9-to-5 jobs are like guarantee labels on the side of a product; they just sort of give you a cozy security that, no matter what’s going on or what might happen in your life, you’ve got something to fall back on. Here’s the thing, though, that 9-to-5 gig that you slave over week after week, well, it doesn’t give a damn about you. That’s right, here’s the honest truth: you’re replaceable.
I found this out at a previous job while overseeing a legacy men’s lifestyle magazine. When I took the position, I was leaving a pretty cush situation where I was working from home, generally on my own time, and writing about the things that I wanted to. It was pretty hands-off, but, damnit, I wanted more. Nothing wrong with a little ambition, right?
When I took over this particular men’s lifestyle magazine, it also allowed me to work from home — since the office was in New York, which I was able to travel to every few months for meetings — gave me the chance to write about whatever I wanted to and let me be in a high position that earned more responsibility and paycheck. Sounds awesome; well, until I lost my job.
This isn’t me complaining about the past, because if I did that, I’d be a miserable sap who took losses way too hard. I’ve lost, lots, and I’m OK with it as long as I learned something to better myself moving forward. What this is about, though, is the realization that, after always being “on” for that men’s lifestyle magazine, working about 75 hours each week (and weekends), I was told I was losing my job just 48 hours before I, in fact, lost my job.
It was no fault of my own that I was now about to be unemployed. I adapted on the fly at that job. I did everything I was asked of, while sticking to my guns on things that I thought would work. I put myself out there and, man, did it feel good to be in that spot. Well, until I realized I was putting in all that work for someone else, not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I learned a ton, a ton, of new things that I hadn’t known prior to taking that role. I refined my skills. I fell deeper in love with writing and editing. I explored interest areas that I otherwise might not have. I failed, lots, and I learned to look at things with a wider lens, rather than the narrow one I did when I first took the job.
Going into your 9-to-5 job isn’t the worst thing in the world; or so I hope. It’s not actually soul-sucking and preventing you from living; again, I hope. But ask yourself what that 9-to-5 gig is giving you in return. Much like a relationship with a significant other, if you’re giving everything and not getting much back, is that beneficial to you? Is it fulfilling? Are you challenging yourself in ways you want to?
Maybe some of you can answer “yes” to all those things, which, in that case, congrats, you’re in the 0.05 percent of people I know who can claim that. For the rest of you, though, well, time’s ticking, so it’s time to start hustling your ass off to get you closer to what you want in life.
This might mean going back to school while working a 9-to-5. It might mean talking to your current company about having them re-invest in you in order to get ahead in your career path. It might mean going from the office to a coffee shop to meet so-called “business partners” to go over some insane idea that could one day become the next Instagram. It’s definitely going to require you saying “no” to happy hours and sleep, and “yes” to a little more coffee and people who generally give a damn about you and your idea; and who want to actually take the crazy ride with you.
I admire a lot of people in life, but one of them is my little sister, Alexa. The term “bulldog” that gets tossed around sales corners and in office settings doesn’t do her justice. I might be told I work hard, but she works a 9-to-5, travels for work, is in school for her Masters, travels for fun, has a social life and still finds time to volunteer or stay active in her community. I’m sure there’s other shit I’m leaving out, but you get the point; she understands that, to get to where she wants to, it’s going to take more work than she should be comfortable with. She’s choosing that kind of life for herself to give her a better chance at success.
Plenty of people look at that popular image of Jeff Bezos in a homemade office as something that’s hard to imagine doing. It was when Amazon was nothing more than a pipe dream — and some graffiti on a board by his desk. Some may say that Bezos had a multibillion dollar idea and that they couldn’t possibly do the same, but the picture isn’t about the idea, it’s about the work. Are you willing to work to reach your goals? The richest man in the world certainly was.
Sticking to a 9-to-5 job might be the safe bet. It might bring some satisfaction, a nice paycheck and more stability than going out there and chasing your own dreams. But it’s not nearly as rewarding as scratching and clawing when you literally have everything to lose because you have no other choice but to succeed. When you’re the only person who believes you’ll be successful. Ask yourself: Are you willing to stop clocking in, counting the dials on your watch and stepping out of your comfort zone to really gamble on yourself? It’s going to be uncomfortable, but, trust me, it’ll be worth it. So how are you going to choose?