The brokeness of a 9 to 5

Or is it the brokenness in our thinking?

For a long time, I had a nagging feeling that something is somewhat off with the concept of a 9 to 5.

For some people, it works — but for me, it just didn’t seem quite right.

Perhaps it has to do with my lower-middle-class upbringing, where money was always a subject of scarcity. There were times where we sat through power cuts because the bill had gone overdue and there were about three eggs in the fridge and nothing else.

Was it poverty? Who knows. I was a kid and my parents weren’t the greatest with money.

My mother worked from home at the time, unable to go into a 9 to 5 because the schedule would never work with school hours, which ended at 3:20pm. Sure, I was self-sufficient enough to get myself to school by the time I was 11, I was also a master at instant noodles and sandwich making — but I was still a kid and for that reason, my mother decided to work from home.

When I was 13, I remember my mother telling me to never start a business — to attempt to work from home — to get myself educated, find a good 9 to 5 and stick to it, till death do us part style and that way I’ll never starve. This stemmed from a conversation I had with her about how I wanted to start my own business.

Looking back at it, her reaction probably came from a place of desperation, where each day was met with financial struggle — up until the day she finally threw in the work from home gig and went to work at the factories.

Quick, don’t let the poverty in

For a long time, I played along with the game. I went to school, went through University, came out with what one would call an education, found a job and stuck by it.

For a long time, it worked out well.

Until I had a baby and the company died. The final day was truly a til death do us part moment, as my mother had described — except the company went before I did, so that was not part of the plan.

The timing of its closure was unfortunate but it happened, regardless of how hard I worked in the past, regardless of the extra hours, of everything that went in — heart, personal sanity, burnouts and 3am wake ups for deployments.

When it all came crashing down, I had a good sum of money in the bank as my safety net — but rent quickly ate that up and I knew I had to do something differently.

I had two options on my hand — go back to the 9 to 5, which is more like 7 to 7 with the commute and hang out with the child during the weekends like everyone else.

Or figure out how to make it work.

The ill words towards those that have money

Maybe it’s just me but those with money always seem to have it better — housing, the things they own, the freedom and mobility to do things and time. There is also a sense of and general displeasure and disregard towards those who seemed to be doing better.

Phrases like the rich get richer often float around, especially in spaces where people are struggling to just get by. Other things I’ve heard include big corporates are greedy and they should give us more money.

Like the concept of a 9 to 5, these ideas didn’t seem quite right either. Not all rich people are evil, and what if I became one of them, does that make me a bad person too?

If I were to come into by chance, according to this thinking, it would be alright. But what if I didn’t? What if I made vast sums of money in legitimate ways, does that make me the sheriff from Robin Hood?

I’d like to think that I’m an alright person but I also don’t want to stay in a state of constant worry, that one day, my new 9 to 5 would disappear the same way it did the last time.

How to break the cycle

Our thoughts shape how we perceive the world around us. It also influences the way we act and react to situations. When we limit ourselves to our current narratives — that one must follow the 9–5 path to survive — we limit our earning potential and our chance to truly thrive.

If we take a look deeper into the concept of working a traditional job, the difference in output and the wage you get is the profit margin that your boss gets to keep.

This is not saying that your boss is evil for doing so — but they are doing something that is vastly different from what you’re doing. They’re sitting at the top and coordinating all the moving parts to generate a particular outcome. What they’ve done is externalized the tasks they need to be done to you — the worker.

The difference between you and them is that they’ve figured out a successful system that generates money when they’re not working. It is also the difference between working a traditional 9 to 5 and being part of echelons that is somehow financially better off without seeming to do much.

Building wealth from the ground up

If you woke up one day and discovered that all your money is gone, would you be able to climb out and get back to where you were?

What about Richard Branson? What about Gary Vee? What about Arianna Huffington? What about Elon Musk?

They’d probably be better at climbing out from nothingness than the person that’s accustomed to working the traditional way.


Because they’ve equipped themselves with certain skills that put them in the best position to create systems to execute their ideas. Sure they all have money now, but at the very beginning, they all had the same opportunity as us — to work the 9 to 5 — but chose not to.

They’ve worked out how to build wealth by doing something different vastly different from the rest of the population. They took chances at their ideas and found ways to ignite them into existence. Some of them had more than one idea, some of these ideas failed but the ones that do succeed go on to be spectacular implementations that resulted in large amounts of people willing to trade their time and money for it.

Most of the time, the rich get richer because they’ve got it figured out.

Tales for the future

The moment I decided to quit the 9 to 5, I gave myself permission to walk a different path. While I’m not exactly quite where I want to be just yet, it is still much better progress in the grand scheme of many things.

It takes a different set of skills and ways of thinking to live beyond the norm, especially when you’ve spent your entire existence in that kind of life.

The day my job died was the day I technically started back at square one — except with a newfound sense of reality and the chance to begin anew, but this time, differently.

About Author /

Editor of Hustle Thrive Grow. On a quest to become a better human and documenting the journey in digital ink.

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