“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
Being the rat race doesn’t apply to everyone who works a 9 to 5 job. It simply means you’re in a position where your efforts aren’t going to lead to somewhere you want to be. It’s the process of working hard, running fast, and remaining in the same place.
Most of these points are about people who quit their jobs, but they’re still traits you can use to build a life of freedom and abundance, whatever that means to you.
This list includes some of the traits you need to build the life I just described.
I worked as a project manager for a digital marketing company. We provided services like web and graphic design, SEO, social media marketing, and paid advertisements.
Part of my job involved reviewing the contracts we’d get in for new projects. I had to make sure the company was making a profit based on the labor we paid out for the projects.
After I’d reviewed so many contracts, I realized just how much of a gap there was between the amount of money the client paid for services and the wages were paid out to the employees who performed the services.
I fully understood what I’m about to tell you now:
By definition, you have to get paid much less than your skills and talents are actually worth for companies to make money.
A ton of people are a move away from escaping the rat race and dramatically increasing their income. They simply have to do the services they already know how to do and cut out the middle man. They can freelance and even build their own companies by training others on what they know.
People who escape the rat race understand the true value of their skills and don’t settle for less. Of course, you have the trade-off of taking on all the risk and having no guaranteed income whatsoever, but this is why the victor gets the spoils. You’re compensated, partially, based on the risks you’re willing to take.
I never looked at this process from a moral lens. For me, it wasn’t about fairness or unfairness. I just made a cold, calculated, and rational decision based on the math.
I didn’t hate the last job I had before I quit to become a full-time creator and entrepreneur. My bosses were good people who let me have a creative license to make big decisions. I got paid to learn skills that helped me become a better marketer and understand how business worked. The pay, even though less than what I was worth, was adequate.
There was just one problem. I hated being underneath someone else’s thumb — even if it was a kind, decent-paying, low-stress environment providing thumb.
I hated that I had to be there at a certain time, every day, no matter what. Sometimes, I hated working with certain clients because they were jerks. And of course, I hated that there was a cap on my income.
People who manage to escape the rat race tend to have a serious disdain for authority and value their freedom more than anything else. They realize that, in the long run, a life where they can’t control their income and time just isn’t a way they can tolerate living.
For some people, being in the rat race is tolerable enough that they won’t change. The pain of forging a new path is higher than the pain of staying in their current routine. Some people genuinely feel trapped and hate their gigs, but at least they’ve grown used to their misery.
Complacence in all its forms is a drug. It lulls you into a state of inertia. You’re trapped in a life you don’t want, but you have Stockholm Syndrome. If you want to snap out of it, spend some time thinking about just how little of your time you actually have control over. See if that bothers you enough to get inspired to escape.
The number one critique against freelancing and entrepreneurship is the amount of risk you have to take to succeed. It’s true, you can waste time, effort, and money on a venture that doesn’t work out. But also understand there’s no scenario in life where you get to avoid risk.
Sometimes, though, the most seemingly predictable and stable ways to live entail the most risk. Studying books by Nassim Taleb taught me a ton about developing a proper understanding of risk. Mainly, the concepts of fragility and antifragility.
A fragile system is a system that works most of the time, but when it fails, it fails catastrophically. Picture the typical person in society. They’ve been at a steady and stable job for years and they base all of their decisions on that assumed security.
They take on tons of debt because they know the paychecks will keep coming in — homes they can’t afford, car notes, consumer debt, loans. They never save and invest because they’re used to the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.
Far too many people underestimate just how quickly that house of cards can fall once a few paychecks stop coming in. Everything works well until it fails catastrophically.
Savvy antifragile people learn how to harness risk properly. They take calculated bets with high upside and low, known, downside, e.g., spending $1,000 to get an internet business off the ground.
They create systems that avoid having one single point of failure by creating diverse skills and income streams. Counterintuitively, they’re safer in a sense because the unpredictability of their lives forces them to pay attention.
It’s all risky. Better to get on the right side of risk and play the game wisely.
I still get paid for books I wrote years ago. My content exists on platforms that expose it to new people organically like YouTube, Medium, and my website through SEO. I look for ways to grow my income in a way that I can scale.
If you want to escape the rat race, you must master the concept of scale. In short, you want to be able to multiply your effort. Instead of just making money in direct proportion to your effort, e.g., hourly wages, you find a way for your efforts to compound.
If you create one product, you can sell it over and over and over again. Bonus points if it’s digital. You can create systems to scale out your reach to new people who want to consume what you have to offer through things like marketing, funnels, SEO, etc. Once you have some extra money, you can scale further by paying other people to do tasks for you or investing the money.
When you look at someone who has wealth, you look at someone who has scale. They have media, code, and other people working for them. They have blueprints that create multiplied effort. Eventually, you can end up creating this sort of living organism that grows, makes money for you, and frees up your time.
The last trait is a simple and cliche one, but it’s the most important trait of them all.
People who manage to escape the rat race believe it’s possible and they believe in themselves. I stumbled into writing and started getting pretty good at it.
I looked at other writers and online entrepreneurs and just came to the simple realization that they’re normal people who worked hard and followed tried and true methods to make money online.
All of this stuff works. As much as it seems like the gurus are blowing smoke up your ass, and some of them are, this stuff works. I’ve seen people execute every business model, marketing style, and product type. There’s an element of chance, but it reduces as time moves forward.
If you give the process a sincere shot for five years, the odds of escape are near one hundred percent. But you have to execute. The steps aren’t difficult, but the process is maddening.
I didn’t want to wake up at 5 a.m. and work on my side business for two hours before work, but I did want to be free. There are a ton of boring mundane tasks I didn’t want to learn beyond just writing, but I knew they came with the territory so I just sucked it up and learned how to do them.
The beginning is tough. There’s a mountain of things you don’t know and there are thousands of days of work ahead of you and you just don’t see how you can pull it off without quitting. You persist by zeroing in on the present moment as much as possible to get that inch of work done for the day. Then you do it again and again and again.
You eventually get into a groove and the work gets easier to do. You learn the nuances. And then you win.
This whole idea that you’re trapped and destined to be in the rat race forever is a total illusion. There are real-world circumstances in your way, but you have to use your imagination and cunning to outwit them.
You’re smart enough. It’s more than doable. Whether or not you’re willing to do what it takes is an entirely different question. It’s a question only you can answer. Answer it.