One of the main reasons people give for staying in a 9-to-5 job that they don’t enjoy is money. In a way, they are victims of their own success. Thanks to the comfortable salary they’ve earned over a decade or more of working in big companies, they’re now accustomed to a certain kind of lifestyle. They have a heavy mortgage commitment, a nice car, expensive holidays. Letting go of all that can feel like a huge sacrifice.
In seeing things this way, however, these professionals are making a number of assumptions. Through challenging these assumptions, there is a whole different perspective to be found. One that involves looking at money in a different way and, ultimately, investing in yourself and your future.
Money is usually a sensitive topic. We’re embarrassed about how much, or how little, we earn; our parents may have argued about it when we were growing up; and it’s something we don’t learn about in school, to the point that personal finance and investment decisions can seem completely overwhelming and incomprehensible. Underneath it all, though, there’s a general assumption that money is important: we need it, we want more of it, and it’s an underlying driver of almost everything we do.
When we dig into this a bit deeper, however, we find that money is not, in fact, a fundamental value for most of us. If money is on our list of top values, it’s not money for money’s sake but rather for what it gives us: security; independence; freedom to live our lives as we want. A certain level of income is absolutely important for our emotional and physical wellbeing.
Research suggests that there is a figure beyond which more money doesn’t buy us happiness – we adjust our expectations and our spending levels so that we feel that we need more and more, without getting significant benefits in terms of our wellbeing. So the truth is that we don’t need as much money as we think. And, perhaps, it’s worth giving up a little bit of that salary in return for more time with our family as well as improvements in our physical and mental wellbeing?
Let’s say that there is a certain level of income that you need – or want – to earn in order to do what you want to do, and take care of your family and other commitments. The next assumption that people are making here is that they need to stay in their current corporate 9-to-5 job to do so. There are a few beliefs at work here, including that “Having an employer with a stable salary gives me security,” “You can’t earn a lot of money doing work that you love,” and “Work isn’t supposed to be enjoyable.”
We need only look at the many examples of people being made redundant from their ‘secure’ jobs in big corporations to challenge this assumption. When it comes down it, companies that exist to drive profit for their shareholders are not loyal to their employees. Also, by definition, they will never pay you what you are worth, as then they wouldn’t be making any profit.
More than this, I strongly believe that we do our best work when we match our skills and interests to the job, when our values are a fit with those of our employer, and when we enjoy our work and genuinely care about what we’re doing. We’re more motivated and engaged, we deliver better results – and it’s really a win-win for the employee and the employer. I’ve seen countless examples of friends and clients who now work for companies, or for themselves, where they absolutely love their work and are unquestionably delivering better value for themselves and for society as a whole. It’s an obvious consequence that you can also earn more money this way.
Finally, there’s an underlying belief that entrepreneurial and independent work is riskier than having a full-time job and that it will inevitably mean a sacrifice in terms of income. Most businesses fail in their first year, startups are inherently unproven and therefore uncertain, and freelancers and entrepreneurs work incredibly hard for little reward…
While it’s true that most of us won’t reach the upper echelons of entrepreneurship and rub shoulders with the likes of Richard Branson and Elon Musk, there are plenty of reasons to question this assumption. First, there’s the obvious fact that you can be fired from your full-time job. A large corporation’s fortunes are completely out of your control (unless you’re the CEO or another top executive). Working for yourself means being able to choose your projects and clients, set your own rates, and take on more work depending on your needs. Having different clients and projects means having diversified sources of income, which, in fact, reduces the risk. And, if you go back to assumption #1, remember that a slightly lower income might not even be the end of the world.
If I take my own experience, when I initially left my corporate 9 to 5, I was soon earning more as an independent consultant than I had as a full-time employee. I’m now committed to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, creating a huge amount of value for the people and businesses that I work with, and ultimately achieving financial freedom for myself and my family.
This is about investing in yourself. Investing in your health and wellbeing – instead of pushing yourself to the point of burnout and potentially irreversible damage. Investing in your skills and your career capital – instead of resting on your laurels as your industry is disrupted and the ways of working in our society evolve. And investing in your own future – instead of relying on a faceless employer to do so.