The idea of a 9-5 job makes me cry.
When you slice and dice it, it’s a hodgepodge of hot mess.
The headline of this article comes from fellow writer Justin Welsh. His LinkedIn post bricked me in the face when I read it. Let’s rip the heads off his ideas and then go through a way better way.
The slow-cooked frog on its way to a speedy death
That’s how 9-5 jobs feel to me after escaping the corporate rat race.
You’re inside this huge corporate pot of water. The heat slowly gets turned up as you start a job at 40 hours per week and the tasks get thrown over the fence at you until they continue to pile up a mountain high.
Not everything in your career crashes and burns right away. You experience what I call intermittent burnout. Some weeks you’re fine. Other weeks it feels like you could walk away from it all despite the financial consequences.
As more of your free time gets vacuumed up by work, the time leftover for “play” vanishes into a black hole. Eventually you get smashed in the head by mental exhaustion.
It happened to me when I found myself leaving for work at 3 am so I could arrive before all my other bank colleagues. Why? Because I had a bad case of the flu and didn’t want to infect them. I also didn’t want to miss any client work. The flu combined with the workload nearly killed me.
As the employee frog dances with mental exhaustion the temperature of the pot of water they work in slowly starts to increase until they fry the life out of themselves and either die or change (what dies is reborn again).
All you have to do to be one of these cute little froggies is follow the modern-day business formula of a 9-5 job.
BS rewards will manipulate your behavior and make you do dumb stuff — all for the sake of extra money to buy luxury cars or holidays you don’t need.
After all, a healthy dose of work doesn’t require fantasy holidays to make you forget about work.
The unconscious trap
The majority of people don’t want to be there (at work). They’re there because they don’t know where else to be. Given a chance, many people would quit their 9-5, but their circumstances won’t allow it, or they simply haven’t identified what their passions are — Leah Njoki
We take the job for the supposed security it provides.
We tell ourselves it’s our passion or it’s closely aligned. Most of the time we’re lying to ourselves, or we simply haven’t experienced enough to know what real passion looks like.
So all is swell. It makes sense in our head.
Then tough economic times strike (like now). Businesses need to save money. Rather than cut back on free coffee or free lunches they usually like to fire their employees to save money. It’s their drug of choice. It’s a common hand dealt directly from the MBA playbooks of the greats.
All the virtue signaling and inclusion days are halted for a few months while the employee blood is shed. It’s a war zone out there, I tell ya.
In my last job, I watched innocent employees get gunned down by HR drill sergeants as a bat virus infected the planet.
Humans became lines in spreadsheets. Friends at work became friends to stay away from because they were on the HR hit list.
Nobody wanted to be within an inch of an employee about to get the kiss of death in that economy. So we watched from the sidelines as the war raged. We felt terrible … but every man for himself, right?
This is the equation we become a part of when we sign up for the 9-5 cubicle life. I don’t sit here smug either as I tell you this.
A few false moves and I could easily be back at a cubicle job selling the fake dream to customers that corporations will save them from whatever existential crisis they’re facing.
Make your own damn equation
Justin Welsh’s words really drove a nail of an idea into my brain. He suggests we create leverage and give ourselves options.
1. Build a community
Justin had “followers” tacked on the end of community but I changed it up.
Why? Chasing followers leads to an empty life. You run the risk of becoming an influencer. Gaining followers is about walking over as many dead bodies as you can to get the highest possible follower number.
A community is different. It’s based on what you have to give, not what you can get. A community helps you escape the single-lane life of a job by providing alternate pathways.
If you lead a community it can literally take you anywhere.
That community is leverage. You can input effort and have it compound through the effort of community members. As you progress the single-minded focus of simply making money becomes less interesting.
Communities can change things. They can drive missions. Missions transcend the boring idea of solely making money to buy more stuff.
2. Start a side project that makes money
Money buys freedom. Money buys time. Money buys optionality. Money buys a plan B, C, D and Z if you wish.
Now we could argue money doesn’t matter. But it does.
Remember: we work jobs and stay at them because they provide financial security. But if we didn’t need financial security and had four weeks to live we’d make entirely different decisions.
A side project buys the decision-making mindset a human with 4 weeks left to live has (the I-don’t give-f mindset).
Thanks to the internet any side project can make money. All it requires is enough curiosity and experimentation to figure it out.
Let Justin answer the immediate questions you’re likely to have with these two options…
Yes, it’s hard
No, this isn’t some fantasy unicorn path that’ll be easy. It has a degree of difficulty, but we can all achieve it.
It’s just hard enough that it will keep you self-motivated. Each step of the process will feel like progress — greater progress than you’re ever likely to feel in a dead-end cubicle job working for the man.
Yes, it takes time
I’ve never seen anyone pull this off in 30 days. The fastest is probably 12 months. Everyone is different. There’s no hurry. Everything happens in our own time. All that matters is you start.
Yes, you’ll put in work
This can’t be outsourced. No magical humans are going to enter your home and do the work for you. Doing the work, looking back, is one of the best parts. It’s what makes you self-made rather than a corporate-could-have.
Yes, you’ll probably get tired
Maybe you thought that this way of thinking was exempt from the perils of burnout and exhaustion. Nope. I’ve done it.
While you’re building you will get tired. Some days it will hurt like hell. But most days it’ll be the best decision of your life.
Bringing it all together
Becoming a community builder and monetizing a side project isn’t the easiest path to take in life. But as Justin says, “It’s better than being a continual victim of an ‘eggs in one basket’ strategy.”
Go from a victim to a creator.
That’s how you escape burnout, mental exhaustion, working 60 hours a week, and becoming a slow-cooked employee frog. Choice is yours.