Don’t Waste All Your Precious Potential On Your Job

So Far the Focus has been on those Fully Franked dividend investments in Frankie’s Fund. But all this is meaningless without the universal context that underlies everything we all do – LIFE.

For most of us in this day and age, the journey of life follows a broadly similar path:

As a Child – the Potential of life is boundless

The world is truly a wonder. We are constantly amazed by what is around us, the new things we are always learning about.

We can be and do anything we can dream of. The movies we watch are not fantasies – they are real. You can be that girl that restores the Island of Motonui to its lush, green glory, saving her people. That boy whose joy of music can’t be contained, despite his family fighting against him. That girl with the magic of ice flowing through her. That… fish who finds his family? Sure, even that!

The potential of life is boundless.

As a Young Adult – we start realising some of our potential

Having had a few years to explore the boundless possibilities for our life, we become drawn to a few specific areas that resonate with us, or that circumstances and luck may have placed before us.

This is where many of us start to get hints at our potential. We stop doing things we are terrible at or don’t enjoy (other than the mandatory school requirements!), and spend more time on what we’re naturally good at, or things that bring us joy.

It’s later in this stage that the realities of LIFE start to take hold – we need to make money.

We listen to the wisdom of our parents and other elders who tell us what the best jobs are these days for making money – law, finance, technology, bitcoin trader – and so we focus all our energies on landing one of these prestigious jobs. Other areas of life quickly pale in importance as the pressure mounts on getting a foot in to the beginning of our prosperous future.

As an Adult with Responsibilities – our Job takes over

Having busted our guts to get this coveted job, we arrive and look up as if at the foot of a giant mountain. We are only at the beginning, and there is a long, difficult but well-trodden path to career success we need to start trekking up.

At this stage, any time you hear that word ‘potential’, it’s usually in the context of your job. The job seems to be everything. Your employer, acquaintances, friends, and perhaps your family, are all focused on how you are progressing and growing – in that thing that has become the major hub of life – your job or career.

The concept of ‘potential’ in other areas of life might seem laughable – who has time for anything else now! Most jobs seem specifically designed to absorb most of your daylight hours and energy, leaving you time for sleep, perhaps some important chores at home, and then back again.

But who even cares when there’s still another 12 rungs on the career ladder to climb!

Then some years of trekking up that mountain, all those other areas of potential in life are barely visible anymore.

So many people seem to have forgotten what potential really means, and what it felt like before the reality of the all-consuming job.

What about:

  • Your potential as a mother / father?
  • Your potential as a husband / wife?
  • Your potential as a friend? To deepen friendships, rekindle old ones and make new ones?
  • The potential creative works that you might be capable of?
  • The potential world outside the office to be explored?
  • Your potential for financial wealth, outside of your salary?
  • The potential contribution you can make to your community and your environment?
  • The potential health and wellbeing of your body and mind?
  • Your potential to contribute your gifts or skills in a way that is meaningful to you?
  • Your potential for happiness, joy, peace?
  • Your potential to enjoy and appreciate what you already have?

and even…

  • The potential to slow down, pause and not feel like you have to be constantly at your best all of the time.

Don’t get me wrong – I think work is a very good thing. A great thing in fact. It provides opportunities to show how we can create value for others, to contribute, and to earn money to look after ourselves and our families. It can provide structure and purpose to our days.

But it tends to very quickly become everything in our society. Our potential becomes defined by it. A recent guest post on Budgets are Sexy by Fired and Free, who shared his personal experience with losing his ‘Job Identity‘ really shines a light on this too.

Ideas like the wide acceptance of a shorter working week would no doubt open up some of these other areas of potential in life, but I fear we’re a long, long way from that being the norm. It’s left to rare individuals who are prepared to ‘break the mould’ and live a little differently to everyone else.

Your lifetime potential

If you take a giant step back from your day-to-day life, what will your potential look like over your lifetime? I suspect for many it looks something like this….

I might be sticking my neck out here, but I suspect for many of you this isn’t the ideal way to live life.

FIRE!

I think it’s for these reasons that the Financial Independence / Retire Early movement has been gathering pace.

