Escaping the 9 to 5 Job and Feeling Good About it

You hear it all the time – whether its from a commercial, a movie, or a friend who recently graduated college. I heard it this past Thanksgiving at an Asian get-together from the dads at the dinner table. Their logic was: “yes, jobs suck but that suffering must be undergone before you can move on to something better.”

…WHAT? What is this self-sacrificial mindset? This…seemingly super-Asian/confucian, “shit Asian dads say” wisdom? Call me a rebel or just plain young and ambitious but I believe the thoughts and beliefs of immigrant Chinese fathers were not solely shaped by experience but also the society in which they (and American fathers in general) grew up.

So, what is a job?

Think back to when you had your primordial conception of what a job was. If you are like me, it probably stemmed from your dad. You picked up on it quick – dad leaves at 8:30am and comes home at 5:30pm, working a 9-5 job throughout the week and relaxes during the weekend. That repetition, along with what you learned in school and from the media have inflated the idea of a job into the American destiny.

There is a notion of plateaus, hurdles and stages in life that are pre-set for you: you go to grade school, attend college, graduate, get a job, start a career get married and then retire. Fantastic. You know what this sounds like? That’s right – the Industrial Revolution. We’re nothing but products being assembled down a line on the conveyor belt of “life” that society has impinged upon us.

A pass-me-down discipline of hard work mixed with a mindless attitude of slaving away in what we conceive as stages of life…no wonder I feel like a nihilist! Pause. Now, I apologize if I just ruined your day and made you feel trapped. Let me make it up to you and tell you that life doesn’t have to suck. To live the life you want, escape the notions of a job and feel good about it you need to understand three things: (1) Time is your most precious asset, (2) you stop growing when you stop learning, and (3) The law of Effection.

Enter MJ DeMarco

MJ DeMarco is the founder of limos.com who sold his business twice. He is the author of The Millionaire Fastlane and an entrepreneur. Now, I’m not championing any guru-talk or “get rich fast” formulas or gimmicks but his philosophy provides a unique viewpoint I believe a lot of people in today’s society don’t comprehend. His philosophy holds that there are three kinds of people: sidewalkers, slowlaners and fastlaners.

  1. Sidewalker: those who live from paycheck to paycheck. You know, the target audience for the JG Wentworth “It’s my money and I need it now!” ads, that guy who put 22-inch chrome rims on a shitty 1994 Toyota Camry or any teen-star from “16 and Pregnant”.
  2. Slowlaner: your typical, run-of-the-mill, stuck in a 9-5 career artist. Chances are, he’s your dad, she’s your mom, and probably even YOU! The type of person who works his ass off and retires in his “golden” years.
  3. Fastlaner: the entrepreneur who lives wealthy and retires whenever he or she wants.

Without getting into too much detail on his book, here are the three applicable key take-aways to help you break free from the traditional notion of a “job” and build a mindset that helps you get the most out of life.

Time is your most precious asset

Take a deep breath and a moment to think about this: today’s average job requires you to work 9 to 5 from Monday to Friday. So, if you were born after 1960, graduate at 22 from college and build a career working at a traditional slowlaner job, you would retire at age 67 (according to the Social Security Administration). You would have spent 45 years working instead of enjoying your youth and only have your “golden years” left.

Have you ever been on a cruise ship? No offense but the elderly people do NOT look like they are enjoying themselves like they would have been had they been 40 years younger. Working a traditional 9-5 job means you’re trading 5 working days for 2 days of freedom. That’s a negative ROI if you hate your job.

“But Tim, I need to make money. Money makes the world go round.” Wrong. Money is abundant. Time is dearth.

Time is your most precious asset because we all run on limited time. In the grand scheme of things, time is king. Spend it frugally; spend it with friends and family, use it to make connections with other people and build strong relationships but above all, don’t give your time to someone else by working a job you hate. Here are some examples on how to be frugal with time:

  1. You find two used TVs for sale on Craigslist. One is $10 cheaper but the pick-up location is 40 minutes farther. Quit being cheap. Cough up the extra $10.
  2. You’re a student and it’s summer time. You can’t find an internship so instead you work at Ben and Jerry’s or Hollister to make some extra cash. Instead, take your creativity and channel it into something entrepreneurial. A lot of people at job interviews have prior “job” experiences; set yourself apart with prior entrepreneurial activities by starting your own t-shirt store.

Maybe I sound like the devil on your shoulder asking you to give in to temptation and buy that $5 coffee latte. Unless you’re shoulder-high in debt, go ahead and indulge yourself; grab coffee with a friend, catch up and spend your time strengthening your relationship with people. Give to them and who knows what you’ll receive in return.

You Stop Growing when You Stop Learning

A professor once pointed out something missing in every movie these days that feature a bedroom. I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about books. When was the last time you saw a bookshelf in the scene of a movie? A wise woman once said to never sleep with a guy if he brings you home and he doesn’t have any books; I’m not going that far but I echo DeMarco’s point that you stop growing when you stop learning.

Learning doesn’t stop after formal education. It doesn’t stop when you graduate. Learning stops when you’re six feet under. If you’re stuck in a dead-end 9 to 5 job you hate, maybe you should re-evaluate your personal growth. When was the last time you learned something new? When was the last time you tried something new? My bookshelf is full of books because I’m on the constant quest to better myself.

“But Tim, I’m out of college, I work a strenuous job and I don’t have time!” …Really? Can I call your bluff? Of course you have time – time during lunch, time during your commute, time after dinner. During my past three summer internships, I spent my lunches, commutes, and time after dinner reading books, watching RSA and TED Talks, listening to audio podcasts, doing P90X workouts, and more. You have to find that drive inside of yourself. If you want change and personal growth, YOU have to make it happen.

Start with this:

  • Goal: learn something new in a field you’re interested in
  • Cost: $0 (library/online) or cost of books
  • Set a specific goal with specific results by month-end. For example, if your goal was to learn how to program an iPhone app, by month-end, finish programming a simple iPhone app that you would be proud of.

Here’s how to go about it:

  • Lunch: order in or bring your own lunch. Instead of socializing, spend three out of your five lunches learning something new by reading or watching TED Talks.
  • Commute: get an audio version of your book or download podcasts and listen to them on your way to and from work.
  • Free time: drop that remote and stop watching those TV show! Instead, hit the gym or practice what you’ve learned. If your goal was to learn a language or program and iPhone app – put that to use!

If I was able to tidy and automate my finances in one summer and complete all 90 days of P90X in another summer, you can too.

The Law of Effection

Want to know a secret? The last two subjects were actually steps to help you become what DeMarco describes as a Fastlaner! (Tim you sneaky motherfu-) Once you’ve adopted the right mindset (super important) and set aside time to start pursuing what you really want, you only have one last step to living the lifestyle you want on your OWN time.

Take your passion and make it a business. The key is the Law of Effection and that states: impact millions in either scale or magnitude. This breaks down to simple economics:

units sold x profit per unit = total profit

If you can sell your product or service a million times or command a high margin on your product or service, then you’re on your way to impacting millions and becoming wealthy. Obviously easier said than done.

MJ DeMarco’s The Millionaire Fastlane is not only a delightful read but also shares some very eye-opening points of view that would definitely help anyone stuck in a 9-5 move into the fastlane.

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