The alarm goes off at 5 am. My bedroom is pitch black and freezing. Judging by the inside-of-a-carwash sounds from my window, it's raining and storming outside. Monday mornings are rough, but Monday mornings in November are plain sadistic.
I reach the bus stop at 05.40, drenched and shivering, with my coffee in a thermos mug. The queue isn't as long at this early hour, and I get the luxury of a seat on the bus.
I plug my headphones in and blast myself awake with some 90's gangster rap, to muster up some fighting spirit and to block out the sounds of the other commuters sneezing and coughing all around me.
When I get to the office thirty minutes later, the lights are out. I'm first on the scene, with the whole office to myself. A rare occurrence indeed.
I take my computer out of my locker, make fresh coffee and install myself at my favorite desk in the quiet corner - the one everyone wants. “Early bird catches the worm.”
I am not an early bird. I hate early mornings. But compared to the alternative: standing up in an overcrowded bus, arriving at a chaotic office with all the good desks taken and the coffee already burnt, I have chosen the lesser of two evils.
This is my dream job. Or should be. It’s a prestigious agency in the big city. My skills and qualifications are in desperate demand in my industry. I have responsibility, influence and a pretty decent salary. I get to do work I enjoy, while feeling validated by bosses and co-workers alike.
I should be positively ecstatic to be here.
By noon, when the full workforce has arrived and the noise and commotion start to get too distracting, I lock myself in the bathroom and swallow a pill of a prescription drug I’ve ordered (somewhat illegally) over the internet. A cognitive enhancer that will help me focus and be more productive, while numbing the fatigue and lurking depression underneath.
Then I hide in a dark conference room and work with artificial frenzy until just before lunch time, when I heat up my food before everyone else. In a few minutes, the microwaves will be occupied, all the forks taken and the quiet cafeteria transformed into my high school lunch room.
I eat in front of my computer and hope no one sees me.
A few hours later: “Are you here today? We can’t find you…”, my team leader writes to me on Skype.
Crap, there goes the rest of my productive time for the day.
The afternoon is spent in back-to-back meetings, discussing a client's upcoming Christmas campaign. Newsletters, landing page optimization, Facebook ads, blogger outreach...
Since I’m the blogging expert, the task falls on me to court the bloggers into doing a collaboration. (Meaning: the blogger mercifully mentions my client’s name in a blog post in return for cash.)
I am so jealous. There I am, playing the PR agent when all I really want is to be that blogger: Free, creative, independent, and with the power to turn down an offer because it’s not in line with what my audience wants.
I have a blog of my own, but it's been inactive ever since I got this job. When I come home in the evenings, I'm too exhausted to write.
The clock strikes 3 and my eight hours are dutifully logged. An action movie-style countdown ensues. I have one hour to get home before the afternoon rush hour hits, with bus after bus passing by the station, overstuffed with tired commuters.
No gangster rap in the world can block out an entire city’s worth of employees commuting home at the same time. I´m elbowed in the side, bumped into and attacked from all sides. It´s a war zone.
I stop by the usual places on my way home: The fast food joint and the convenience store. After a long workday, the only proper reward is a burger and a pint of ice cream. I have gained ten pounds over the last few months.
I hit the couch and eat my dinner. It takes several hours for my pulse to slow down and when it finally does, I’m too stuffed and exhausted to do anything other than watch tv or play video games for the remainder of the evening.
The alarm will go off same time tomorrow and start the process all over again, so I don’t see any point in doing something useful with my spare time. I might as well go to bed early.
Fast-forward a few months: Alarm goes off and I am unable to get out of bed. My muscles aren't obeying my will. I reach inside my mind, desperately grappling for some motivation, but it’s empty in there. Nothing but apathy.
I spend the whole morning lying on my couch, staring at the ceiling, ignoring the messages and calls from my boss. I feel this overwhelming need to just give up. Throw in the towel.
What use can I be to this world if I can’t hold down a regular job, not even a job I should be loving?
I've been working this job for six months. If I can't handle six months, how could I possibly handle a whole career of this?
I stay on my couch for the rest of the day, pondering what will become of me. What is wrong with me? Why can't I work like a normal person? Who will ever want to employ someone so fragile? What can I offer the world in a way that would not destroy me in the process?
And then it hits me.
My work is not destroying me. How I work, is.
