This morning as I was driving down the freeway headed to buy a washer and dryer, I was overwhelmed at how much I love working for myself. Here it was, just a beautiful sunny day here in Portland. I’d already hit the gym and run my four miles. Had a nice breakfast, coffee and time with my family. Now I was sitting in my nice warm truck with two of my boys in the back, listening to music and driving down the highway.
Just over five years ago you would have found me along the railroad tracks down in Southern Oregon where I worked for a short-line railroad. That was one of the hardest of my approximately thirty or so jobs I’ve had in my 31 years of life. The worst part of the job was the uncertainty of what I would be doing each day. One day I might sweating away changing out railroad ties in the pouring down rain. The next, I would end up working 16 hrs late into the night on a derailment. It was a miserable job, but I’m thankful for it. It taught me what hard work was. It’s also made me thankful every day for the situation that I’m in now.
Here’s my 5 Reasons I Will Never Have a Normal Job Again
1. I want to decide how I spend every minute of my day. Working for yourself gives you that freedom. I need to exercise 3-4 times a week. I like bringing my boys with me when I’m working. I love meeting friends for coffee in the middle of the day. I cherish having breakfast, lunch and dinner with my family every day. Some days I don’t want to work. Others I shouldn’t. I want to be able to travel when I want to. Just this month, I’m going to Hawaii again for a week.
2. I don’t want to work 40-50 hours a week ever again. I’m not against work. I think work is great and much needed. However, especially with our efficiencies, I don’t believe we should be working as much as we are. The work-like-crazy now, so I can enjoy it one day in retirement doesn’t make sense to me. Why not set your life up so that you enjoy it today? Why work so hard for your children’s “future” when all your children want is your attention today? Or work all those overtime hours to buy your wife some expensive gift when she would rather spend time with you today. It might also mean cutting out frivolous items from our lives that we spend half of our working hours paying for.
I’m not saying we should never work long hours or work our tails off. There are seasons for everything. I’m suggesting that we write down what we want our dream life to look like and then do whatever it takes to make it happen now.
3. I would rather be a good boss than work for a bad one. I’m not saying that all my bosses have been bad over the years. Some were good. All had their weaknesses, some more than others. Working for a bad boss is like living in a cage. It’s one of the most frustrating and exasperating things in life. Complaining about bad bosses doesn’t help anyone. We need to start businesses and become good bosses. That’s been a good thing having had so many jobs in my life. I’ve learned what not to do. I hope that in the coming years as I employ more people, that I’m looked back upon as the best boss any of them ever had.
4. I don’t have a college degree. I might as well have three or four felonies on my record. I’m not going to get the job. I wouldn’t be called in for most interviews. It doesn’t matter how smart or talented you are. Our system is setup for the conformists and those that get in line. It’s not for the “dreamers”, as Steve Jobs would call those that didn’t quite fit the mold. Maybe our system of vetting and discovering talent is broken. Hopefully the student loan bubble ushers in some reform towards our approach to education.
5. I would probably get so depressed I would want to die. I once worked for a lumber mill pulling sheets in the plywood plant for exactly 2 weeks. Before that job I had never been depressed. I didn’t know what depression felt like. That changed when I stood with earplugs in my ears, standing for 8 hours a day putting veneer on plywood. Sheet after sheet. Over and over, all day long. Everyone hated their job, or at least none were happy, and all looked like they hated life. It was physically demanding work. I would go home at night and I could barely pick a fork up my hands hurt so bad. I was so exhausted that I usually just went straight to bed. In the mornings, my time off was wasted because I couldn’t stop dreading going to work. But all that was nothing compared to what it did to my mind.
I was paid to focus on one task. To do it well, it took full concentration. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t dream. I couldn’t wrestle with ideas. It killed me inside.
The movie October Sky, which is one of the greatest entrepreneurial movies of all time, captures very well what I’m trying to communicate. One of my favorite lines from the movie is when Homer is talking to his Dad about what he wants out of life.
Homer: No. Coal mining may be your life, but it’s not mine. I’m never going down there again. I wanna go into space.
Me too. Normal jobs may be ok for many, but not me. I’m never going back there again.