Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Lie of the 80s

I've... just made a terrible mistake. I'll never get to college. My life is ruined. - Tom Cruise as "Joel", Risky Business (1983)

One shouldn't look for deep meaning in this movie, but it does touch on one of the promises to the Children of the 80's: do well in high school, get into a good college, get out in the business world, and you would make it Big Time. Guaranteed. So the keys to the executive suite all start with which college you get into, which is the point Joel is making in the movie.

And it was a lie.

I'm not saying that one shouldn't study and work hard. You can live a nice middle-class lifestyle if you do. It's just that Big Time success isn't predicated on any of that. That, I have decided, is more about luck, or fate, or just being at the right place at the right time. I've seen too many idiot millionaires, dumb-ass VPs, incompetent CEOs, and other clueless rich people to come to any other conclusion. And these were the people who in the 80s were out partying while I was sitting in my room studying calculus.

And it is the realization of this lie that I have decided to focus on things other than work lately. Because hard work within an organization doesn't get you ahead. Giving up weekends in order to get work done doesn't get you a promotion. For those people who don't have to do these things just to keep the job they have, they're just in their room studying calculus again; one of the suckers.

And if you do eke out some sort of raise to the next level, after a certain point the government takes away so much that incremental improvements in income do nothing to improve your lifestyle. It is only HUGE increases in income and wealth that make a difference, so why kill yourself to make another $20,000 a year if the government is just going to take away $10,000 of it? What's that additional $10,000 going to buy you? A quarter of a car?

I have gotten to a point where my income has gotten me to a point where my lifestyle is comfortable, but not lavish. And instead of trading in any more time for incremental income, I am using my time to do things that I find more interesting, or fun, or get me into better shape. Because if I do make it Big Time it will be because of something I stumble into, luck upon, or land when calling someone about something else - which is how I have landed my last several jobs. It won't be because I sat 12 hours a day in a office "working", so why bother doing it?

So while some of my peers might make 25% more than me (or 13% after taxes), they're stuck in an office all day today. Me? I'm going to the beach.

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