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Do You Have a Job or a Career?

High-value men stand out in their ability to change their relationship with money - instead of working for it, they make money work for them. They do this by earning more than they spend and investing the surplus. Initially, this surplus is small because they are embarking on their careers - they are acquiring skills, learning how to take risks, and building their networks. Over time, they become masters in a very specific area in which they attain exceptional success. That surplus grows exponentially because the growth in their income outpaces the growth in their spending. They invest their surplus income wisely in the stock market or their own businesses. They do not spend their money on stupid shit like Italian sports cars and hairless cats.

Those working in jobs have a fundamentally different view of money. For them, a job is a means to fund their lifestyle. The job pays the bills, and the more successful they become in the performance of these activities and tasks, the more lavish their lifestyle becomes. The security offered by the regular paycheck and benefits forces the job holder into a greater sense of comfort with every passing year. He, therefore, acquires more shit using his payslip as collateral for long-term mortgages and auto loans on luxury cars to impress people he doesn't even like. Before he knows it, he gets caught up in what is known as a luxury trap. By the time he turns 50, he realizes that his only real skills are the specific processes of the different companies where he has worked. He yearns for freedom, but he is so burdened by debt and the financial obligations of putting his four kids through private schools, that he turns to alcohol, mind-altering drugs, and an affair with the large-breasted office secretary.

Careers are meaningful and fulfilling, while most jobs can potentially be bullshit. In 2018, anthropologist David Graeber published “Bullshit Jobs: A Theory” about the rise of bullshit jobs in the modern economy. The author contends that more than half of societal work is pointless.

He describes five types of entirely pointless jobs (source: Wikipedia):

  • flunkies, who serve to make their superiors feel important, e.g., receptionists, administrative assistants, and door attendants;

  • goons, who act to harm or deceive others on behalf of their employer, e.g., lobbyists, corporate lawyers, telemarketers, public relations specialists, and community managers;

  • duct tapers, who temporarily fix problems that could be fixed permanently, e.g., programmers repairing bloated code, airline desk staff who calm passengers whose bags do not arrive;

  • box tickers, who create the appearance that something useful is being done when it is not, e.g., survey administrators, in-house magazine journalists, corporate compliance officers, quality service managers;

  • taskmasters, who manage—or create extra work for—those who do not need it, e.g., middle management, and leadership professionals.

There are five risks to working in a bullshit job:

Risk 1: You are Living in a State of Delusion and Unhappiness

You spend large chunks of your day writing pointless emails, in boring meetings, and your annual performance review is based on your perceived productivity. You have very few objective performance metrics. The only way to get through the day is to convince yourself that what you are doing is important to the organisation.

Risk 2: You are Supremely Dispensable

When times are tough – for example when you are living through a global pandemic – your value (or lack thereof) to the corporation is amplified and you are the first to get the ax.

Risk 3: You are Not Learning any Useful Skills

The top job skills in the 21st century are creativity, collaboration, communication, adaptability, leadership, and social skills. Hanging around the water cooler and drooling over the length of the receptionist's skirt does not qualify as social skills. If you are working in a medium to large-sized corporation, you are becoming an expert in the internal systems and processes of that company, and these skills are not transportable.

Risk 4: Your Tolerance to Risk Declines over Time

The lure of a steady income with medical and dental, a retirement plan, and paid vacations are often too strong to ignore. These benefits make you feel comfortable. If you are stuck in a bullshit job that does not move you out of your comfort zone, your tolerance to risk is reduced. This creates a dilemma if, after 20 years, your loyal employer calls you into his office and tells you the company is taking a new direction and you are not part of it. As a redundant worker that has become a specialist in the bullshit procedures and systems of one company, your employment options are limited. Your only option may be to throw yourself into the tempestuous seas of entrepreneurship. The longer you stay in that bullshit job, the more difficult it will be to adjust to this new higher-risk environment.

Risk 5: The Longer You Stay, the Less You Get Paid

According to Forbes, employees who stay in companies longer than two years get paid 50% less. Conventional wisdom flies in the face of this statistic. For the longest time, loyalty and dedication to a particular employer have been heralded as the hallmark of the ideal employee beyond just being good at their job. Unfortunately, the stats show that if you decide to stay in a bullshit job for longer than 5 years, not only will it kill your soul, but you will also be paid less in the process.

So how do we unpack this? If having a job is risking your personal and financial future, should everyone stomp into their boss's offices, plonk down their resignation letters and follow their passions? That would be foolish and irresponsible, especially if you have financial dependents. The journey to financial freedom is exactly that – a journey. It is a process that requires an immense amount of work, effort, and courage. It requires self-belief, determination, discipline, commitment, and a long-term road map. It does not require you to be a genius but it does require you to be curious and open-minded. Albert Einstein said, "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious".

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