file0001969497334Last year at this time I was sitting in Middle Europe, waiting for spring to break through grey skies.

Now I’m sitting in the Middle East, watching the sun go down over the ocean and drinking Arabic coffee.

What’s the difference? What has happened since last year? Two things:

1. I quit my job working at a private tutoring school and started teaching online

2. I reduced everything I own to the volume and weight of one suitcase.

That’s basically it.

If you’ve been reading my writings here on this blog, you might remember that I am neither a fan of extreme life-style minimalism nor (affiliate) internet marketing shenanigans. (Read the linked articles if you want to find out more about it.)

I simply noticed that…

  • most people seem to spend most of their life working.
  • the more money people earn, the less time they have to enjoy it
  • I would never ever want to submit to such a lifestyle!

The Law of Compensation

One possible definition of work is: “To perform a service or sell a product and be compensated for your time and efforts.”

Most of the high paying jobs nowadays do not involve direct selling but are mostly service related. Put simply: You are serving a company and their goals.

The higher the perceived value of the work you do, the higher the compensation, of course.

High value = high compensation (which mostly means money) -> Great!

But, the problem is, like I’ve said before, the time factor.

Why? Because high value work almost always implies a high quantity of time!

This leads to a slight but severe change to our formula:

High value = high compensation = huge amounts of time -> No space for anything else.

With time invested in work I don’t just mean the actual amount of minutes you do something directly related to the work. A lot of time goes to waste on commuting, meetings, company “retreats”, etc.

Also the University of Cambridge gives the following advice to their students about “attention span”, saying that we all…

“have a different [attention] span for different tasks. It cannot be expanded to infinity! Most people find their level for most tasks round about an hour, but for some people and some tasks it will just be a few minutes, while for others it might be two or three hours. “

Let’s just say this is correct and three hours is some kind of maximum undivided attention span.

How many hours do people work per day in a well-paying job? Approximately 8-10 hours, plus minus, depending on the day and/or position.

How many of those intense attention cycles can you stuff into one day?

How long does it take to regenerate after an intense three hour period of laser-like focus?

No matter how you answer those questions for yourself, you will find that in most jobs a big chunk of your day is not directly related to doing actual work. Instead it is filled with all kinds of socializing and/or seemingly important but meaningless activities.

This all leads us to the question:

If work means being compensated for the actual work that I do, am I being compensated for the time spent idling around?

A superficial approach to this is to say: “Duh! I get paid by the hour, dude!!”

But once a moment is lost, it doesn’t come back.

Gone Down the Drain

You can’t take your salary, go to seven-eleven and buy back the sunny day you’d wasted in office, wishing you’d had gone to the park with your girlfriend. By the time I’m writing this, the sun has disappeared in the ocean surrounded by a configuration of colors and reflections that will never again return in the exact same way.

In other words, although our language is full of relating to time like a currency (spending time, buying time, etc.) there is no correlation between the pieces of metal, notes of printed paper, numbers in your bank account – to a great moment.

However you try to justify that this is not so, it will just become more so!

Now, if your employer pays you well but you have to pay with most of your time, are you really being compensated for your efforts?

The more time you invest, the more money you make.

And the less time you have to anything else than work.

It’s a vicious cycle.


Those are part of the reasons why I decided that no job in the world, no matter how perfect the payment, will be enough for me.

This is why I broke all ties with this world of pay-checks, meetings and water-cooler conversations and ventured into a new, fairly uncharted one.

Last year I overheard a conversation between my colleague and my boss, the headmaster at the time:

My colleague said she was thinking about becoming “self-employed”. My boss retorted:”It’s dangerous. It’s unstable. You don’t have a guarantee for anything!”

And the funny thing is: I don’t disagree with her.

According where most people come from, it is kind of scary and unpredictable.

You never know what will happen next. You cannot plan ahead for the next ten years.

Many people are bothered by this so much that they rather cling to a mediocre job that steals most of their time and enslaves them to a certain set of beliefs and social rituals prescribed by the employer.

But if you really want to live, this imitation of life will not do for you.

Besides sleep, work fills most of our day.

Do you really want to work according to some abstract legal entity’s idea of what to do and when to do and why to do?

Or rather grab life by the horns and ride it wherever it may take you?

Many people say they’d like to live, but they need money.

But money is just an excuse.

Money cannot compensate you for the lost moments in your life.

Money is the totem of cowards and the scourge of the corrupted.

The core question is if you want to live your life or slowly waste away each precious moment after the other.

Once you’ve become comfortable in the face of this, everything else will follow.

Related Posts:*