How Your Employer is Turning You into a Battery Chicken: 5 Reasons to Break Out of the Cage

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This is a guest post by Leah Cox

The incessant beeping of the alarm pulls me sharply from the safety and comfort of my sleep – like a starving wolverine with its jaws clasped firmly on its prey, dragging the defenseless and the weak into a new nightmare, where no amount of kicking and screaming will prevent it from tightening its grip.

And as I wake up to the world, I also wake up to reality.

And this reality is the evil red eye of my company BlackBerry, blinking at me, winking with the knowledge of what lies within and a devilish symbol of everything I hate. My chest tightens, the anxiety rises and I wonder what ‘emergency’ will need dealing with next.

Still exhausted after 7 hours sleep I put myself into the shower and let the water fall over my head. From the outside, I look like a fully functioning human being. Inside, it feels as though there’s almost no life left.

Standing at the tube station, I lift my head and look around. A sea of drained, grey faces surrounds me. If I’d have known this is what life was like, I might have chosen never to leave my mother’s womb.

The tube arrives and there’s an aggressive rush as everyone hurries in a desperate push for one of the few remaining seats. I long to meet a man who will politely step aside with an act of pure altruistic chivalry. Every day I’m disappointed. Every day I see the faces of people trapped in their own version of hell.

We pack ourselves into the carriage, shoulder-to-shoulder, back-to-back, or hip-to-hip. My eyes bear witness to a level of detail that cannot be unseen. That lady’s dandruff, that man’s nasal hair, that pimple on the back of that man’s neck, threatening to burst into life any given moment in a brazen act of defiance towards the zombie-like nature of its environment.

Packed-London-tube

Battery hens. That’s what this is like. It’s like being a battery hen. Except it’s worse, because they only live for a couple of years at most and they don’t have the brain power to torture themselves with the analysis of their miserable existence.

I arrive at my stop and swap one cage for another. This one is supposed to be free-range, but the reality is different. Every day I’m required to lay eggs for the powers that be. This task. That task. All the time laying eggs. And no sooner have I met their demands, they’re asking for more. They always want more eggs!

But I do it. I go along with what they ask. Because in return they keep me safe, warm and fed.

This is how it goes on. Day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year.

Until the day I snap.

You are not a chicken. Don’t behave like one.

It’s a Friday morning and I arrive at work in the usual, ritualistic haze of self loathing and dread. But today feels different – a line has been crossed.

I stand in the lobby in tears, repeating over and over to myself, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Later that morning, after a brief consultation with two colleagues, I sit at my desk and tap out my letter of resignation. My palms are sweaty, the fear feels like a fever, but the cure is within my grasp – this is the day – I must follow through.

And I do. I hand the letter to my manager.

And just like that… the relief is immense. I’m free to begin a whole new life. (After my 6 weeks’ notice period, that is.)

The cage can feel so real. It can feel as though there’s no choice and no way out. It really can feel like you’re a helpless chicken in a tiny cage, the door controlled by a force bigger and stronger than you.

But here’s the thing. You’re not a chicken. You never have been. But when you’re treated like a chicken for long enough, you begin to believe that’s what you are.

As Seth Godin writes in The Icarus Deception:

“…most of us have no idea that we’re no longer fenced in. We’ve been so thoroughly brainwashed and intimidated and socialized that we stay huddled together, waiting for instructions.”

Look around. The door isn’t locked. The iron bars are only in your head. You can leave this place.

You can be free.

Freedom

chicken-escape

It’s been 31 months since I left my last 9-5 job. Life since then has been crazy colourful and far from easy. But during even the most wildly challenging moments, I have not for a single second regretted leaving that life behind.

Why?

Because you cannot put a price on freedom.

As Osho writes in his book Freedom: The Courage to be Yourself:

“The moment you are available to existence, existence is available to you. And the meeting of those two availabilities is ultimate bliss. But it can happen only in freedom. Freedom is the highest value; there is nothing higher.”

Listen. If I can do this, you can too. And I know that’s a phrase that’s spouted around a lot these days but truly, I’m not super special. I only have a powerful commitment to living life my way and to sharing my message.

Back to Seth Godin:

“If you weren’t born with talent, that’s fine. You were born with commitment.”

Commitment trumps talent. But only every time.

If you’re sitting reading this whilst doing a job you hate, I’d like to tell you that life can be so much more than you’re experiencing right now. Let me share with you my 5 reasons to quit your job and go it alone.

1. Create long-term security by developing self-reliance

Nearly three years after leaving traditional employment, my parents are still slipping job vacancies into conversation. They still worry about my security and the reason I most often hear from people about why self-employment isn’t for them is, “I’m just not sure how I’d cope with the uncertainty and insecurity of it.”

They’re misguided.

