If you’re reading this blog, I imagine you’re unhappy with your current employment. Why do you want to quit your job? Maybe it leaves you unfulfilled. Maybe it’s your co-workers, your boss, the company you work for. Maybe you just don’t want to work in retail, or in a cubical, or weed gardens. You want to dance, or sing, or paint, or maybe your wish is to join the circus or run your own nudist colony.
Maybe you don’t have a calling, you just know you can’t work for anyone else any more.
Believe me, I feel your pain. I spent over a decade working jobs (they were good jobs too, paid well with excellent benefits), trading time for paychecks. I spent years staring out windows, burning spare time reading about my passions, and never fully committed my brain to anything. All I know is, I wanted out.
Know why you want out. It leads to setting a goal. That leads to making a plan. A plan gives you steps to follow to lead to the goal.
Still lost? That’s okay. The Matrix has you. If you take a moment to really look around — look at your coworkers, your neighbors, your friends and family — how do they live? Maybe they all meander in jobs too. They don’t talk about quitting to live their dream, they talk about their next vacation, what they just bought, or that new promotion at work. They are trapped in The Matrix too. Together, you serve a company with your time, energy, and mind. As Seth Godin says in The Icarus Deception:
“The overwhelming impact of more than a century of cultural indoctrination can’t be overstated. We have embraced industrial propaganda with such enthusiasm that we have changed the very nature of our dreams…Being a human today means more wealth, better health, and the leverage to influence others. But it also a fundamentally different existence from the one we had for a millennia before this…The industrialist needs you to dream about security and the benefits of compliance. The industrialist works to sell you on a cycle of consumption (which requires more compliance). And the industrialist benefits from our dream of moving up the corporate ladder, his ladder. [Godin’s emphasis]”
What Godin means by “industrial” and the “industrialist” in his book is the large, “too big to fail” type companies that are the byproducts of the Industrial Age. This Age has shifted the company culture many decades ago, and includes the Baby Boomer’s mantra of “go to school so you can get a good job to stay at until you retire at 65.” While this advice may have been prudent in the 1940s and 1950s, today it is a TRAP.
There are many reasons to quit your job. Probably countless personal reasons. But if you want to escape the Matrix and an outdated work culture, here are five of the biggest reason to do so:
#1. You Are A Replaceable Part
Most companies are built around systems. What is a system? To borrow an example from The E-Myth Revisted by Michael Gerber, McDonald’s is the perfect example of a business system. To build it, McDonald’s designed policies and procedures to dictate how their burgers were to be made, the items on the menu, how their restaurants were to be run, and every employees job responsibilities. The idea was to have it all in place so ANYONE could be hired and plugged into this system. You didn’t need a college degree, you just had to be able to follow policy.
This makes opening McDonald’s restaurants that much easier, and it ensures a similar experience to the customer regardless of which location they visit. McDonald’s had consistency across the board. For the employee, this means you can be replaced. Sure, you know the policies backwards and forwards, you have lots of experience and can handle pretty much anything that pops up. But if you quit, they can plug anyone in to replace you. You are not special. You hold no power over the company.
Back to Godin: “In the industrial age, the age of standardization and interchangeable parts, it’s all about being safe. The system is so valuable, the processes to polished, that safe guarantees productivity and profits. Keep it moving. Keep it efficient. Keep it reliable.”
#2. You Have No Control
I worked for two large companies in Apple and T-Mobile; I’ve seen the games played in the ranks of middle management. I started out at the lowest rung of both companies: part-time sales representatives in retail stores. As soon as I poked my head up to explore the possibility of moving up, I could quickly see the games and politics being played. Give a former entry-level employee a little bit of power as a manager, and it quickly goes to their head. Suddenly, they are POWERFUL, they make the decisions and rule over the lives of those under them (in making the schedule dictating raises and pay, etc). It only gets worse for their managers and the managers above them.
If you take an entry level job, there is always the hope or plan to move up. To make more money, be bequeathed that meager amount of power, to carve out a little larger piece of life. But the truth is, it’s not always up to you.
Not long before leaving T-Mobile, I applied for promotion to a regional business sales position. I had the best business sales in the market, plus I owned my own business so I could speak the language of business owners and their needs. Moreover, not long before I applied I had had an awesome month of sales: In May 2018 I finished second in the company in sales numbers. Out of nearly 15,000 retail sales reps, I was number 2 overall. I thought these qualifications would make me a shoe-in for the job. Furthermore, the position had been open for months as no one else applied. I threw my hat into the ring, followed up with the manager who opened the position, and waited. And waited. And waited. I followed up again and was assured interviews were happening the following week. They never came. Months later I found out the manager of the position I applied for didn’t want to hire anyone. Hiring someone meant his sales quota would go up, which he didn’t want. It was easier to leave the spot vacant to protect his numbers. Were there any repercussions? Did T-Mobile care one of their successful, achieving employees was denied a promotion because of a manager’s covering of their own butt? Of course not.
You may be the most qualified person for a promotion in the world, but there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get it. Here’s another one: My brother-in-law worked for a Brazilian restaurant for 14 years. He loved it, loved the company, and wanted a career with them. He had moved up from server to head waiter. He knew a lot of the company brass. Last year he was fired from the company by a newly-hired regional manager. The reason? The new regional manager just didn’t like him. Job lost. Career derailed.
