Learning specific methods to succeed as a freelancer or an entrepreneur is escapism if you are still caught up in the mindset of a prostitute. You might be inspired by the Four Hour Work Week and legions of ‘lifestyle design’ bloggers offering tips on seizing destiny manifest in Thailand–or simply working for yourself–but they’ll remain abstractions to you if you still see doing things you dislike for a salary as acceptable.

Here’s a list of qualities and attitudes that might mark the psychological shift to assuming responsibility for one’s own ends, rather than unhappily being the means to the ends of others. I know the implied scope of my list feels larger than a professional redefinition. These ideas have been foundational for me as I’ve reset myself toward a sort of vertical integration of my whole life, in an effort to put energy into micro-economic constructs of my own devising, as it were.

Fortunately–or hopefully–most people are not actively dissatisfied with employment per se, especially in light of the solvency it affords them. There are times in life where economic self-determination might be less attractive and maybe less appropriate than it would be before we have kids for instance, or before we are inspired to pursue an idea whose time has come, for us.

So to be clear: most employed people probably have no need of this article. Are they prostitutes? Do they have a choice? Who am I to say? Doing it for money doesn’t make you a prostitute. Hating it and continuing to do it just might though. Take it from me.

Internalizing each of these ideas was part my own process of seizing a post-employment life.

1) A willingness to embrace the next phase might not push you to move unless it’s coupled with an active, consuming dissatisfaction with working jobs just for a paycheck. That dissatisfaction might not lead you to change either, and I wouldn’t suggest seeking it out by the way. But if it has you, if your larger intentions are set irreconcilably against your circumstances, choose to see it not as a curse but as an exit catalyst.

2) Are you ready to give your blood to execute on ideas you believe have merit, with no assurance that you’re correct? Do you trust your capacity to construct a viable tangent? If not, if prostitution has beaten the necessary psychological self-reliance out of you, then better to face the fact that you’re not ready to create your own opportunities. Yet.

3) The opportunity cost of shrugging (i.e. not executing) scares you more than turning your back on a paycheck. Are you more afraid of never hitting a home run than you are of striking out fairly regularly?

4) Consider well that for which you settle. Satisfaction and comfort are fine goals, but don’t use them to paper over a marginal situation and distract yourself from changing your objective circumstances. If a better you knows you need a change, this will be a problem in your reflective moments until the day you die.

5) No one cares. Why is this hugely liberating and actionable? It removes erroneous motivational triggers and permits you to focus on what matters to you. Other people are so wrapped up in their obsessions that your extra 10 pounds, perfect lawn or job title doesn’t register with them. It’s great news.

6) Even if it takes years to get the psychological and practical groundwork in place for them, moments of redefinition requiring a “yes” or “no” answer will arrive which make it impossible to return to an earlier life. “No” may be the appropriate response, but make sure it doesn’t come out of your mouth because you aren’t ready, or simply afraid.

7) Things never really go according to plan anyway so be prepared to jettison all spreadsheets if you catch a whiff of an opportunity to do it rightnow. Failing in accelerated arrival is better than prostrating yourself to the seductive comfort of further preparation. Execution is infused with its own grace; it is its own justification.

8 ) There is no sin in getting up every day and going to a job. Some people make a career of it. And while “getting the job done” while assuming your position has been conceived for us as a virtue, never confuse pleasing your employer with adequately addressing the opportunities latent in your life. If you suspect that there might be more to your life than “the Job”, even if you’ve had a single job for decades, well guess what little bird? It may be time to fly.

9) One way or the other you create all the doors. Even when presented with huge, no-brainer opportunity, you had already done what it would take to put yourself in this position. Do that more.

10) ‘Busy’ is not the goal. The goal is progress. Busy is something that people watching the clock do to distract themselves from jobs they dislike. You must instead embrace efficiency to free up time to be the opposite of distracted, i.e. focused, and create conditions that provoke and facilitate focus in you, most likely while keeping others busy.

11) If the time comes when career satisfaction and the products of your success seem morbidly inadequate, don’t let fear of the unknown have you convincing yourself that they are compensation enough for refusing new, larger directions.

12) After tasting any success in business you’ll feel debased by awards and other morale-building exercises many employers use to provoke feelings of well-being in their employees.

13) A wise man said that you’ll either give yourself permission to embrace a better purpose, or find a ‘boss’ to assign you one. A corollary is that you will have moments of indecision, no one to blame, and ultimately only yourself to lean on.

14) Everything you do is a decision to expand and improve the basic terms of your life, or a choice to decline to do so. A better you is engaged in continual battle, and the forces of inertia, fear, laziness are strong. You are not absolved.

