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Video: Finding your motivation at work

Reginald Perrin: Not highly motivated at work

Most corporate workplaces are instruments of psychological torture, yet it can decades (even if you’re ultra-frugal) to build up an escape fund.

Starting a business instead is risky, while even small passive income streams can take years to establish.

You only live once, so for most people the answer must be to find a better job. But what do we mean by better?

  • Jobs that give you a lot of time management freedom are great – but here we’re trying to define a job that you don’t want to avoid at all costs.
  • Many doctors, vets, architects and other professionals have off-the-shelf satisfying careers. Is it too late if we’ve already become office wage-slaves?

What’s it all about, Alfie?

Interestingly, we’re not the only ones asking these questions.

In the wake of the credit crisis, Governments are exploring how the bonus culture in banking led to wanton risk-taking and the abandonment of any sense of fiduciary duty. Obviously they’d rather it didn’t happen again.

Early findings back-up other research into the limits of using money as a reward in the workplace, as summed up in this fantastic video:

There aren’t any easy answers to these questions.

For a start, motivation at work is something you want to harness for yourself and your own plans, not a carrot that helps your employer keep the workforce in line on the cheap. Yet in the bigger scheme of things, selfishness is perhaps part of the problem, too.

I discovered the video via Financial Samurai, who muses that:

Purpose is something that can either be questioned before you start your journey or after. You can be a high school or college student who has no freaking idea what you’re supposed to do in life. Or, you can be a 20 year veteran in the workforce who has built a great resume, as well as financial security, but realize you’re middle-aged now and wonder if there’s more to life since you’ve already conquered insecurity, be it financial or otherwise.

Leaving your job has a big opportunity cost – swapping to a new career or starting a business an even bigger one. Yet do nothing, and you can become a Reginald Perrin for the 21st Century.

I’m happy to tell you all I know about saving and investing – and even making money – but I don’t claim to have got the career and purpose stuff quite right in my own life so far. Have you?

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • 1 Everyday Tips July 8, 2010, 1:35 pm

    I currently do not work (home with the kids), but I hated my previous career, even though the money was good and I could work from home. No matter what the ‘benefits’ are, it is hard to muddle through if you fundamentally do not enjoy your profession. For me, it was always needing to be available for international calls at all hours. It was very stressful because emergencies popped up constantly.

    When I do re-enter the workforce, I am going to think long and hard about what I want to do. Or, maybe I will just make millions off my blog. ha ha ha ha
    .-= Everyday Tips on: Thoughts For Thursday – Random Musings =-.

  • 2 ermine July 8, 2010, 2:27 pm

    It shouldn’t take you decades – after all Jacob showed it could be done in five years in theory, though there’s a reason why it was called early retirement extreme.

    Is it too late if we’ve already become office wage-slaves?

    Yes, IMO it is. The only escape route is financial independence and out. Office work is too generalist, and a feature of all the work you identified was that it was specialised, depended on expertise gained through experience and wasn’t routine.

    I personally got more job satisfaction when doing engineering than doing various forms of project management. The current project I am doing that will probably see me out of my company is more rewarding because it uses a specific legacy skill and results in a physical construction that will be used by people outside the company. It doesn’t make me feel better about the corporate BS but it makes me feel better about the use of my time 😉

    Office work really is bad for you, as you identified with your McJobs article – largely because it is so generic, and there is often not the satisfaction of something that is demonstrably right or new after you have done your work, unlike the fit people, animals, and useful buildings – results testament to the jobs you chose as examples of being rewarding.
    .-= ermine on: Why Office Work is Bad for You – Reprise =-.

  • 3 The Investor July 8, 2010, 2:37 pm

    @ermine – As far as I know Jacob doesn’t share his net worth, but I think it’s probably in the region of $200,000. More power to him and others who follow the ultra-extreme path, but that’s too little for me to retire on.

  • 4 The Investor July 8, 2010, 2:41 pm

    @Everyday Tips – I agree with you (and Ermine above). The sad fact is though most people are going to need to keep working for years if not decades, so all I’m suggesting is perhaps it’s better to look for satisfaction rather than another 10K. (Enjoy the kids while they last! 🙂 )

  • 5 Financial Samurai July 8, 2010, 3:06 pm

    Autonomy and freedom while making money is what I seek.

    It would be great to have Jacob-san reveal his wealth, and you are probably right on the 200K figure, b/c he does live off of around $8-10k/yr so 4-5%. But that’s just himself, as his wife works, so isn’t that just like the reverse of a stay at home mom, but a man? Correct me if I’m wrong Jacob if you’re out there! Just an epiphany.

    I think I could live off 10K/yr too if my wife worked, b/c we have a vacation property in the Pacific which has no rent or mortgage. The temptation is HIGH, but I resist 🙂
    .-= Financial Samurai on: Feeling Like A Burden Is A Terrible- Terrible Thing =-.

  • 6 ermine July 8, 2010, 4:35 pm

    I was gobsmacked when I read Jacob’s analysis, because I am saving at a rate that would square with his five years to F.I. I still lose some sleep that the result won’t be enough to carry me through 8 years. What he’s cracked is really screwing down his outgoings, to a level I just can’t see a way to matching.

    Perhaps we have got too used to la dolce vita 🙂
    .-= ermine on: Where Have All the Jobs Gone- Ma =-.

  • 7 The Investor July 8, 2010, 5:13 pm

    @ermine – Remember he lives in a van. I think it’s great what he’s doing, and perhaps if I lived in sunny California (or Spain or similar) I’d consider something similar, but he hasn’t reinvented the rulebook and discovered a way for middle-class people to carry on with an approximation of their middle-class lifestyle without massive saving in advance and many years of compound interest. Nor does he claim to have.

  • 8 Hope to Prosper July 11, 2010, 9:00 pm

    I tend to agree with Sam on this one. My dream is to semi-retire, with more freedom and flexibility, without scrtching out a meager existence. I don’t need to appear on Cribs or drive a Mercedes, but I also don’t want to live in a van. I don’t mind working to supplement my passive income, but I want to leave the 9-5 lifestyle. I am about 5-10 years out right now.

  • 9 The Investor July 11, 2010, 9:16 pm

    @Bret – Yep, that’s my hope, too. Passive income to take care of expenses if required, but hopefully reinvested on the back of enjoyable ongoing freelance work and consultancy of 20-30 hours a week. I had a taste of living off savings and not working when I sold out of a company a few years ago, and it was pretty dis-empowering and boring to be totally out of it. Working as much as I want, but not needing to, has to be my ideal.

  • 10 Moneyedup July 18, 2010, 5:55 am

    After watching the video about financial rewards in the marketplace I was really surprised about the results of the reward of one day of autonomous work. Autonomy really is a motivator! For complicated tasks that require more than rudimentary thinking, financial rewards just don’t work and can just add a lot of stress to a situation. I would love to have the reward of working on my own on a project I created with whoever I choose to work with!

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