An open letter to frustrated 20-somethings…

So I’ll be 25 this Saturday.

I’ve gone through a huge evolution in thought regarding careers, passions, the concept of “work” and life direction in the past 10 years.

My first job at the YMCA (at 15), I figured out within 2 weeks that I was great at “pitching” myself during the interview — and I’m a likeable guy…but the work was boring and tedious…and it showed. It’s hard to keep high enthusiasm during summer camp, trust me.

I thought it was the job that sucked.

So I moved through a series of other jobs hoping that I’d find one I liked: museums, retail, grocery stores, restaurants…a ton of things. Each one had some element I liked — but within weeks I always felt like I was literally an indentured servant working for pennies with no end in sight. The worst part about this was when I’d see people who had been in these jobs for 30 years and were in a state of zombie-like compliant quasi-misery.

Like moaning dogs laying on nails who are too lazy to move.

I remember during my training at Publix (grocery store), one of the assistant managers pointed to his boss endearingly and said “Greg hasn’t missed a day or called in sick in 27 years.” As if this was some good thing, a point to be proud of.

I just remember thinking to myself “What the fuck is wrong with these people?”

I quit that job faster than Kim K quits a marriage.

Eventually I came to the realization that I could job hop my whole life, I could go to college and get a degree and hop around with that on higher paying jobs — but in the end, the problem wasn’t with the employers…it was with me.

I had the problem. It wasn’t about getting a better PAYING job. It was about having a job period.

I was having a major case of cognitive dissonance between what I wanted my life to be and the options I saw available.  Part of this was coming because at a very deep level, I was afraid to admit what I really wanted. I was afraid I’d be called lazy, impractical, idiotic, etc. I didn’t want to be ridiculed.

I’m not afraid anymore.

You know what I want? I don’t want to work. Like…not ever.

I don’t want to be responsible for showing up anywhere, simply because if I don’t show up, I won’t be able to feed myself/my family (in the future).

I don’t want to be told I can’t do something, that I “don’t have any ‘sick days’ left”, that I won’t be getting a raise or I’m being laid off.  I don’t want to worry that I’m late or not meeting someone else’s standards, and as a result, might not be able to keep supporting myself. I don’t want to be forced to stay in a specific location and never get away because I have to clock in somewhere.

You know what I hate?

When people ask me “what do you do?”

What do I do? I don’t DO anything. I AM somebody. I can do so much. I’m not narrowly defined by skills I use to make money.

What you do to make money is completely separate from what you do with your time. Ironically, many people spend all that time getting more money.

Am I the only one who sees the sick paradox here?

If it were up to me, you know what I’d do?

I’d spend my life traveling, learning languages, practicing martial arts, reading, programming, eating good food and (eventually) raising smart, open-eyed children. All the other shit can suck it.

I mean, can we just be honest here. It’s just you, me and this letter. If it was up to you, you wouldn’t go to work tomorrow, would you? Even if you “like” your job, wouldn’t you much rather be doing exactly what you want to do at the pace you want to do it?

And not because you’re lazy and don’t like putting effort into your pursuits — it’s because you’d rather put your full energy into the things that really ignite you. Whatever those things are.

Now, 95% of people will say “But Daniel, you have to do SOMETHING for ‘work’. You can’t just be a bum. You need to get a job or something and then do stuff on your free time.”

This is incorrect thinking based on the overwhelming cultural paradigm that says work should be placed squarely at the center of your life, with any fun/recreation coming as an afterthought.

It’s the deferred life plan, where you save, save, save for 50 years, contribute to your 401k and when you’re 60 (that’s early retirement actually…), you hope to be able to finally stop working and live the last 20ish years of your life in frugal quietude, clinging to a slipping middle class existence as inflation goes up and your savings decreases.

At least now you have time to finally do everything you wanted to do…right?

Sounds bittersweet to me.

I propose another way.

We’ve seen what happens when work is your central focus. Working for work’s sake, spending all your time making more money or obsessing about money instead of doing the things you really want to do because you’re ashamed to actually admit what those things are for fear of being labeled different. God forbid you don’t have “work ethic”.

What if you were to make your life and the pursuits that interested you – traveling, learning, physical activities, art, whatever- the center(s) of your life and fit work in like a planet in orbit, designed to support your life and pursuits without completely taking over?

What if your presence wasn’t actually required to generate the resources that support you, and you were left to roam the earth freely?

What would you REALLY do with your life?

Have you ever considered that in a completely digitized society this is a very real possibility?

