Baby SwansYour path in life seems to be set down for you before you even start out. There are some simple choices you have to make along the way which affect the career you go into or where you end up living for example but for the majority of us the basic structure is pretty much set in stone:

  1. Go to school and then possibly on to university. You are told to make the most of your time at school as it is the most enjoyable part of your life.
  2. Obtain enough qualifications to start in the career of your choice. Depending on your chosen career path sometimes qualifications aren’t required.
  3. Start at some low level job. You might be able to jump ahead a few steps if you get good enough qualifications.
  4. Move up the career ladder. This will probably involve harder work and possibly longer hours but you will be rewarded with a little bit more money.
  5. Reach the highest level on the ladder you feel capable of. There will be a point where you have to decide whether or not the next step up may be too much, whether it be too stressfull, or simply not worth it for the extra money.
  6. Retire. Once you have been working for however many years you are supposed to retire and only then start enjoying life.

Is this truly the case? Looking back at the comments about school being the best time of your life suggests that there may not be so much enjoyment in the latter half of this list…

Climbing The Ladder

Right from an early age you are made to believe the steps above were pretty much compulsory. This affects how you live your life and before you even begin to think about questioning the status quo you are already holding down a 9–5. From there it is so much easier to just continue doing what you do rather than trying to work out if there is some other way…

For some their job is essential to keep the money coming in to cover the bills. As you start to accumulate a bit of money though there comes a point when you stay on the ladder for more personal reasons. As I see it there are basically two things that can keep you striving for the next rung on the ladder, Pride or Greed. OK this may sound a bit harsh but at least hear me out a minute.


Some people strive to reach the highest position they can to prove that they are the best in their field or more simply to be the best that they can be. Sometimes it isn’t enough to keep doing what you enjoy as you feel that you must move up to the next level just to prove to everyone around you that you can…

I am not saying that this is always a bad thing. Some people genuinely enjoy their work and strive to reach the pinnacle of the career purely to get more knowledge and enjoyment out of their everyday life. I don’t think that there are too many of those lucky people though.


The other main incentive to reach the next rung on the ladder is for the pay rise that comes with it. This is the reason a lot of people do what they do.

Our consumer based lifestyle seems to require much more money than it used to. Just to makes things worse the more money you seem to earn the easier it becomes to spend it all. This means that you are always reaching for the next step. Each pay rise gets eaten up almost instantly, surely you deserve that new flatscreen TV now that you are earning a little bit extra each month, or maybe it is time to upgrade the car, or even the house…

Even if you stop enjoying your work then extra money can fill the gap to some extent as you can lead a fuller life outside of work with the extra cash. The problem with this is to get the extra money you usually have to put in more hours, which in turn makes the job even less enjoyable. The more money you receive the more money you spend and eventually you get sucked into the greed cycle where you are forever wanting more…

My Path

I have never been much of climber when it comes to the career ladder. I am a computer programmer, I enjoy writing software. As long as I was getting enough money at the end of the month to lead a comfortable life and I was enjoying the work I was doing I was happy.

I never really wanted to become a manager, which seems to be the next logical step up the ladder, I am not interested in support and I don’t really enjoy visiting customers to discuss design specifications. I like to sit behind a monitor and hit keys, so that’s what I try to do. Don’t get me wrong I understand that all of these parts are essential to the running of a business and I am fine with any of these jobs in minimal amounts.

I woke up one day and realised that I was not enjoying my job as much as I used to. This was probably due to the parts of my job I didn’t care for starting to become the majority of what I was doing. So I decided to change the path I was on rather than try and ask for a raise and simply live with it. This was a very big decision and one I didn’t take lightly as there was a lot of risk involved. This is venturing off the only path and into uncharted territory after all…

I decided to try and set off on my own and try and earn some money myself. As I mentioned earlier I am a software developer. Nothing too grand but I have been doing it a while now… So why can’t I write some simple programs myself and bring in some money that way?

That was my plan but I was extremely lucky to be offered some contracting work from my old employer, doing only the stuff I enjoy, which is even better. This has given me a lot more freedom, which takes a while to get used to. My enjoyment levels have shot up though. I seem to be able to spend more quality time with my lovely wife without the constant distractions of things I have to do on my mind. I also get to spend at least one day during the week doing stuff outside which makes a nice change from the office.

I still haven’t actually started writing anything for myself but I plan to start developing a budgeting program soon.

Image: Pete O’Shea



Very good glad your enjoying your job it’s waht life is about.

    Pete O'Shea

    Too true but I think that is a point that I had missed in the past. I thought life was all about work not about enjoyment… I think it is too easy to get swept up in the thought that you have to work pretty much constantly to allow for the enjoyment you get on your days off.

Michael Ludgate

I think a few more reasons exist, based on the fact I know of two – Fear, Necessity. Fear of existing without regular income, fear that you’re not actually good enough doing the job you’re in today, striving to retain a foothold on the steep crag of life.

Necessity due to greed of bankers/estate agents, etc. Dumping bad credit into the market, allowing crazy income multiples, meaning house prices moved up. They get more money, higher %, better returns, all for a little more of the debtors soul. While yesterdays home owner got a buzz from false equity, allowing for growth without matched salary increases. Without already being on the housing ladder, faced with renting from the army of buy-to-lets at rates that exceed their second mortgage, is their a choice other than work hard and pray something changes? Here’s hoping I’ll be able to afford the house to sell for entry to the retirement community sometime before death.

Has anyone found a different way? Sure reducing expenditure and assessing if ‘stuff’ is required or brings pleasure is a great way to alter the impact – but is it truly a different direction, or just a path less trodden to the same destination.

    Pete O'Shea

    Hi Michael,

    Some great points. I think Fear is more of a reason to keep you in your current job rather than a reason to step up to the next rung on the ladder but I appreciate that is an important factor of staying in the 9–5. I think necessity is certainly valid as price increases are quite shocking. I still can’t believe that a loaf of bread costs well over a £1 when it only feels like a few years ago it was more like 25p. As for houses then that link you provided certainly shows how ridiculous the price increase have become. Lets just hope that house prices are going to start coming back down to more respectable levels in the near future.

    As for finding a different way then I suppose it’s not too far from the path laid out but it is a start at least and I feel the first shard of freedom of choice.


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