5 thoughts on “The Ex-Prostitute’s Mindset, Part 1

  1. When I first stumbled into your blog I thought the “wage” in your URL was a verb. I’m not so sure after reading this brilliant post that it’s not, as if to evoke a belligerent internal conflict to reclaim freedom, as opposed to a war against “the system” or “the 1%” – in other words blaming externalities for my plight as a wage slave.

    I read 4HWW in the summer of ’10 and have been perplexed as to why mentality has been slower to change than my actions. This post is sublime to me in that every thought resonates. It’s like the one nugget I have been trying to find within. I see now that my best thinking will continue to enslave me. Thank you for saving my life, today, and please consider posting MOAR!!!

  2. Thank you so much Joe! It’s encouraging when an article connects with others, and I feel a certain comfort encountering others who are fighting battles similar those I’ve fought, and still fight. Part of my intention with Wage Freedom is that through sharing we can all move down new paths laden with greater promise. I know I feel energized and more hopeful hearing the stories of others.

    Don’t you think today holds more endless enriching possibilities for the average person than any other time in history? For this reason it’s never been more crucial to break free from doing what we do for money if the best part of us suspects we can do better. Tempus fugit. We need creative thinking, courage to follow a path we devise, but maybe most of all a willingness to work at least as hard for ourselves as we do for an employer. Luckily, along with the possibilities, we have more methods we can use to liberate ourselves practically and psychologically.

    Wondering what you mean by ‘my best thinking will continue to enslave me’ Joe? Please elaborate.

    Thanks for the Reddit submission too Joe; hundreds of people visited from it the link in the first few hours.

  3. This is going to sound corny but I’m humbled by your reply and stunned by the generated traffic. The link is sitting at 7 upvotes. I guess we both learned something about unseen lurker traffic.

    I’ve been pondering a worthy reply since the 18th.

    I do agree that there are endless possibilities and that time is indeed an unstoppable elephant. My mental journey into ‘wage freedom’ began when I read Ferriss’ book. Since then I’ve discovered six quit-your-job blogs that I can stand to read and each post gets me further and further out of the prostitute mindset. However I feel these crushing responsibilities to my wife to secure at least a tenable income before quitting the golden handcuff job.

    My best thinking is something like: “Okay, you are definitely not working here until your 67 years old (the year 2037 – gasp). But you have to have a plan and you have to exploit the system the way it has exploited you. The path to your wage freedom is through this W2 job until you have a replacement income. Yeah, you have to keep your mouth shut and put up with incompetence, but think of your wife and cheap health insurance.”

    So, the income streams I’m working on still require the prostitute mindset, where the income is the end, not the means, to my happiness. And TIME. Precious TIME. 40 hours a week in exchange for money. I am slowly realizing that the more TIME I spend at this job, the longer it’s going to take me to find the means to be in the top 1% of happiest people on the planet. I know it wont take a million dollars and that’s not my reservation, that’s not what I’m waiting for. What I mean is, your post here reminds me that my passion, or my current trade, are probably NOT going to bring me the means aka Dreamline income. The happiness should be my goal, not having to endure working at my trade until the passive income is great enough.

    Looking forward to Part Two!

  4. Tom!!!
    Thank you for opening this new door for me.
    Fifty-eight years ago, dissatisfied with my life style in NYC, and with a tax return of thirty-five dollars stashed in my boot tops (the only time I have ever filled out a tax form — happily) I took off on the New Jersey turnpike on a hitchhiking spree. My destination was the jungles of El Petén in Guatemala. Arriving there a month later, and with my last fifteen dollars I bought a dugout canoe: “cayuco”, and embarked upon the turbulent waters of the Río de la Pasión into a world of Jaguars and ruined Mayan cities inhabited by spider monkeys and the present day Maya. At the end of the three month adventure I returned to NYC (I needed another thirty-five bucks) and on the way back to Guatemala got snagged in (and hooked on) Mexico, where I have lived and worked on numerous fascinating projects or simply goofed off to write and paint. I’ve had my ups and downs, but what adventure doesn’t? So I am ready now to explore Bali. I am able to live in the local style, without modern conveniences except internet. There are many questions I want to ask you, but am limited to one, which is: can I survive in Bali on my two meager, monthly, Mexican pensions which together amount to $540.79 dollars at the present rate of exchange?
    Thanks again, Tom. Hoping to hear.
    “Abrazos”,
    Cayuqui

  5. Tom
    I find your writing thought provoking and inspiring, and enjoyed reading the replies to the ex prostitutes mindset.

    Like Cayuqui, I too have discovered Bali as an option for me to explore. At the age of 65 I feel like a caged mouse on a wheel working and getting nowhere.

    I intended working till 67 but realise another 2 years will bring me no closer to having adequate financial security to remain in Australia so Bali may be the answer.

    I can dream of losing 40lbs whilst walking along the sunset clad beaches and the depressing onslaught of the media warnings to prepare for a self funded retirement will no longer cloud my days.

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