One of the main reasons why I decided to write this blog is because I had this urge to share my thoughts on what is happening in the world, and what can be done about it. It is obviously the title line of this post. The Rat Race.
Just before writing this article, I was listening to a speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was a motivational speech in which he quoted a statistic which said that 74 % of US citizens hate their jobs. I am sure this number can be debated, but from my personal experience, I would say it feels about right. I would also say that this number will probably not be much different in Europe. Or Asia. Or almost anywhere in the world.
There are so many reasons to hate your job
In his speech, Arnold Schwarzenegger is pin-pointing this sad statistic back to each individual. Many people lack vision and determination to follow their beliefs, their passions and to work their ass off to learn, to train and to do what is necessary to get where they want to be. Again, I am sure that this is true to a large extent.
But there are countless other factors that can cause you to hate your job. Abusive bosses, lack of benefits, frustrated and uninspired colleagues or just the countless times when you have to compromise for the sake of a team, a project and more than often, for money, can be a frustrating experience.
How a regular uninspired day looks like
I know it can be a frustrating exercise but let us think about a regular day: A day has 24 hours out of which a regular person will spend approximately 7 hours sleep. Then he or she might take an hour to slowly wake-up (don’t we all hate the snooze function?), take a shower, have some light breakfast and commute. This is followed by 9 hours of work including lunch, 1 hour getting back home through horrendous traffic or packed subways and finally having some dinner.
After arriving home, 6 hours remain. These hours may be used on some housework like laundry, cleaning, maybe some Netflix (and chill). Maybe some time for friends or family.
More than often, however, coming back home from a job that one doesn’t like keeps people frustrated. They then might fall into a negative pattern, trying to shut-down their frustrations by watching TV shows, playing videogames or just browsing apps on their phones. Smoking and drinking are obviously other popular time-wasting activities.
Freedom means to be able to choose how we spend our time
Working means to trade our time for money. Money that we use for something that we either need or desire. It can start with existential things like shelter or food. As we progress in our careers and the existential threats get covered, new targets will emerge, like a career (for fame and recognition) or simply to get more money to be able to improve our standard of living.
And this is how we get into the rat race.
Reputation, material possessions, social pressure and other things that we think that we need, or consider to be obligations. All these force us to trade more of our time for ever more money. At this point, you might like your job and be thankful for the opportunities, knowledge, and experience that you could gather due to and along with it. Don’t get me wrong, I was very fortunate to find a career that inspired me for several years.
Nevertheless, I have made the decision to escape the rat race. Why is that? Let’s crunch some numbers. Let me first focus only on my working time which is on average 11 hours a day.
A year has 52 weeks = 52 x 6 = 312 working days. I got 28 days vacation and 14 days for public holidays = 312 – 28 – 14 = 270 working days a year.
270 days x 11 hours = 2.970 hours work for the whole year.
That’s a lot of hours. I am not regretting even one of those hours spent over the years so far. But the question in my head is, does it have to be that way? And how long will I be able to keep up this pace? Isn’t it time to think about doing something more with my life than just going to work almost every day? After all those years working my ass off, shouldn’t I be able to choose how I spend my time by myself? Shouldn’t the target of any job be to free ourselves?
The feeling of something being off
I think everyone who works for a couple of years must have had this feeling at some point. Just waking up one day and realizing that our whole life consists of the same daily routine that forces us to repeat the same things over and over again. And the worst thing is: We have no idea how to stop.
If we want to get out of it, we got to re-evaluate our priorities. Nothing comes without sacrifice and the first thing that needs to be taken look at is… ourselves. Chances are that we maneuvered ourselves into a comfort zone that makes our life just convenient and acceptable enough not to rebel, but at the same time preventing us from happiness and fulfillment. So we got to ask ourselves: What do we really want in life?
How an inspired day can look like
I am a General Manager in a hotel with ambitious career goals and FIRE aspirations. Let me tell you how my day looks like.
I wake up at around 7:30 AM, take a shower, drink a glass of water. I make sure that all this will not take longer than 20 minutes. I am really not a morning person, so I make sure that my house or condo is as close to my work as possible to reduce the time for commuting. Usually, I will arrive at work at around 8:30 AM.
Now there, I usually get stuck until 7:30 PM, sometimes longer but let’s just say that I finish at 7:30. Yes, that’s 11 hours including lunch and dinner. I don’t do breakfasts on workdays. The morning time is precious and most useful to tackle the most challenging job assignments, so except for coffee in a to-go-cup I don’t want to waste too much time on food. Lunch and dinner are also usually being kept short with only 15-20 minutes for each.
I get back home around 8:00 PM, play with my daughter and spend some time with my wife until around 9:00 PM. Then I will exercise for usually 1,5 hours until 10:30 PM, take a shower and work on this blog. At around midnight I will get some newsletters regarding the stock market into my mailbox. I will read those and review my stock portfolio. I will also do some research on the next potential stock for my FIRE portfolio. Usually, I will go to sleep at around 1 or 1:30 AM.
I do this 5 days a week. Saturdays are a little more relaxed and I will not go to the gym on that day. I will, however, catch-up with financial articles and magazines, read some weekly news summaries on Flipboard and work on my side-gig, writing financial articles for an online magazine. Writing a solid article of approximately 700 words, doing the research and adjusting it to the requirements of my client can take a whole day. Sometimes more. Sundays are mostly dedicated to my family, but on a Sunday after 8 PM I will start preparing for the week ahead. Allover, I consider myself working 6 days a week.
Having a vision can help us to get inspired and to work our ass off
My family and most of my friends think that I am crazy when I tell them that sleeping 6 hours is enough. I just need the time to get my stuff done, but when explained they don’t understand what I am talking about. So let me elaborate.
I need my main job to ensure full support for my family. I also made sure to have a solid career and work long hours in a high position, because this enables me to save and invest on the scale that I need to hit my target and to retire before the age of 45. It also enables me to travel and to discover countries in ways that I would have never imagined possible before.
I want to exercise to make sure that my health doesn’t let me down. Not now, when I work as hard and as much as I can, but also not later when I hit my target. Because when I retire I want to make sure to have still all the energy that I will need to get to do all the things that I am having on my agenda.
I want to have this blog and to write financial articles. For one, because it helps me to learn the necessary skills that I plan to put to use during my “retirement”. But also, because it’s fun AND I earn additional money with it on top.
The Rat Race
I can’t imagine wasting all this precious time that I have on things that would not help me to get closer to my dream. Shouldn’t that be obvious? Shouldn’t we all try to do our best and be happy to work as hard and as much as we can to get closer to our dreams? I think we should, but that’s exactly what plenty of people out there are not doing.
The Rat Race is largely to blame on a system that is designed to pushing people into work, under conditions that are hardly ideal to build a life on. However, while in most cases there is no way around it, there are ways to get out of it. We are forced into it, but it’s up to us to escape it.