Recently, the awesome Captain Sinbad released a video about bullsh*t jobs that resonated with me a lot. Being stuck in a bullsh*t job was the main reason why I decided to jump blindly into self-employment several years ago.
I would love to tell you now, that this was the best decision of my life. Honestly, my unwillingness to accept a traditional career made me feel like an utter failure for a long time. Just recently, I am starting to realize how common this feeling actually is among people of my age group.
This is because bullsh*t jobs seem to be on the rise, but why are they so common today. And why do so many people attempt to opt out of the system and try to create something on their own?
Office workers are small cogs in the machine
In big companies, we are not more than a small exchangeable cog in the machine. Even if our work provides value, this value is abstract, because we never see the consequences of our work.
- When a street sweeper cleans the street, she leaves a clean street for the neighbourhood.
- When a cook mixes ingredients, he creates a meal that will be enjoyed by some persons.
- When a musician plays her instrument, she will create emotions in her audience.
- But when an office worker is inputting data into an Excel row, there is no one who feels that this action will make life better.
This is the problem of our modern division of labor: In big companies, our work is so abstract and so specialized, that there is no possible way for us to judge if our work is actually providing value for anybody.
Bullsh*t jobs do provide value indirectly
In fact, I believe that most bullsh*t jobs do provide value. Otherwise, some managers would have rationalized them away a long time ago. The problem is, that they just create it indirectly.
As a person doing the job, you never see the fruit of your labor. And even the persons who are profiting from your work, don’t know that you are actually the one responsible for the produced value.
This is because of complicated work processes that are diffusing the chain of action.
Another problem is, that your work is not a representation of your personality. Hence, you are exchangeable, because most people could learn your job quickly and easily replace you. Worse, in the future, even a Zapier automation could probably do this.
By the way, this is not a new problem: Divison of labor was among others responsible for the start of the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century. At that time, Adam Smith the father of economics already recognized some problems that were caused by this development: Smith saw that highly specialized jobs, with boring and repetitive tasks, would lead to low labor morale and therefore advocated for the education of the workforce.
Today, we know that this didn’t work out as expected. At least we managed to give people meaning in their soulless lives, by providing them with the thrill of national sports leagues and family-friendly crime series on TV.
The modern office worker is the equivalent of the industrial worker of the 19th century
While we are moving away from repetitive manual labor in the West, we are more and more creating repetitive office work. In a way, the modern office worker is the equivalent of the industrial worker of the 19th century.
Today, having a successful career in big companies is not so much the result of knowledge or excellence, but more the result of being able to endure boring and seemingly useless work.
However, being unfulfilled on a daily basis is so mind-numbing. You don’t feel like you’re growing anymore and you become this stunted version of what you could be.
Your work doesn’t feel like a play but like a nightmare. The only escape for most people? Hoping to live till the retirement day.
A lot of people are now living to work, instead of working to start living. That sounds like a tragedy, but fortunately, we live in the 21 century. There is hope. because finally, we have better alternatives available today.
Go all the way
“Roll the dice” by Charles Bukowski also known as “Go all the way” is my favorite poem:
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. If you’re going to try, go all the way. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs, and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision, mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. DO IT. DO IT. DO IT. All the way. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. IT’S THE ONLY GOOD FIGHT THERE IS.”
The poem is great. because it talks about the sacrifices we need to do to attempt a creative career. It also shows us why we should attempt this path and why we should not fear the risk.
When Bukowski wrote this poem in the 50s trying to become a writer or painter had been a fairly risky endeavor. More than 99,9% of people who try to become a bestselling author will fail.
This is not an attractive outlook, but in the last years a lot of things have changed: You don’t need to become famous anymore, to make a living with your creative output. Today, it is sufficient to thrive in a tiny niche in order to live a successful life.
The internet made it possible to niche down and to find people on the same wavelength: Now it is not necessary anymore to be a cog in the machine doing work with no visible consequences. Instead, you can serve your niche and do any creative work you want because there is an unlimited amount of niches you could target. You just need 1000 true fans to thrive.
You even don’t need to go all the way: Start your creative journey as a side justle instead.
In the long term, this is your possibility to leave the system and start working on your own. So, the only thing left to say is: DO IT. DO IT. DO IT