Rat Race meaning an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit
Have you ever heard about the multi-millionaire who wanted to get hired to work as an employee? Me neither. When you`ve got financial freedom to do whatever you want, you probably don`t want to work for someone else. You still need purpose in life, but you are detached from needing a job with a hourly wage. Sure, a regular job can have some meaning, but you won`t make a great impact doing what many people are already doing. Nothing that unique to add as an employee. You can pretend that you have an important role, when in reality you don’t. Quite common for middle managers.
Another problem with most jobs, is that the monthly paycheck you get is a temporary solution to a long term problem. A problem that lasts for decades. 78% of workers in the U.S. said in a survey from 2017 that they lived paycheck to paycheck (https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/11/live-paycheck-to-paycheck-government-shutdown/?sh=5a0853404f10). The numbers are most likely worse during a global recession. Your job no longer becomes an option, it becomes a necessity in order to keep funding your lifestyle and/or keep paying off debt. With a maximum of five weeks of vacation each year. This is the opposite of freedom.
Even though you don`t need to be a multi-millionaire to escape the rat race, the more money you have up to a certain point, the more freedom and options you have. Not if you are dependent on an employer though. You need freedom to be able to spend time how you really want to spend it. Options to choose when and where you want to live. What being free is all about. That is why it is essential to build mutiple income streams that are location independent.
You`ve probably seen them in online advertisement. The 21 year olds that drive a Lamborghini and work from a laptop at the beach. Teaching you the «secret» to making money online. Mentioning «passive income» in every other sentence. Selling a dream without having achieved the dream themselves. The main theme in their advertisement is how easy it is to make money with their method. Would you sell a course if you were a millionaire with a succesful company?
Off course you wouldn’t. Succesful entrepreneurs and investors don`t spend time on selling courses. They focus on builiding their own companies and/or portfolios.
Most of the internet gurus earning money by teaching how to achieve success in business and investing, aren’t that succesful in either of these. They’ve created a facade to make you believe that they know how to. Don`t listen to their lies. Listen to the real pioneers of business. Ray Dalio, Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Edward Thorp, Sergey Brin and others that have walked the walk. Those that talk about what they`ve learned through decades as succesful business owners. People that don`t really need the extra money from selling books. Even read books written by those that aren`t with us anymore. Entrepreneurship and investing are skills learned through years of persistence, by having skin in the game.
Know how to find the right books to read and podcasts to listen to. What has the creator of this content achieved in the real world of business? Google their names. If possible, find financial statements for their companies online. There is a lot of quality business content out there, but also many of those 20-something year olds faking success to sell courses. Instructional videos on skills related to building income streams online can be found for free at YouTube, but be selective with who you listen to. Personally I find content by Noah Kagan (the founder of AppSumo) and the Tropical MBA podcast to be quite useful.
Side hustles are projects where you aim to sell a product or service to build an extra income stream during your spare time, when you have a regular job. Focus on creating value by solving a problem for your customers. This type of project requires effort and sacrifice of time that you would normally spend doing something else, but minimizes risk financially due to monthly paychecks as an employee. The project should eventually turn into a business that can replace your employment income. Building your side hustle, saving and investing are for many the best ways to increase the chances of being able to quit their job. To never be dependent on a paycheck from an employer again.
Your first and second side hustles probably won`t work out as you had expected. Maybe even your third or more (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7AKKJks6i8). That`s kind of the rule of side hustles. You try something, you learn, then apply what you`ve learned to the next one. A lot of things can go wrong and many of them probably will. Wrong business partner, market, low demand, strong competition, financing, getting your ads blocked, burnout, supply chain issues and other factors might lead to obstacles that prevent you from succeeding. Be aware of these when starting your side hustle. You have to throw a lot against the wall to see what eventually sticks.
