3 weeks ago I was reminded of the biggest reason for my desire to leave my paid corporate employment: I value my time too much to let others control it.
I was sitting in my office plugging away at my work, when I got an email from our HR specialist telling me and the 60+ other people in my office that in a week we would be required to take a 2.5 day class on leadership essentials. There was no warning, there was no flexibility on scheduling, there was no consideration for critical short-term tasks associated with our projects, and worst of all, there was no consideration for who should be taking the class. It was peanut-butter spread across the entire organization and every person had to take it. It was an attack on our personal choice of how we could use our time.
As someone who values my time greatly, I took this personally.
I realize there are people with far more leadership experience than me, but as an engineer I would say I have far more experience and leadership training than my job requires. Last year I left a position managing a team of 11 engineers that were in charge of supporting half a billion dollars worth of products in the field. In that role, I voluntarily took many leadership courses so I could be my best in the job. After awhile I left that job because I no longer wanted to lead – it just wasn’t fun for me. But when this new leadership class was rolled out, no one asked me whether I needed the course, and no one asked whether I had a desire to lead. It gets worse in that I’m one of the few people in the office currently facing critical short-term milestones on a program with a key customer – and now I would have to either work more hours or fail in my project.
Obviously, you can see where this is going. I had to sit in a classroom for 2.5 days straight, then go home and work all night on my customer project in order to stay on schedule. During each classroom break, and after each day of class, everyone complained about how boring and worthless the course was – but what shocked me was the general consensus of my salary paid peers who collectively came to the same conclusion of: “Oh well, I still get paid the same. If they want to waste their money on this, so be it.” In hindsight it shouldn’t have shocked me, because this is how the average salary man thinks: they trade their time for money. When they do this, they willingly give up control of that time and how it’s used by the company is of no concern of theirs. To me, this is a sad way to approach anything, especially something that will control much of your life from age 22 to 65 for the average person.
This is where I (and most of the readers here) differ in thought process as compared to most of the working class – we value our time enough to consider what is worth doing and what isn’t, and we take offense to being forced to do anything that isn’t valuable to ourselves, or friends and family, or the world at large. We see the world as an opportunity for adventure, challenges, leisure, and fun – but those things are only possible when we control our time.
I know I’ve talked a lot about “early retirement” on this site, but the purpose of this post isn’t just about that. There are many ways to strive towards escaping the golden handcuffs that a salary has on you. Early retirement is obviously a pretty ideal scenario, but more importantly, it’s a reminder of the benefits of driving down expenses and having an aggressive savings plan. Look at it this way, if you save 75% of your income, then each year you work allows for up to 3 years of unemployment. This gives you back control:
- You can take a lower paying job if your current job is unfulfilling to you.
- You can make decisions that go against the grain, even at the risk of making your employer angry and, worst case, being let go.
- You can take risks at your job that others are afraid to make, giving you a leg up on the competition
- You can leave paid employment altogether, and start your own gig with several years of buffer to get things rolling.
As I see it, the further you get ahead with your savings, the more you control your time. Saving for an early retirement may be the end goal with total control of your time, but saving towards and early retirement is an incremental path with incremental benefits, and the path can can start at any time. So whether you are almost there like me, or you’re 55 and only now beginning to save, or you are 21 and about to start your first job – the opportunity is there to begin taking control.
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