Escape the 9 to 5 is a series of why and how I am planning on leaving corporate America. I talked about my education and career background in my previous post.Which has everything to do with my ultimate decision of why I am choosing to escape the 9 to 5.
The company should and will take care of you, right?
People want job security, but that’s a thing of the past. Even the utility company I worked for were laying people off left and right. Many of my coworkers were shocked that it would even happen to them. Their families have been working there for generations. It was the good old days where you work there for 30 years then retire happily after with a nice pension. Not only is that not the case anymore, employers would often want employees to take voluntary severance so the company can end up paying you less. I felt bad as that was exactly what happened to many of my coworkers.
I have experienced significant amount of layoffs in all three companies I worked or am working for. In a sense that I kind of just got numb as I am used to it. Nor was I ever really concerned for myself because I don’t ever take my job too seriously. Since I was younger and cheaper, I could always find another job. But it was never fun when a layoff happened. The atmosphere was simply depressing and it certainly sucked the life out of you.
Rising income doesn’t translate to happiness
When I first went from a broke college kid to making a full-time salary, I felt like I was on top of the world. From surviving on instant noodles to eating out and going to bars, life was indeed quite good. But as I mentioned, it does get quite old after a while. Plus I got kind of overweight and out of shape.
Every time I changed jobs, I got a bump in salary. At the same time I had gotten a few raises and bonuses throughout my careers. Since I am not a big spender nor have any significant lifestyle inflation by keeping up with the Jones, making more money became less and less exciting for me.
My savings and investment accounts continued to climb up. But besides the comfort the savings provide, which are something I could fall back on, it really didn’t bring me additional significant happiness.
Full-time job = your life
Don’t underestimate the 9 to 5, 40-hour week that you spend working, it’s actually more than you think. Even though I only work 40 hours a week, but if you add everything up, it’s actually a lot. When you add the time you spend commuting, getting ready, running errands and others, your work week is basically gone.
No wonder why most people don’t do much during week nights. Oftentimes people are so exhausted from work that they just needed to relax on the weekends. Could you imagine that the majority of the people actually work anywhere from 40 to 60 hours a week? Some even work 80+ hours a week.
My point is that you are spending so much time on your job that is basically your life. The question is, do you actually love it? Since you are spending the majority of your life on your job, you better lovvvvvvve your job. Unfortunately not that many people can say that, myself included, even though I really shouldn’t be complaining.
At the end of the day, we all need to provide for ourselves and family. I feel bad for people with kids, especially with newborns that the parents would agree that they spend more time with their coworkers than their kids.
I am valuing more and more of my time, as it is the most expensive commodity I own. When you are used to your 9 to 5 job, it’s unbelievable how quickly time slips away. Over the course of the past few years, I had my fare share of “work-life balance”. But more and more I would ask myself that if it weren’t for the paycheck, what would I do with my life? What would I want to achieve before the next 5 to 10 years slip by?
Getting caught up in the rat race
The world we live in today are only getting more and more competitive. Globalization, population increase and automation via internet and machines are some of the reasons for an ever increasing competitive environment. Asia is especially worse. For instance, kids would go through tremendous amount of pressure and studying to get good grades.
Recently I saw some behind the scene videos that showed how hard some Chinese startup employees work. The companies would literally provide them bunk beds in the office so they can spend all of their waking hours working! Many employees would even go on days without seeing their kids.
There is nothing wrong with that. Fueled by ambitions, money and fame, people and companies are trying to get to the top. This is actually really good for the economy as it drives innovations and developments. But the question to ask is, are you truly happy and could see yourself doing this for much extended periods?
How does the society determine success?
Everyone has a different definition of success. But for most businesses and companies, it is about gaining market shares, getting bigger and leaner so that you can bring in more to the bottom line, aka profits. For most people in the corporate world, it’s about advancing in their careers, aka climbing the corporate ladder, which comes in rising salaries, benefits and perhaps power.
It seemed like how the society defines individual’s success as the amount of money one has. “This dude I know lives in this big gorgeous house and drives a fancy car” or “they go on vacations in luxury resorts all the time”. I am sure many of you have heard something like this before. It’s the perception of having nice things that somehow defines success.
Did you know guys in China wouldn’t be able to get a wife if he doesn’t have a house and a car?
How I determine success?
As you may have guessed, climbing the corporate ladder and having lots of money doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I do enjoy my current job, but I feel like there’s so much more in life that I want to accomplish.
I believe success is being able to live the life you want to live, and doing things on your own terms while bringing value to the society.
As I think about this question, I think it comes comes down to the basics: what matters to me? What are my passions and what am I hoping to achieve?
What I want to focus on?
The first thing that comes to mind is that I want to have more time to travel. I love the excitement of being at a new place, meeting new people and learning new perspectives. My current employer and boss treat me very well, and I have no complaints. But working in a 9 to 5 job, it doesn’t allow me to have the time to truly experience a new country and culture.
Second, by traveling and exposing myself to new things, I can learn and bring awareness to different issues I care about. As people and companies are caught up in the rat race, we are ignoring and making a lot of negative impacts on things like the environment, animals and even human rights. Animal cruelty is probably the biggest issue that is dear to my heart. Especially after having a dog of my own, my dog Buddy completely changed my views and perceptions of the animals and the environment.
Third, I want to have more meaningful relationship with my family and the two most important women in my life, my mom and girlfriend Sara. Asian family values are quite different from the west. I feel we tend to be way less intimate than western families. Mainly due to the fact that Asian are so focused on school and careers. If all the kids are spending so much time studying, how much time do you think there is left for the family? At the same time, Sara and I share the passion of traveling and many issues, and I can’t wait for the new adventures to come.
My Asian education background and upbringing didn’t allow me to have the time for personal development. I didn’t know what I was passionate or developing certain interest because I was so caught up in my studies. Combined with being caught in the corporate world, it took me years to realize that the typical 9 to 5 is no longer for me.
The question I have for you is: if it weren’t for the paycheck, what would you rather be doing that can bring you a more meaningful and fulfilling life?
Now, the next obvious question is that, what am I going to do with money if I am escaping my 9 to 5 job? Consider I don’t have a trust fund or had made tons of money already, I will talk about the options in my next article.