An extreme example can be found in Lynne Twist’s insightful book, The Soul of Money. About the 1984 famine in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia, she writes:

“Although much good was done with that money and many lives were saved, when I visited there six years later I encountered people who were still on the brink of death, who had lost their sense of self-reliance and who were waiting for the world to save them again.”

Employment creates the illusion of safety and security. It fosters dependency. It’s a system that works: Until it doesn’t. Until the employer decides you’re no longer needed, or the company goes under.

At that point, the aid disappears and you find yourself in somewhat of a pickle, having become dependent on the handouts of your employer.

James Altucher wrote in a recent article:

“I’m afraid to work for a boss. I’m always afraid I’ll be trapped in a prison and have to do things I don’t want to do. A boss is when you have one source. One person who can change your life with two words, “You’re fired”.”

Self-employment, on the other hand, develops self-reliance. And that is the greatest security of all.

2. Reclaim or finally develop confidence in your abilities

A reader recently wrote to me saying:

“…but I think what I am most impressed with is the confidence with which you talk and write about your work, what you do and how you can help people. I wish I had that sort of confidence.”

She’s right. I do speak with confidence about what I do. I know I’m good at my work. I know I’m helping people. I even know I’m changing lives. And yet I was surprised when I received her note.

Why?

Because the confidence other people see in me, appeared from nowhere. Back in my 9-5 jobs, I was the girl who walked around with her gaze lowered, apologising for herself all the time and in constant anxiety that she’d do something wrong.

There’s something about doing work you hate that not only sucks the life and soul out of you, but slowly erodes your confidence too.

sit-down-shut-up-and-do-as-you-re-told

Every time you say “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” to those in charge, there’s something firing off in your brain telling you that’s all you’re capable of: That the sum total of your worth as a human being is to do what you’re told to do.

It’s like that moment when you leave home for the very first time. You either learn to look after yourself or you perish. It’s the same in self-employment. It demands things from you that employment never will.

It demands that you reach out and connect with new people. It demands that you ask for things you’re afraid to ask for. It demands that you believe in what you’re offering. It demands that you learn to talk about and ask for money. It demands that you be creative. It demands that you learn and grow.

And every time you do any of the things demanded by self-employment for survival, your confidence grows. And one day, you wake up and someone is telling you they wish they had your confidence. Go figure!

3. Create a lifestyle you actually want to live

You know, someone actually unsubscribed from my newsletter once because I wrote about how breakfast is really important to me – how I like to take my time and cook my porridge super slowly until it’s a bowlful of perfect gloopy goodness.

When they unsubscribed, they wrote and told me:

“Some of us live in the real world and don’t have time to slow-cook our porridge.”

Ooof. That hurt.

But here’s the thing. I know how lucky I am that I get to cook my porridge for 15 minutes every day and to then sit in peace and quiet and eat it spoonful by glorious spoonful. But I’m only able to do this because I made a conscious commitment to put in the hard work and create this life for myself.

There will always be two types of people in this world: Those who take responsibility and make things happen and those who make excuses.

If you take responsibility and commit yourself fully, you can create whatever lifestyle you want. Whether that’s simply having the luxury to slow-cook your porridge every morning or to work from anywhere in the world with just a laptop – everything is available to you if you’re willing to commit long-term.

4. Earn more money (if that’s what you want)

underpaid

Before starting my own business, I worked in office support roles as a Team Assistant, Personal Assistant and eventually in Human Resources. In this sort of work, growth and professional development is usually sideways, like a crab, rather than upwards, like a tree. Living like a crab is highly frustrating because you just wander back and forth over the same terrain, never really exploring new territory. You can see how difficult crab-like living is by watching this.

Crabs, yes. What’s my point?

My point is that when it comes to earning potential, the employment cage is hugely restrictive. Even if you have a job that allows upward movement, there will always be a cap on what you can earn.

Self-employment, on the other hand, is a playground of possibility. Given all the tools at our disposal today, there really is no limit to what you can achieve in self-employment other than your imagination.

Money might not be everything, but in my book, the option to grow financially if and when I need to is. Besides, I totally intend on using my millions for the greater good.

5. Attract the right people and great opportunities

I don’t want to get all woo-woo on you here so I’m going to back this one up with some real research.

It should go without saying that doing work you love makes you happier. And when you’re happier, you smile more. And now here comes the research…

A study at Penn State University found that smiling makes us appear more likeable, more courteous, and more competent. And a UC Berkeley Study found that people with bigger smiles were, amongst other things, more inspiring to others. And a further study at the University of Pittsburgh linked bigger smiles with greater perceived trustworthiness.

I conducted some of my own research recently too, asking 25 people to tell me what my 3 best qualities are. Here’s a snapshot of some of the most frequent words:

Happiness.
Positivity.
Energy.
That smile.
Inspirational.
Infectious optimism and spirit.

