If you have a job, that means you’re just over broke. You’re trading time for money. You’re working for the man. You read blog posts telling you to quit your job. You’re told entrepreneurship is the wave of the future.
Society has turned the job into an enemy. We complain about our jobs, blame our jobs for our problems, and desperately wish to escape our jobs to alleviate our anxiety.
I have news for you. Your job isn’t the problem. You are.
I needed running shoes, so I went to the mall and walked into Footlocker. I expected one of the employees to come up and ask me if I needed help, but no one came.
Instead, I saw two staff members leaning on the front counter talking to each other. They were talking about how they didn’t like working at a shoe store. How they didn’t get paid enough and how they wanted out.
I thought to myself, “Why would anyone pay you more? You’re not even doing a good job right now.”
I left and went to another store. The attendant greeted me right away. I bought the same pair of shoes I was eyeing at the previous store.
Here’s where the delusion comes in. If you suck at your current job, you’re not going to magically perform well at a better job, or when you get started on your own.
If you can’t handle the smallest amount of responsibility you currently have, there’s no way you’ll do well with more, or in the case of being an entrepreneur — all of it.
What if you chose to be great at your job, even if you didn’t like it?
Millionaire business owner Grant Cardone says to be successful, “get good at what you hate.” If you can rise to the challenge in a position you dislike, you’ll be ready for the challenges that come with a new position or being the head of your own company.
Your attitude about your work is a choice. The level of performance you give is a choice.
Many people act like they’re being forced to work at their current job and to hate it, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Nobody Put a Gun to Your Head
In the movie Fight Club, there’s a scene involving the main character, Tyler Durden, and a convenience store owner.
Tyler points a gun at the store owner and orders him to the back alley behind the store. He tells the owner, Raymond K. Hessle, to kneel on the ground and points the gun at the back of his head execution-style.
He tells Raymond to pull out his wallet. In it, he finds an old student I.D. He asks Raymond what he went to school for. Raymond tells Tyler he was studying to become a veterinarian. Tyler then asks him why he quit.
“Too much time,” Raymond says.
Tyler tells Raymond if he isn’t in veterinary school in the next 6 weeks, he’s going to come back to the store and kill him. After Raymond scurries home, Tyler looks up says, “Tomorrow will be the best day of Raymond K. Hessle’s life.”
By threatening him with death, he removes his excuses. He’s left with only one reasonable choice — follow his old dream. In a twisted way, he’s free, because he has to act.
In real life, no one threatens us with death to pursue a calling. Instead, we act as if we’ve been coerced into doing the opposite.
Nobody put a gun to your head and told you to find a job that doesn’t pay you what you think you deserve.
No one is forcing you to be unhappy. You’re choosing to live and feel this way.
Yes, it can be difficult to change your career, go to night school while you hold down a job and take care of your kids, or start a side project outside of your 9 to 5.
But you could decide to do these things. Your circumstances are a reflection of your choices.
If you want to act like there’s a gun to your head, why not do it the other way around? Put a metaphorical gun to your head in terms of building a better future for yourself.
How? By making inaction the worst-case scenario in your life.
The Good News, and the Bad News
You’re going to die. Maybe today, tomorrow, a year, or ten years from now This fact looms over our heads, but we don’t acknowledge it enough. You want to change your situation. You want a better career or a calling. Deep down, you know you’re not giving the world your full effort, but you feel like you still have time.
There’s always tomorrow, or next week, or next month. You tell yourself you’re going to break out of the job you hate…eventually.
But it never happens. You look up to find yourself filled with regret over what you could’ve done. You’re older, have less energy, and are resigned to the role you currently have.
A job isn’t just a job. It’s literally a third of your life. You could spend that third of your life hating what you do or a best tolerating it, but it would be such a waste.
The stoic philosopher Seneca discusses our relationship with time and death at length in his collection of essays — The Shortness of Life.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.”
When I’m afraid to write my next book, feel doubt when working on a new product for my business, or am petrified when I’m about to speak on stage in front of 1,000 people, I think of Seneca’s words.
He also says,
“Life is long if you know how to use it.”
That’s what makes finding the right work so important. How you choose to spend a third of your life will make it seem longer or shorter.
That being said, your job isn’t the cause of your animosity, it’s a symptom of your choices. It’s on you to change.
Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
Let’s say you want to quit your job and start your own business. You’ll never get there if you continue to just think about it. You need a plan.
The plan starts with an idea. How do you find an idea? I wrote an entire post about discovering your talents and strengths, but the process includes tips like:
- Taking personality and career assessment tests
- You can ask your friends what they think you’re good at.
- Thinking back to things you were passionate about as a child
- Going to the bookstore and finding a section where you’d read every book on the shelf
- Studying your behavior — what do you read or watch that makes you go “hmmm… I’d like to do that myself”
Once you have a solid idea, you need to act on it.
Maybe that means doing market research, creating a minimum viable product and trying to sell it to someone, writing your first blog post, whatever.
In the process of refining your idea, you also need to seriously consider your contingencies.
How much money will you need to feel comfortable quitting? How much will you have to earn per month to ensure you’ll stay afloat? What does your real ideal life actually look like — including the place you want to live, the experiences you want to have, and even the material possessions you want — considering these things… actually writing these things down gives you clarity and purpose.
The same thinking goes for getting a raise, promotion, or switching careers. You must know what type of salary you want, the responsibilities you want to have, and the price you’re willing to pay to make the switch.
Once your plan is in place, act. Go to your boss and layout a plan to improve your performance over the next 6 months. Find contacts on LinkedIn and ask them out to coffee. Come up with creative resume ideas and send them out.
You’d be surprised what a little planning and action can do for your life.
The next time your boss is getting on your nerves, remember you’re choosing to work for him or her. Remember you’re choosing to take their directions as micro-management instead of thinking of them as a challenge.
When you go home and crack open a beer for Thursday night football after a long day’s work, you could be doing something more productive. I’m not saying you have to — far from it — but it’s important to realize you’re the one making the decisions.
The world is not conspiring against you. You’re not special — someone else with your exact set of circumstances has changed their situation before.
Many people scoff at statements like these. “But you don’t understand!” they say.
No, I do understand. I’ve had shitty jobs and shitty bosses before. It sucks. I’ve been in what felt like an inescapable pit of laziness.
I also figured out how to change. I learned how to take responsibility for my life and realize I was the problem, not my circumstances.
You can do the same. You can find better work, do something meaningful, or walk your own path.
Just remember the keyword and variable in all of it — you.