Why You Shouldn’t Be an Employee All Your Life

Food for Thought @ Taste Good

This is Nigel’s favorite laksa. It was excellent. No surprise; he never recommends anything subpar. He is an opinionated man, and that is a necessary trait for someone with a high standard for his own products, whether graphic design or coconut pancakes.

We were talking about how we couldn’t, at this point in our lives, work for someone else. He told me his father was also a business owner. The most valuable thing you learn from an entrepreneurial environment isn’t for your brain but for your gut, a type of faith in life: Even though you have no financial security, in one way or another, you can make it work.

My father worked for a big Japanese corporation all his life. My family took that financial security for granted, and anything less seemed disastrous. My father had nothing to offer to prepare me for the world outside of the corporate greenhouse environment. In my late 20s, I surrounded myself with others like Nigel to learn from them.

This year, 4 people close to me in their 50s lost their jobs. Somehow I had unconsciously assumed that they would have their jobs until they retire. As we get older, fewer jobs are available. The word “ageism” comes up often, but at the same time, being employees all our lives feels unnatural. It’s sort of like remaining children all our lives without becoming adults. Before the world was corporatized, we were expected to start our own business at some point in our lives. Today, this is much harder to achieve because so many of the business opportunities are dominated by big corporations.

As you get older, if you are not a mindless zombie, you learn enough to have your opinions about many things. It’s only natural that you would want to prove them. You can’t do this in a corporate environment because your job is to represent the shareholder interest, not your own. Besides, you shouldn’t be proving your opinions by risking someone else’s money anyway.

This means, even if you are lucky enough to keep your corporate job, you will feel increasingly alienated because you cannot be who you truly are. So, I’d recommend people now in their 20s and 30s to get out of the corporate environment before it’s too late.