9-5 Escape Plan Pt 1 – Preparation

If the first thing to go through your mind this morning was the miserable thought that today was your last day of freedom, you may need to escape your job.

While I am sure there are a few strange people out there that will disagree, I have personally never met anyone who was adamant that spending at least 8 hours a day at work during the best hours of the day, Monday through Friday, represented the work arrangements of their dreams.

There is so much that can be done in your life and with your life. If you have the itch to consider how you could work less and differently, this is the first in a series of posts dedicated to laying out those options.

Laying a Foundation for Escape

If you have ever watched The Count of Monte Cristo or any accounts of real life prison escapes, you will notice that the individuals who attempt escape possess certain qualities.

The most obvious is that they are absolutely determined, which requires faith that they can and will escape. They are also extremely creative and make the best with what they have. Complaints don’t bore a tunnel through your prison wall, hard work and ingenuity do.

In order to flee your cubicle (or corner office) coop, you need to lay a strong foundation first. There are two major cornerstones you must lay before you build your dream, hopefully but not necessarily in this order:

  1. You must be excellent. Excellence isn’t straight talent, it’s a combination of your strengths and an awe-inspiring work ethic. 
  2. You need to know and believe in what you want. You must be committed to your pursuit and have faith that you will get there.

Why Excellence? 

If you can’t stand your thankless job, why put more effort into it?

Over the next few posts, I will draw from my own experiences and that of countless other 9-5 escapees to present several different off-ramps to get you out of gridlock. Each of every once of these options requires excellence.

If you are to negotiate a remote work arrangement with your boss so that you can travel while you work, your boss is going to need to not only trust you, but be so fearful of losing you that they are willing to accommodate you.

If you are going to start your own business, you are going to need customers and potentially some investors. Both seek out and put their money on excellence.

Excellence in your current job means that you stand out. You are the first person your boss counts on and you may often be the one who cleans up others’ messes. This may be reason number one that you are ready to escape, but take pride. In my experience overseeing HR for a 150+ organization, I was shocked at how few people have even a faint spark of excellence in their daily work.

If you aren’t excellent in your job (and you can’t independently fund a year of your minimum salary), it’s time to make a change. You need to go above and beyond and make yourself indispensable to to your supervisor and his or her supervisor in order to secure the leverage necessary to negotiate later or at least secure a strong recommendation while you seek a better job.

Identifying Exactly What You Want

This is crucial. Nearly every one at your office or work site complains about their job, but extremely few have any idea what work would bring them more fulfillment and even fewer have identified a plan for changing their work reality.

First, clearly define and visualize your desired outcomes. Ask yourself:

  • What do I love about my work? What tasks do I continuously seek out and get lost in because I don’t even recognize time passing when I do them?
  • What work or talents am I repeatedly praised for by others? (Consider both work and personal life. You might be a secretary who is the future Paula Deen)
  • What work do I love to do so much that I would gladly do it for free?
  • What did I love to do before I started this career? What was I fascinated by as a child? (Ask your parents what your strengths and talents were!)

Second, start weaving your passions and strengths into your purpose and how you can design your life around it.

  • What would it look like to do what you love every day?
  • Who is seeking your talents? There is a market for nearly any passion. Love to surf? Start a kids surf camp. Love to read? Become a book editor or reviewer.
  • What groundwork might you need to complete in order to make this a reality? Perhaps you need to get a new degree or find a mentor who has already done it.

Finally, get motivated to make it happen. Consider:

  • What are you missing out in your life that you can no longer dismiss?
  • How will you feel in the morning or on Sunday night when this plan is reality?
  • What kind of friend / spouse / parent would you be if you had fulfillment from your daily work?
  • What will you be giving up to live this new life? There are always sacrifices, but some of them are wonderful, like giving up a 60-minute commute.

Get started. Shore up your foundation so that you are primed for a successful escape. The next posts will present multiple options, likely a few you never considered.

It is 100% possible to design a life around your passions and priorities, but you first need to be the type of person who is aware of your purpose and living your life excellently, regardless of current frustrations or obstacles.

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