What are you willing to sacrifice to avoid spending 40 to 50 years in regular jobs? We often talk about risk when it comes to investment of money, but time investment is even more important during our lifetime. Your time is limited. Spend it wisely. Few people will probably regret not having worked more hours overtime for someone else`s company, watched enough episodes on Netflix or partied enough during their lives. The path of a lot of resistance for a few months or years could lead to the path of least resistance for decades ahead. Do what you can to potentially minimize your regrets in the future.
”We should remember that the real leaders of the world always have been people who harnessed, and put into practical use, the intangible, unseen forces of unborn opportunity, and have converted those forces, or impulses of thought, into sky-scrapers, cities, factories, airplanes, automobiles, and every form of convenience that makes life more pleasant.”
So, here I am, working in a bank (for a while). Seeing rat racers all around me. A diary from the rat race. More convinced than ever that spending 40 to 50 years of one’s life building someone else’s company is such a waste of time. Never been more eager to escape the rat race. Focusing more than ever on succeeding with our own business and my investments, so that some day, I will be able to escape. Receving that good old paycheck to cover monthly expenses, and moonlighting building businesses. The grind.
Every day I see these bald bankers, hearing them talk about stuff they wanna buy, how they’re going to improve their house soon or the one week vacation abroad they look forward to in the summer. Six months from now, they finally have a vacation. Living the dream.
Commuting, doing monotonous tasks, sitting at a computer all day, attending boring meetings. Every day. Except for the weekends. «Finally Friday bro, what are you going to do during the weekend bro?». And then every Monday asking «what did you do during the weekend bro?».
I worked on my business so that I will able to escape this rat race as soon as possible, that’s what I did. So that I won’t end up as The Fat Man In The BMW Convertible, like you.
Why do people tend to have almost the same approach towards work as they had in the 1950s?
We’re living in the 21st century now, and we have different opportunities than they knew back then, yet most people tend to have a similar work-life balance to what they used to have.
Does sacrificing time with your friends and family, working 40-hour weeks or more, commuting almost every day to work, working for someone else on their terms, not having time to exercise enough because of work, being controlled by a boss or a company, having 5 weeks of vacation each year (and working 47 weeks), working with something that you’re not really passionate about, showing up to the same office/building almost every day, not being able to choose who you’re working with, waking up to an alarm on almost a daily basis, having to think about and prepare for work during your spare time, working for a wage that just covers basic expenses, potentially sacrificing your health due to stress, lack of sleep, and/or developing musculoskeletal problems because of working too much on similar tasks, sound like a good deal to you?
Many spend 40 to 50 years of their lives living like this, until they retire old and worn out. Then what? Eventually being free (for a while), but with a huge uncertainty that your health is still at a decent level, and with a high probability that you will get bored after a few weeks into retirement because you are so used to being told by others what to do at the job that you had.
Is this the optimal way to live your life?
Did you ever question why you were taught to live like this?
What exactly are you doing it for, other than for money or trying to climb an ‘imaginary ladder’?
What’s the point of earning a lot of money, if you don’t have the freedom to enjoy your time anyway?
Times have changed, you don’t have to treat the way they used to live life in the 50’s like it’s a golden standard any more.
What used to provide a safe and stable income isn’t even that safe anymore because of the growth of automation, outsourcing, the amount of people getting a higher education is increasing and that the number of jobs available in many industries are decreasing.
It’s a dead-end.
It’s a trap, and if you don’t realize this now, you might spend almost your entire life in that trap.
If you disagree, then read the book Unscripted by MJ DeMarco. It might change your view on things.
You might also realize this when you’re too old to change how you spend the majority of your life.
How you spend your prime health years, from age 18 to around age 60.
Your time is very limited, and it’s not even sure that you’ll make it until retirement at 65, so don’t spend most of your life doing something you dislike just for paychecks.
You don’t need to have a regular career.
You don’t need to climb the ‘imaginary ladder’.
When you’re old, almost no one will care about the career you had anyway.
There are better opportunities out there.
There are better ways to make an income. Find them.
How would your ideal life look like?
If you could wave a magic wand, and all of sudden you had everything you wanted, what would that be?
