The Path of Least Resistance

Mutual Metaphors by Mars-1
Mutual Metaphors by Mars-1

The other day an anonymous commenter wrote:

"Zee, I see from your recent posts how unhappy you really are at your current job. I ask, why don't you look for something else, something in a completely different field even. You are not living paycheque to paycheque, maybe the universe is telling you to take that leap. Of course your goal is not to work at all but might as well try and find something better until then."

First I would like to say, thank you anonymous commenter, really, thank you. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to even comment on something I wrote. It's nice to know that someone noticed a theme with my work lately and suggested that I make a significant change to it.

The other day I read a post over at Retire Before Dad and it summed up my feelings towards work really well. I'm sure that I could switch jobs or careers at any point at time but right now my job is really the path of least resistance towards financial independence. My ultimate goal is to not work... I mean, it's the title of this blog after all, I have this feeling that if I was doing anything else for 40 hours a week I would start to hate it to some degree too. Since I feel like no matter what I would dislike work to varying degrees I might as well take the shortest path to my goal. Let's say my current job has a dislike factor of a "broken leg", and switching to another job is somewhat better but it still is like having a fractured foot instead.... Sure it's a little less pain, but it's still just drawing out the pain longer.

But in response to your question I have multiple answers as to why I am currently sticking with my current job/career path.

Coworkers/Environment: I've had five "real" jobs since college. Well.... Five career type jobs that were in my field. Of all of these jobs there are only two that I had coworkers that actually liked. You know, people that you might call friends and invite to a birthday party or hang out with on the weekends. My current job is one of the ones where I actually have coworkers that I wouldn't mind hanging out with on occasion. Going into a job where you have people you can call friends makes a job a thousand times more enjoyable than having a job where everyone is just, "a person that you work with."

Flexibility: This is becoming a much more important factor to me lately. I usually get to work from home one day a week which is a nice perk to have. But there's another advantage to my job that I haven't taken advantage of yet but may consider at some point in the future. My job would allow me to work remotely if I choose to move somewhere else. So I could move to the other side of the country if I wanted and I could keep my job. That is a very nice option to be able to take advantage of if I really wanted. If the universe is telling me that I need change, this is probably more of the change that I'm actually looking at right now. But moving away from a safety net and what's comfortable is just really fucking scary... Which brings me to my next point.

Fear: Honestly, this is probably the biggest reason I don't change career paths. Yes I could change jobs and stay in the same industry, but for the reasons I mentioned above I fear that I might not have as nice of a situation that I do now at a different company. I could change careers entirely too, but almost any career change I would take about a 50% pay cut to do it (the pay cut is less of a fear and more of just an honest evaluation of the situation), and then there's no guarantee that I would like it any better. Also there's a lot of fear for me in thinking that if I leave my current career path then I may never be able to get back in after a few years off. People think that for some reason you lose your skills if you don't use them but I think that's just dumb... I know that when I'm looking at resumes and someone hasn't had any sort of programming job in the past few years they go near the bottom of the pile, in the "maybe I'll call you if we're not getting anywhere with these other candidates first pile."

But as you mentioned, I sound unhappy with my current job, and you are correct to an extent. But I'm also depressed, I know that I go in cycles since I'm bipolar and all, but of the crap at work just triggered me to go down the rabbit hole again. But after years of dealing with depression I know to fight my natural instincts, burying my bad feelings and not making extreme decisions when emotions are high is just something I've gotten used to over the years. Right now I'm very unhappy with my manager, but that will be changing as there is some mobility within my company to change groups. Once that is done I will still be working with people that I can call friends but I won't have to talk to that manager again.

Another thing is that I usually end up leaving a company over politics. Either I'm promised things that aren't delivered, or I'm micromanaged, or just simply don't like my coworkers. It's usually not the work itself, but some other factor that makes me unhappy enough to leave. I think switching to another job would probably result in the same thing eventually. At my current company there's something wrong with the politics of the situation and I'm able to fix my main issue. So that's why I'm choosing to stay for now. I may think differently later but for now, I'm going to see how this plays out first.

I'm also getting closer and closer to the end of my working career. Somewhere between five and ten years left doesn't seem that bad anymore. I'm already past the half way mark, I have enough saved that I feel like I see light at the end of the tunnel and just need to hold on a little longer. There's still a ways to go but slowing down now doesn't make sense to me at the moment. Maybe it will in the future, but for now I'm going to just keep at what I'm doing.

Do you view your job as the path of least resistance? Have you ever made a complete career path change?

