Most of us love to hate our jobs. We grumble about work — hard work, busy work, mindless work, tedious work, menial work, etc. We don’t get to go to work; we have to go to work – and can’t wait to quit work. I’m certainly not immune to these thoughts, but I also believe there is an unseen upside to work that comes with financial freedom.
Call me crazy, but I actually want to work. Not just any kind work – I want to experience many different kinds of work. Let me explain…
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
Like many college students, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t have a single passion or calling for a career. So, I applied a super scientific approach to declare my major… since I enjoyed reading and writing, I figured journalism would be a good option.
But that line of thinking didn’t last long. By the time I graduated, I convinced myself that a better choice was to pursue a corporate career (higher pay).
So I did – I got an entry-level job working at a Fortune 500 company. And I proceeded to spend the next 20 years (and counting) advancing my career as a business professional working for large global tech companies.
It hasn’t been all roses and sunshine. There have been countless days when I wanted to tell an irritating coworker to F-off and call it quits. Yet I’m content in knowing that I’ve made the most out of my career – financially, professionally and personally. And I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to climb the corporate ladder and establish my work identity as a successful businesswoman.
But why should a career be limited to a single occupation?
I’ve often wondered, could I have succeeded in another profession? How would I have fared had I chosen another career path?
What if I had pursued a position based on my degree in journalism and become a reporter? Or perhaps leaned into my desire to teach and become a college professor? Or, given my analytical/logical nature, become an engineer? Or, applied my affinity for independence and started my own business? Or…. you get the idea.
Well, financial freedom gives me the opportunity to answer some of these questions – and find out if I’m capable of achieving more.
Upside to Work: Live Many Lives
There is an unseen upside to work that comes with financial freedom: the ability to live many work lives and tryout unlimited occupations. And to do so with less concern for earning a living.
“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.” – Sylvia Plath
Like Sylvia Plath, I want to experience as much as possible in my life. I want to know and experience what’s behind Door #2 or Curtain #3. But unlike Sylvia Plath, we don’t have to be horribly limited. Especially after we reach financial freedom.
Rather than restrict ourselves to a single line of work (What do you want to be when you grow up?), we should redefine careers in a way that allows us to span a variety of professional pursuits (What do you want to be first? What do you want to be next?).
What Do You Want to Be Next?
A huge part of my motivation in achieving financial freedom is to transition more and more into work I enjoy. Where I create things that matter and provide value to others – and get paid in the process.
With this in mind, I will build from skills gained and lessons learned during my first work life as a business professional to excel in my next work lives… perhaps becoming a professor, graduate assistant, freelance writer, professional blogger, marketing consultant, public speaker, etc.
You may be thinking, financial freedom means NOT needing to work, NOT needing to earn a paycheck. So why can’t you live many lives as a hobby? Why does it have to be about work?
Here’s why I think it’s important to live many lives as a work pursuit…
Work Makes it Real
As I referenced earlier, my desire is to transition into work I enjoy where I can create things that matter and provide value to others. But how do I know if I’m creating things that matter or providing value to others?
I need a success metric.
As much as I would like to say that the intrinsic value of “creativity” or “doing a good job” is enough for me, it’s not. Earning a paycheck gives me a sense of accomplishment. It’s confirmation that I’ve provided something of value. It’s my gold star if you will, and a huge motivator.
The ultimate acknowledgement that I’ve created or provided something of value is having others willing to pay me.
For this reason, I need to treat living many lives as professions. If I view living many lives as hobbies, I fear I won’t take them seriously enough, or achieve what I’m capable of achieving.
I may not need to earn income for financial reasons, but I will need to earn income for motivational reasons. Work makes it real.
Work Hard at Work Worth Doing
Someday I may want to retire to a life of leisure, but that time isn’t now. There is too much upside to work — too many work lives left to experience — before I’m ready to retire.
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt