Can I work for “the man” and still be a semi-minimalist?

October 31, 2012 § 10 Comments


In every other blog about simplicity or minimalism I read, the blogger has either already achieved his or her goal of quitting his or her job; or aspires to.  For the last couple of years, (for as long as I’ve been reading minimalism blogs,) I’ve searched for my own wish to leave my job … what is that special thing that I’m supposed to be pursuing that will inspire me to want to do that full-time instead of what I already get paid to do?  I’ve read at least a dozen “finding my passion” types of books including some by Cheryl Richardson, Debbie Ford and Martha Beck  and it wasn’t until I read “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath that I started to realize that the reason I wasn’t finding some new “thing” to run to is that the “thing” I already have meets 7 out of 10 on my ideal work wish list (the book includes some combinations of skills plus Meyers-Briggs personality traits to summarize your ideal work/environment).

I then discovered Danielle LaPorte’s new book “The Fire Starter Sessions” and finally read someone who agrees that it’s possible to be passionate about the work you do, even if it’s for a big company.  (Not that she works for a big company … but it’s possible …)

So I’ve embraced (for now) the idea of staying where I am … a BIG manufacturing and distribution company where I will be celebrating my 18th anniversary tomorrow.  My work is challenging and rewarding; my management is supportive and encouraging and genuine; the people who work for me have opportunities to learn and grow and try new things; and I have a position that lets me help people both at work and at home.  And the really semi-minimalist part is that I don’t have to spend my brain power thinking about daily issues like income, medical insurance, and vacation pay.

Maybe someday I’ll be inspired by something that I love doing even more than what I do now and then I’ll think about moving on, but for now, I’ll simply stay put.

What do you think?  Do you dream of self-employment or have you found a niche working for “the man?”


§ 10 Responses to Can I work for “the man” and still be a semi-minimalist?

  • What I think is incredibly funny is that minimalists encourage everyone to quit their job and do what they love — but the thing is, society as a whole would collapse if everyone did that. We need people who are janitors, who are librarians, who work in manufacturing and distribution companies (because even if those manufacturing companies that make the “crap” that minimalists eschew weren’t making said ‘crap’, they’d still be manufacturing something…be it toothbrushes or solar panels or medical equipment). We can’t all follow our passion every second of our lives. And to say that we should does nothing but undermine the pride in our work that those who aren’t living out of a backpack get of our livelihoods, even if they’re not perfect. If you lenjoy your job and find it challenging, don’t let the uber-minimalist mantra of “your job is keeping you from doing what you love” get to you. If being challenged is a passion for you in life, then you’re doing nothing wrong.

    That said, I absolutely agree with the core tenet of minimalism — get rid of the junk in your life (physical and psychological) that keeps you from doing the things you love. What are the things I love in life? Sure, my hobbies, etc. But I also love waking up in the morning and knowing that if I get hit by a bus that I have good enough health insurance to cover a full recovery and not leave me destitute. Many of these “quit your job and live the life of your dreams” people are just one car accident, natural disaster, or cancer diagnosis away from ruin, even if their lives seem fanastic now. Sure, I don’t love my job all the time but I’m passionate about having my own safety net. What are these bloggers going to do in 10 years when they’ve said all that can be said about minimalism, anyways? Or when some new hotshot minimalist comes along? The only skill they’ll have left is writing. And as someone who went to a liberal arts school before I went to a career-oriented grad program, I can tell you that being chararismatic and knowing how to write only goes so far for most people. However you will have had a stable job to be proud of.

    So maybe working less is a goal worth considering :o) just my two cents. Good post.

  • Ah, I forgot to add this link to a little video. it’s a fantastic satire of minimalism. When I get into a “hyper minimalist” mode, this helps me keep things in perspective.

  • I enjoy reading your blog and have just nominated you for the Inspiring blogger Award for your great content.

  • Caitlin says:

    Lovely post. I came here from livingsimplyfree – you’re on her blog roll 🙂 This post is very reassuring, since I sometimes wonder if I want to stay in my job for a long time. I do dream of self-employment, so that when I have children I can work from home, but that’s in my five-year plan and is subject to change, like all plans are. I don’t always believe in my job (I work in chemical manufacturing and I am vehemently opposed to chemical-laden foods and household products… eco-hippie issues there), but I am good at it and I am about 80% satisfied, which is more than most people can say I think.

    I’m also self-employed on the side, in a very fulfilling writing career that I hope to expand in the five-year plan. The only problem with that is that I have increased responsibility at work due to a maternity leave, so I am drained of energy leaving me with less motivation to write. On the other hand, my increased workload means more productivity, so if I play my cards right I can use my momentum from work to power through writing assignments after hours. I guess at the end of it all I’m just a mess of to-do lists.

    In my little mind world, I would love to be free of commitments to a job and a lease and a loan payment, and I could just travel around doing my writing from wherever I am. But that’s not practical. In my heart, I am a homebody, with a cat, boyfriend, and $60k in student loans I will spend the next 25+ years paying off. So I need this job. I’m very lucky that I like it here. Many people are not this fortunate, and I am very grateful for what I have.

    Sorry for all that word vomit, I get very stream-of-consciousness when I write comments sometimes!

    • Sounds like you’ll be perfect primed to write about what we can do to reduce the number of chemicals in our food stream and ecosystem. Let me know when you write it, it’s also an area that I’m fascinated by — have you listened to Robyn O’Brien on the GMO topic? She has a really inspiring TED talk on this subject.

  • good to see you back! hope you had a great holiday!

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