I talk a lot on this blog about escaping the rat race. It’s a common theme on blogs about financial freedom. The allure of having enough money so you don’t have to ever have to punch a clock. So you can get away from an annoying boss that you want to punch in the face. Get away to a beach somewhere so you can blog all day in your board-shorts.
I, myself, may even be guilty of using strong words with hyphens like “soul-sucking” and “F-you money” to roast corporate life. If I didn’t every once in a while take care to throw in a quick token reminder that “I really like my job”, one might actually get the impression from reading certain things in this blog that I hate my job and I want out… immediately!
I even find myself convincing myself that I hate my job. I let the clouds of corporate politics (which I really do not care for) shade all the good parts of my job. Mix that with intoxicating thoughts of sunny board-short beach-blogging and it’s far too easy to demonize my current job and all the crazy characters involved. Everyone can start to look like him ↓
Luckily, I don’t work at Initech or anywhere like it. And my cube walls aren’t quite as high. I am blessed to work for a great company with a great corporate culture in a great role that gives me a chance to be creative.
I need to acknowledge that here in writing before I let all the little annoying parts of my job that do kind of resemble Office Space eat away at me and I find myself quitting a great job in a fit of frustration before me and my family are anywhere near ready and before our financial situation is strong enough.
So, let’s get started on this feel-good story about my corporate life. We’ll start with the sunglasses I got just a few weeks ago…
Future’s so bright
A few weeks ago. That’s when I had my 10-year corporate anniversary.
I think a little applause is in order.
Anyways, I got a nice little surprise when I got to pick out a gift from a catalogue of some pretty nice stuff. Since I’ve been jealous of my brother-in-law’s Maui Jim sunglasses since trying them on last summer, I locked right in on a pair of those when I saw them on the list.
Ha! Check-mate, Breezy! Now I have my own kick-ass shades!
When I put on my new sunglasses for the first time, I was overwhelmed with gratitude toward my company. Weird, right?
It’s just a stupid pair of sunglasses, Cabbage. Geez.
Even though it’s just a small token, those sunglasses represent all the ways the company I work for strives to show appreciation for its employees. It’s a strong symbol of the employee-centric culture there. They don’t have to give anything, and they’re letting us pick from some pretty sweet gifts. It had the exact effect on me that they were going for. And I’m not even saying that in any kind of cynical way.
Then I started thinking about all the ways my life has improved over the last decade. How much better it is now than the way it was going before. How that’s largely due to the very corporate life I’ve kind of been trashing on these very pages the last two years (even if it has only been implied between the lines).
Before landing my current corporate job, I was a single smoker, living in a studio apartment in a low-rent neighborhood, working a low-paying warehouse gig, with no end in sight to my cycle of debt.
Now, I’m a happily married homeowner with an awesome son. Both my debt and the debt my wife brought with her has been obliterated. And we’ve got a realistic shot at sniffing seven figures in net worth before the next 10 years is up.
In the middle of Office Space-like frustrations of day-to-day corporate life and the sometimes repetitive mundanery of a cubicle existence, it’s easy to forget that it’s largely because of my corporate job that I’m even able to daydream about “escaping” to a Runway Retirement and more exciting things beyond. It’s thanks to my corporate job, that I have a clear vision of the next phase of my ideal life.
Mad Money Monster had a great post about why you should love W-2 work a while back that served as initial inspiration for this post. Then I got those Maui Jim sunglasses in the mail and I figured it’s high time I balance out all the negative energy I tend to throw at “soul-sucking corporate life” by calling out all the positives.
Make no mistake… I. Am. Lucky.
Here are some of the things my corporate job gives me that I tend to take for granted:
Consistent Cash Flow – There’s obviously something to be said about a paycheck that’s all but guaranteed for the foreseeable future. And corporate health benefits help smooth out the ridiculous rockiness of the American health care system.
I’ll give up that peace-of-mind when I decide to strike out on my own without being fully financially independent.