I know I have skills. I know I am capable of great work, under the right circumstances. And this, working for someone else, is not my right circumstances.
It's not me who needs to change, it's my situation.
I grab my phone and write a message to my boss, telling her we need to talk.
A week later I leave the company. I go to work for myself.
No prestigious position or steady salary in the world beats the feeling of waking up on a Monday morning with no shackles around your feet.
You look out the window while making your breakfast and you see the lemming trail of hurried morning commuters rush by. You watch the crowds gather at the bus station, huddled together under the roof to escape the rain. Soon, they will be shipped off to their respective workplaces and placed firmly by a desk, with eight hours to kill before they are allowed back to their families and their life.
They are handing over a third (or more) of their life for someone else to profit on. Maybe they take comfort in complaining about their idiot bosses, their stressful workloads and the bad tasting coffee to their co-workers, but nonetheless they stay where they are.
They stand by that bus station every morning and sit at that desk all day. Too afraid to rock the boat. Too afraid to demand more.
That used to be you. But not anymore. Now, no one can force you out of your bed on a freezing November morning. No one can tie you to a desk and tell you what to do and when and how. No one can monopolize your time, put a cap on your salary and still demand your very best ideas and efforts.
You step into your home office, light some candles and fire up your computer. You work for you now. You are the captain of your ship.
Now, where do you want to sail?
This book is not for everyone. I’m writing it for a very specific type of person.
I´m writing it for you who’s perpetually unhappy, tired of always feeling out of place and endlessly searching for your "purpose".
I'm writing it for you: introverted, sensitive, creative, rebellious soul who's too independent and too much of a weirdo to fit into a conventional career.
I'm writing it for you who, when you read the prologue for this book, sighed with relief and thought to yourself: "Yes! Finally someone who feels exactly like me."
Chances are, this person is not you.
You might be pretty much content with the way things are. A little bored perhaps, and curious about possibly, maybe, someday giving your creative dreams a shot.
But the way I described my experience and view of the 9-5 lifestyle? Unnecessarily dark and over exaggerated. It’s not that bad for you. You actually enjoy not having to think too much, but just show up and do your part. You are relieved to have other people tell you what to do, otherwise you’d feel totally lost.
You’d rather stay in the hell you know than venture out into unknown territory. You’re too scared to leave your comfort zone, to try your wings, to challenge yourself, to grow.
So what if you’re working for someone else? As long as you get your salary and your vacations, that’s enough freedom for you. You can always paint and write and knit and record music on the weekends. No need to rock the boat.
Hey, if this is you: No problem, I get it. Nothing wrong with being comfortable and content with your life. Nothing wrong with working for someone else, in fact I applaud that. They’re lucky to have you.
And this book is probably not for you. =)
But, my dear reader:
If the 9-5 life simply isn't your cup of tea.
If you are done with having your time, energy and skills totally wasted on meaningless work that doesn’t excite you.
If you are done with flailing about, confused and not knowing what you’re “supposed” to do with your life.
If you are tired of hearing you need to “toughen up”, “work faster”, “speak louder”, “think quicker”, “try harder” and “do as you’re told”.
If are you ready to take your career out of someone else’s hands and into your own, pursuing a life that matters to you.
If you have this hunch that you’re meant for something more creative and authentic, something that feels more “you”.
Then you have come to the right place. This book is for you and wow, are we going to have a lot of fun together...
Chapter 1: Why you're miserable (and what to do about it)
“A good rule of thumb is that any environment that consistently leaves you feeling bad about who you are is the wrong environment.”
- Laurie Helgoe
Have you ever had a job you really, really hated? Where every day felt like an insurmountable feat of will and strength, draining you to your very core? Or where your days where just so painfully boring that you’d rather watch paint dry?
And have you ever had a job where you felt completely disposable, underutilized, underestimated and overlooked? Where you had to struggle to keep up and fit in, despite feeling like an alien from another planet?
I’m guessing you have. Maybe you have a job like that right now.
You might think it's all your fault. After all, you took the job. Maybe you invested years of your life to study for it. You said yes to all those responsibilities. You failed to take care of yourself. And now here you are. You shouldn’t complain. At least you have a job to go to, right?
