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How To Win The Rat Race

Look to your left.  OK, now, look to your right.  What do you see?  Are you surrounded by commuter traffic or cubicles?  People who would clearly rather be somewhere else?  Do you feel a numbing sense of Déjà vu?  If so, you may want to start to panic.  You’re in a rat race, and I hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to win.  There is only one way to win the rat race.  It’s been proven time and time again.  It’s really no secret at all, but let’s pretend like it is, and I’ll let you in on it.  Ready?  Here’s how to win the rat race in 3… 2…. 1…. GO!


What Is The Rat Race?

But first, to conquer your enemy, you need to understand it.  So, what is the rat race, and why do we call it that?  Because rats like to race on wheels.  The rat runs and runs, and the wheel turns and turns, but it never seems to go anywhere.  The rat hopes there is some greater purpose to all this running.   There’s just gotta be a reason for it all, right?




Your Very Own Rat Wheel

Your own rat wheel is the 9 to 5 grind.  The never-ending cycle of working hard to try to make more money to buy more things to impress someone else.  And somehow, with a little magic fairy dust, this is supposed to bring you happiness.


Here’s the formula you’ve been led to believe:


Hard Work leads to More Money, which allows you to buy More Stuff, and then, presto, whamo! Somehow this is supposed to turn into Happiness…. In the little amount of time you have left over.


Hard Work => More Money => Buy More Stuff => ??? => Happiness


The ultimate goal here is happiness, and it’s a noble goal.  It’s just not clear how you get there.  But the basic idea is to willingly give up a whole bunch of your time in exchange for money, then use that money to buy things that make you happy.  The equation must work, right?  After all, everyone else is doing it.  Time to get back to work!


Bad Math

But that equation is bad math.  There are two problems with it.  First, if you don’t love your work, then you’re spending a massive amount of time doing something that doesn’t make you happy.   Since your end goal is happiness, this presents a bit of a conundrum.


You try to make up for it by finding your happiness somewhere else – you buy it.  You hope that buying more stuff, plus your meager two weeks of vacation a year, is somehow going to make up for all those hours you spend on the rat wheel.


And here’s the second problem:  it doesn’t.  More stuff doesn’t make you happier.  Neither does two weeks of vacation.


You know it deep down.  Maybe you just don’t want to admit it yet.  We want to believe there’s a good reward for all those years of racing on that rat wheel.


There Is No Finish Line

But there is no trophy at the end of the rat race.  No reward.  No prize.  There is no finish line, and no one wins the race.  There is just more work, more money, and more stuff…. The cycle keeps spinning, like a rat on a wheel.


How To Win The Rat Race

You may have already guessed where this is going.  The only way to win the rat race is to stop racing.  Step off the cycle of consumerism and start creating a good lifestyle.  A good lifestyle means pursuing what you enjoy and sharing time and experiences with friends and family every day.


Creating a good lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight, but it also doesn’t happen in a cubicle.  If you don’t enjoy your daily grind, then it’s time to step off your rat wheel.  For many, that requires saving money like a hero and cutting expenses like a ninja, so you can accelerate your path to financial independence.  For others, it simply means a career change to follow your passion, or perhaps a mid-life crisis to keep it real.


There are a gazillion career and lifestyle choices you can make.  You can even cut your expenses with a machete, and even enjoy complete financial freedom for as little as $25,000, if you really want to.  You can find another path.


Rats Are Volunteers

The dark reality is that you are not obligated to run the rat race.  Believe it or not, it is completely voluntary. You are volunteering for the 9 to 5 grind.  The commute in heavy traffic, the long hours at the office, the endless emails, the cold blue light of your computer screen – it’s all voluntary.


Yes, you need to make money.  If you haven’t yet saved enough to be financially independent, then you do need to make some money to cover expenses.  But, you don’t need more stuff.


Putting Happiness First

Creating a good lifestyle means putting your happiness first.  Before work, before money, and way before buying more stuff.  Prioritize your happiness and pursue your passions.  Maybe you won’t make as much money as you could on the rat wheel.  But, money is not your goal.  Happiness is.



Jojo Bobo

2 Responses
  • Steveark
    September 12, 2017

    I get what you are saying but for a lot of us work is noble in itself. If you believe in the company and its products then by working you are contributing to benefit everyone, your co-workers, your shareholders and your customers. By adding value you get promoted and as you increase your span of influence you can reshape the organization to fit your own personal values. I loved the game and rose from entry level to running a major division and right up until I early retired it was among my favorite hobbies. Now I never miss it, I’m too busy with new challenges and side gigs but I worked much longer than my FI point because it was just plain fun. I never felt like a rodent at all, I felt more like an NFL quarterback.

    • JoJoBoBo
      September 12, 2017

      Steveark, That’s awesome that you loved your work! I love work too. I’m a workaholic if there ever was one. But I only love it when I believe in the company and I have high degree of autonomy. I’ve found that to be an exceedingly rare situation in the corporate world. Anyway, if you love your work, you’re definitely not in a rat race!

      Thanks for the comment, and thanks for challenging me!

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