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The Many Things I Realized About the Corporate Grind When I Left It Behind

To the uninitiated, the life of a corporate executive must seem incredibly glamorous: Why, you get to travel to all these exotic locations! You get to see all these wonderful things! You get to meet all these interesting people! Having served in that capacity for several years, I can assure you that the reality is […]

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To the uninitiated, the life of a corporate executive must seem incredibly glamorous: Why, you get to travel to all these exotic locations! You get to see all these wonderful things! You get to meet all these interesting people!

Having served in that capacity for several years, I can assure you that the reality is quite different. Basically you see the inside of an airplane, the inside of a taxi, the inside of a hotel room and the inside of a boardroom. Rinse, repeat. After a while, you have to remind yourself exactly where you are, since all these things start to look the same.

That’s one of the big reasons I eventually departed the corporate grind — the sheer drudgery. But the bigger issue was that my income was dependent on someone else. As entrepreneur Adam Root put it in a post for Money.com, I was “building a golden tower for someone else to live in.” And while that enabled me to pay the mortgage on my own home — one that was considerably more modest than the one occupied by my bosses — the cost was considerable. It affected my quality of life, and likely my health as well.

I was over a decade into my career when I was asked to take a long, hard look at network marketing, a business model that relies on building a network of independent professionals capable of generating leads and sales.

I was fascinated. Here was a method that would enable me to get my life back — that would allow me to build income on my own schedule, as opposed to someone else’s. There would be no more 12-hour days, no more airports, no more hotel rooms — unless I wanted any one of those things. I would have more time to spend with my family. I would be able to breathe for a change.

That’s why, in 1997, I leaped off the corporate treadmill, and never looked back. I’m now a diamond director and top income earner with Jeunesse Global, a Florida-based network marketing company. It is a role that calls upon me to recruit and train marketers in a network that numbers in the thousands — a network whose ranks have swelled recently by those seeking to reinvent themselves in the wake of the economic downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

My transition underscores something written by author Dan Pink in the 2009 book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” — that one of humankind’s biggest motivators is autonomy. Everyone wants freedom. Everyone wants to make their own decisions, to be their own boss. And that has proven true in my case.

So that’s the first lesson to keep in mind about the corporate world: It is confining. There are nonetheless those who define themselves by their jobs, those who believe they have to work more … and more … and more. Whether they are actually accomplishing more is debatable, but they sure are putting on a great show for everyone else — most of all, those above them in the food chain.

Entrepreneur Samantha Radocchia, writing for Forbes, called this “hustle culture.” Others have labelled it “performative workaholism” or “hustle porn.” The ethos was best summed up by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who in 2018 tweeted that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” 

Then there was the extreme view of former Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer, who in 2016 said it was possible to work 130 hours a week, “if you’re strategic about when you sleep, when you shower and how often you go to the bathroom.”

That’s my second big realization, and strikes at the very heart of why I departed the corporate world: Nobody needs to work that hard, and those who do pay a terrible price. They sacrifice their work-life balance, and maybe their health. And for what? To make somebody else rich? No, thanks.

Entrepreneur Jonathan Crawford had it right when he told the New York Times in 2019 that workers too often cast themselves “as a resource to be expended.” Again, that point has been driven home during the pandemic, when layoffs and furloughs have become depressingly common.

Despondent in one position, Crawford struck out on a new course, founding a company where workers are encouraged to pursue any interests they might have beyond the workplace. And those left jobless by the pandemic have increasingly found network marketing to be a viable alternative

I can only hope this new path proves to be as fertile for them as it has for me — that they are able to leverage strategic income generation and apply business-focus to network marketing, while building a new career and new life. It is a life that is no longer dependent on linear income (i.e., income derived on a regular basis from a single source). Such income is subject to factors outside the worker’s control — like, for instance, a deadly pandemic. With network marketing, that is no longer the case. You shape your own destiny, steer your own ship.

I was fully confident in my career pivot, never wavering in my commitment. If I were to put it in terms of actionable steps, I would say it’s important to visualize, verbalize and even write out your goals, that those goals need to be specific, measurable and realistic and that you need to assemble a strong team around you.

In my case, the benefits have not simply been financial. I wanted to have a life. I wanted to have family time. I wanted to stop and smell the roses. It is often said that nobody ever wished on their deathbed that they had spent a little more time at work. A consultant named Brian Klinder put it another way to the Times: “I try to keep in mind that if I dropped dead tomorrow, all of my acrylic workplace awards would be in the trash the next day, and my job would be posted in the paper before my obituary.”

Klinder, as a result, tries to limit himself to 55 hours a week — just 55. That all but qualifies as slacking, in this day and age. 

Here are two more realizations, courtesy of Radocchia. First, she believes (as I do) that those who work extreme hours do so out of fear. They’re afraid of the competition, whether it comes from another company or from a colleague within their own organization — afraid they will somehow lose out, that what they do won’t be enough.

As an example, Radocchia recalled being leery about a proposal to co-found a company, and then being bombarded with emails from a prospective partner. She ultimately declined, but it was an object lesson about desperation, and the limits of hustle. At some point, you have to cut your losses and move on.

That feeds into Radocchia’s second point: Companies need to redefine success. She argues that hustle culture starts with management — that the pressure to work long hours filters down to the rank and file. While there are no doubt cases where it is necessary, it also becomes the way in which C-Suite denizens keep score: If so-and-so isn’t at his desk deep into the night, what does that say about him? Better, Radocchia writes, to place an emphasis on quality than performance metrics.

Others argue that the workers themselves would do well to readjust their sights. Is it really more important to spend time in the office than, say, being home for dinner with one’s family? Wouldn’t the latter make for a happier, more productive employee? More to the point, wouldn’t it make for a better life? Personally, I don’t think there’s any argument. That’s why I elected to take my career in a new direction.

The bottom line is that you only get one life, and it’s a short one at that. Better to have your freedom. Better to be your own boss. That’s the one true way to wealth and happiness.

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