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My personal guidelines for an Anti-job life
I’m trying to figure out what it means to live an anti-job or anti-work life.
I don’t think it’s strictly about not working at a job (that’s ideal, but out of many people’s control). But even for those currently employed, there’s a mindset we can cultivate to make give work less of an excessively central and overwhelming role in our lives and society.
Here are my initial guidelines—INITIAL, because A) I still need to read from most of the leading voices in this space and B) because I’d love to hear your takes:
1) Jobs are not the center of community. If we choose to work for employers, they’re no longer expected (nay, allowed) to be the sole source of social life. While this is almost unimaginable to me, jobs no longer taking 8, 9, 12 hours of our days would help. (Ed Zitron, who writes a kick-ass newsletter about the WFH vs. office debate, explains better than I could how most of us have accepted jobs taking all the oxygen out of our social lives as “normal.”)
2) Our identity and sense of “self-worth” is detached from what we do to make money. I’m not the first person to suggest that we need more interesting and more open-ended questions to get to know each other than “what do you do” (or at least to stop expecting the answer to be what someone does for money).
We’d be much healthier--and probably better at making friends—if our self-concept and life bio wasn’t so tied to being employed at all. Humans are amazing, complex beings that could list dozens of things they “do,” and the fact that we default to talking about jobs is lame and depressing.
3) Our actions, society and economy are oriented toward maximizing free time (and NOT at the cost of other people going through the grinder). We may always need to devote some time to ensure our survival, but right now we grotesquely overshoot the mark due to our obsession with growth and advancement.
Imagine if companies were designed to—while still making a useful product—maximize free time for their employees instead of growth or profit for its own sake. And if individuals acted toward the same goal instead of pointless career advancement. By the way, this involves consuming accordingly—no more expecting the electronics store to be open late at night, or Amazon to deliver your backscratcher in 3 hours.
4) Embracing “mediocrity” as a value and being weary of “maximization.” Ribbonfarm has an amazing series on this, and they explain it much more eloquently than I could. But in essence, this guideline involves realizing that maximum effort and optimization are, for the most part, dumb long-term strategies leading to burnout and fragile systems. Comfort with doing things “good enough” is essential.
5) Careers are a fiction that we can ignore. Many things in life (money, geographical coordinates, even time) are fictions we establish to make life convenient. “Careers” and “career tracks” are nothing more than a way to help us think about work and how we spend our lives. But, like any other tool, we aren’t beholden to them. The problem is many of us think we are. Like with money, we’ve mistaken the map for the territory, the “menu with the food,” as Alan Watts liked to say. And it seems like there’s a LOT of people with no interest in a career.
There you have it, my five current principles for an anti-job life. I’ve begun putting these into action in little ways, and I fully expect this to evolve. Let me know what you think!