Why most jobs are “dead-ends” – and what you can do about it

Some companies are great. They create a place for people to reliably work for a consistent paycheck, health benefits, and an engaging culture. If you’re lucky, you might even enjoy the work. Some bosses are great. They encourage their teams to learn, grow, and develop. They leave people feeling a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. I’ve read about these places in books and job postings.

But, in my experience, most companies and bosses are not great.

Not in the sense that they do bad things or treat people terribly. More in sense that the vision the boss has probably doesn't align with the vision you have. So you end up working for their dreams instead of your own.

Additionally, most companies are in established industries and they're working on thin margins. The business must maintain a profit otherwise they fail. The solution is to limit the growth of the employee, suck as much work from them as possible, incentivize an inability for liquidity through a 401(k) match, and try to keep them somewhat motivated – yay company picnic.

How do you know if this is you and your company? Let’s ask a few questions.

  • Is there a real possibility to make enough money to fund your desired lifestyle now?
  • Is there a real possibility to make enough money to fund your desired retirement lifestyle?
  • Is there a real possibility to have enough time off to do all the things you want to do?

Here’s my guess for most people. No. No. No.

Then one day you go to work and you find out the company sold to a bigger company. Or they’re doing a merger. All the sudden you become a little less concerned about your job and a lot more concerned about you. Will you keep getting paid? Are they going to lay people off? Will I settle into the new culture?

My wife taught me a phrase the other day. When speaking about a co-worker who was overstepping their place in the hierarchy, she said they needed to, “stay in the car.” That’s what happens to most employees. It simply means, you’re not invited into the board room. You’re not welcome to join the adults at the decision table. You my friend, must stay in the car.

Therefore, most jobs create a dead-end because they eliminate your ability to control your life.

So where does that leave me?

In my experience, there is one factor keeping people at their dead-end job. It’s their inability to pay for their current lifestyle without their current paycheck. Even if your current lifestyle isn't the lifestyle you desire, it's still be paid for with your paycheck. Losing that can be scary.

What about when it comes to retirement? You’re probably taking advantage of qualified retirement plans (401(k) or IRA). Maybe you know exactly what that retirement plan will do for you when you're older. Probably, you're just hoping for the best. Meaning, you're hoping that the stock market is up , that taxes aren't ridiculously high, and that you'll have enough money when you're ready to hang it up.

Even still, you’re probably not putting a bunch of cash in the bank. For many this means credit card debt, 401(k) loans, or personal loans. Now your debt is competing against your retirement plan. I believe they call this, the rat race.

So what do you do to gain control of your life?

The first thing you need to do is identify where your money is going? Are you funding your problem and contributing to your dead-end, or are you funding your solution and giving yourself lifestyle choices?

Create a cash flow plan that lines up with the vision of your future – even if you don’t know what that vision is yet.

The second thing you need to do is shape your vision of the future. People always ask me, what should I do to make more money? My answer is always the same, that depends on how you want to spend your time. Do you want to landscape yards? Do you want to write computer code? Do you want to create videos on YouTube?

There are so many ways to make money. But, if you don’t know how you want to spend your time, then anything you do will be temporary.

Stop listening to other people. Stop thinking about how to make money. Create your vision based on how you want to spend your time.

Now you have a vision and you’re starting to set aside money to invest in that vision.

Next, you need to study the market you plan to enter. Identify what the market leaders are doing to generate revenue. Identify how the market leaders are different than you. Identify what challenges the customers in this market are facing. Then develop the skills necessary to provide the value that people need.

I’m not trying to oversimplify things. The truth is, it’s not that complicated. That’s not to say it isn’t competitive or it won’t take time. But here are the three broad steps to leaving your dead-end job and become professionally independent.

  1. Create a cash flow plan that allows you to invest in yourself
  2. Develop your vision based on how you want to spend your time and stop listening to other people
  3. Work on your game every day, week and month until your vision becomes a reality.

In other words, use your money, mind, and energy to create your own Worthy Legacy.