One of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is how quitting my job has really changed the way I think about work, and specifically, how I think about the way work fits in with my life.
Take my current schedule as an example. Last week, my wife and I went on a week-long trip to Alaska (naturally, using credit card points to cover our flights and hotels). Over Labor Day weekend, I attended CampFI, where I gave a presentation to a group of 50 attendees about how to create your own version of financial independence. And this coming week, I’ll be out in DC attending FinCon, connecting with all of my fellow money nerds and content creators.
That’s two weeks on the road, which is something that I never could have done back when I was working my regular day job. Back then, if I wanted to be out of the office that long, I’d have to first talk to my boss to get permission. Then I’d have to use my precious vacation time. And since I only had two weeks of vacation per year, using my vacation time now meant that I would have to sacrifice elsewhere in the year. I wouldn’t have any vacation time left for big holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years, for example.
Looking at it from the outside, it occurs to me that my job pretty much controlled my life. Everything I wanted to do had to fit around the parameters my job created for me. If I wanted to run errands or go home for a bit or do whatever, I couldn’t. My life was secondary to my job.
The more I think about it, the crazier that fact seems to me. If anything, it seems like it should be the other way around. Instead of your life fitting around your job, your job should fit around your life.
Most People – Your Life Fits Around Your Job
It’s interesting when you think about how we spend our days. We all get 24 hours in our day that’s basically broken down into three chunks:
- 8 sleeping;
- 8 hours working; and
- 8 hours doing your own thing.
Those hours are not created equally. We spend 8 hours sleeping because that’s when we’re tired and have to sleep. The 8 hours we get to use for our own thing are usually given to us early in the morning when we’re tired from just waking up, or later in the evening when we’re tired after a long day.
Interestingly enough, the best and most useful hours of our day – those 8 hours during the middle of the day when we’re generally the most energized and productive – are given away to our employers. They get the best, most awake, and most productive hours of our day. We get what’s leftover.
This is the way most of us live. Our lives – those precious bits of time we get for ourselves – have to fit around our job. It’s our jobs that decide where we go each day and what we can do each day. And if we want to deviate from that at all, it’s our jobs that decide if that’s possible.
The Goal – Create A Job That Fits Around Your Life
Since I quit my job and went on this entrepreneurial route, things really seem to be different. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to do anything and I get to pick how I want to use the 24 hours of my day. It’s the reason I’m able to be on the road for 2 weeks and both enjoy myself and get things done.
There are obvious trade-offs of course. I have nothing guaranteed (although, it’s fair to ask if anything in life is guaranteed). I also don’t have as clear a delineation between work and non-work time – when you’re doing your own thing, work and life inevitably start to meld together.
But the things I do now to earn a living – writing this blog, doing my gig stuff, and figuring out whatever other schemes I need to get by – give me back control of my life. I still have to work and I still have a job. But I have a lot more flexibility in how I use my time. Instead of fitting my life around my job, it feels like it’s going the other way now, where my job fits around my life.
I think this desire for control and flexibility is why I’ve always liked school. College and law school gave me a lot of time and flexibility during my day and made me feel in control of my life. I had a few hours of classes, but the majority of the time was for me to use.
Financial Independence Is About Feeling In Control
The point of financial independence isn’t about accumulating money. It’s about getting back control of our lives.
Our jobs tend to take away that control, which is why a lot of us come to the conclusion that the best thing we can do is get rid of the job. But creating a job that gives you back control of your life, where the job fits around your life, can do the same thing.
I’m not financially independent – in fact, I’m far from it. But I do a lot of the things that financially independent people do. I control my time. No one tells me how to use it. And perhaps most importantly, I’m happier than I was when I didn’t feel in control.
Moving to self-employment and hustling with my own wits has given me back that feeling of control that I didn’t have before. And even though I’m not financially independent, I sure seem to act like I am.
I still work for a living. But the work I do to earn a living – my job, if you will – seems to fit around my life. I get to choose when and where I work. And I don’t have to ask permission from anyone to do whatever it is I want or need to do.
My job fits around my life, not the other way around.