Notes to a Discontented Generation Y
Well, I just turned 25 last Saturday.
It’s hard to believe I’ve already been working for 10 years. During that decade of “gainful” employment, I’ve gone through a huge transformation in thought regarding careers, passion and purpose.
My first job was as a YMCA camp counselor. I was 15, and I was excited to be getting a paycheck with my name on it. I thought a little money in my pocket would be the ticket to freedom, but within 2 weeks, I’d come to the realization that while I was really good at “pitching” myself during the interview, the work sucked. It was boring and tedious, and it showed. It’s pretty hard to stay enthusiastic while you’re fishing HotWheels out of the toilet.
I thought it was just the job that sucked. Everyone told me that my first job would.
Over the next 6-7 years, I moved through a series of other jobs hoping that one would really appeal to me. I worked at museums, retail, grocery stores and restaurants. I even worked at UPS. Yes. With the brown short-shorts.
Each one had some element that I liked, but within a few weeks, the same familiar feeling always crept back up.
I always felt like I was literally an indentured servant working for pennies, with no end in sight.
The worst part about this servitude is feeling like you’re the only one experiencing the pain. I can’t tell you how many people I’d see who had been at their jobs for 20+ years, in a state of zombie-like compliant quasi-misery.
I imagine that this must be what it feels like to have a terminal disease that takes 20 years to fulfill its promise.
I specifically remember during my training at UPS, one of the assistant directors pointed to his boss endearingly and said “Richard hasn’t missed a day or called in sick in 27 years.”
He flashed a grin at me, then looked expectantly, waiting for me to be impressed—as if this was a good thing.
I just remember thinking to myself “What the fuck is wrong with these people?”
I quit that job faster than Kim Kardashian quit on Kris Humphries.
At this point, you might be thinking “Sure Daniel, but those were all just JOBS. You’ve never had a real career. Once you get a career, things will be better.” At least that’s what my family told me. Just toe the line, Daniel. Just toe the line.
Eventually, I came to a much different conclusion. I came to the realization that I could job hop my whole life and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. I could go to college and get a degree like I was supposed to and hop around with that on higher-paying jobs (which adults like to call “careers” to make ourselves feel better), but in the end, the problem wasn’t with the jobs or the employers; it was with me.
I had the problem. It wasn’t about getting a different job, or a better PAYING job. It was about having a job period
I was experiencing a major case of cognitive dissonance between what I wanted my life to be and the options I saw available. Part of this was coming because at a very deep level, I was afraid to admit what I really wanted. As funny as it is to admit this in writing, I felt wrong or dirty. I felt ashamed of these feelings and above all, I was afraid. I was afraid that I would be called lazy, stupid, impractical, a “leech”, etc by people I cared about. I didn’t want to be ridiculed.
I’m not afraid anymore.
You know what I want? I don’t want to work. Like, not ever.
I don’t want to be forced to show up anywhere and do something for someone else, simply because if I don’t show up, I might not be able to feed myself or have a home.
I don’t want to go to any more mindless meetings with 20 other people who also don’t give a shit, and are just there because if they don’t show up—you guessed it—they might not be able to feed themselves.
I don’t want to have to ask “permission” to take a day or three if I’m sick.
I don’t want to have to kiss ass for years to get a raise, just so I can work harder on more stuff I don’t care about.
I don’t want to spend my days punching Excel spreadsheets, hoping that I’m making someone happy.
You know what I hate? When people ask me “what do you do?”
What do I DO? I breathe, motherfucker. What do you do? What do I do? I don’t DO anything. I AM somebody. And since I am somebody, there’s no limit to what I can DO. I’ve never felt it was fair or accurate that our culture defines people by the narrow set of skills they use to generate income.
What does that have to do with anything?
What you do to make money is completely separate from how you spend your life or who you are as a person. Ironically, many people auction their entire lives away to get more money.
Am I the only one who sees the twisted contradiction here? If it were up to me, you know what I’d do? I’d spend my life traveling, learning languages, practicing martial arts, reading, programming, eating good food and (eventually) raising smart, open-eyed children.
I’d spend the time that I was supposed to be “working” to create something of value for others and use my creativity to leave a mark on the world. Isn’t this what we were made for?
All the other shit can suck it.
Look, it’s just you, me and this letter. We can cut the pretenses. Just be honest with me: if it were up to you, you wouldn’t go to work tomorrow, would you? Come on, I said be honest. Even if you “like” your job, wouldn’t you much rather be doing exactly what you want to do at the pace you want to do it?
