Journey of the Broke
Another day, another dollar. Fighting the good fight. That’s the mantra of the many in the workforce. There’s nothing wrong with hard work and everything right with it. The challenge is getting something worthwhile in return. We’re told that the secret to success is to go to school, get a degree, and get that safe-and-secure job. The first two are easily disproved, but the latter has a very strong, almost religious, following. But what if we’ve been spoofed?
The Dirt: I have a good job
It’s kind of like having good cancer. Is there really such thing? I suppose I’d rather have prostate cancer than pancreatic cancer (10x the survival rate) but at the end of the day, it’s just a matter of bad or worse. I’m being quite cynical upfront here, but I will put forth several reasons why it may be worth considering other forms of income – and there are quite a few out there – that can put you in a better position for life success.
Should you have a job? Absolutely yes. There are many beneficial reasons not limited to work experience/skill development, learning how to follow before you lead, appreciating ownership should you have it someday, and providing capital and seed money for other, hopefully important, things. As designed, and as it’s become apparent in the last couple of decades, a job is a temporary situation. No part of your job will last long-term, including you having it. This is okay if you understand it and can accept it.
By the way, I’m not pooping on your job as it’s better to have a job than to not have one…I think. I had a job of one sort or another for 25 years of my life with my last job being a relatively good one by most measures. I’m pooping on the expectation that your job will provide you the income, the security, the happiness, and the success you want in life. Can it? Yes. Will it? Well, will you win the lottery? I don’t know, but it’s a tough bet to make if that’s what you’re betting your entire life on.
No ownership or control
Imagine you’re in a car speeding down the highway. This car may have a windshield, but you’re not sure. It may have a driver (good or bad), but you’re similarly not sure. You’re in the trunk. You know where you want it to go, but you have no control over where it does go. And it’s not even your car. If it somehow doesn’t crash along the way, a crash you may or may not survive, you’ll eventually be out of the trunk. In the likely chance you haven’t saved enough to buy your freedom, you’re now left looking for another trunk to hop in. Sound terrifying?
It’s never a good feeling when things around us are not in our control. It’s a violation of our freedom, for what is freedom but having 100% control of our lives. We’re told and often believe that hard work pays off. This is true but only if we’re doing the right things. Banging our heads against a wall and planting seeds in a garden are both hard work, but only one will have a good harvest. So we work hard at a job and then comes the business decision to downsize, right-size, outsource, cut costs, or the litany of other reasons why people get tossed away. And when it happens to us, we’re surprised!
Even if everything goes well at the company, we were already paid, more or less, for your effort. We were compensated for our time and helped the owners or shareholders build something of much higher value. If we were fortunate to share in the ownership, kudos to us. If not, it’s on to the next job to build yet another person’s dream. When is it our turn?
Can’t get paid what you’re worth
Outside of exorbitant C-suite salaries, it will be very difficult to get paid what we’re truly worth at a job. That’s not to say we cannot get paid well enough to live, but becoming wealthy at it is often not in the cards. Remember that we are getting paid mainly for our time and not as much for our effort. As so often happens, there is a disconnect between effort and income as we work overtime for an extra dollar per hour or worse yet, for not a penny more. The latter is called salary and whichever business owner invented this was a genius.
Nonetheless, this is really a math problem. No, not those tough ones from school, but a very simple one of basic arithmetic. If we provide $100k of value to the company and the company pays us $100k, then the company makes no profit on us. This is unsustainable and the company will go out of business. There must be a spread on us – the amount of money a company makes on our production over what they pay us. It is imperative that the spread cover not only the light bill, cost of goods, and other overhead, but also those very nice compensation packages for the owners and top executives who are steering the car.
Again, it’s not a judgement on whether we can make enough money to live and be okay. For most, we’ve been beaten down to keep our dreams and goals small enough to meet our income instead of increasing our income to match those big dreams we had when we were younger. If we consider that time is life, getting paid for our time is simply determining the value of our life…according to us.
Loyalty is a one-way street
Crap may flow downhill, but loyalty flows uphill. From you to your manager, from your manager to their manager. From the CEO to the board. From the board to the investors. Again, not a judgement, just the way it must work for a company to stay in business. Would YOU ever put another person’s family before your own, day in and day out, on all important matters related to career, money, wealth, and success? And you’re supposed to feel lucky to even have a job.
Let’s not forget that in a larger company, our manage is an employee as well. Moreover, they are probably not making a whole lot more than we are, even with the significantly higher responsibility. To expect them to be in a position that even allows them to care about you in the way you are hoping could be an exercise in futility. Even if they are nice people, they probably have the same challenges you do, if not more.
And just to put loyalty in perspective, no matter how good we are our job, there’s always someone else as good or better. And our company knows it. This gives the company more leverage than us, especially if we’re not in a very highly skilled position. Though even if we are, it’s still not safe, for we can get taken down by the light bill. In a choice between paying our salary and paying the light bill, there is only one option for the company and it’s not us. That’s right, we’ve just been taken down by a utility statement.
The tangible intangibles
We all know life is hard and that’s okay. It can be hard now, hard later, or both. I often hear how hard it is to build a business, be a successful entrepreneur, or just do anything for oneself. No doubt, all of these things are hard. Probably harder than we’d ever expect upfront. But isn’t it also hard to work tirelessly at a job for little compensation for 40 years, trading our life away, and stressing about it every day? So hard is here, it’s just a matter of what we will get for it in return.
And for the struggle, what kind of appreciation do we get? How often do we hear about doing a great job as opposed to the times when we screw up? There are countless surveys that show appreciation and fulfillment rank ahead to monetary compensation when determining what’s important to people at their job. Sure, we can always delude ourselves into believing we love our job – it’s a natural defense mechanism to help us sleep at night. But when that’s put to the test, when faced with the question of what we would do if we had $39 million in the bank, we’d rather be somewhere else.
And at the end of the day, we’re trying to win in a natural world practicing an unnatural way of life. One of the first principles of nature is that we sow then reap. We are supposed to plant the seed, care for it, feed it, and help it grow in to a strong, fruit-bearing tree that will supply us an ample harvest forever. Yet, we’ve found a way to perverse this principle by giving employees a bite of the fruit first and expecting us to work hard in appreciation for the small taste and the delusion that we’ll always have access to the tree.
The good news is that we can accept where we are in our jobs, but we don’t have to settle for it. There are a myriad of ways to earn income in this country outside of the W-2 model. We just have to start with a dream (again) and be open to the abundant opportunities that are designed to get us there. And if big dreaming is still not our style, at least can take personal control and put a few nuts away for the eventual winter of our lives and survive.
“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY and they meet at the bar.”
I do appreciate you for spending time with me. Please share this with the 5 people who believe their job will retire them. You just might save a life. Looking forward to meeting you at the top, ‘cause the bottom’s way too crowded.