Take a brief moment to think about this or write it down on a piece of paper.
My dream scenario would be to have freedom and to work on my own terms.
Freedom to live wherever I want, without having to worry about money.
To me, a well-established online business sounds like the solution to creating the life I want.
A business that is geographically independent and time independent.
Whenever you have an internet connection, you are able to run the business.
My goal is not to create this type of business on my own.
I am aiming to build a business with 1-3 other people, so that we can travel together while we are running an online business.
A small group of masterminds.
An online store is preferably the type of business I want to create.
Outsourcing some parts of the business is necessary to reduce costs.
The end goal is to have a stable online source of income, without having to work more than 20 hours a week.
Be willing to put in a lot of time and effort to create the life that you want.
It might take 3 years, 5 years or more to create an online business, and it probably won`t be easy.
That is why it is so important to be specific about what you are working for.
Ten years ago this month, I was spending a sunny Saturday morning in Barnes and Noble. In the business section, I noticed a book with a palm tree and a hammock on the cover. It boldly suggested that I could work less, earn more, and travel widely.
Free time and travel sounded great, of course, but Tim Ferriss’ book also flirted with a far more seductive and powerful idea: that the very same technologies which were making our jobs increasingly intolerable – the constant connection, the all-time-zone hours, the all-night email-checking – might be used for our own benefit.
The implication was incendiary – what if our employers had inadvertently unlocked our prison cells? And what if leaving the traditional career path was actually the best route to financial and career success?
The 4HWW wasn’t just a guide to “hacking” life and working less; it was also a critique of the standard American lifestyle – everything from long hours and career stability to fancy cars, 30-year mortgages, and retirement savings accounts.
Essentially, Tim was helping us to see these constructs for what they were – arbitrary, confining, and unnecessary. He was also asking us to imagine what our lives might look like outside of these patterns. And, best of all, he wasn’t asking for much. Just give it a shot, he urged. What’s the worst that could happen?
When I encountered Tim’s book, I was working long hours for a small company. I was stressed all the time and I felt like I had no power over my future. In that situation, it wasn’t easy for me to imagine working four hours a week and lounging under palm trees – but it also wasn’t easy to imagine continuing with the life I was living.
By page 90, I decided that I was willing to risk what little career I had. I quit my job and founded a business within a year. I haven’t had a boss since.
Since founding our podcast in 2009, Ian and I have probably heard more 4HWW success stories than anybody but Tim himself. (We’ve seen the failures, too.) Essentially, we’ve run a ten-year experiment: what happens when you try to put Tim’s vision into practice? What challenges arise? What adaptations are required? And how has technology changed the opportunities available to entrepreneurs?
For the past eight years, TropicalMBA has been asking these questions and sharing the answers. Today, our podcast, blog, and community are home to thousands of hard-working entrepreneurs.
So what have we learned? In honor of the tenth anniversary of Tim’s book, here are ten observations from the TMBA laboratory.
Initially, the single biggest source of confusion was Tim’s DEAL system. If this doesn’t ring any bells, here’s a quick refresher:
Define. Tim encourages readers to define the future they want to build. (The first step? Creating a dreamline, here’s an episode on that process). 4HWW-style thinking demands that we become the ‘dealmakers’ in our own lives; in order to create deals with reality, you have to understand what reality you’re trying to create.
Eliminate. Tim instructs us to delete distractions from our lives (especially media and meaningless email) in order to focus on our core goals of taking control over our time, income, and mobility.
Automate. We also need to remove ourselves from the trivial tasks of our business or job in order to focus on being effective (as opposed to just efficient).
Liberate. Finally, we release ourselves from society’s usual constraints – like working on the arbitrary schedules of jobs or clients – and focus on living the lives we’ve defined for ourselves.
In theory, it sounded great – but putting it into practice was a stumbling block for many readers.
This problem stems from a split in the book’s audience. Many of Tim’s principles are aimed at overworked business owners, or those who have lots of experience and career cachet. In other words, Tim is talking to people who have a lot of enterprising know-how (or other resources – like industry relationships – that allow them to make up for it).
