9 to 5 Culture

Escape the Office Before It’s Too Late

9-to-5ers, your life is ticking away.

I have this theory about the office world. If we spend too much of our lives in it, there is no turning back. We are forever scarred by the experience in various ways, and we no longer have the power to get out (except through retirement.) While nobody can say for certain how long-term exposure to the rat race it will affect each individual, it is likely that after a certain point, one will never escape.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? And maybe a bit extreme.

There is an object that this lifestyle reminds me of. It’s big, scary, and you don’t realize that you are inside one until it’s too late. Can you guess what I am thinking of?

A black hole.

Using Our Talents

Most of us are lucky born with various skills. The rest of us are just unfortunate, but this article isn’t about them. It’s about you 😉

These talents we have could help us escape from meaningless, tiring, life-draining day jobs, or never enter into them in the first place. Unfortunately, our talents are never recognized unless we actually work hard and put them to use in various ways.
Making use of these gifts early on in life is very important. If we let them atrophy for too long, it will become more and more difficult to use them. This is what happens when we sacrifice our talents for a paycheck.

The tedious, monotonous world of the typical office is nothing but a communal place for people who have forgotten their talents and have forgotten who they are. It’s a sad, dreary place, filled with fluorescent lights, cells (cubicles), machines, drugs (coffee) and following orders. This world really wears on a person after a period of time. Eventually our talent, passion, dreams and creativity become forgotten.

Oh sure, there are plenty of people out there who love their jobs and actually get to use their creative skills at work. But I would argue that this is the exception. If you take a quick poll of your friends who have been in the workforce for awhile, I’ll bet anything that their true calling is one of their hobbies, a childhood whim, or is just nonexistent in their professional lives. And quite possibly, they no longer have any real passions. Wake up, go to work, come home, watch TV, drink the pain away, repeat.

How does one get out before it’s too late, and how do you already know if it IS too late? Read the following section, but be warned: you may not like the answer.

The Black Hole of Employment

Here is how you know if it is truly too late for you.

Imagine yourself starting a business based around something to love to do and running it on evenings and weekends while you slowly reduce your hours at your day job, and eventually quit.

Now imagine that you are working 80+ hours a week while attempting to make this transition, a transition that isn’t guaranteed to work.

It could take months, or likely, years.

It’s hard, hard work. It is unpredictable. It’s exciting! You think you work hard at your day job? You haven’t seen anything yet.

If it pays off, then you will be free, and you will be living a life of self-direction, passion, and purpose.  You might eventually sever the tie between your income and time worked, thereby reducing your hours, essentially working when you feel like it.

But, it can be a long road, and there are no guarantees that your business idea(s) will work.

Could you picture yourself realistically doing this?

If your instinctive answers sound something like, “I can’t handle all that work” or “it’s too hard” or “I’ll never think of what kind of business to run,” and your day job sounds preferable because it’s easier/more secure/already there for you, then it’s too late. Sorry. You are in the black hole.

True Black Hole Story

729162_mini_burgerI met a woman who in a temp assignment I had two years back. She was overweight, about 40, (though she looked to be 55) depressed, and she complained about her job/life constantly. I noticed that she ate McDonalds for breakfast AND lunch every day. So, being the good Samaritan that I am, (haha) I told her she might improve her tiredness and lack of energy if she went off her McDonalds diet in the morning. (Not even lunch, just breakfast! No more McMuffins.) She agreed to do this, and I saw a little glint of hope in her eyes as she made this conviction.

She lasted 2 and a half days.

Even though she admitted that she felt a LOT better the next day and the day after, she couldn’t even make it to Thursday.

This is what I mean by a black hole. She had no will or drive to make a difference anymore.  I could never imagine her escaping her dreadful job.

How Long do We Have?

It’s probably different for everybody, but eventually most of us succumb to the constant stress, shallow relationships, holding back of our true feelings, forced smiles and depression of jamming ourselves into the square peg that is the 9-to-5 lifestyle.

I would venture to guess that the average person who works 40-55 hours per week in a 9-to-5 environment may lose themselves to a professional black hole after about five years. This can be prolonged a little bit if passionate interests are pursued on the side, even if it doesn’t lead to escape.

872743_boatThis all may sound a little bit extreme. Five years of employment and you LOSE YOURSELF? Those are pretty strong words! How could so many people be so miserable? Well, this may not the case for everyone but it sure is common.

What about those co-workers you see who seem happy, and are constantly chirping away about their weekends or their trips to the Bahamas or their kids who are in Dartmouth? They are probably depressed at work too, but they have just learned to cope. They focus on positive experiences they have outside the office because it is what keeps them going.

Why should we just “cope” to get through our days?  Our lives should be cherished.

Final Thoughts

Unless we stand up and are determined to make a difference now (and I’m especially talking to the younger crowd here) our lives will pass us by, and the black hole will have engulfed us before we even realize it.

And ok, I’ll admit it, it never is really completely too late to get out of this scary-sounding black hole I keep bringing up. I just wanted to give my readers a little jolt.

But the longer we wait, the harder it gets, and the more a better life will pass us by.



  • Jeremy October 10, 2007 at 1:19 am


    This idea is one I think about every day, and probably every hour of every day – this job is not what I want at all, but b/c of personal circumstances I must remain where I am unless other sources of income start to really come in.

    You are completely right – five years sounds about right. If I did this for that long it would kill me (if only on the inside).


  • RatRaceEscapeArtist October 10, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    This sings to me – I was just having a conversation today about the untold toll the rat race has on our lives. It’s not just the hours we spend in the office, doing things we hate that make this all so frustrating; it’s the fact that for some, the job that doesn’t inspire them in any way at all saps so much of their energy that even when they do have free time (eat and collapse in front of the gogglebox anyone?) that they have none left for those that love their energy most.
    Mark, love the blog.
    Jeremy, totally feel for you – I take it you’re trying to create other sources of income – if so, keep on trucking, your ship will come in at some point!


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