Flip traditional thinking
Rather than focusing on getting a specific job, think about the life you can have with a given job. Will you be able to support yourself and a family? Are there enough positions available to support a career in that area over time? Does the field’s lifestyle allow for personal time? Can you do the job in various locations? Think about the life architecture you want first, and the ways to make that happen. We often choose so many actions around getting a specific job, only to then want to move on to the next thing. Make decisions about what skills to hone, qualifications to earn, and places and people to target based on what lifestyle you want to have and what contributions you want to make, not what some employer might pay you for an uncertain period. This way you stay in control and have a greater chance of pathways to long-term satisfaction.
Particularly if you have children or other major responsibilities, this mindset can be tough to adopt. Most of us are taught to seek a job. Your desire for more control over your time and conditions can be powerful. But if you are already down the path of regular jobs, and are not in a position to take large financial risks, it can be quite hard to break away from the grind. Many Americans are tired, stressed, and unhealthy. The full-time jobs, commutes, household upkeep, errands, cooking, activities, and schedules, not to mention the nonstop miscellaneous items like car maintenance, are too much. There are no simple answers. Perhaps if more of us thought about conditions first and framed job choices around those, we could start to craft more ways to live that revolve less around employers.
In the U.S. and many other places today, you need a baseline of resources to be minimally comfortable in a major city. Typical professionals in major urban markets may earn what sound like comfortable incomes, but factors such as foreign investors are driving up housing prices beyond what is affordable. Relying only on a paycheck puts one in a vulnerable situation to employers, catastrophic life events, or major economic shifts.
Find Ways to Generate Passive Income
So what does all this mean? At some point in life, you will likely become interested in the concepts of passive income and leveraging resources. If you rely only on your own labor your entire career, you will rarely have the chance to direct your own decisions and schedules without closely considering the employers’ interests as well. Think about passive income options early, rather than spending a decade getting a graduate degree to get a job that leads to a stressful life. Passive income can come in the form of real estate rentals, owning a business, stocks, or other more creative forms. Consider creating websites, products, or small businesses on the side.
Any of these strategies can give you invaluable freedom in life to travel, relax when you need to, give solace or help to loved ones in need, or simply take a break from working. Not to mention a safety net if you become unemployed. But modern society and school do not teach us to pursue these paths. The helpful book The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss may stimulate creative thinking. Each person must make her own decisions, and when balancing obligations the traditional employment route can seem more prudent. But too often we are socialized just to get a job rather than make longer-term investment in our economic security and lifestyle satisfaction. Many hardworking, smart families find themselves in crisis mid-life because they lose a job or another hardship falls their way and they do not have a money-making Plan B. Consider starting out doing something on the side to make a little money, and purchasing a few assets that pay passive income. Then if over time you generate enough to live on, you can spend more time and effort pursuing interests. It is risky if your entire livelihood and personal intellectual satisfaction depends upon on one job. Just as a stock portfolio should spread risk across various levels of volatility, so should individuals spread their earning power across various ways of creating wealth and personal satisfaction.