It’s a far cry from the person I was a few years ago when the husband of one particular friend even took to referring to me as, “We’re-all-going-to-die-Leah.” Seriously, that was what he called me.

It all changed when I left my job. No joke, it was like I’d checked myself into hospital for an overnight personality transplant.

Doing work you love can and does fundamentally change the way you show up in the world. And when that happens people are drawn to you, they say yes to you, and opportunities show up left, right and centre. They like you. They trust you. They’re inspired by you and they can feel your energy.

Want proof? Twice in the last three weeks men have stopped me on the street to ask me out on a date. And I’m not talking weirdo stalker men either. These were perfectly acceptable, pleasant young men. This sort of thing never happened to be me before.

And when I reach out to new people to ask about an opportunity, they more often than not say yes. Just look at Jamie, I clearly wooed him into letting me do a guest post with my infectious spirit.

Chicken-crossing-the-road2

Do you remember that phrase, drilled into you when you’re a kid, when you’re learning to cross the road without getting crushed by oncoming traffic? Well, I think it’s a lesson you should take with you through life.

Stop: Stop letting your spirit rot away in a job you hate. Stop telling yourself that this is “just the way it is.” Stop letting the days, weeks, months and years pass by telling yourself, “one day I’ll make a change.” You and I both know that’s just an excuse based in fear.

Look: Look at the door to the cage. It isn’t locked. It never has been. You only need to decide if you want to be free.

Listen: Listen to me, for I speak the truth…

Please, if you’re unhappy, just quit your job. Good things will happen! 

————–

Are you still stuck in a job you hate? What’s holding you back? What do you plan to do about it?

Share your thoughts in the comments below – and if you enjoyed this article, as always, please share it on Facebook and Twitter using those little social media icons below. Thank you!

 

AbLeahCoxout the author

Leah is a Transformational Coach, passionately helping people uncover their unique gifts and escape the 9-5 for a life of freedom, purpose and play. Click here to download your copy of her free ebook The Art of a Consciously Created Life or visit her website to find out more about her work.

 

About Jamie

Jamie is a guitar teacher and writer who hates the typical 9-5 existence. After quitting his job to enter the world of guitar tuition, he created this blog to document his thoughts and struggles as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm – Give his Facebook page a like, add him on Twitter or follow his Google+ page and he will repay you with even more awesome words!

Comments

  1. Great article… reminded me early one why insisting on the boundary of NOT owning a smart phone, crackberry, ipad or any other technology aside from a desktop PC is an aid to sane boundaries. I tell all clients – I do NOT own a device that can check email unless I am at my desk, and I will not turn on my desktop on a Saturday and give it minimal energy on school holidays. You need me outside those boundaries, then call or txt if it’s urgent, I say. But don’t expect me to work Saturdays regardless. Amazing how many things can wait when folks know they have to…. 😉

    • Thanks, Willow! Indeed, boundaries are so important. At the place where I used to work, having a company BlackBerry was obligatory. Having said that, I think given the way I’m able to stand up for myself so much better now than I was before, that I would never stand for this again. As you so rightly point out, the ’emergencies’ are never in fact emergencies. And in fact, most things that are really important actually disappear if you leave them long enough. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. Appreciate it. Love, Leah.

    • Hey Willow, just like me, Saturdays are sacred. No work shall be done!

      I often toy with the idea of having a set 30 minute window in the day where I reply to messages/emails etc – but it’s tough when my job relies on communication. Knowing where that cut off point is…

  2. Leah – someone unsubscribed from your list because they took offense to how you have time to make porridge? Is it terrible that that made me laugh out loud? At least there’s variety with a web-based business !

    When I lived in London, I remember a hairdresser I went to compared office workers to rats since that’s how they travel – under the ground and in the dark (not quite in the dark …). I was one of them back then.

    The other side is far more rewarding.

    Awesome job on this article 🙂

    • Ha ha, Razwana, I laughed reading your comment. Well, each to their own, I guess. I suppose I might be annoyed reading about someone else’s leisurely breakfast habits if I were still rushing to the office every morning!
      The rats is a great comparison. Congratulations on your escape from the underworld. What do you do now? Love, Leah

    • Raz – mocking the afflicted since.. forever. People do unsubscribe for the funniest reasons though. Generally, you can’t beat the classics – ‘how did you get my email..? what is this you are sending me..? what is happening?’ but I think Leah’s former subscriber just won this competition.

      As I often say (I never say this) – every hour is breakfast.. somewhere in the world.

  3. Spot on article Leah, while I’m still dipping my feet into both employment camps I love coning back to your blog. It helps keep me going till the day I realise all my dreams!

    • Hi Laura! Ah, great to see you here. Thanks for coming over and reading and leaving a comment. What I know about you – your art is beautiful, you’re incredibly talented and I wish everyone could have one of your multi-coloured sheep in their homes 🙂 How is your course going? Love, Leah.