And everyone else seems to be doing fine. Your friends and co-workers, they don’t complain. For them, going to work every morning and clocking in their eight hours is just “what you do”. They can’t understand how someone can suffer so much from the things that they consider to be minor inconveniences. Like, trying to focus on a complex task while basking in bright, dentist-chair-like light with phones ringing all over the place and the colleague next to you watching videos on YouTube.
Or riding to work for 20 minutes in a subway car packed like a can of sardines.
They might make a sarcastic joke about their lunatic boss or how “they’re not paying me enough for this shit”. But still, they carry on, seemingly complacent in the lull of everyday life.
You feel like you’re totally over-reacting and should just quit whining and appreciate what you have. But you can’t hide your feelings like everybody else. You feel alone in your despair.
Well, you are not alone. You are not overreacting. This is not your fault.
According to a 2016 Gallup study, there is a worldwide crisis in workplace engagement. 87% of employees are not engaged at work. And with “engaged”, they mean “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”. In other words, a huge majority or employees feel indifferent and sort of “meh” towards their jobs. Like you. Maybe you're not so crazy after all?
Meanwhile, burnout rates among workers are also climbing.
No wonder. The world is moving faster and faster. Companies are getting greedier, forcing fewer employees to work even harder so that they can cut costs and maximize profits.
Technology makes us more vulnerable than ever to overwhelm and distractions. Everyone’s frantic and stressed out, emailing each other day and night. Work-life balance is a long-lost luxury.
These burnout rates are a clear sign that things are spinning out of control. If you are feeling chronically depressed and exhausted at work, it is probably not you who's moving too slowly, it's your job that is moving too fast.
Do you know that inside our skulls, there's a brain more or less identical to the brains of our thousand-year-old ancestors? And a body with the same primitive instincts, fears and desires as our caveman forbearers. Our minds are not equipped to handle the tempo and pressure of our modern world. No matter how much we want to believe that we can multitask, ignore our emotions and charge full speed ahead, sooner or later our physiology catches up with us. We crash.
For some people it takes longer than others, but eventually even the most ambitious, driven, extroverted and energetic person will reach their limit.
If the population at large has this big a problem, then that doesn't even come close to what we highly sensitive introverts have: A perpetual crisis.
Workplaces are increasingly extroverted in nature, with open office plans, big, noisy lunchrooms and spaces designed for constant collaboration and socializing.
The routines of most corporations are in direct conflict with the way we introverts work. We are quiet, private and thoughtful, and yet we're forced to think aloud in meetings, work while being observed and be creative on demand.
To top that off, most initiatives to “engage” employees and build team spirit are also extroverted in nature: parties, competitions, kick-off conferences and group activities.
How can we possibly keep up?
Why do we continue trying, even though we are constantly at a disadvantage, constantly out of our element, constantly in fight-or-flight mode?
Why do we stay in jobs we hate?
The most common reason is limiting beliefs. Thoughts like:
“I have no education.”
“I have no work experience.”
“I have no contacts.”
“I have no self-discipline.”
“I have no confidence.”
“I have no idea what I want to do with my life.”
“I have to take what I can get.”
“I have to just suck it up and not be such a diva.“
“I studied for four years to get this job.”
“The pay is good.”
“I really should be enjoying this job.”
But just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true. A lot of these thoughts are your parents' and teachers' and other authority figures' beliefs hijacking your brain. Some of them are based on you not knowing enough about the world and your options. Others are simply your fears talking.
Regardless of the excuses you tell yourself, by the end of this book we will have discredited them all and you will see that there really is nothing holding you back from creating your dream career. Other than yourself.
Another reason we stay in jobs we hate is convention.
Working a job is the conventional and safe and responsible thing to do. It's what everyone wants us to do.
And in order to get a job, you need an education. So you go to college for 3-5 years, amass huge student debts and then, with your degree in hand, you go from door to door hoping someone will deem you worthy and employ you.
But even if you do get that job, your education will not have prepared you for the steep learning curve, the office politics, the quickly evolving industry and the fluctuations of the job market. Just like that, you could be let go. No matter how well-educated and dedicated you are. Job safety is an illusion.
That's kind of depressing.
The good news? This old career paradigm is not holding you back anymore.
With the internet and other new technology, the rules have changed. The old conventions are obsolete. And you have much more options than you might be aware of.
A job today has nothing to do with getting up early in the morning, riding the bus to work and spending eight hours in an office.