Now, let me be clear: this whole idea of not working isn’t because you’re LAZY. Far from it, in fact. It’s because you see the Matrix for what it is, and realize the game being played around us. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t put effort into anything or dedicate our lives to a cause. I’m saying we should design our lives around a cause that we believe in, and stop lying to ourselves if what we’re doing isn’t something we’re passionate about.
Essentially we are trading something very real (life/time) for something very fake (money) and we’re always on the losing end since our time on this earth is finite but technically, the amount of money out there is infinite. We will always run out of time before the world runs out of money. As long as we carry on with the traditional mindset that time equals money, we will NEVER be free of the constraints placed upon us.
Now, 95% of people will say “But Daniel, you have to do SOMETHING for ‘work’. You’re going to be homeless. You need to get a job or something and then do stuff on your free time. That’s just life.”
This is a perfect example of being caught in what I call the “culture box” and having been in there for so long that you can’t even see the walls anymore. American culture dictates that work should be placed squarely at the center of your life, with any personal creative interests only being pursued in your spare time.
There’s no reason why we have to work 40 hours, 5 days a week. That’s a structure that people with money have put in place so that people without money keep their heads down and don’t have time to ask too many questions.
Even the idea of retirement is a joke. Working until you’re 60. Saving, saving, saving and contributing to your 401k in hopes that eventually you can stop working and live the last 20ish years of your life in budgeted obsolescence, hoping to at least maintain a semblance of your standard of living in a dwindling middle class as your savings depletes by the day.
Is this what we’ve become? Is this the dream we’ve waited our entire lives for?
If this is all, please tell me now so that I can find a rope and save us all some trouble. If I knew that this was going to be the “apex” of my life, I’d just off myself right now. It sounds bittersweet at best.
I propose another way.
The key for us is to figure out how we can manipulate our environments to produce more of this imaginary currency without sacrificing the time (which is the real currency). That’s the game. Most of the time, we go at it the wrong way, trading it 1:1, as if a certain amount of money could equal even a fraction of your time. I can’t stress this enough. Time is LITERALLY priceless. It can’t be valued. “I make $30/hour”. So you’re saying your life, these next 60 full minutes of respiration, are worth $30 of imaginary bits? I’d say there’s literally no comparison between the two. It’s apples to potatoes. Completely different. We have to set systems in place to make the currency come out without the time going to waste – because before you know it, the time will be gone…and the currency…that was never even there to begin with.
We’ve seen what happens working purely for work’s sake, spending all your time making more money or obsessing about promotions or possessions. You’re ashamed to actually admit the things that you actually want to do. You’re afraid of being labeled “different”. God forbid someone thinks that you don’t have “work ethic”. This is one of my favorite cultural insults. It’s as if there were some morality attached to laboring on things that you don’t enjoy. Since when did capacity to suffer become an ethical issue?
What about this…
What if you were to make your life and the pursuits that interested you—traveling, learning, physical activities, creation, art, time with loved ones, whatever—the center(s) of your life and fit work in like a planet in orbit, with it’s sole purpose to fund and support the pursuits above?
How would your life and self-image change?
What would you REALLY do with your life?
What if I told you that your presence wasn’t actually required to generate the resources that support you, and you were left to roam the earth freely?
Have you ever considered that in a completely digitized society this is a very real possibility?
Now, before you start pointing the finger and saying that it’s not possible to generate resources without being present, I want you to think about your boss’ boss (or perhaps THEIR boss). Somewhere up the chain, somebody is reaping the benefits of a system they put in place to generate resources without being present.
“But Daniel, I can’t manipulate my environment or set up any systems to make money. I HAVE to work.”
So let me get this straight: the Wright brothers—in their shed in rural South Carolina—can figure out how to bend a piece of metal and build a machine lighter than air that can fly across an ocean… but you can’t figure out how to make money flow to you? I’d suggest that you try harder.
The CEO of Walmart isn’t clocking in to make ends meet. That you can be sure of.
And the great thing about our generation is that you don’t need to be a Fortune 500 CEO to set this type of system up anymore. Many independent business owners have already realized this truth. Entrepreneurship is the key.
To be sure, this isn’t a popular way of thinking. And it’s even harder to imagine yourself living like this if you don’t have any friends or role models doing it. It is really hard to imagine that this is even possible. You go through a lot of the “Yeah, but that won’t work for ME” scenarios in your mind. Trust me, I feel you. I’ve been there. But as I’ve met more and more incredible people through my blog—people who are living that “fictional” life—I realize that it’s not only very possible, but that there’s a formula to creating these circumstances. It’s not luck, and it’s not voodoo or “positive affirmation”.
In the past 12 months I’ve gotten increasingly closer to this reality.
Are you one of the few who believes a better way is possible, not just for people in books or in the news, but for YOU?
Leave me a comment below and let me know.
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