What To Do If You’re Jealous Of Your Friends’ Jobs?
Very recently I was having a conversation with a good friend who works for an up and coming technology company. This company doesn’t quite have the risk of a startup nor the safety of an established enterprise. She’s got stock options, lives in the city of her dreams, and is dating an aspiring entrepreneur and fellow highly paid tech worker who has begun prototyping his inventions. Many people would kill for her situation. Naturally, I was surprised when she said “When I left my old company, I figured everything would be different. I wish I could do what you’re doing and just be out on my own.”
My secret is that I’ve thought once or twice (or maybe even three times) about heading back into the traditional workforce and getting a standard 9 to 5. Or going to work for a company slightly larger than Monte Largo, where I can do more financial planning and less administrative “CEO” stuff. It appears that while my friend and others like her have been jealous of my life, I’ve been equally flirtatious with jealousy toward hers.
But here’s the tough truth. The grass is never greener on the other side. The working world isn’t the world in which we were designed to thrive. Even job turnover among physicians hit an all time high in 2013*. And doesn’t everyone want to be a doctor…or at least believe that doctors have it so much better than the rest of us? While the details of individual struggles might differ, one constant remains – everyone is searching for something different, while the people who have that something different might be searching for exactly what you have.
What’s a working man to do? Realizing that the grass is never greener gives us two big options. Option 1: we can keep trying to chase that elusive dream until the day that we retire or magically find it. Or Option 2: we can remove ourselves from the race altogether. Rather than trying to find fulfillment from work – which is possible but difficult in any organization large enough to need an HR department – we can find fulfillment in other ways.
If work was enough – in fact, if work had ever been enough – people wouldn’t have started families, taken up hobbies, changed careers dozens of times, retired early, demanded more benefits, put alcohol in their morning coffee, stockpiled cash in accounts labeled “Fuck You Money,” or slept with their bosses. Work has always been the thing that pays the bills while life is what happens between 5pm and 9am.
So how do we remove ourselves from the race? A good start is to do a few things on the above list. Retiring early without hobbies, a family, friends to share your morning coffee with, or a big pile of money in the bank is a recipe for disaster. Whenever I hear “Oh I could never retire early, I’d get bored if I didn’t work,” I can’t help but think how uncreative that person must believe themselves to be. Or at the very least how boring their life outside of work must be right now.
I can’t blame them. We’ve been conditioned from a very young age to expect someone to manage our time for us from the hours of 9am – 5pm (and sometimes much later). What would one do with an extra 8 hours of life every day? Nigel Marsh gives one of my favorite TED Talks on the subject of designing your life (although it sounds like Nigel needs to be turned on to the financial independence movement to remove that pesky “work” piece of his pie).
“If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you” is perhaps the most salient quote from the talk, but I’d go a step further. If you don’t design your life, no one will find you strange because sadly, very few people design their lives in a meaningful way. In a few weeks, I’m coming out with a post on the ins and out of financial independence that will detail designing life without work further, but for now, take stock of the many things that others decide for you.
You wake up at a certain time because your job dictates when you must be present. You retire at a certain age because the government says that’s when you can draw from your retirement account or your company says that when you can get your pension. You eat meals at certain times because otherwise you’d miss a meeting someone else put on your calendar.
Removing yourself from the rat race doesn’t sound so bad, now does it? There’s only one place where the grass is actually greener, and it’s the place where you call the shots.
Nathan is the Chief Financial Advisor at Monte Largo Financial
*The last year for which data is available