This isn’t a popular way of thinking, and if you don’t have any friends or role models living like this, it’s hard to imagine that this is even possible.

But as I’ve met more and more incredible people through my blog — people who are living that “fictional” life — I realize that it’s not only very possible, but that there’s a formula to creating these circumstances. It’s not luck, and it’s not voodoo or “positive affirmation”.

In the past 12 months I’ve gotten increasingly closer to this reality.

Are you one of the few who believes a better way is possible, not just for people in books or in the news, but for YOU?

Leave me a comment below and let me know.

******

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46 comments
frah90
frah90

This is the more ispiring post i've ever read.. i believe..

Aman Chand
Aman Chand

I made this transition 2 years ago after working in IT for two years, realizing I hated it, then moving to Malaysia for 10 months till i ran out of money and had to come back home to "get a job" lol. Only I realized I wanted to live life on my terms, doing things I love and using my time and efforts making ME money, not working long hours for someone else making THEM rich. For those who haven't made the transition, I hope this post inspires you to give it some serious thought. For those of us who have made the transition, it's a great and timely reminder as to why we did in the first place. Totally printing this out and sticking on a wall somewhere as a daily reminder. Great post as usual.

RFIndependence
RFIndependence

I have had a similar life experience as you did, and hate the what do you do question too. My mother also always asks if I am going to look for a job some day or if I need money haha.

Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan

Great letter Daniel, and an awesome perspective on living life as you want. I'm in the process of this transition myself, it's challenging but exciting at the same time.

groundcoffee11
groundcoffee11

As a 40+ I have spent the last 20 year's living exactly what you are describing its now time for change

Andrew Szeto
Andrew Szeto

Mr. DiPiazza,

 

This is a blog post I've been coming back to every single morning before taking off for work.

 

It consistently gives me the same level of energy that I got after first reading the "4 hour work week".

 

Striving for a life that you want to live as opposed to the "9-5" life that everybody else does can be a tough battle

 

Especially when you're drowning in a sea of people who prefer to bitch and moan about their situation instead of taking action to actually get what they really want.

 

Sometimes makes me question whether or not I'm wasting my efforts and maybe I should just settle like everyone else...

 

But this post, and this blog always steers me back on track.

 

Thanks for this post Dan

 

What I really love about it is how it highlights living a healthy, balanced life as opposed to one that is full of anger, complaint, and resent.

 

And each time I read it I feel good saying to myself "I deserve it".

ddsuber
ddsuber

The old saying is true: You can't take it with you.  I also like Prince's take on it--Money don't matter tonight, sure didn't matter yesterday, just when you think you have more than enough is when it all up and and flies away, that's when you find that you're better off making your soul's all right...

THISiSMARKC
THISiSMARKC

I couldnt agree more. Once you realize that time is more important that money, the journey to doing what you love to do becomes a lot clearer. We weren't put on this earth to work. We were put here to nurture and care for those we love. You can only do that with time.

MeCamLife
MeCamLife

Whenever I drive on the highway, walk around a big city, or generally attend any event that draws a mass audience, I am always struck but just how many PEOPLE there are in this world. I think about how every single person has their own life just like you and me and I am blown away. Then I think about out of all these people you pass everyday, how few people really make an impact in this world...which has a dual effect on me of motivation and disappointment.

I am not saying that everyone has to be Steve Jobs, but if everyone pursued their dreams or what made them truly happy, then the world would be a different place. Everyday I try to speak to positive influencers like Daniel, who are not only doing what makes them happy, but helping other people to realize that it is possible to do what they want with their lives as well, which is amazing. I encourage anyone to reach out personally to him...we've had great and truly motivating dialogue since we got in touch 4 months back. Surround yourselves with people who think differently and it will push you to live everyday to the fullest. Great post Daniel!

 

SergioValentin
SergioValentin

I remember reading this previously and wanting to respond but my analytical nature wanted to cover every point and this one friend has many good points.  However, I'll just suffice by covering over all and saying, WELL SAID.  It isn't lazy to be exceptional and if anything, the one's looking to be free of the slave worker, mindless monotony -learn much of many things in order to discover a truth.  That alone is muuuuuch more engaging tha a sub-satisfactory job and the approval of the other "slave" (of course some people just want to work and I don't knock them). My point is, we work harder.  It takes a lot of courage to fail in order to succeed.  To try many things and think hard and brain storm to find what it is that works.  The journey most have given up on before trying.  More over, the desire as you state is to build a sustainable system that runs itself so that we can get back to the REAL important things in life.  Like family, or traveling, exploring, enjoying food, fellowship, conversations, all the things we lose when we work 80 hours to sustain a 40 hour life. 