  4. Tomorrow- I am quitting one of the best paying jobs I’ve ever had. It’s also the worst job I’ve ever had. For the past two years, I’ve felt as if it was slowly killing me.
    I am moving to the woods and want to simply create! That’s all I know so far and it brings relief!
    I think I came across this article because in some way, I’m being told I’m doing the right thing for me.
    Thank you for posting this! Makes me feel even more excited to get started on freedom 🙂

    • To the woods to create? That’s amazing, Megan! Where exactly are you going and what are you going to create? I love so much being in the forest, in the woods, amongst the trees and often think I’d like to build a little hut and live there. Sending you lots of love for your big day tomorrow. Leah.

  5. Hey, Leah – thanks for writing this article!

    I know all too well about the horrors of the morning alarm – waking up before the body is ready – getting out of bed when the cold draft of the winter air seeps into the bones (in winter obviously) – and it’s not even for a good reason.. it’s to spend the day doing something you hate, with people you can’t stand (who don’t appreciate your efforts anyway), for money you can’t spend (on what you want).

    Urgh. Sod that for a laugh..

    I like to think every time an article like this is published, it plants another seed of doubt into the minds of those who are debating whether it is worth putting up with their current lifestyle. Eventually, their own internal alarm will trigger and, like yourself, enough will be enough, and they’ll storm into their bosses office and hand over the most important piece of paper of their lives.

    So thanks for sharing – and stop flirting with random men in the street 😉

    • Ha, well, thanks for having me over here, Jamie! Like I told you, I’ve really enjoyed the experience.

      I love that idea about planting little seeds with articles like this. I’ve been thinking a lot about seeds recently – mostly because I was planting some on my balcony the other day. It got me thinking about how you’ve really got to spend time taking care of the seeds that you want to grow and stop wasting time and energy watering the weeds.

      What can I say, it’s that big ball of light shining out of my head that stops men dead in their tracks 🙂

      Thanks again for letting me guest post here. So nice to get involved with your community a little.

  6. Hi Leah, loved this. So exactly how I feel. Working hard on developing the tools to cut the bars of my cage. Brilliantly written. X

    • Hi Claire,
      So glad you liked this post. And great to hear you’re committed to breaking free. If you don’t mind me asking, what are the pieces of the puzzle that are still missing for you before you get through those bars? Love, Leah.

  7. Hi Leah,
    Great article! Thanks for the inspiration! I was wondering if you had a good savings padding before you took the plunge and if you had a good idea of what you would do as an entrepreneur?
    Thanks!
    Sylvia
    Sylvia recently posted..How to appeal health insurance denials for tests.My Profile

    • Hi Sylvia,

      Thanks for your comment and so glad you likes the article. Yes, I did have savings before I left work. Two things to say here:

      1. My savings were (for me) pretty significant. I was lucky to have a well-paid job that allowed me to save quite easily as well as never really enjoying spending money on clothes etc.

      2. BUT, I actually spent most of those savings very early on (travelling, an acting course and some other investments) and by the time I came to start my business I didn’t actually have savings so definitely started from zero there.

      Definitely the savings were useful though – they gave me some time to explore life without any immediate pressure.

      Hope that’s helpful but feel free to get in touch if you have more Qs.

      Love,
      Leah

  8. Some awesome reasons to quit your job here! I especially resonate with number 1 – it’s much better to have your well-being depend on yourself than on an external factor such as a boss.

    Nice write-up!
    Mathias recently posted..The Intelligent Man’s Guide to PersuasionMy Profile

    • Hey Mathias – thanks for your comment. Glad you liked the article. Yes, it’s such an illusion that employment is more secure. Whilst I think that self-employment can be a much tougher road in many ways, in the long term I do believe it’s far more secure and develops skills that give you the faith that you can always take care of yourself.

  9. Absolutely brilliant article Leah! So spot on. I love reading your blogs and I can relate to everything you write. I’m transitioning out of my current industry (aka.. the morgue as a work friend and I call it). Actually I’m leaving in a week to fulfil my purpose in life and pass on my passion for health to others. 🙂 When work becomes soul destroying then it’s time to get out I reckon! As someone who spends her life cooking and experimenting with food and taking time to do so I think the person who unsubscribed is missing out big time. Thanks for your inspiration. I look forward to reading more of your posts soon! 🙂

  10. Hi Leah,

    Great post.

    I think we are sometimes more like sheep than anything and I think we are programmed like as a race. Safety in numbers as they say!

    I like to set boundaries as well and try and keep to my 7.5 hours a day. Saturday and Sunday are strictly sacred. The company doesn’t pay for them.

    I will eventually build up the courage to quit as it’s a big jump when you have big commitments.

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