You can work as hard as you want, but there are no guarantees. You do not control your own destiny when you are an employee.
This was always the biggest one for me to quit my job. Maybe your job isn’t terrible. Maybe you like your co-workers. But the truth is, your job eats a lot of your time. It eats hours, days, weeks, and years of your time. It eats away the best years of your life — years of good health and energy. If you work until you’re 65, you’re finally released back into the wild but with less energy and health. Maybe you retire and immediately spend more time in the hospital. You’ve traded away your time for a steady paycheck.
One of the most prescient (and scary) things I’ve ever heard about working as an employee is “Your paycheck is your bribe to delay your dreams.” It hit me like a ton of bricks because it’s TRUE! I think the greatest sin in the world is people giving up on what they truly want to do with their life out of complacency. The system has made it easy — and socially acceptable! — to enter the workforce and not pursue what we want most. There’s no stigma to it. How many times have you heard someone say “I always wanted to be…” but they never did it because they “had to work.” They looked around and everyone else was doing the same thing. Giving up on your dreams has become a herd mentality.
#4. You Are Being Fleeced
You’ve heard me mention The Cashflow Quadrant in this blog before, but I always go back to Robert Kiyosaki when it comes to the “E” quadrant and taxes. As an employee, you will always be in the WORST tax situation! Employees have no tax deductions. Employees have no write-offs. Employees are paid in wages, which are taxed at the maximum levels. Employees collect their pay AFTER taxes are taken out.
It’s not just wages. Worked hard for a project or event and made some overtime? Taxed at the maximum level. Do a great job and get a bonus? Bonuses can be taxed even HIGHER than earned income. Does your company offer free stock? T-Mobile did, and when the shares vested, nearly 40% were taken for bonus taxes. Then, if you sold the shares you did get, you were taxed again for capital gains. Invest in company 401k? If you draw from it after retiring, it’s taxed upon every withdrawal. If you pull money from it before retirement age, it gets taxed PLUS penalties.
When working people complain the rich don’t pay enough (or none at all) in taxes, I always have to laugh. The rich aren’t doing anything illegal or unsavory, it’s the tax code that’s designed to be that way. If you remain an employee, you will always be taxed the hardest. The rich are not employees. Still not hitting home on you yet? Imagine you make $40,000/year for 40 years (leaving out raises and bonuses). That’s $1.6 million dollars in earned income over a career. Nearly $500,000 of that will be paid in income taxes. This also assumes taxes don’t go up for 40 years (which they ultimately will). Don’t forget you’re also paying additional fees like unemployment insurance, which, if you stayed employed for 40 years, you never drew from and ultimately never used.
Next time you get a paycheck, take a good look at the withholdings. Your end of year W2 is also a good statement of how much you’re losing to taxes and withholdings.
#5. The Worst Thing That Could Happen is You Get Promoted
So you work a job at a company. If you’re lucky, you’re putting in 40 or so hours and you get your weekends off. Some people refer to this as the “5/2 rule” or “5 for 2 rule.” You work five days to get two. (Again, this is a product of the industrial age as the M-F 9-5pm American work week coincides with the child’s school schedule) But, you’ve committed to your job and career (even if you hate it). You hope to move up, get a bigger office with a little more pay. Maybe you get to make some decisions. You finally get a little control.
The problem is you’re now working way beyond 40 hours a week. In retail, you’ll find the pay structure changes at the management level — managers are salary. Why? Because they work way beyond 40 hours and have to be on call at all times. There’s no escape.
When I was promoted from my Apple retail store to Apple corporate, I was given a laptop and an iPhone. Awesome! The catch? I had to have them both with me AT ALL times — even vacations! I once took a conference call on Christmas Eve just before family dinner. I was hunkered in my childhood bedroom on a call while the rest of the family enjoyed themselves. Getting promoted makes you a larger piece of the machine. You’re a bigger cog. The bigger office and more pay sound appealing, but you’re trading even more of your life away.
At T-Mobile I had been promoted to assistant manager in a retail store. Pay went slightly up, while commission went down. But I was suddenly responsible for a lot more, went to more meetings and sat on more calls. I had to come in on days off if a sales person called off. More time was lost for an minuscule increase in compensation. I stepped down after 6 months, going back to sales. I didn’t notice the change in my paychecks.
Honorable Mention: You Will Be Replaced
Not everyone is (currently) at risk of this, but automation and robotics are beginning to threaten those in the lowest level of the labor pool. For so many companies, human labor is the most costly element. Outsourcing jobs to foreign countries was only a half-measure. Complete computer automation for companies is coming very soon.
A kiosk that takes orders at McDonald’s is not paid a wage. It has no overtime, no workers comp. It never needs to take a break and will never call off. It doesn’t have a 401k or medical benefits package. Sure it may break down, but the cost of repair or replacement is certainly less than an employee requiring medical leave or surgery. If am employee costs $40,000/year and a machine that can do the same job costs $40,000 and lasts for 10 years than the machine is the better investment. It may sound cold, but it’s a numbers game: $40,000 vs $400,000 (not including medical benefits and perks).
It’s the 21st century and human machines will be replaced by metal ones.