I took the role society assigned me because I couldn’t make my own decision. I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. I just wanted to do what all my friends did so things wouldn’t be weird at weekend parties.
Like many of you, my job got me in a lot of trouble.
We’re all replaceable (even if we won’t admit it)
In 2019 I got a 6-figure job.
I announced it on LinkedIn to roughly 200,000 followers like a stupid influencer idiot. People high-fived me. My phone lit up with text messages. I even filmed a silly video of my first day at the job. Cringe.
6 months later I got fired.
I hid the embarrassment for a few weeks. Finally, in a rush of emotion I told everyone via LinkedIn that I got fired.
The bizarre part I remember the most from the whole experience was my final minutes at the company. My boss brought me into a meeting room and fired me. He said I had a few minutes to get my things together.
Normally when this happens there’s a farewell party. But we agreed not to have one because we both knew this was deeply embarrassing for me. As crazy as it sounds, the policy at the company was for my boss to walk me out of the building to ensure I didn’t steal or break anything.
In the lift on the way down to the street, I had all my things. One of them was a wireless Logitech keyboard. My boss interrogated me like the FBI.
He wanted to make sure I wasn’t stealing company property.
I had to explain how my former employer gave me the fancy $200 keyboard as part of my farewell gift when I quit.
I got the feeling he didn’t quite believe me. But for some strange reason he let it go. That’s when the first lesson hit me.
Every one of us is disposable. Most of us are so worthless to our employers that they’ll argue with us over who owns what keyboard because they have the power. They know they can easily get another one of you.
This unfair use of power never sat well with me. I had a job only as long as I was needed and could follow someone else’s rules.
If I wanted to question my job or how it was done, then I’d likely be fired or thrown under a corporate bus at performance time, thus crushing my annual income.
Nice words don’t mean what you think
The corporate world is full of nice words.
On the surface everyone is so damn nice. They all have your back. One afternoon I got the call. A family member who helped raise me was in the hospital and had roughly 8 hours to live.
I needed to leave work early.
My boss said nice words and gave me permission. Then 30 mins before I had to leave she called me into an impromptu meeting. The hours ticked away. I was so angry.
That’s when I figured out nice words rarely mean anything. People pretend to act kind at work because they have to. It’s their reputation. But what matters are their actions, which are often disconnected from their words.
Talk is cheap.
Outworking one another is corporate hunger games
Every job I’ve ever had has been a silent competition.
KPIs are the sports scoreboard of the corporate world. And I learned to hate them.
Often people were worshipped or scolded based on these metrics. The problem was total morons who treated people like crap and played short-term games that were bad for the company would reach the top of the KPI mountain and get praised.
One guy I worked with hit the highest revenue numbers in the team. They gave him a ceremony and all. We all thought to ourselves as we watched “yeah, but he’s an a-hole and he tried to rape one of our colleagues.”
It didn’t matter. Still to this day people think he’s a revenue god, but I don’t think that matters if your character is no better than Hitler.
Watching these corporate hunger games makes you tired.
As silly as it sounds, I came to realize I didn’t own my work, relationships, sales revenue, or even my computer or phone.
Everything a job gave me was rented. I was on borrowed time.
And as soon as I left the company I’d have to give it all back and start again. When I got fired the company didn’t miss a beat.
They found someone else to call unhappy customers and threaten them with legal action (worst job of my life). I haven’t spoken to the old team I thought loved me since I left.
Some are still there. Some are still aimlessly wandering. And a few have seen the light and gone and done their own ventures.
When you pay off a home loan you eventually own the home. But what I realized at my various jobs is I never would become an owner, which means I’m always at someone else’s mercy and vulnerable to recessions, bosses, layoffs, and pay cuts.
Own or be owned is my new philosophy.
The boring routine is hard to maintain
Every day of my job life felt the same.
- Wake up earlier than I wanted to.
- Eat breakfast as fast as possible, or not at all.
- Spend over an hour commuting to an office while being jammed into buses and trains like sardines.
- Work in an office with white walls, grey carpet, and zero artistic inspiration.
- Try to be inspired and become bored by 11 am.
- Go home at around 5 pm and waste another hour of my life stuck in a confined space with strangers (some) who smelled like a toilet.
- See my girlfriend for 30 mins.
- Turn on the tv and watch a Marvel superhero movie.
- Then drop dead and go to sleep.
- Wake up again the next day and repeat.
- Get 4 weeks of holidays a year.
The repetition was enough to make me go mad. I couldn’t tell whether it was January or June. It all felt the same. Whole chunks of my life can no longer be identified.
I kept thinking “is this all there is?”
It felt like there was a lot missing but I had no clue how to fill the void. What I now know is I was avoiding fear. I knew there was another way. We all know that deep down.
But I was too comfortable to do anything about it. “One day” turned into someday” which turned into “never.”
What rewired my brain
While I sat at home unemployed for 6 months, I had a lot of forced time to think. It did me a lot of good.
I became honest with myself.
I thought a lot about money too. “What if I didn’t need so much money?” That felt like a lightbulb moment.
One of the reasons I worked all these lifeless jobs was to make decent money so I could afford to live close to offices where the money got made.
But if I didn’t need to live near an office then I could live further away and, in some cases, earn more than 50% less.
It’s for this reason I hope the work-from-home movement really does become the norm. It will save so many people money, and, perhaps, maybe they won’t need to go through the problems I went through.
Bringing it all together
As you probably guessed I quit my 6-figure job.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. What may surprise you is it remains a hard decision. I’m still scared I’ll fail as a solopreneur.
But all I can do is show up every day and give my best. At least I have meaning, creativity, and autonomy back in my life. They’re what I had to sacrifice most in my 9–5 career.
What this all means is you don’t need to quit a job. It is worth re-evaluating how you think about a job, though. It may cause you to change path. Or care less about your job. Or maybe even start a side hustle.
Tread an uncommon career path. You can often find more meaning.