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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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)
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:
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.
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!
About 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.