The Rhythm Method (Or, Why Self-Employment is Better Than, Um, Chocolate)

Today’s guest post is from the bubbling cauldron of Joel D Canfield’s mind, and he provides us with an unbridled rant—er, measured assessment—of the painful yoke of conventional employment vs the fresh, cool air of entrepreneurship’s open road. Joel is the author of many books, including a new one on this very topic, as you’ll see when you round the corner on this post. He is also a pal, a fellow who makes fine pancakes and a general smarty-pants.

I’ve never been good with schedules.

I eat whenever I’m hungry. (In Mexico they tell the joke about the gringo who has to look at his watch to see if he’s hungry.)

I sleep when I’m tired. (I went through a phase where I worked 3 hours and then napped, ’round the clock. Longest sleep period was the 3 hours from 2am to 5am.)

I work when it makes sense.

And that requires far more than a parenthetical phrase.

Jobs are Unnatural

I’ve had jobs. Not only was I miserable, I wasn’t good company for those around me, at home or at work. Not that I didn’t deliver. I take my work seriously and do it right.

But when you need a 90-minute nap at 10:30am, most employers get miffed. When you nibble constantly all day, whenever you’re hungry, the HR department wonders why you won’t take your lunch break. And asking to leave an hour early because you didn’t take it is about as simple as negotiating peace in the Middle East.

No, my biology tells me I’m not cut out to be an employee.

Neither are you.

Maybe your biology is suited to the rhythms of employment.

Your psychology isn’t.

Psychology Says No to Jobs

Over and over again, psychologists of every stripe tell us that happiness is more important than money (and, by they way, totally unrelated to money, once you’re above the poverty line.)

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity. He is best known as the architect of the concept of flow, the altered state of consciousness we sometimes find ourselves in when totally engaged with a challenging task.

Csikszentmihalyi on why it matters what we do for a living, and whose job it is:

“Because for most of us a job is such a central part of life, it is essential that this activity be as enjoyable and rewarding as possible. Yet many people feel that as long as they get decent pay and some security, it does not matter how boring or alienating their job is. Such an attitude, however, amounts to throwing away almost 40 percent of one’s waking life. And since no one else is going to take the trouble of making sure that we enjoy our work, it makes sense for each of us to take on this responsibility.” — Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, p. 101-2.

Dredge up Maslow’s Hierarchy from the muck at the back of your mind. Certainly, sleeping indoors and eating occasionally are needs which must be filled.

Frederic Herzberg’s Motivation/Hygiene Theory points out that at some point, Maslow’s levels flip from removing dissatisfaction to adding satisfaction. It’s important to note that they’re not on the same continuum. The things which remove pain, eliminate dissatisfaction, can’t just be increased to create satisfaction, a joyful life.

Herzberg, Maslow, and Csikszentmihalyi, among others, point out that we need purpose, we need autonomy, we need something grander than a full belly and a dry bed to sleep in if we’re going to be happy.

The Pursuit Of

I discovered long ago that writing juices my synapses. Occasionally, whether it’s a song, a business book, or more often of late, a mystery, when I string together the right handful of words, it makes even my short hairs tingle.

You have a gift. Somewhere inside you is that thing you do that brings you joy, every single time. That thing others identify with you. That thing that you’d pay to do, if you had to.

If only you could make a living doing that.

Maybe you can.

Dreamtime is a Big Place

Remember all the jokes about hoping our kids could get jobs playing video games, since that’s the only skill they had?

Guess what. It’s happened.

Of course, it’s not the breezy glamourous gig they were all hoping for, but it exists.

Did you ever imagine anyone would pay to have their shopping done? How about a private chef?

It’s not just the wealthy who pay for these services. Folks who are just plain busy at their full-time-plus-overtime job pay to have all the tasks done they just don’t have time for.

Maybe shopping or cooking or beating the Leaping Hammer Brothers level isn’t your thing.

You know what is. Stop, right now, and think about what you’d be doing right now if you weren’t at work, reading blogs to avoid working.

Parallels

Get creative. Stretch it out. Don’t be afraid to be ridiculous. (Remember pet rocks?)

Don’t quit your day job yet, if you don’t have to. Read Seth Godin’s Bootstrapper’s Bible for practical guidance on launching your rocket without spending much (or any) money.

Find something parallel to your joy. I love writing fiction. Non-fiction sells better.

Mark McGuinness is a poet. He makes his living, though, teaching business savvy to artists.

You Will Leap, Or You Will Be Pushed

Here’s my concern: that you’ll think you can wait. That your job is secure.

The age of the job is over. Like a dinosaur, the heart has stopped beating and the head just doesn’t know it yet.

We’re all hanging over a precipice.

Would you rather be hanging from someone else’s hand, or hanging on tight with your own?

About the Author


He may have taken a knock to the noggin in his leap off the hedonic treadmill, but Joel D Canfield still manages to string sentences together most days. Though he pays the bills as a web developer (self-employed, of course) he’s managed to write and self-publish his 10th book, released this month. Its cheeky title is You Don’t Want a Job and he believes every word of it.

8 thoughts on “The Rhythm Method (Or, Why Self-Employment is Better Than, Um, Chocolate)

  1. Oh yeah, the rhythm method works. In our marriage, during those dangerous times of the month (OK, of the week) (OK, pretty much every day) when I’m eating chocolate (i.e., “choculating”), Phil knows it’s best to leave me alone. Even more so if he can see that it’s the high-octane dark chocolate stuff.

    That said, I don’t know if I can agree that self-employment (or anything, for that matter) is better than chocolate, but Joel, I’m with you on two other important points:

    I sure in the hell don’t want a conventional job at this point in my life.

    And…

    “Don’t be afraid to be ridiculous.”

    Congrats on the launch of the newest book!

  2. Annie, if you see our shopping cart as we leave the local Aldi store, you’ll know we’re getting our daily ration of dark chocolate. Not sure even I believe that claim.

    Glad the rest wasn’t too far off the mark, though.

  3. As a person who cannot seem to help but be ridiculous and who also believes that a cloak of dark chocolate gives him superpowers and who hasn’t had a conventional job in many a moon, I salute the both of you (and anyone who happens to be walking by as well).

  4. You’re preaching to the choir with me, Joel! I’ve had jobs and every time it’s like slowly dying. The only redeeming factor was the money and the money wasn’t even that good. I must prefer writing full time.

    I love your philosophy for life. Good luck with the 10th book and might I just say that the title is brilliant. Especially “in this economy”, haha!

    Tom, I haven’t been around much in quite a while but I hope you’ve been ok. I’m getting caught up right now.

    Jai

  5. Thanks Jai! I’ve been whirling around on the dance floor with multi-faced projects and haven’t been visiting my old haunts either. Thanks for the well-wishes (and back at you), and I’ll see you in the ether.

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