How I Quit Corporate Slavery

sea-gull-765490_960_720A few years back I quit my old big corporate job to start my own business.

So I thought you might be interested in how I quit corporate slavery.

How I Quit Corporate Slavery

I’m from London, England, but I’ve lived in Continental Europe and other parts of the world for many years.

I left school with no qualifications, but I studied via evening classes to enter university.

I graduated in economics and politics with a good class degree. I liked the politics but didn’t care for the economics. Too theoretical and remote from real life.

Luckily my course included a business placement year, something which is unusual for UK universities.

So I spent a year working with a software start-up. This got me out of the ivory tower and gave me real life business experience.

Big Corporate Marketing No Thanks

After university I did a graduate course in Marketing.

The course seemed to be aimed at teaching us how to be busy-busy doing endless tasks. They certainly hadn’t heard of Tim Ferris’s concept of the Four Hour Work Week. Nor about doing work that added real value either.

I remember on the first day during the course “meet and greets” the head professor of the course asked us who was interested in selling – which is after all the whole purpose of marketing in the first place.

No-one put their hand up. They just liked the idea of “doing marketing” for big name corporates.

Basically we were being prepared for future work in the marketing departments of large corporations. And I realized big corporate marketing wasn’t where I wanted to work.

So I joined the hip world of media sales in London. From the frying pan into the fire. This was a sector which attracts a lot of fresh new graduates, probably because of the “media” connotations.

My first stop was a year spent with the UK subsidiary of a large US telecoms multinational in London’s West End. Their big open plan office was run like a corporate concentration camp.

Although the crazy goings on were hilarious, some of the appalling treatment meted out to us was verging on the illegal or at least immoral.

People being fired on the spot, being given a few minutes to clear their desk and leave the building. There was a continual coming and going of managers and supervisors. Endless structural reorganizations and changes of policy almost weekly. Sales targets were moved up and down (but mostly up) with no prior warning like some crazy thermometer.

Shortly after I left, the UK subsidiary disappeared down the plughole and went into liquidation.

I then worked for a year at a smaller media outfit. This was more humane, but was still run as a miserly personal fiefdom by the owner and Dickensian sweatshop conditions prevailed. Mr. Micawber would have felt at home.

Going Expat

Meanwhile, I’d been learning German. This was to give me an alternative to living in the UK.

So once I’d completed my German course, I left high cost London and moved to Berlin where a whole new and better way of life opened up for me.

I enjoyed an immediate boost in my quality of life.  From Berlin I was able to explore eastern Europe and also become fluent in German. I’ve lived abroad for many years now and I really like it.

In Berlin I did a graduate training course in computer software systems with Siemens.

Around this time the World Wide Web was emerging. I went on to forge a successful career in the IT sector, specializing in web services.

Joining The Corporate Nine to Five

Later on I became a self-employed IT consultant.

This gave my career a boost, enabling me to accumulate a great deal of experience very quickly in many different environments as well as enjoy high earnings.

But I was realizing the limitations of this career. The clients were mostly still large corporates and the working environments I found myself in were still “nine to five”.

And one contract I had, with a large financial corporation in Brussels, turned out to be another corporate concentration camp.

We were working down in their chamber of horrors IT basement.

We had a raging lunatic on the team who sat right behind me. He would rant and rage at everyone every single day about every issue, large or small. I’m ashamed to say he was a fellow Brit.

Whilst a colleague sitting opposite me would spend the day mousing with one hand, and slowly picking his nose with the other, absent-mindedly flicking the findings over his shoulder. Sometimes the debris would find its way to his mouth.

He’d sat there picking his nose for so long I don’t think he was even aware of it. I quickly learned to avert my gaze. He’s probably still sitting there doing it now.

It was clear that I needed to rethink my lifestyle.

I was tired of big corporate offices, their dead-head environment, and the people working in them.

Tired of the lack of opportunity for creativity or authenticity and not seeing the results of any work that you could identify with.

Tired of office lunatics and nose-picking colleagues.

For me, working nine to five was like a living death amongst the living dead.

Time to Quit Corporate Slavery

I decided it was time to quit the cycle. Stop working for big corporates.

Take time out to reconsider my lifestyle and ask myself some important questions that I’d never really addressed.

For example, what were my true values?  What is my mission and my purpose in life?

What is my perfect day? What is my ideal millionaire lifestyle?

What do I want to achieve in my life? What do I want? What don’t I want?

And what do I want to have done in my life by the time my life reaches it’s close?

Reject the Negs and Naysayers

Another thing I had to do was to stop listening to the negative peer pressure. Disregard the negs and naysayers who pour cold water on your plans and aspirations.

There were even some people I had to cut completely out, so bad was their negative influence.

I also switched off the mass media and especially the TV. In fact I went one step further and sold my TV.

Define Your Values

Next, I sat down and worked out my values.

For me, these are creativity, authenticity and control.

By creativity I don’t necessarily mean in the artistic sense. In fact, I don’t regard myself as an artistic person.

I mean in terms of seeing the value of my work.

Not spending my energy on meaningless cog work that I don’t get to see the results of or have any value connection with.

Not doing look-busy bullshit work of the kind too many people in too many offices are engaged in every day.

Creativity for me means creating value for the world.

Creativity also means being able to create my own assets by building my own business.

Authenticity means being 100 percent true to my values at all times. It also means practical things like no CV’s, no suits, no “cufflinking”, and no corporate bullshit.

Authenticity means speaking my mind and doing what I really believe in. If I can’t be authentic in what I do, then it’s not worth doing as far as I’m concerned.

Control for me means that I prefer to have full control over what I do.

I like to have charge of my work, and be able to direct my energy and activity to where I want it to go.