A job today can be done whenever and from wherever in the world.
A job today is more personal and creative than ever before in history.
Name any weird topic or niche and there is someone out there making a decent living on it. Because today, making money is easier than ever.
As this book will show you, working for yourself, in whatever form you desire, can be just as legit, secure and profitable as getting a traditional job. In fact, more so.
Here's why you should become your own boss:
1. It's more secure
Think that a full-time job is your safest bet? It sure might feel that way in the short term. A steady salary is nice. Routines are predictable.
Until something happens that flips your entire life upside down. You are let go. Your company moves to the other side of town, giving you 30 more minutes of commuting time. You get a new boss, who just so happens to be a narcissistic lunatic. Two of your colleagues quit and you are left with an impossible workload and no raise.
As an employee, what power do you have over these circumstances? None at all. You are at someone else’s mercy, with little to no warning of the decisions that might impact your life in a big and terrifying way.
Self-employment, on the other hand, might seem more insecure: your profits and salary might fluctuate and be hard to predict beforehand. But you are in charge. If things are going slow with your business, you are the first one to know about it, and you can act to counter it.
If you have a client that’s a narcissistic lunatic, you can fire them. If you have unexpected expenses, you can work a little more to afford them. You can give yourself as much security as you need. It might take you some time to reach a comfortable and safe place with your business, but once you’re there, no one can take it away from you.
As for the future: you're in luck. If you’re an inventor, teacher, storyteller, artist or other creative and empathic type, going into business for yourself is likely an even wiser decision. Author Dan Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, argues that the big winners in tomorrow’s economy will be us right-brain thinkers. We whose skills can’t easily be replicated by robots or outsourced to cheap off-shore workers. We who’s work will always be in demand, because for as long as our species have existed we have been addicted to stories, art and human connection. And we’ll keep craving those things, no matter what the future looks like.
So if you’ve been told all your life that “drawing isn’t a real job” or that “your music will never make you a living”. It’s payback time! Your lawyer/programmer/doctor/accountant friends might be begging you to lend them money some time soon.
2. It's more profitable.
Truth be told, you might earn less in the beginning of your self-employment journey. Very few business are profitable from day one.
And yes, your salary will likely not be exactly the same each month.
But with time, and on average, studies show that entrepreneurs earn up to 50% more than employees. Woop woop.
More importantly, when you are your own boss, you decide how much money you want to make. No one else. As an employee, no matter how many hours you work, and no matter how much value you produce during those hours, you’ll still earn roughly the same salary. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day and you are only one person.
As an entrepreneur, you don’t have to be an hourly wage slave. You can complement (or replace) your hourly work by passive income streams that free up your time and remove the limit to how much money you can make in a month. You can put in work up front and then make money while you sleep. For the rest of your life. How’s that for job security?
3. It gives you freedom, control and unlimited possibilities
What good is a juicy salary if you don’t have the time or energy to enjoy it? If you have to get up a 6 am a black and cold January morning, wade through wet snow, spoon strangers in a packed subway, spend eight hours in a cubicle and then wade back home and collapse on the couch for the remainder of the day. Barely seeing daylight. (At least not up here in the northern hemisphere…) Being too exhausted in the weekends to go out and do stuff. Only fully living during those few vacation weeks a year.
Personally, I’d rather have a little vacation every day or whenever I need it. Getting out of bed when I want to. Working when and how I want to. Being in charge of my time.
I would choose that over any fat paycheck an employer could offer me. Freedom is the real currency in today´s economy. The more freedom you have, the richer you are, regardless of how much money you earn.
4. It allows you to be yourself and play on your strengths.
As introverts, sensitives and creatives, we often spend our work days disguising who we really are and fighting against our perceived weaknesses. We might have multiple talents, but we are hired to do one thing. We might have tons of creative ideas and opinions but we don't get an opportunity to voice them. We constantly feel at a disadvantage.
But as self-employed, those same “weaknesses” can be your advantages. You can use your empathy, observational skills, focus and creativity to have a fulfilling and profitable career. And you will realize that you are the best boss you could have ever wished for.
Are you an introverted, highly sensitive creative, struggling to fit into a conventional job? Are you tired of endlessly searching for your ideal career? Stop looking. Create it yourself. This guide will show you how.
Length: 219 pages.