential? It’s hard.
So I say nothing.
Sometimes I wonder whether I could help people like this. Maybe I could tell them the real life they’re living. Or teach them about finance. Or show them how their salary barely keeps up with the cost of living.
But I don’t. You can’t force people to see what the rat race is. They have to see it for themselves and then want to quit.
Graffiti artist Banksy once said “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”
That’s what is lost on so many people. Even if you become the CEO, get the Porsche, and buy the McMansion, you’re still a rat with no freedom that has little control of their schedule. You still have to get told what to do.
Not playing the below status games can help you escape the rat race faster.
Status Game 1 — Changing the world
This seems like a noble cause.
Like you should want it, shouldn’t you? Not necessarily. We don’t all need to be Nelson Mandela or to be successful.
Some days success to me is just getting to pick my kiddo up from daycare and hang out with her in nature. It may not impress others but it makes me happy. And happiness after all is what so many people are missing.
I’m somewhat of a hypocrite with this one. Five years ago I did want to change the world for billions of people. Now I prefer to help a few thousand people online and call it a day.
Changing the world in a big way takes a lot of effort and time. Maybe you don’t need to. Maybe changing a few lives is good enough. It is for me.
Status Game 2 — Leading lots of people
I’m sure you’ve seen entrepreneurs brag about having hundreds of employees. They want you to think it makes them special.
I don’t get it.
Hiring lots of people is a huge cost and burden. The same applies to General Managers. They’d often brag to me back in my banking days that they had hundreds of direct reports.
I saw it as a nightmare. All those performance reviews, 1–1s, salary reviews, KPIs — who could be bothered?
I’d rather manage a small team of 2–3 people and get to know each of them on a deeply personal level than have hundreds of faceless employees reporting to me so I can drop the number at a dinner party to look important.
Status Game 3 — Getting on rich lists like Forbes
I’ve met more than half of the names mentioned on the Forbes Rich List in my region of the world.
I’ll tell you one common trait: they’re douchebags with big egos who think money makes them special. I can’t think of one that’s nice to be around. They all just exist to make another transactions happen that increases their net worth and gets them on next year’s rich list.
Makes no sense. Rich lists are a PR stunt.
Instead of getting on a rich list, I’d rather make it on an anonymous of people who help those less fortunate than them without talking about it. Keanu Reeves did this with his foundation. Tim Ferriss did too.
Rich lists are for big egos. Meet a few of these rich listers and you’ll see what I mean.
Status Game 4 — Smashing the numbers
Those trapped by the invisible rat race love to talk about:
- Fastest user growth
- How much money their company raised
I don’t give a crap about any of that. I haven’t looked at the numbers of my online business properly since the start. And I sure as hell don’t give a crap about telling people these numbers.
The numbers of your life are a distraction.
A better question is…why? What’s the meaning of your life? What will your life have been about after you’re dead? What do your kids think of you? Who have you helped that can never repay you?
That’s the stuff that matters.
Status Game 5 — Buying luxury items to show you’re better than others
Buying luxury stuff secretly whispers “I’m insecure” to every person you meet. No one cares that you have some brand name car.
If anything — they freaking hate you for buying a BMW because they wish they had one. A luxury purchase feels good for a week. Then it feels same-same for the rest of your life while you bust your ass to pay it off.
Don’t fall for the luxury game.
Status Game 6 — Being who “they” want you to be
This is the least talked about status game.
And I was an absolute sucker for this one. Instead of being myself in my career, I was who the bosses wanted me to be.
I did as I was told. I worked late. I followed orders even when it meant bankrupting a customer who didn’t deserve to be. I felt like I lived two lives: one where I did what they wanted me to do, and another where I felt like doing the opposite.
Being someone you know you’re not is exhausting. It takes a huge amount of time and energy.
It’s just easier to be yourself.
When you do, life gets better. You feel like what you say and do is in alignment with the rest of your life. You stop being a puppet on strings. You stop dressing in a clown suit with a pink tie. And you quit saying what people want to hear.
Towards the end of my rat race career in banking, I started speaking my mind (respectfully). What I found is the big bosses actually appreciated it because everyone else was feeding them bullsh*t.
It worked against me because instead of leaving the rat race, I started to get promoted to better jobs haha.
Bringing it all together
The rat race is a hamster wheel to nowhere.
It takes advantage of human’s primal instincts to be ahead of the pack. So many of us live this life and we’re not aware of it. Once you see it for what it is, only then do you have the chance to escape.
Consider living a life that transcends status games and trades them for more meaning.