What escaping “the rat race” really means

Watch out people, I’m about to drop a truth bomb! There is no such thing as the “rat race.”

Everywhere I see people reluctantly talking about “joining the rat race” or saying things like “I really need to escape the rat race.”

Even at wealth development seminars, and investing workshops, a whole bunch of us incessantly talk about how the next investment will finally get you out of this mythical rodent triathlon.

Now granted it may simply be easier to say “I want to escape the rat race” than tell everyone single person about your goal. Recently I’ve actually stopped telling people what I’m going to do next due to being forced into long conversations about how I’m going to fail, but I digress.

What most people don’t seem to realise that they could’ve left the “rat race” at… Any. Single. Point.

What people think the rat race is

trainspotting, wealth, rat race
 Image Credit: Irvine Walsh

The phrase “rat race” has evolved to mean the standard 9 to 5 job at a corporation, doing a fairly menial task. Conceptually the rat race is a metaphor for an activity that, despite using up a large amount of energy, is ultimately pointless and unending.

I’ll bet that even you dear reader have a clear mental picture of what the “rat race” is.

The thing is I’ve meet a huge swath of people, from teachers, to salespeople, to journalists, to managers who all told me that they wanted to get out of this, apparently clearly defined, idea of “the rat race”.

This fact alone should make it clear that determining who is in the rat race and who has “escaped” is all a matter of perspective.

As a concept it’s been popularised by financial success courses and games. For example, in the Cashflow Board Game designed by property gurus Robert Kiyosaki and Kim Kiyosaki, the catch phrase used is get out of the rat race. This game is used in several property courses to teach people concepts to becoming wealthy. Many of which, people ignore when they leave their courses precisely because of their rat race mentality.

Doubly confusing is the fact that the majority of people who have enough assets that technically make them financially free go back into a 9 to 5 job, or even take on an even greater amount of work.

You’re probably not in “the rat race”

rat race, success, hamster
This is not you Image Credit: FrankieLeon

Is your job pointless? And I don’t mean do you think it’s pointless, I mean does the job allow you (or will allow you) to do something that you really want to do?

Up until December 1st I was an English teacher in South Korea, I love kids, but I don’t love teaching. However, teaching English has given me two things; a chance to live in foreign country, and taught me how to communicate with children, and with those who don’t speak English.

Similarly, my friend works as a business analyst for a large media company. He’s always telling me about how laughable the management is and how the internal politics of the organisation mean that the products they push to consumers are not as good as they could’ve been.

I told him to quit.

He told me that through his three years working there he has been able to; save half of his modestly impressive salary, learned the weaknesses of a large corporation, and been able to see what business systems work and which don’t. All three of these things he’s made a conscious choice to do, and is reaping the rewards of this so-called “rat race.”

If you think you’re in the rat race them either you need to think about what it is you’re learning from the experience, or if you’ve learned all you can from the experience.

“But what I do is pointless!”

Cain, face palm, rat race
Image Credit: Alex Proimos

Alright, so quit.

If you’re now thinking about all the reasons you can’t quit, please read on.

If you’re still telling me that your job is pointless, and endless I’m going to assume that you’ve already made a list of:

  • Things your current role has taught you
  • Things that your current role enables you to do
  • What you could’ve done instead of taking your current role

If you haven’t made the list then stop reading this and go and make one, I’ll wait.

As I alluded to previously, being in “the rat race” is all a matter of perspective. The purpose of the list is to show you:

  • What you could do should you choose to change jobs
  • The reasons why you’ve chosen your current job
  • Show you that being in the position you’re in is your choice

If you cannot grasp the choice paradigm of a job then you have a problem. This problem occurs when you look at your life as being trapped in a rat race. By using the word trapped you have already stolen the word choice from your vocabulary. Look at the word trapped in the next phrase.

When I hear the phrase “I am trapped in the rat race because the salary is so good,” it instantly tells me that the speaker has given themselves no choice in the matter.

You aren’t trapped, you just haven’t found your way out.

Rats don’t have to make hard choices

Rat race, success, satisfaction, cheese
This is the toughest choice a Rat has to make

If you’re lucky enough to have a well paying job (that you no longer want to do) then fantastic, all you need to do is save and invest! But I get the feeling that you’ve also developed a lifestyle that goes with that salary.

That lifestyle is why you feel trapped, you’ve built the maze around yourself. Paying off a house that’s too big for your needs, paying for the latest phone that’s marginally better than last year’s, driving a car that makes people say “nice car mate.” It’s these things that leave you trapped, because without your job you’d lose all these things.

If you feel that you’re in the rat race, start doing things that you think are meaningful. Start projects that have a clear end-goal. Make some decisions. Take control.

Wouldn’t you rather be in the human race? A human who isn’t limited by their salary? A human who can take control of their life?  A human being who makes a decision to work and support rather than being forced to to keep up?

If you believe you are currently part of the rat race, then you will never learn about being wealthy because your rat-like thinking will constantly override and sabotage any progress in your quest to true wealth.

It all starts with understanding one thing; You have a choice.

If you found this article helpful and useful, please do share it with your friends and give us a comment below.

You may also like to read the following articles on the rat race.

If you found this article useful here are some others that you’ll enjoy:

Image Credit: Avinashmaurya



Previous articleYour perfect property investment area
Next articleHow to find someone who’s ego won’t ruin your success