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The Anti-Job Mafia

There has been a new breed of “self-help” / personal development “experts” and self-proclaimed gurus who are trying to convince us that if everyone isn’t quitting his or her jobs and “being their own bosses” (self-employment) then they must be stupid.

What these people don’t tell you that most of their “rags to riches” successes happen to have “first to market/niche” advantage.

So they become successful, partly because they do have an interesting product/service (maybe it’s long self-help articles “for free”, maybe it’s blogging as a “profession/for money”, maybe it’s internet marketing or affiliate marketing) — but what they won’t always say upfront is that they also got lucky.

Why? Because you can’t sell luck as a 30-day money back guarantee “system” to lots of people.

You can’t create autoresponders with 10 emails “for free” that will use a pitch to buy a webinar or a course or whatever affiliate item the person may also be selling. You can’t upsell your mailing list into consulting sessions or more expensive coaching fees or 2-day workshops at a resort where for an increased price you can also purchase tickets to an “exclusive” networking lunch.

Notice how often get rich quick schemes and even bona fide “get rich” schemes use the word SYSTEM. They use this because they want you to believe that if you just follow “the system” you too, will be as successful as them, but every one of them will also use a disclaimer at the bottom of their sites to say they’re not making claims of earnings. In other words, “I want you to believe me and take me at my word, but I also don’t want you to sue me in case I was wrong/didn’t tell you the whole story.”

As an entrepreneur and someone who hasn’t held the kind of “job” that these self-help “experts” admonishes against, I think the statement is ludicrous, based on misleading logic, and harmful to many people who are best served holding jobs.

Let me go through some common arguments against holding jobs as an insider — like I said, I’ve “not held a job” since 2004 and I even achieved a certain level of “success” on my own terms, so I have a bit of credibility even though I have no desire to sell you my “secret system” —

Trading Time for Money as Inferior Income

If you hold a job (some say job should stand for “just over broke” but I’ve had jobs that’s made me relatively wealthy so this acronym does not hold true for all jobs) where you get paid in a predictable, contractually binding manner and federally mandated paid holidays, then you must be a dummy. Because you aren’t being self employed as an entrepreneur where you get no benefits, no guarantees, where you may find yourself doing a lot of “free consulting” to build up credibility in the beginning, and no days off, which, according to the anti-job mafia, is the hallmark of enlightened money-making.

There are some occupations where yes, you DO have to trade time for money, and guess what, IT IS A FAIR TRADE. Teachers, nurses, physicians, scientists, engineers, construction workers, police officers. I would not want any of these people trying to dream up ways of quitting their jobs because they think they’re being “dummies”.

You Work Long, Mind-Numbing Hours for an Evil Boss

Ask any entrepreneur and start-up founder how many hours they work. They’ll all tell you that they work longer hours than they’d ever worked “at a job”. Those people who talk about working 4 hour weeks? They’ve already put in the hours ahead of time where they can outsource the rest, so if you have capital to outsource and the luck to be first to market in a catchy niche with a great marketing title, you too can be enjoying hours on the beach (or asleep) while your “system” makes money for you.

If you’re working long and mind-numbing hours, you’ll find that you may either be in the wrong job (you seek more intellectual stimulation, but you signed up for a job that is mostly routine and predictable) or you’ve hit upon a plateau that is common in most employment and even self-employment: employment ennui happens, even to entrepreneurs. Don’t think for a minute ennui is always bad. If your job is constantly like a can of Red Bull (or whatever energy drinks people are shooting up their veins these days), you’re gonna age very, very quickly from the over-exertion of your nervous system. Embrace the ennui — sometimes it’s a part of life and it may have an evolutionary purpose!

As for the evil boss… Have you tried working for yourself? I have, and I’m the worst biggest baddest slave-driver I’ve ever met. I will keep myself working even when I get sick. What these anti-job people don’t tell you is that at least at a job, you get sick days. The only time when I took a sick day was when I was literally unable to get off the floor, I was so sick. Same goes for vacations.

You become Socially Inept and You’re Not Free as an Employee

My husband, who has a traditional “job” has an incredibly vibrant social life because he happens to have hobbies. Hobbies — now that is something I don’t understand, because I don’t have time for hobbies, I’m too busy figuring out how else I can make passive income so I can earn a ton of money while I sleep, or sit and relax on the beach.