CMetAkeoff
CMetAkeoff

Soooo  what's the formula????? lol Yes you can text it to me...  But I definitely agree with you. i would love to live a lifestyle where my interests were at the center  

ddsuber
ddsuber

I'm glad you are focused and in touch with what drives you at 25.  Now's the time to let go of fear and that's a brave thing to do.  You are inspiring to even us non-20-somethings.  Thank you for sharing your insights.

YomiAlimiPharmD
YomiAlimiPharmD

Thanks for the great post Daniel! I see a lot off different sorts of people in my day to day job and this sort of life is dreamed of by only a small percentage of the population and only acted upon by an even smaller percentage. Knowing that it is possible and seeing living proof of that reality makes me all the more serious about "figuring this thing out." Happy freaking BDAY  

glenmcdaniel
glenmcdaniel

This is a must read for anyone who has ever worked a  9 to 5 and wondered out loud, "Is this all there is?" This piece is written for a 20 Something website but it has a really funny, sensible, ball-breaking call to arms for anyone who has ever talked themselves out of pursuing their dreams. Daniel writes like your best friend who will coach you, support you, but not help you wallow in your BS or apathy. This is great stuff; the kind of substantive no-holds-barred writing I have come to expect from Daniel.

RobertJCollier
RobertJCollier

badass open letter, Daniel. This post really struck a chord with me. Couldn't identify more with you and the feeling when I look around my office and just think how ass-backwards everyone is that works there. Anyways, keep up the great work. Wishing you well from one fellow entrepreneur to another.

AudrisCampbell
AudrisCampbell

Happy Birthday! As always, great post. I'm getting closer to that reality myself. (:

seanmalarkey
seanmalarkey

Love it Daniel! This topic is exactly my life (the good part). Yes there is hard work and struggle to achieve the lifestyle you mention but I am living proof it's possible! And the exact reason I am publishing a book documenting those who have achieved it and the mindset & paths neccesary to get there. Keep up the good work brother!

Latest blog post: Leap of Faith

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @Paul Ryan Hey Paul, awesome to hear from you - and glad you liked the letter. The transition is tough...but so worth it.

 

Keep pushing!

 

DD

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @groundcoffee11 I think the hardest part is realizing what's going on around us. So many people suffer silently - but if we bring awareness to the fact that it's OK not to be happy doing what culture dictates, it's OK not to want to work endlessly in this fashion...that's when we begin to have the ability to change the conditions. At least on a personal level.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @Andrew Szeto Thanks for the feedback, Andrew. You're absolutely correct - it can be a tough battle....but trust me, I can tell you from first hand experience - settling isn't worth it.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @THISiSMARKC and @MeCamLife yep - totally agree. The problem is first "waking up" and realizing what's going on. It's also hard to get out of the cycle (ie 9 to 5 work rather than pursuing purpose) when that cycle is what's supporting you. It takes creativity and strength to break through.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @SergioValentin I specifically want to point out that MANY people DO give up before even attempting. I have never understood this logic -- but I suppose it's a protective measure to prevent yourself from feeling the effects of failure. In my eyes, "not failing" and "succeeding" are two very different things. Interesting psychological study though.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @CMetAkeoff That's the question of the century, my man. I think the first part of the formula is getting really, really uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that you come to breaking point where you decide that no matter what SOMETHING has to change. Once you've come to that point, there's no turning back, and it's much more of a "how-to" attitude than a "what if?" or "can I?" attitude. You have to get that that point of no return before you can make a major change.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @ddsuber Thanks, Diana -- and you're right. I'm finding that more and more non-20's are getting in touch with me to talk about these things. Hmmm...Rich50Something?

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @YomiAlimiPharmD Thanks Yomi - and I'd have to agree. The more you see the life you DON'T want, and realize that there are, in fact, other options, the more motivated you become. And the motivation is even stronger when you start meeting people who are 3, 4, 5 steps ahead of you on the same path. That's proof! Thanks for the bday wishes, man!

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @RobertJCollier Hey Robert, thanks for chiming it.

 

Dude - trust me, I get it. Although it's one thing to realize that you're "in the matrix" and quite another to try and get out, wouldn't you agree?

 

What projects are you working on now?

