Corporate Misery

When I was in school, I excelled at my work. I graduated at the top of my engineering class in college. When I was offered a great job with a generous starting salary, everyone assumed that I would shine in the corporate environment as well.

They were wrong.

This is what I quickly learned—in college, the more you put in, the more you got out. If you studied harder, you got better grades. If you wrote your paper a week ahead of time, you had free time to hang out with friends. If you took notes in class, it made the homework easier. In other words, the more work you put in, the better results you got out.

Then I made it to the corporate world. After being buttered up for 20 years in a school system full of grades and achievement awards, the corporate world put all that to a stark halt. Now all of a sudden, the harder you worked, the more work they gave you. If you got your project done ahead of time, you were assigned another project. If you stayed later one night, they’d ask you to stay the next night. If you gave a great presentation, you’d be put in charge of other presentations. It was never ending. There was no motivation to ever do more than the minimum amount. You never received any rewards—grades, money, vacation, etc—to work harder, so I didn’t.

In addition, when I looked up the corporate ladder and didn’t see anyone living the life that I wanted to have, I knew I didn’t have anything at all to strive for. I didn’t want to be a project director or district manager. I definitely didn’t want to be a company executive and have my headshot hung on the “Wall of Old White Guys” (as I liked to call the photo gallery of company CEOs in the company’s main building). Truthfully, some people might be highly motivated by their bi-weekly paycheck, but that wasn’t me for some reason. I felt like I was making all this money so I could buy all this nice stuff that I could never appreciate because I was always at work.

As you can tell, the corporate environment didn’t work at all for me. For a while, I felt bad about this. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I didn’t know why my office mate was voluntarily staying late and working weekends when I was desperately praying that the 5 o’clock hour would come sooner that day than the last. I couldn’t figure out why the people around me seemed…dare I say…happy. They seemed happy! Or at the very least, content. While all along, I’m in a pit of despair frantically plotting my way out of this white-walled hell I somehow got myself into.

If you feel similar to this (maybe you’re not as dramatic), you might be wondering the same thing: “What’s wrong with me??” Let me tell you something: NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with you. The corporate environment was not designed for people, it was designed for profit. If you don’t feel at home there, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you, there’s just something wrong with the system. Many times, creative and self-motivated people don’t do well in this system. That’s nothing to be ashamed about. Yes, you are different than the people around you, but it’s time to embrace it. Accept that a 9-to-5 is not for you and start making plans to move onto greener pastures.

Happy Quitting!

Photo credit: Photo by HORT https://www.flickr.com/photos/hort/ License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
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Don Mashburn - 3 years ago

I recently left a good job for the same reasons. People thought I was crazy. Now I enjoy the time I spend with my kids without dreading work. Although I do miss the steady paycheck.

    Laurel Staples - 3 years ago

    Hi Don! Thanks for the note. There are definitely pros and cons when you work for yourself. Like you, I love the flexibility, but that steady paycheck sure was nice! 🙂

Dania - 3 years ago

Hi Laurel,

I would like to quit my job and pursue lifestyle coaching. People around me keep telling me that I must be crazy but I don’t think so! 🙂 I’m done with the 9 to 5 inside of a box job. I want to help people!

    Laurel Staples - 3 years ago

    Hi Dania,
    I COMPLETELY get it! When I wanted to quit my engineering job years ago, I got the same reaction and it makes you second guess what you want to do with your life. Well, I am so glad you found this blog. I’m currently taking a brief break in order to work on pulling together more resources and better information so that people like you can escape the 9-to-5! I’ll keep you in the loop. Thanks for reading!

Jeffrey - a couple of years ago

Hi Laurel
I like to read all your blogs, they motivate me a lot, thanks. I am an engineering graduated guy and after my 1st 3 years of engineering work life as a product designer, I quitted the job with giving up the “promising future” in the company, as commented by my then manager. I tried one year as day trader, have good times and very bad times, and that made me back to another 9-5 engineering job again. Worked for another 6 years, longest years I can endured so far, and quitted again with another “you will make it the top if you stayed” remark by one of the managers. Tried one year of figuring out what I really wanted to do other than engineering job, and guess what, back to 9-5 job again due to: 1. Pressure of wife’s stress of me not taking in constant pay check. 2.Not making any income from the business I tried to set up, and had to tried out odd jobs to get some income. Business closed a year later. 3.Not ready to know what I really want, initially thought of burning the bridge behind me so that I can move forward, after that I am trying to find another bridge to bring me back. Now I am in another engineering job for 3 years, and I getting really sick of myself this time to be back again for all my previous “failure”. Basically my daily working days are dragging myself unwillingly to work and waited impatiently for knock off the moment I set on the seat of my office. Lucky for me to find your blog during one of these “waiting” time in office and get me motivated again. I will make sure I need to plan well(to prevent unwanted stress from my wife and myself) and get out of the wasting time everyday and do something meaningful for myself, my wife and my future.

    Laurel Staples - a couple of years ago

    Jeffrey–thank you so much for sharing your story! I’ve talked with so many entrepreneurs who go through the same cycle as you, so I really appreciate your honesty. You obviously have the motivation and drive that it takes to be a full-timer, but perhaps not the right business idea yet (?). I think you would benefit greatly from working with a coach…it would be a chance for you to invest in yourself, your future and your business so you can get to where you really want to go in life. Let me know if you want to talk. 🙂

      Jeffrey - a couple of years ago

      Hi Laurel
      Thanks for the replied. All these while I have been investing for myself by attending seminars and courses, reading books, reading blogs and webs similar to yours…etc. I have tried to implement so of the learning, some with good outcome and some not that great, but I treat all as lesson learnt. I am re-reading your free e-book again and hopefully by following it, I can get something out from blogging?

        Laurel Staples - a couple of years ago

        Absolutely. Sounds like your on the right track. Just like anything else, blogging is a tool, not a get-rich-quick strategy. It’s been an amazing tool for me to grow my coaching business and spread the word about building successful businesses (and quitting corporate America!). My ebook is a great place to start if you’re interested in getting into blogging. Good luck to you!!

Rebecca - a couple of months ago

Hey Laurel, I read your blog with fascination, because you and I seem to share many thoughts on life. I had the exact same impression concerning the corporate world, I too was a brilliant student, graduated as one of the top 10 of my senior high school year, I was also very good at university. I have always enjoyed being a student and was very surprised that I totally suck in the corporate world. I have asked myself “What is wrong with you, Rebecca?” countless times, and yes I am creative and self motivated, too. I now pursue self-employment as a coach. Struggling to find my niche though.

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