TLDR: Instead of feeling “enslaved” by your employer, make the relative security and regular paycheques that employment gives work for you. Draw boundaries with regards to how your time is used and use the time while you’re not working to enrich yourself.
“Does anyone have a work-related topic that’s weighing heavily on their minds that I can write about in this month’s newsletter?” I asked my friends.
“How to feel motivated at work when you know you’re exchanging hours of your one life to make someone else richer?” said one.
And so this month, we will talk about a struggle we are all too familiar with: How can we possibly lead our best life when we spend 8 hours slogging our guts out for someone else?
My Not-So Popular Opinion
To be honest, I personally don’t feel that I’m wasting my life away working for someone else. My brief stint as a business-owner had taught me to value the predictability that comes with the routine of being employed. I like knowing that I will get a set amount of money coming into my bank account on the 25th of every month.
I know many people have written about the joys of being one’s own boss. “Your income will never hit a ceiling!”, “What you earn depends on how hard you’re willing to work!” and “You’ll never be rich working for someone else!”.
But the flip-side of that coin? I’ve experienced that too! When you own a business, you are constantly worried about whether you’ll make enough to pay the bills every month. An employee wakes up every morning and goes to work. An entrepreneur wakes up every morning and goes to work on their investors. As a business-owner, you worry about whether you have enough in the pipeline to make payroll; people are counting on you to bring the bacon home. As an employee, while you will never be safe from the prospect of getting retrenched or fired, you will also not fret about whether your employees are going to sue you for not paying their CPFs.
Yes, it’s a whole different mindset. But I would like to say that just because I enjoy not being a business-owner, it doesn’t mean I’m another soulless drone counting down to 6pm every day. You can still be innovative at what you do. You can still be entrepreneurial in your thinking. You can still develop skills and grow your potential within a company owned by someone else. You can still be ambitious and reap rewards from climbing the ladder.
Have A Growth Mindset
It’s very cliche to advise one and all that the solution to this struggle is to develop a growth mindset. But I do not buy into the view that in order to live a spiritually full and materially rich life, we have to shake off the reins of employment.
Rather than see my paycheque as a ball-and-chain, I prefer to think of my employer as one of the investors in the Business of Me. I use the paycheque to pay for my property, which I hope I can sell for a profit. I use the paycheque to pay for a gym membership, an investment I make to live a well-balanced and healthy life. I use the paycheque to fund the summer holiday I’ll be taking next year because I know (at least for now), I have another one coming into the bank next month.
Another thing about the predictability of a paycheque is that if I manage my time properly and draw the right boundaries, I will have down-time to pursue other income-bearing endeavours. I spend my weekends selling cakes and that extra income, I invest to make myself more money.
It’s true that Debs Inc. will never achieve a valuation of $1 billion but knowing the type of stress (emotional and physical) that I had gone through as an entrepreneur, knowing the kind of person I had become when I had to worry about money, I’m happy to maintain the current status quo where I work Monday to Friday, make a little pocket money with my side hustle, and through wise investment practices, build my nest egg.
What Can You Do?
If taking the plunge and starting your own business is what your heart yearns for, go for it. But if you are wondering whether you’re cut out for entrepreneurship, start with a side hustle. Be a weekend dog-walker, edit someone else’s resume for a fee, be a consultant on the side or monetise a content project like a podcast or YouTube channel.
Don’t let your work get you down to the extent that you need the entire weekend to recharge and recover. That’s the surest way to stagnate your earning power. If you’re saying, “Where will I find the extra time to do so much?”, then work on drawing clear boundaries in your work and personal lives.
It’s easier said than done, I admit. So, start by becoming more focused on your productivity during the workday. If you spend 15 minutes of every hour gossiping with your colleagues or stealing out to buy snacks or coffee, then in an 8-hour workday, you’ve wasted 2 hours. That’s 10 hours of being unproductive in a workweek. Change the way you look at your work and the time you spend at work, and you will reap the benefits when you are not on the clock.
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