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @seanmalarkey Thanks for reading, Sean! As soon as I found out where you live part time...I said "that's it...I'm figuring this thing out." You, and others who I've met on this path, continue to show me that it's possible -- so when I get discouraged, I remember that this is not (for the most part) luck, it's persistence and methodical testing/reiteration.

 

Looking forward to the book. When is it coming out?

MeCamLife
MeCamLife

 @Rich20Something  Its hard to get out of the cycle when it is ingrained into us from youth. You graduate high school, go to college, work a 9-5 corporate job, get married/have kids, retire and die. Any deviation away from this socially accepted path often feels wrong and potentially like you are failing in the eyes of others. You entire life revolves around "living for the weekend" and your two weeks of vacation a year. TWO WEEKS to yourself out of 52?! How people don't revolt against this is now crazy to me.

I am sure Daniel will agree, I often don't even know what day of week it is now because it doesn't matter. Everyday is my day with my time to decide how I spend it. And yes, it wasn't easy to get to this point. I quit my finance job, broke up with my girlfriend that I was living with, moved home with my parents, and launched my company which took a year. All tough decisions that in the short term took a lot of ego swallowing but in the end I believed in myself and my dream.

ddsuber
ddsuber

 @Rich20Something  @CMetAkeoff I agree.  I think you can't hide forever from what truly motivates you.  And once you're in direct contact with that part of your self, you'll be less tolerant of perceived obstacles standing in the way of your goals and dreams.  And there's never one path or one time-frame, you just have to be steadfast.  And having patience doesn't mean you're standing still. 

AudrisCampbell
AudrisCampbell

@Rich20Something August 1st it's official!! Spending the summer in Florida. Time for some serious R&R.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @giraffeLookout  @MeCamLife I agree to an extent - but I don't always think that making more = spending more. Wild fluctuations make it hard to save anything -- and when you're just starting out on your own your main concern will just be getting the bills paid at all costs. But I think as you settle into your path there is definitely room to save and invest consciously, even with expensive tastes.

giraffeLookout
giraffeLookout

 @MeCamLife  @Rich20Something Some of the best advice I was every given when I was in my twenties and about to start my career was, "You are going to spend all of your money anyways so don't worry about how much you make." What the speaker meant was, if you earn more, you are just going to develop more expensive tastes. You are still going to be broke at the end of the month so make sure you are doing what you want to do. I understand that some people are better at saving than others. But I had pretty wild fluctuations in my income during my 20s and found that I pretty consistently spent whatever I made. 

MeCamLife
MeCamLife

 @Rich20Something I would also like to get across to your readers that this has NOTHING to do about money and being rich. I saw so many very very RICH guys in NYC (bankers, traders, analysts) that were still slaves to their 9-5 job even though they were millionaires. They were some of the unhappiest people I knew.

I am guessing Daniel, that when you started rich20something, you were a little  younger and thought of entrepreneurship as a way to get rich and then you would be happy. I also thought this way to be honest. Along the way though I discovered that it wasn't the money that motivated me or made me happy at all. It was taking back the ownership of my life, creating something that is mine and just feeling the freedom of not having to answer to anyone. I wonder if you have found the same thing?

Money IS the way I validate my idea however and how well I am executing it. Its a good barometer if I am on the right track, or if I need to tweak something here or there. I'm not saying money isn't great, as I believe while it can't buy you happiness, it can definitely afford you the option to do what does make you happy.

Anyways I just wanted to get across that you don't need to be rich to do what Daniel is saying...and if your only motivation is to get rich, then I also wouldn't suggest it.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @MeCamLife This says it all:

 

"Everyday is my day with my time to decide how I spend it. And yes, it wasn't easy to get to this point. I quit my finance job, broke up with my girlfriend that I was living with, moved home with my parents, and launched my company which took a year."

 

It takes a lot of sacrifice to get where you're going -- you have to believe in yourself whether or not others do. And there will be days where even YOU don't believe in yourself. You have to keep pushing through that as well. But you are 100% right Drew. I often have NO idea what day it is - which is hilarious, because it makes me realize how ludicrous the social structure is.. "these are the work days, then you get two of these and back to work"...

 

Who made this up? Who thought this was a good idea?

 

For the record, I've done some traveling and it's not like this in all countries. When I lived in Greece, it was almost the polar opposite. We are so Americanized, in may instances, we forget that there are other ways to live except our own.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

 @ddsuber Agreed - I think "rich" has a different meaning for everyone. And income is relative. I'd rather have make $50k and work less than $500k and work more.