A world of ladders:
It’s funny isn’t it? We are always looking to grow – and whether that’s in gaining more freedom, more responsibility at work or even bettering ourselves socially and physically – it’s unfortunately only served with a nice side of age. From finishing university and finally landing a sustainable job, to buying your first mortgage and settling down – the list goes on and everything takes time. Before you know it you’ve really grown up. Not only have you started to mature at work but the grey hairs and slowing metabolism are also beginning to show.
Welcome to the world of two choices – a bit like The Matrix. On one hand you can try and “climb the ladder” for the rest of your life, or alternatively you can sit somewhere lower down the ladder, happy with “getting-by” – never out-excelling or testing your comfort zone in anything. Many authors, academics, economists and politicians defend the “ladder” concept as a rigorous blueprint to working-life and encourage us to work hard at it and rise to the top.
The idea of getting off the ladder altogether – a life away from the working world and responsibility, would almost seem mythical to those aforementioned. This “third” option of leaving the ladder and leaving work is almost an impossibility for so many – it’s simply too costly and risky. It’s true – work hard while you’re young, settle down then think about this nonsense. It’s hard to argue to against the norm and what the experts tell us.
The third pill:
However, there is a third choice we can make – I have read about the people who make this decision, I know people who have led the inexpensive nomadic lifestyle and I have spent time researching their lives. What I’ve learnt is we need to pay attention to them. The reality for most of us is the two pills before us are not nearly as satisfying as the third pill – the one Morpheus didn’t tell us about. The lives we could lead are there for the taking, we simply need to become the Peter Pan of this world and grab the opportunity for ourselves.
Many argue that in taking this nomadic lifestyle of freedom and inconsistent change we are being selfish, irresponsible and contributing little to the world in the way of taxes, economic spending or even charity. On the contrary – it is you who dictates your own decisions and it is you, the ladder climber, who is just “getting by” via that route to the top or “success” as it’s commonly known. This isn’t success? Especially when you read about the lives you could lead below – away from the prison of nine-to-fives, pointless meetings and meaningless information we don’t need.
You don’t need to be rich to be enriched by the world and its hidden qualities. This article has taken inspiration from a few unnamed people who have shared their stories with me where a particular decision has had a huge impact on their life. Some people really put off growing-old and really strive off making gut decisions and I think it’s too good not to share with us normal-people, just getting by.
4 reasons why you should get off the ladder:
- There’s a world out there larger than you:
Travel and enrol yourself in things you wouldn’t normally do. One guy called Mark caught my attention – he attended some Mandarin classes for a year, then quit his job when he was at a conversational level and moved to China. As a result, he learnt invaluable qualities you can’t simply pick up in your everyday life. A new culture and new friends who subsequently influenced him personally. Mark learnt first-hand to realise what true poverty is and the affluence we are born with compared to most. If you’re reading this, then this probably applies to you. There’s a world out there far larger than you – and don’t forget it. Mark’s message to me was simple: don’t get sucked into this life of hedonism that can slowly over-shadow you. The sooner you learn about this the quicker you are able to truly appreciate your life and the environment around you. Mark left his ladder four years ago and hasn’t returned since.
- Live life as an adventure:
The world is chaotic – go see it. Study or work abroad when you can if leaving the ladder isn’t completely realistic for you at the moment. I am speaking from my personal experience in this respect – learn about new cultures – ones far older and more established than yourself. You’ll soon realise the true meaning of hospitality and become self-reliant. Don’t get tied down to responsibility too early if it can be avoided. I read up on blog online which highlighted Sarah’s story. She went traveling for six months to escape work for a while and “find herself”. It’s now been nine years and she has no intention of coming home. Sarah taught me that sometimes it’s good to fall deep and that we should let these people fall. Those who have the courage to leave their comfort with nothing are the heroes of this world. They are re-born with a plethora of new skills and characteristics you ascertain only through once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Another girl, Charlotte, posted a long story online. It was so satisfying to see how she actively made a change to her disappointing and unfulfilling relationship. One day on a business trip she found herself making a phone call to the hotel room where her work colleague was. She was fond of him but unsure whether she really liked him. Anyway, he answered and they ended up going for a long walk in a park next to the hotel in Chicago. After this they spent the following nights of the business trip getting to know each other better. Fast-forward seven years she is now happily together with her ex-colleague living her dream abroad – finding work from one place to another – enough to survive while traveling in Asia but being the far more enlightened because of it. It’s fair to say you can see the importance of making a single adventurous decision. Charlotte is in a better position then she would have ever been on any ladder.
- Discover your real passion and don’t worry about making others happy:
One story really summed up a problem so many of us, including myself, can relate to. That fear of sticking to what we know and always making the rational, safer options. This is all about the importance of self-actualisation or finding meaning and purpose in your life. One of my closest friends struggled during university – she was working hard but wasn’t properly engaged in the work she was doing. So instead she enrolled herself in a part-time job writing for an independent news firm. Her parents were worried she’d be spread too thin alongside all the work she had at college. They tried numerous times to stop her from writing – but in the end she pulled through and ended up changing her college degree towards something more suited to her passion because she was so good at it.
Now within two years she is pursuing her dream and actively traveling around the world while writing – funded by the money it provides her. It makes her happy and continues to shape her life every-day. If she hadn’t made the decision to go against her parent’s firm stance, then she may never have discovered her passion and the success that came with it.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” is heavily quoted world-wide. Yet Saint Augustine of Hippo’s words are true now more than ever. Once you have truly observed the world – then you can create something unique and mark your legacy. And if you don’t leave your legacy – then what was the point?
- Learning to appreciate discomfort and the beauty of perpetual discontent:
As Thomas Edison once famously said, “I haven’t failed – I’ve just found 10,000 ways of not doing it right”. This quote really stands out in the sense that we can’t give up – keep looking for the life you want until you are satisfied – maybe it’ll take a lifetime to find, but if you find it then you’ve achieved more than most – making you unique. To many entrepreneurs their hallmark trait is their perpetual discontent. They constantly look to re-invest themselves or their business until you meet your own standards which are probably higher than anything anyone else could expect of you. The world is your oyster and only you have the power and knowledge to know what you’re capable of doing so make the most of it. I think this is something we can all strive for in jumping off our ladders.
The book – “when things fall apart” by Pema Chödrön is of particular relevance to this article. Her words highlight how we, humanity, are so used to this idea of running from discomfort. And if we don’t like it we strike out at someone or beat ourselves up. “We want to have security and certainty of some kind when actually we have no ground to stand on at all.
The next time there’s no ground to stand on, don’t consider it an obstacle. Consider it a remarkable stroke of luck.”
It’s only when we have no ground to stand on that we can inspire ourselves to do great things and really exceed our boundaries. Or … “We start by working with the monsters in our mind. Then we develop the wisdom and compassion to communicate sanely with the threats and fears of our daily life.”
The above rules should act as a guideline to anyone looking for that third choice. By taking the aforementioned points into account – we are closer to leaving that ladder we don’t want to be on and closer to finding that third option we have to grab before it’s too late.