But the book’s audience extended well beyond the well-heeled and gainfully employed. It also appealed to those of us who didn’t have businesses, established cash flows, or other traditional advantages.
In retrospect, it’s not hard to see that these two audiences – the well-educated California business owner, and his entry-level customer service rep – might hear Tim’s advice very differently. The book didn’t do enough to calibrate distinct strategies for each group.
This small oversight led to a lot of fear, frustration and criticism. It also inspired the most popular post on the TMBA blog – The 1,000 Day Principle, which argues that it usually takes three years of full-time effort to replace your professional salary with income from a business. For some, an “apprentice” phase is also necessary – the period of time when you put yourself in a position to launch your business and start your 1,000-day count. (During this phase, budding entrepreneurs often learn basic skills through formal apprenticeships, online courses, and experiments with platforms like Shopify, WordPress, and Amazon.)
In other words, it can take smart people the better part of a decade to apply Tim’s ideas. (The book could have been called The Ten-Year Career. That’s not as sexy as The 4-Hour Workweek, but it’s a much better message than most of us received growing up.)
Nonetheless, Tim still deserves credit, because he did two extremely important things: he got people to believe, and he got them started.
If you’ve read 4HWW, you’ll remember the chapter on “filling the void.” When automated income starts pouring into your bank account and you don’t have to sit behind a desk anymore, what should you do with your time? Tim talks about getting back to hobbies, taking trips to develop new skillsets, or devoting time to projects.
When I read this section, it seemed ridiculous. (What do you do with your free time? Anything you freaking want!)
Ten years later, I’m not laughing. When you aren’t working all day long, and when you don’t have to be in one place all day every day, what will your days look like? What will matter to you? How will you live? These are wide-open questions, and our community is answering them one experiment at a time.
The book suggested that readers build a cash-flow, find ways to automate it, and then help themselves to mini-retirements. What people actually did was different. They quit their jobs, began traveling, and built businesses along the way. They “baselined” in cheap locations, lowering their expenses and extending their runways. They hired remote staff in developing countries and met others who were doing the same. They leveraged business models like “productized services” so they weren’t strapped to their laptops all day. As their businesses grew, they made decisions about where to live based on time zones (and a dozen other factors that would have seemed unfathomable just a few years before).
Early 4HWW adherents assumed that their remote businesses needed to serve “real” businesses, and that being abroad (and making sales calls from resorts) was something to apologize for. Serving ‘lifestyle entrepreneurs’ as your target market was seen as small-time thinking.
2007: The book introduced a novel way of building a business and a life largely enabled by internet technologies, and coined it “lifestyle design.”
2017: Now, it simply looks like “a fun and strategic way to grow a profitable business.”
2007: People critiqued the book saying “it’s for single people who want to write blogs in Thailand.”
2017: For every blogger making money in Thailand, there are 100 other entrepreneurs succeeding in businesses you’ve never thought about. They are just less visible; they have no incentive to share their stories, so they don’t. (Unfortunately, the press has also done a terrible job of finding and profiling these folks.) I often wish we did a better job. Nonetheless, these entrepreneurs are out there by the thousands. I meet them all the time; they come to our events to meet and learn from each other.
More broadly, the power of the 4HWW lifestyle is still being unlocked. Families are joining the fray. So are people from developing countries (or countries whose passports restrict their travel).
What many had, in the early days, framed up as a book of tricks to take shortcuts in life has turned into a roadmap to interesting and dignified work for those who might not otherwise have access to it.
Over the coming years, we’re going to see many more people abandoning the corporate/career track and relying on their own entrepreneurial skills and ingenuity.
Service businesses and professional services (like lawyers and accountants) are starting to understand and serve the unique problems faced by ‘micro-multinationals’ – hyper-globalized <$10M businesses. It’s a massively growing marketplace that’s relatively easy to address.