When my husband comes home from work, he’s home, body and mind. He’s not obsessing about stuff at work, he’s able to enjoy his hobbies because they don’t mix with his work (something I don’t understand, either) and because of this, I see him as quite free. I on the other hand, may be in the most exotic place in the world, but I’m still obsessing over my business, because unlike a regular job, if I don’t “get business”, I don’t get paid.

And don’t even get me started about “job insecurity”. Look up statistics of entrepreneurship failures and tell me how you can say that jobs that are defined with contractual exchange in value is less secure than a venture that is often ill defined with no contractual exchange in value and where you deal with more tire-kickers than true clients (even when you have bought “a system”)?

I too, once thought that most of the stuff on that list must be true. Yea, I’ve bought the tapes/CDs, I’ve read the books, I’ve checked out “the system” and I’ve read the autoresponders and the newsletters and I’ve had a taste of the upsell and cross-sell.

Then I found out for myself, and I have listened to and observed many others like me, how untrue and misleading that type of advice is. I sometimes look at my husband’s work life balance with envy, and I’m only still doing this because it’s in my nature and it’s what I truly love to do. If this weren’t the case I’d be applying to a job in a jiffy.

Updated: July 5, 2011 — 8:07 am

2 Comments

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  1. Hi Jane,

    I thought I’d leave behind a few comments since your post made my head explode.

    I generally don’t take the time to write lengthy comments to blog posts, but as one who has recently quit his job in order to be my own boss, I felt it may be worth a few minutes to express my point of view.

    First, I have to agree anyone who suggests that working a job is stupid is, well, stupid. A job is a fantastic way to bring in money and to provide for immediate needs. Jobs are also a great way to learn various skills or trades. And, they are also semi-predictable.

    I also think you are absolutely correct in stating that many of the rags to riches success stories have happened to those that had first mover advantages. I’ll even one up that by saying that many of these “successes” made their money, not by practicing what they are preaching, but by selling the system. (Two Dads, anyone?)

    I do, though, absolutely think trading time for money is inferior, particularly when one takes the long-term view.

    The most important reason trading time for money is not a good long-term strategy is that it doesn’t scale. You can only work so many hours in a day, and you can only realistically increase your hourly salary by so much.

    But even if this equation does provide for your needs adequately, you’d better love what you do; otherwise, you’re in for a long forty-year grind.

    That is, of course, if you actually make it the full 40 years.

    During the 12 years I worked in corporate America, I saw an alarming increase in the number of people that were pushed out at an age too young to retire but too old to have much of a chance of starting somewhere else. I’d rather trade short-term insecurity for long-term security, rather than the other way around.

    Your point about working long hours while self-employed is certainly correct. But I find it much easier to work long and crazy hours when I’m building an asset for myself rather than for a corporate entity that may or may not appreciate what I’ve done next year. If I work until 5 AM, it’s going to be because I choose to, not because I’m required to.

    And, even though I’ve worked for the stereotypical boss from hell, what was far more draining for me was the ever increasing amount of time required to respond to corporate randomness. For me, it was mental torture to write a report that my boss wanted which I knew no one would read.

    I think your point about job insecurity is correct. But that only applies for the short term. Again, I’ve seen far too many people not quite make it to the finish line in corporate life. One person I knew got downsized and went from product developer to medical supply truck driver to make ends meet.

    Yes, you will fail as an entrepreneur. But I believe it is much safer to fail as an entrepreneur than to fail in the corporate world. When building a business (as Mark Cuban said) you only have to be right once.

    Finally, while I think it is wrong for somebody to bank all of their hopes on a purchased pushbutton entrepreneurial system, I do think that provides people an opportunity to get their feet wet so that they can then iterate until they find that niche where they can then be the first mover.

    I guess I can summarize all of this as follows: Working a job isn’t stupid, but NOT building some sort of entrepreneurial niche for yourself is!

    Okay . . . My head feels better now. 🙂

  2. I agree with your conclusion, Walter! i.e. — “Working a job isn’t stupid, but NOT building some sort of entrepreneurial niche for yourself is!”

    I think where we’re in agreement is the fallacy behind “either – or” logic. You don’t need to avoid holding jobs and only go the entrepreneurial route. On the other hand just because you have a job doesn’t mean that you can’t find other ways to secure your career/financial future. For some it’s entrepreneurial, for others it’s pure investments.

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