1. Your life or your money.

In the original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System (1987), there was a mean old man who would lock you in a room in a deadly underground labyrinth and demand that you “leave your life or money.” You had to give up either 50-100 rupees or a heart container in order to proceed.

That’s not so different from employment, is it? If you want to quit your job so you can have a life, you have to give up the money. If you want the money, you have to hand over control of your life. I don’t think either choice is acceptable.

Old man from Zelda
Image from The Legend of Zelda (1987).

2. Who do you want to decide your life purpose?

Do you believe that your life is supposed to have a purpose? That you’re here for a reason and that the world will be better off with you doing what you’re supposed to do? If so, who do you want to decide your life purpose—you or your boss? Beyond the industry you choose, you don’t really have much influence on your life purpose. Every task your boss gives you advances their vision of your life purpose, not yours.

3. You’re a pet at best, and a slave at worst.

When your boss says “jump,” you say “how high?” Either that, or you later say “I’m here to file an unemployment claim.” They’re the one in control, make no mistake of that. So it’s really up to chance whether your boss wants to treat you as a slave, or has enough mercy to promote you to the rank of pet.

As a pet, you jump through hoops in return for handouts that let you tread water until the next payday. You spend your days doing soulless work for a master who might be nice to you, but who assigns you tasks that are appropriate for the dog you are. You make plans and then have to tell people you’re canceling because you have to work late. You go through annual performance reviews to see if you jumped through all the red hoops, the white hoops, and the bonus blue hoops you didn’t even know about. If so, you might get a treat. If not, your master might decide to put you down.

As a slave, you have all the disadvantages of being a pet, plus you have to get used to saying “thank you sir, may I have another?” Your work is cruel and unusual punishment. You get to work way too early and stay way too late because the time you clock is all that matters. You get whatever vacation time you get, and disappoint your family when you don’t have enough time to do what you planned. When you get sick, you go to work while coughing up blood because you have no vacation time to spare. If you luck into a role that you find remotely tolerable, your master might end up selling you to a new master who has different plans for you. C’est la vie.

4. It’s way too communistic.

In a capitalist society, if two people are doing the same job, but one person’s performance is double that of the other’s, who gets paid more? The high performer, of course! They should get twice as much money for twice the output. An employee’s purpose is to help the company complete its work, and they should be paid in proportion to how well they do that.

Oh, if only it were so! In the real world, people are all widgets, and one is the same as another. Performance is often not a factor at all in your compensation. There are people like sales agents and athletes who do get paid based on performance, but most people get a fixed salary based on the position they hold and the number of candles on the cake. Do everything or do nothing, it doesn’t matter. A system like this rewards the weak and punishes the strong.

5. The rat race.

They call it the rat race for a reason. The next time you see a rat running around in its wheel, take a good hard look at it. Notice that it doesn’t look happy. Notice that it works as hard as it can but doesn’t actually go anywhere. Notice that it keeps running without really knowing why. Notice that it doesn’t have any plan for ever being able to stop. Now I ask you, do you think you’re better than a rat?

6. Your boss is an evil bovine master.

I’m going to borrow this one from Steve Pavlina’s 10 Reasons You Should Never Get A Job. It’s #6 on his list; just visit the link to look it up.

7. 9-5 was once a bad idea, and is now a fond memory.

I suppose the 9-5 workday once made sense…if you were an assembly line worker. During the Industrial Revolution, time and output were perfectly interchangeable. A worker would put in an hour of labor and produce a certain number of widgets. It was the same number of widgets in the first hour as it was in the last. Having everyone work the same schedule made sense because it was more efficient to run an assembly line that way, and besides, the workers really didn’t have anywhere else to be.

But what about nowadays? Does 9-5 make sense now? Most people work in jobs that don’t require their physical presence all the time, and perform work that can’t be done at peak capacity for eight hours straight, especially when they have errands that can only be run during the day. Doesn’t it make sense for people to be able to set their own schedules so they can work at their times of peak performance?

Another thing is that who works 9-5 anymore? Outside of the government, schedules like 9-6, 8-6, and 7-7 are much more common.

8. Sitting in traffic isn’t as much fun as you think.

How long is your commute? Maybe you’re currently very lucky and only have to spend twenty minutes each way burning gas, wearing down your brakes, and looking at all the smiling faces you see along the way. But that’s not too likely. In fact, Americans spend more time commuting than taking vacations. Are you sure you can’t think of anything you’d rather be doing than sitting in traffic?

9. The middle class is no class.

Most employees have no control over their income. If you want to make $100,000 a year but your boss decides the position will pay $70,000 a year, who do you think wins?

If a 3% raise is in your company’s budget, that’s what you get. It doesn’t matter if inflation is 4% so your “raise” is actually a pay cut. You get what you get.

The average savings rate in the U.S. has gone from low to very low to zero to negative. People are not only in debt, but their debt is increasing each month because they can’t make the payments. They’re in danger of losing their houses, and cringe every time the price of oil shoots up. They’re forced to spend less time with their families so they can work overtime in an attempt to keep up. It’s a vicious cycle, and they can only hope to break it before they’re working at Wal-Mart in their 70s.

10. “I’m lucky just to have a job.”

The harsh reality of employment is that even though you’re not the captain, you may still have to go down with the ship. During the dot-com bust, the rallying cry of those of us in software development was “I’m lucky just to have a job.” Does that sound like a fun way to go through life, considering yourself to be lucky because even your job that you hate is still better than none at all? I’d rather be in a situation where I consider myself lucky to have enough time, money, and purpose to enjoy life. What about you?