Your Ideal Millionaire Lifestyle

I did one more exercise.  I sat down and thought about what exactly makes up my ideal day. What is my own “millionaire lifestyle”?

There’s a kind of conventional baggage here.

We’re conditioned to think of the “millionaire lifestyle” as meaning retiring at 30, 40 or whatever and spending the rest of our days in a luxury mansion lying by the swimming pool. With a large flash car – or several – parked in the driveway.

All that isn’t for me.

Nor am I interested in owning a McMansion, or driving some big expensive car. Nor in joining the idle retired.

I’m not interested in filling my apartment with crap. Not even expensive crap. I had all that before. I don’t want some big house which has to be filled up with furniture and stuff.

I value mobility, travelling, experiencing different places and cultures. I prefer a minimal maintenance lifestyle. I’m more Steve Jobs than Bill Gates.

Like serial entrepreneur Richard Branson, head of the Virgin Group, I don’t like offices and I don’t want one. I prefer to work via the Web, in the cloud, from home, on the move, from wherever I am. I like startups, enterprise, solopreneurship, initiative, creating real value and seeing the results of your work.

That’s my ideal millionaire lifestyle. And I don’t need a million dollars a year to live it.

Your Mission and Purpose

I also worked out my mission.

For me, my mission is helping other people break out of the constraints of the conventional nine to five corporate system. To help free people from the tyranny of big corporates.

To help people pursue their true values. To help smaller businesses develop in ways that challenge conventions in adding value, providing services in new ways.

And in particular,  to promote the small business sector. To help give people more alternatives and more freedom, instead of them having to be beholden to the big corporates. In my opinion, much of the misery is caused by the big corporates and the system they promote.

And in business, doing things differently to the big corporates. That’s also the approach Richard Branson pursues with Virgin.

Design Your Lifestyle

I think lifestyle design is a bit of a cliché term and it makes me cringe somewhat.

But it is important to take the time to work out how you really want to live your life.

I now set MY agenda and goals first. Everything I do in my life has to fit in with this and not the other way round like it was before.

This is a different approach to career and life than the conventional one.

Start instead with what YOU want.

What sort of lifestyle do you want to be living? Then find a business activity and a business model that fits in with your own preferred lifestyle.

Start Your Own Business

In place of my old way of working, I started my own business.

In a sense I already had my own business, but this was more a half-way house situation of being a nine-to-five contractor, working mostly on the premises of big corporations. It wasn’t my ideal kind of business.

So I started another business, this time selling products and services on the Web.

I’m gathering more know-how every day now than ever before. It’s shocking to realize what poor return I got for selling my time back when I was a corporate nine to fiver.

I’m also now fully alive and living my life exactly how I want to. No longer putting up with environments that do nothing for me, doing work that is meaningless to me.

Become a Minimalist

I’ve always been a real pack rat, always spending, always accumulating new possessions.

But I realized much of my consuming was just a form of compensation. Expensive compensation at that.

Plus it was money I could have been investing in a business, instead of just burning up by consuming.

I used to subconsciously tell myself that I was entitled to go out and spend money like this because it was my well earned compensation for putting up with the nine to five. It’s what everyone does and I’m entitled to do the same.

But once I’d freed myself from living my life in a way I didn’t want, I no longer felt the need for costly compensation any more.

In the same way, I changed my attitude to weekends, to the working week, to vacationing. What Tim Ferris in the Four Hour Work Week calls bingeing.

Binge weekending, binge vacationing, binge consuming. Even binge hobbying and binge sports. Weekends and vacations are no longer so important. I don’t have to cram in leisure activities into a few set hours or take rushed vacations.

I also started minimizing. I downsized. I sold many of my possessions.

I was fortunate that unlike many people, I didn’t have any debt. I’ve never had consumer debt. So this was one problem I didn’t have to face.

Go Location Independent

I then took my minimizing one step further.

When I did my “ideal millionaire lifestyle” exercise, I realized I wanted a break from Europe. But what I really wanted most of all was to travel and live for a while in the Far East.

But not travelling in the old vacation sense like I used to.  This time I no longer wanted the burden of an apartment, possessions or overheads to pay for back home. I wanted to be free of all that.

So I sold my remaining possessions on eBay, stopped all the bills and disposed of my apartment and went off to Asia for a year.

That was a great experience, one that I’d never had before. I only wish I had taken this step many years earlier.

You Too Can Break Out and Quit Corporate Slavery

I also want to help other people break out of the nine to five and achieve more with their lives.

There are many people who have changed the direction of their life completely and who now live their lives how they really want.

You don’t have to go fully “location independent” or become a digital nomad. Nor does your path have to be a mirror copy of mine.

But you can still redesign your life to match your own true values and priorities.

Don’t Make Excuses For Not Quitting Corporate Slavery

One thing you always get people saying when you are single is that “it’s easy for you” compared to me, with my wife, my mortgage, my three kids, great aunt, mother in law, or whatever to look after.

They’re just excuses.

In fact, if you’re married then you have a spouse to assist you.

If you have a house, then you have an asset you can use.

And if you have kids then you will enjoy a better tax allowance.

Even the great aunt or mother in law can be put to work doing some chores for you!

All advantages that single people just don’t have.

So please don’t use having children, family or other “reasons” or responsibilities as excuses. People always love excuses.

That’s all they are – excuses. Excuses that the negs and naysayers like to believe in and like to cling to as excuses for doing nothing.

I believe that many more of us can be entrepreneurial and much more creative and productive than we are led to believe.

It’s a question of our own mindset and our own determination.

So take the first step and start a revolution in your life right NOW.

Make yourself a personal pledge to start the process of quitting corporate slavery and creating something better for your working life.

Make 2015 the year you finally quit corporate slavery!

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