When we started the TMBA blog, we were two broke kids with mediocre college degrees selling random ecommerce products (thank to Tim’s validation strategies and Ian’s obsession with cats). We were also perhaps the first location-independent physical goods business sharing its story via blogging and podcasting.
This felt risky. Why? Because with most business models, sharing your secret sauce doesn’t make sense. Our situation was really no different, but we did it anyway – it was fun, and we wanted to share. And it’s worked out – especially because we’ve met all of you!
When Tim’s book was published, conventionally successful people didn’t build or buy businesses like ours. But that’s changing, too. Our seven-figure business was bought by a former Hollywood executive. Why? Because she wanted to control her earnings into retirement.
That’s not unusual. People on traditional career paths have watched what Tim’s readers have accomplished, and they’re using their savings to buy in. Their motivations are as varied as ours: to spend more time with family; to live abroad; to create unlimited growth potential; and to control their own financial destinies.
Some of us boldly proclaimed that the 4HWW was a shortcut to retirement (forget mini-retirements). For many, it’s turning out that way.
Ten years on, 4HWW principles look less like a critique of the career system and more like the future of business.
As I’ve written previously, Tim’s book whispered something important to me: in addition to working less and living anywhere, I could also build wealth, take care of a family and retire well.
Now established industries and entrepreneurs are taking note. The VCs are coming. The PE firms are coming.
And why shouldn’t they? As Tim says, the four-hour workweek is about “valuing effectiveness over efficiency.” It’s about throwing out all the career nonsense and doing good work.
So if you’re reading this and wondering whether the four-hour workweek is still possible – whether there’s room for you at the table – here’s my answer:
It’s also one we perhaps don’t ask ourselves enough: for at its heart is a difficult subject to face – the matter of whether we are a) brave enough to quit our soul sucking day jobs to do what we really want, and b) actually destined to be writers and artists.
Indeed, we must recognise the sentiment of acclaimed poet Charles Bukowski famous poem, So, you want to be a writer (Don’t do it) – “if it doesn’t come bursting out of you, in spite of everything, don’t do it”. And we must question whether or not we really possess within ourselves the burning desire to write, to create art, and whether we actually find some solace in the excuse our jobs give us not to act on our creative impulses. As though there were some fear that, should we in fact have the freedom to do so, we would end up just sitting around all day watching TV and eating toast in our pants.
Bukowski, of course, understood better than most the crippling effects of capitalist working structures. He is, after all, the man who asked: “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”
It is the sort of question that can only ever be asked by someone who has lost years of his life to the mundanity, and creativity-stifling world of modern work. And before he became a full-time writer, Bukowski took a string of blue collar jobs, working as a fill-in mail man for the US Postal Service from his 30s right on into his 40s.
Like many creatives today, Bukowski also found himself stifled by working for the man. In 1969, the year before his 50th birthday, he was still working as a mail man, and pulling some gigs here and there on some small underground magazines. And it was from this position Bukowski found himself faced with the challenge we set out at the start of this article: to essentially “put up or shut up” – and quit his stifling job for the risky life of poet and writer.
Bukowski had caught the attention of Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin, who offered the poet $100 a month to quit his job and dedicate himself solely to writing. While many creatives might dither here, adding up the costs of bills and thinking perhaps even of pensions; Bukowski was in no doubt about his decision. He took the chance gladly, and just two years later, Black Sparrow Press published his first novel, titled – appropriately – Post Office.
It was an opportunity Bukowski did not forget – although it did take him time to remember to thank his early champion; writing to Martin some 17 years later to express his gratitude. Belated the letter of thanks may be; but it nonetheless remains beautiful, and incredibly poignant today. The missive emanates Bukowski’s characteristic cynicism, but also his deep sensitivity, and a touch of self-conscious earnestness.
The letter is here below, in full;
“August 12, 1986
Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’sovertime and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.
You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.
As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?
Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”
They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.
Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:
“I put in 35 years…”
“It ain’t right…”
“I don’t know what to do…”
They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?
I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.
I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”
One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.
So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.
To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.