16 comments:

  1. I also am in a job that's the path of least resistance. The only good thing is that I actually like my job and most of the people I work with, so it all works out very nicely. The only thing that's disappointing is that it has kept me in an area (suburb) that's expensive and that I've lived in for-----ever (since I was 4!) I'd really like to move some place different; anywhere, really, that's more affordable. However, because I'm a teacher and it's very much based on seniority and college units, I'd take a huge pay cut moving. So....I'm sticking it out for a few more years, at the very least. But it's not tortuous, thankfully.

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    1. Little House,

      The people that you work with can easily make or break a job. You spend most of your day there with these people so if you like them, even if you don't like the work, you might actually not mind spending your time there.

      Sometimes toughing out a situation for a while because you know it's the financially best thing to do is really the best way to go. I know that I stay in my current house right now because it's really cheap compared to moving anywhere else. If I moved anywhere else in the bay area my rent would probably at least triple, which is why I haven't done that yet. I would have to move somewhere out of state to find comparable housing compared to what I'm paying now.

      But sticking with my job because it's the path of least resistance is the same as my housing situation. I have a bigger goal in mind that I'm working for, and the nuisance of work isn't a big enough of a thorn for me to call it quits and find something else. Someday it might, but for now - that's not the case.

      -Zee

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  2. Zee,
    Thanks for the mention here. I'm glad to hear that my post connected with others. People often say "just quit if you don't like it", which can be bad advice, especially without knowing the details of a situation. Those of us pursuing FI are very analytic, and by weighing pros and cons, it's often quite obvious that quitting is the wrong move. Certainly, the more we age and approach our FI crossover point, the more thought that needs to go into career decisions.
    -RBD

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    1. Retire Before Dad,

      Thank you for your article. That really resonated with me which is why I felt the need to share it. I think that sometimes quitting is the easy way out, what's hard is making the changes to turn a difficult situation into something desirable again. It takes work but in the long run it may be more rewarding than giving up as soon as you don't like something. Right now I'm shaking things up at work and I'm going to see where the chips fall before I truly decide that I need to just quit and find a new job.

      I think that because I have a large safety from saving so much for years I think that I can afford to take risks at work that I may not have had the balls to do before. Calling out my manager on what I think is bullshit decisions was the first step of that process. For the most part it seems to have gone over well, most people think it shows authority and desire to get what I want and many of the people in upper management have praised that. But we'll see how things end up.

      -Zee

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  3. I look at it this way - my goal is to retire by 40, and I am going to do whatever is necessary (while conforming to my personal system of ethics) to make that happen, period. My job, like yours, is simply the vehicle to get to the end goal of financial independence and jobless bliss for the rest of my life.

    It doesn't matter what I do for a living, either. Of course, I need to choose a well-paying career within a field that I can reasonably succeed in based on the set of skills that I can offer. Also like you, that field is within information technology, and I get paid a damn good salary for what I do - and my cost of living here in Arizona is very, very, VERY low.

    That said, there is some wisdom in not absolutely hating your life every fucking day until you do retire. But then again, I don't think either of us hate our lives, either. While our jobs certainly don't define who we are, they are the right movers to get us from our current state to the end goal.

    For me, my job is nothing more than a vehicle - the best vehicle that I have available to me - to help me achieve my ultimate goal. Whether it's IT, HR, CEO or a bloody garbage man, quite frankly I don't care.

    Believe it or not, this kind of care free attitude has made life way more simple and almost completely stress free.

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    1. Steve,

      I think the focal point of my hate at work lies with a single person that happened to be my manager, I'm shaking things up and shouldn't have to be dealing with him soon so hopefully I can get back to my same apathetic feelings towards work - not hate, but not love either.... It's just one of those things I have to do.

      There will be other opportunities at this job, the company is growing very fast. I think last year was the first year in the past 4 years that the company did not double in size, instead it only grew by maybe 70%.... This year it will probably grow by maybe 40%. Yes it's a small company, but it still impressive growth and more opportunities will become available because of that.

      -Zee

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  4. I hear you man...just hang on there. Plenty of options are opening each day and you're doing a great job at working towards your freedom already.

    Everything works out in the end!

    Cheers,
    Josh

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    1. Josh,

      Thanks for the encouragement. There are quite a few opportunities opening up within my company and I may have some big developments to share on this soon. I'm actually pretty excited for work for once, but since it's not 100% official yet I don't want to break out the champagne yet.

