This is a truly mind numbing statistic. Per a recent Gallup survey, a whopping 85% of people dislike their job.

Think of this in the context of your morning commute. For every ten cars on the road, in theory, eight (and one small Fiat) of these drivers are racing off to a place they’d rather not be. Prepared to squander ten hours of their day. Willing to sacrifice upwards of forty years of their life, doing something that brings little to no joy. Accepting mediocrity in their lives. Allowing complacency to obscure urgency.

For many, the belief is that life will begin at retirement. Armed with a 401K, they have worked so hard to build, at age sixty five, financial freedom will be had. True control of their destiny will be at hand. That’s a big sacrifice to make. One where the risk reward ratio seems a bit skewed.

I’m going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?

Jackson Browne – The Pretender

Why Do They Stay?

Maybe the better question, is why don’t they leave. I recall my first job at General Electric. I was twenty two, the year was 1990 and I worked my tail off. I loved corporate life. A sentiment that lasted just a few years. Eventually, the feeling of being trapped began to surpass the financial rewards. But what really impacted me, was witnessing the future unfold before my eyes. Seeing employees in their forties and the reality of the GE culture. That if you had not achieved executive management status by that age, then your career was stalled.

The next twenty five years would be spent working long hours, arriving before and leaving after your manager. Proving your commitment by working long hours. Doing your best to show why you could not be replaced by a much younger, lower wage earning, higher energy employee. It was very sad to witness.

As the then CEO, Jack Welch had said, “control your own destiny or someone else will.” So I heeded his advice, tendered my resignation, walked away from a lot of money, and ventured into the world of self-employment. My life and career path was being altered. In dramatic fashion.

I’ve had the following picture on my wall for many years. A Nike ad that reminds me of what my life is, versus what it could have been. Of choosing the path of least resistance or that of growth. I’d much rather be outside, in the dark cold rain, along the path of self-discovery. Versus that of mediocrity. Where life is “comfortable.”

It’s ironic to say, but the path of least resistance, is often the path that is most difficult.

Is Self Employment The Answer?

I love being self employed. It’s a freedom that words cannot describe. But it is clearly not for everyone. I would wager, that only a small percentage of the population that can truly enjoy the challenges such a life offers. At times, I even wish my brain was not wired such, that I needed to work for myself. There are so many undercurrents, challenges beneath the surface, that few realize.

To the masses, self-employment seems like a utopia. I can attest, that is not the case. People are too fixated on the thoughts of wealth and freedom associated with self-employment. When in reality, many who are self-employed work longer hours for less pay, than those working for someone else.

So for the majority of these 85%, I would not say self-employment is the answer.

Do You Need To Work Elsewhere?

Nor is leaving a company the answer. Though for some, many corporate cultures are toxic. The corporate world is littered with horrible managers. People not worthy of being called leaders. They are simply in a job way over their heads. They have zero idea how to lead, motivate and encourage those working under them.

Staying within your existing company, but working towards transferring to another area can be a more realistic, achievable path for many. Finding something that speaks more to your strengths, and passions.

What About My Debt?

This is the greatest argument many will make, for why they stay. We truly become slaves to our debt. We become trapped by bad decisions of the past. Unhappy? Take an expensive vacation to get away and unwind. More credit card debt. Just got a promotion? Great, buy that car, you can afford the sixty month $800 payment. More debt service.

Soon, you are caught in a vicious cycle of debt. Where debt begets more debt. Unhappiness fuels spending, which fuels more debt. You become caught in a lifestyle, that you seemingly cannot control. Hooked on debt. I guess we all have addictions in life.

There Is Hope?

In 2008, I sold my business to a competitor. After building my wealth and income to a pretty lofty level, I would once again alter my path. In somewhat dramatic fashion. Again. I went from making $200,000 a year to almost nothing. Yet I continued to live a lifestyle as if nothing had changed.

Eventually times would become tough financially. I was married with two children and had just turned forty. I had tons of excuses to not make such a change. But I did.

What followed was a lesson in simplifying my life. Realizing how life could be happier spending less. Prioritizing purchases, and more. Once again as I build yet another business, and income returns I find myself very reluctant to spend foolishly. Perhaps due to the difficult experiences of the past and not wanting to repeat? Or realizing just how freeing a life without debt can be.

The bottom line is I had choices. And you have choices. The clock of life is ticking. You can choose happiness or sorrow. Growth or stagnation. I encourage you to join that 15% of people who are happy and engaged with their work. As I wrote in a previous post,  Don’t Follow The Money. If you follow your heart, the money will follow.