What I Learned Working a “Regular Job”

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As some of you know, I have a Regular Job in retail now. Living the Retired life wasn’t working for me, so I’m not ashamed to say I spend three days a week bumming around a liquor store for $13/hour. The hilarious irony is $13/hour only covers my Drinking Expenses, but let’s get back to the point: Working in retail again has been a very enlightening experience.

As is customary in retail, I greet everyone by asking how their day is going. “Hi, how are you?” As people get off work, I’d hear the same thing over and over again. “Good, I’m done now.” I can’t believe how shitty an answer that is. WTF.

“I’m done now”? REALLY? Do people simply stop functioning the moment they don’t have Work? (I mean, I kinda did, but let’s forget that for a moment.) How about “I’m done working at my fantastic job now, and I’m going home to have a great night with my loving wife and kids”? I’m sure that’s what SOME of them mean, but you should hear their tone. Their “I’m done now” sounds like “Oh, thank God I’m away from my shitty job for another 16 hours”. Suddenly, I remembered there are people out there who hate their jobs. I wonder what that feels like.

Somewhere in all this, I remembered I was standing behind a counter, bagging a customer’s wine while they got to go home and relax. I looked at the clock. Yep, I was “stuck here” until 11:15 PM. I then realized I didn’t feel the need to be “done”. This was fine. I remembered I was here voluntarily. I know some finance bloggers kick around the idea of Fuck You Money, but this was a little different. I had no intention of burning the place down and telling my Boss to go fuck himself because I respected him as a business owner. He put trust in me, and as a Decent Human Being, I was going to do a good job whether I had Fuck You Money or not. I found myself grinning like an idiot. “Have a great day! See you again soon!”

I’m always grinning like an idiot at Work, whether it’s the store or my photography career. It’s really not as simple as an Attitude Shift because I know some people really are in shitty situations. I get that. The reactions I get in retail are astounding though. I’ve had coworkers who only ever frown. Customers assume they’re the manager. I’m as happy as a pig in shit. Customers assume I own the place. This isn’t an isolated occurrence. In all things you do, if you’re actually happy, you end up looking like the Boss. It’ll get you further than you can imagine.

On the other hand, I know a guy who works at Safeway. Let’s call him Joe because that’s his actual fucking name. He HATES his job. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile once. He makes that Safeway feel like a Sartre play, and he doesn’t hide it. He rolls his eyes, sighs loudly, moves like molasses. DO NOT be like Joe.

A weird thing happens when you have some security in life. Since this is a finance blog, we can narrow it down to Financial Security, which is different from Financial Independence. Other Ben is approaching FI quite fast – he’s still on track to Retire For Good at 38 – but I have Financial Security and that’s good enough for me. I love what I do, my bills are covered, and I have enough Money to get a little silly from time to time. Without FS, you end up like Joe. You spend every day waiting to be “done”. That’s like waking up every morning and simply waiting for the icy grip of death. Don’t live like that.

Strive for Financial Security. FI is too scary, and the numbers are too big. For now, let’s define FS as a lifestyle where Work feels effortless and Money just rolls in. You’ll know you’ve reached that point when a paycheck arrives and it just seems like a pleasant surprise. For fuck’s sake, have a great time, all the time. You spend 8 hours at Work every day. When you consider that’s 50% of your waking hours, if you’re miserable, GET THE HELL OUT NOW. If you’re only doing it for the Money, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.

One last story: A woman came up to me tonight wanting to impress a few guests at a dinner party. Her guests were wine snobs and she wanted only the best, but she’d heard “good things” about a major winery here in BC. Knowing what I knew about the quality of THAT wine, I steered her to what I would pick: Burrowing Owl. Stubbornly, she bought one bottle of Burrowing Owl, but her second bottle was from the crappy winery. I thanked her and sent her on her way. She came back three hours later to return the second bottle. Her guests wouldn’t even drink the stuff. “How did you know? Did you take a course in wine?” I did. I looked at the clock and I had four more hours to go. I wasn’t “done” yet.

And I was still as happy as a pig in shit.

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