Bus Driver: “Looks like we're on the hamster wheel again today.”

Woman Waiting for the Bus With Me: “We most certainly are… but it's paying the bills.”


Rat RaceThis two sentence exchange between a city bus driver and a woman waiting for the bus with me happened as I headed into work yesterday.

I mean, I questioned the value I add (or don't add) through my decade in corporate America before this.

But this brief back-and-forth jolted my brain. I had sparks flowing through my body for the rest of the day!

It didn't make me question the meaning of life or try and solve the mysteries of the universe. But it did help solidify a major work goal:

To raise awareness that you might be running a rat race and getting nowhere.

My role is to push you – willingly or not – towards measuring your work's value in terms other than money (like I used to). Yet, it's not my job to help you quit your job.

My job is to help you simplify, organize, and be more money wise (which might empower you to achieve meaningful work).

Benefiting from the Rat Race

I'll give you a few ways to benefit from the woman and the bus driver. And you can pick the direct route or indirect route.

Direct Route

  • Start questioning how you define self-worth: how are you making a contribution to your community or the world? Do they synch up with how you wanted to impact the world 10 years ago? How about 2 years ago? Have you even asked yourself these questions before?
  • Start collaborating with others: when's the last time you generated shared value outside the traditional economy? For example, do you have a lawnmower to lend to a trusted neighbor so they don't have to buy one of their own? If you do this over-and-over for others – and others do it for you – think of how much less we'll all have to consume (and need money to buy).
  • Cancel a monthly bill today: need some ideas? How about the newspaper which can be replaced by better (and free) online content. How about the fruit-of-the-month club that you never eat when it lands on your doorstep. Pick one, eliminate it, and never look back.

Indirect Route

  • Encourage young people to define their goals in terms that don't involve the size of their house, the brand of their car, or the ability to pay for a premium package of movie channels. If you never join the rat race, you'll never need to get off the hamster wheel.
  • Explain to small business owners that free is often the best price to build income. There are too many case studies out there of the freemium method working to ignore.

Don't Be a Rat in a Cage (It Just Builds Rage)

Odds are the prospects for advancement are stacked against you in whatever line of work you do (unless you work for yourself). Some people do well in a rigged game, but it's normally at the cost of all the others playing it.

What's the hamster's game? Running on a stationary wheel.

What do they call trying to “make it” in the private and public sector? The rat race.

And why do they call it the rat race? A couple of reasons actually:

  1. It comes into effect when the people racing focus exclusively on being the best in whatever terms dictate who gets the reward. And normally there is just a reward for one person. It's not like coming in second or third at the Olympics.
  2. Because it feels like a maze without a map… and maybe without an exit.

You might as well define the terms if you're going to put yourself in a race. Wouldn't you want to race against a much smaller group to increase the odds you'll come out on top? Wouldn't you want there to be multiple winners who reach the top by building each other up instead of sneaking past each other?

If your employer tells you the person who works the most hours this year gets the biggest raise, do you enter the rat race?

It might be a race to the bottom – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally – and as soon as you speed up, everyone behind you races even faster.

Defining the criteria for winning in these ugly ways also makes us forget about ethics and sound decisions. Rodents don't know any better than to have a one-track mind. But you know better.

Let's play a different game, get off the wheel, and start defining what success and prosperity looks like for ourselves.

Have a comment about when you left the rat race or your plans to get off the wheel? Please share!

Photo credit: phyxiusone