Structure – I’m lazy. I can nap in a snap. If I’m not required to “punch in”, I could find myself “power-napping” for half the day. But, to keep my job, I’ve got to get my ass out of bed and into the office. I’ve got to get moving.
I’m also a creative person. As a creative person, I tend to spin my wheels. If you don’t give me hard deadlines, I can ideate forever. If you don’t give me a budget, I’ll build everything out of hand-scraped Brazilian walnut and hand-carved Italian marble. At work, I’ve got to get projects done in a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable amount of money or I’m going to hear about it.
My job gives me structure. That structure carries through to the routines of the rest of my life. It’ll be hard to replicate the inherent structure of a corporate job to really gedder done on my own. It’s worth recognizing.
Flexibility – Oooh. Curve ball. This is counterintuitive, right here. Stay with me.
My job happens to give me just enough flexibility with my schedule to work in all the day-to-day family life stuff pretty easily. I’ve got plenty of flexibility to deal with any unexpected family emergencies. Thankfully, I’m not important enough to require a call from my boss at all hours. And the relatively squishy work schedule also gives me some opportunities for side projects like this one.
Combine that with a consistent paycheck that isn’t already all dedicated to servicing debt like most Americans’ paychecks, and I can afford to throw a little money at some of my side projects to test the waters to see if they might eventually have legs as a lifestyle business beyond the cubicle.
Once that consistent paycheck dries up, if I don’t already have a pretty big cushion of savings, I’m going to very quickly have to make some pretty serious choices about which passion project to try to squeeze money out of. And, if I’m not careful, that could turn my “passion” into more of a chore than the “corporate grind” I just left.
Development Opportunities – We’re constantly being asked what kind of training we need to do our job. I have the chance to use industry-standard design software on a daily basis. My office also brings in brilliant speakers weekly to break down all kinds of topics. One guy even came in to chat Fantasy Football.
Of course, the internet provides plenty of self-directed development opportunities, but the really good stuff is often behind a paywall. I’m getting all of these development opportunities for free.
Whoops! Actually, I’m getting paid to better myself.
Socialization – I’m an introvert. I may even be one step above a hermit. If it wasn’t for the forced socialization that I have at my job, I might be an actual hermit right now.
There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t share a full belly-laugh with my coworkers. And I’m thankful for that. Hey, being around other people is important. Even for introverts like me.
Confidence – Every once in a while, I get to make important decisions in my role. They aren’t life-and-death, course-of-humanity type decisions by any means. But they can move the needle for the company I work for and affect thousands of its employees in some small way. Being trusted with making even those relatively minor decisions has given me an incredible well of confidence to draw from.
And, if I rewind a little bit to when I first met my wife, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to ask out such a beautiful professional without a cushy corporate job of my own in my back pocket that I could at least make sound important on our first date. And that decision to ask her out did change the course of humanity right, there.
Many, many other perks – On-site daycare and preschool, on-site cafeteria, Tuesday farmer’s market, a comfortable campus in general, discounts for all sorts of things,… I could go on.
I don’t mention all this stuff to throw it in the faces of the people who aren’t as lucky as me. I mention it so I can remember how lucky I really am.
I also mention it, because maybe there are people out there, like me, who have lost sight of exactly how lucky they are in their own jobs. People, like me, who are in danger of taking it all for granted. People, like me, who let little corporate quirks bother them a little too much. People, like me, who may be romanticizing self-employment a little too much.
Not the grand finale, but it’s a strong second-act
I’m not saying I’ll climb the corporate ladder to the very top. That’s not my grande finale. I know that now. There are a lot of things about corporate life that frustrate me… and for good reason. I’m really not very good at navigating the ins and outs of corporate politics.
How can I put this? Folks are doing the Hammer Slide
while I’m on the Carlton
My ideal life is definitely somewhere beyond the corporation. I know my ideal life is in all the creative opportunities outside the corporate cubicle. I will probably abandon my cube well before the corporation has had enough of me.
But, it’s important for me to write this little love letter, so I can remember how far I’ve come in this phase of my life. And so I never forget how bright my future is because of my corporate job.