      -Zee

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  5. I'll take my chancesMarch 5, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    It must be difficult to go through periods of depression and maintain other aspects of you life, let alone focus on your work. I can imagine that this would drain your energy and you would put your focus on the things you have to, rather than the things you might want to if you felt better. I would guess if the job threw you "down the rabbit hole" too many times that you would look for another job since good interpersonal relationships are hard to find and can be harder to keep if you don't have energy to put into them-no matter how understanding people can be. So retiring in 5-10 years seems like an awesome goal, but I am sure you would face that fear of change should you find it's impact on your mental health is starting to leave you with fewer real relationships by your side. Good luck to you and I hope you can achieve your goals with few upsets along the way.

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    1. It is difficult at times to deal with depression. For me I've generally learned to distract myself when this happens, if it's something outside of work or just the regular cycles of bipolar I usually try to do something productive that I have to do anyways. That keeps me from thinking about my feelings too much and helps me get stuff done anyways. Usually that's work that helps distract me from depression. But when work becomes the trigger for it... That's when things get difficult, no longer do you want to focus on work since many aspects of it just remind you about why you hate it.

      So far this job has it's frustration points, but nothing too bad, I'm sure all other jobs have annoying things to them that would be the equivalent of these so I don't really let those get to me. But the recent management issues are something entirely different. This is the first time that I felt like this job really threw me under the bus, I'm taking steps to help fix it though so we'll see what happens. If this kept happening then I would definitely leave but so far I think this company has a lot of unique opportunities that I might take advantage of.

      -Zee

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  6. This post makes a lot of sense. In particular, the whole 'liking your coworkers' thing is HUGE. This is one of the largest factors for me in determining how much I enjoy a job. Also, "...not making extreme decisions when emotions are high." This is really smart. Sometimes it's best to just put your head down and keep taking care of business. Either way, changing jobs or not, good luck, Zee!

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    1. Bearded Dragon,

      Thanks for the encouragement, I'm sure I'll have some more follow up on this soon. Also, thanks for stopping by, I checked out your blog and I look forward to reading more of your journey!

      -Zee

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  7. I totally understand where you are coming from. I think that many of us are depressed that we actually have to go to work somewhere that isn't fulfilling just to stay on the path to financial independence. I absolutely hate fighting traffic to go to a job that has no real meaning other than making a boatload of cash for a large corporation. I have accepted that and they pay pretty well for the skill set - so onward we go.

    If someone had asked any of us as kids what we wanted to be, cubicle-dwelling corporate IT drone would not have been on any of our lists. Yet here we are because we know it is a means to an end. I guess the only thing we can do is make the best of it and keep the eyes on the prize.

    I think of it as motivation to throw that extra $10 into my brokerage account instead of going to Starbucks. It pushes me to lower my monthly bills by any means necessary. I do not want to do this forever...in fact, I want to do it for as little time as I can get away with. That is motivation.

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    1. Brian,

      Traffic.... ugh, don't get me started on traffic, I used to have to sit in traffic for 2-3 hours a day because of work. Giving up that commute was one of the best decisions I ever made. I don't think I could ever go back to that unless there were no other options... Even then I would be keeping an eye out for something closer.

      Eye on the prize, that's a great way of putting it. I have different goals than most people (well not early FI bloggers, but most of my coworkers at least) I am committed to escaping the rat race decades before my contemporaries, because it's something I really want I work hard for it. Most people want that, but not enough to really cut back and focus on that goal, and that's the only reason they won't achieve it. They aren't focused enough on it. That's a fine decision, I'm sure they have other goals they work towards instead but for me, I have my eye on the prize, just like you. Thanks for stopping by!

      -Zee

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  8. Zee,

    I had gathered from your previous posts that you don't really like your job, but I didn't know it was that bad. However, I found this post to be very humble, down-to-earth and rational, so I guess you're on top of things.

    Sometimes I feel like I'm one of the very few people that actually enjoy going into the office and I find it to be a huge privilege. I hope you find some joy in the small victories at work. Keep at it and financial freedom will come your way no doubt.

    Best wishes,
    NMW

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    1. NMW,

      It's not that I don't like my job... My job is just a job, I don't particularly like the tasks that I do at this one more or less than previous jobs. I do like the coworkers, some of the perks and various other things. The only problem I've been having lately is with the direct manager who decides my promotions. Aside from him, I'd (dare I say it) like my job. I'm working on switching to a different team with a different manager, I'd say it's just a matter of time at this point. I've been shaking things up a work quite a bit and I think it's about time to see where the chips fall before I make any drastic decisions.

      You're not alone at enjoying work, there's many people that do. But I think in the early FI community, you will find people that are typically more apathetic to work. They just view it as something they have to do, most don't love it, most don't hate it, their jobs are simply jobs, and it's a part of life until one day you reach FI and suddenly you can make up your mind on what you want to do with your time.

      -Zee

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