I’m all for it, and a big supporter. However I still don’t think it FIRE is the magic answer to all of LIFE.

The hard part is understanding and deciding what that potential looks like for you personally, and where you should be trying to realise it.

No matter how much money you have, or how much time you can buy for yourself, you can’t avoid the hard work of deciding where you’ll get the best bang for your ‘potential’ buck.

And it’s definitely not a one-time decision. It’s a daily battle. There are powerful currents in life drawing us down a given path – expectations from family, friends, peers, colleagues – it’s hard work to go against the flow.

I’m encouraged to see more of this discussion happening, having stumbled across a few recent articles from the Mad FIentist, Tawcan, and some old classics from Mr Money Moustache and Financial Samurai.

The Mad FIentist recently touched on some heavy topics around the meaning of life, and asked his readers to come up with their own ‘life’ mission statement. If I had to try and articulate mine, it would be something along the lines of…

“to continue to explore my potential”

I don’t think potential is something that can be ultimately ‘achieved’ like a goal. It is continuously there to be discovered and realised.

And potential is meant in its broadest sense. Not one specific thing (like a job), and not everything. Just, potential.

One day?

I hope one day more of us will look at this concept of ‘potential’ in a different light – not being defined by our jobs.

Until then, it’s up to that small number of (but hopefully growing) individuals to keep fighting for what really matters in their own lives. The world has progress quickly when it comes to science and technology, but there’s still so much untapped potential to lift the standard of all our lives on a different level.

 

How do you view potential? What areas of potential matter to you? Are you focused on the areas of life that matter most to you? Why are we so obsessed with the potential of our salaries and career progression over and above all else?

10 Comments

  1. That is a really good depiction of a typical life on a continuum Frankie. I will say that for me, a rather early and extreme focus on job, career and compensation did provide the jet fuel (both financial and emotional desire) to get to FI and accelerate the right side of the chart more into the middle. Nice post. Tom

    • Frankie

      Thanks Tom – it certainly sounds like you’re enjoying what you’re doing these days! I think many people are aiming for a similar path to yours Tom, accelerating through the ‘JOB’ phase – but I think spreading out your potential through all of life is another way to balance things out in the long run. My mind has certainly swung both ways over the years!

  2. Nice graphic to summarize possible focuses at different stages in life. My goal is to live while I work. No doubt about it the Career circle is big at this time in my life. I enjoy being focused on something though so it is okay for now. The power of starting early is so beneficial as it gives you options later down the road. Without the focus being large on earning now I would not have options later. FIRE is not in my plan but FI is.

    Great read.

    • Frankie

      Hi Damn Millennial, sounds like you’re pretty happy with your circumstances then which is good! Having options earlier is great, which is certainly the power of FI, but I think for some people the potential of those younger days can quickly become forgotten even if you race through the JOB phase to FI… it has a way of making you forget what’s important in your own life!

  3. Haha bitcoin trader – way to add value to society 😉

    It’s a little bit sad the power our jobs and money have over us at times. For the focus on salaries and careers – I think we believe at some point we’ll be happy once we’ve reached level x, or when we’ve bought y. or making a certain amount and rubbing shoulders with so-and-so.

    I think FIRE isn’t the answer, it’s just the beginning of all the other things you get to look into and learn about 🙂

    By the way, I love your animations!

    • Frankie

      Thanks SMA – is certainly fun exploring my ‘potential’ creativity through this site!

      You’re certainly in a good position to explore your potential having reached FI at a nice young age!

      I’m sure I dreamt about being an options trader when I was younger – sitting in front of a computer all day making money? What a life!!! Thank goodness we gain a broader perspective on life and a little wisdom as we grow…

  4. Nice article Frankie. I have no regrets about where I am today. That being said, I wish I had started my FIRE journey 10 years earlier. I wish we could live in a society where money is unlimited. Money has changed from being a means of transaction to a commodity.

    • Frankie

      Thanks Div Geek – Awesome you have no regrets, what more can you ask for out of life! I’m sure we all wish for things at times – starting earlier with investing is a common one – but sounds like you have plenty more potential ahead of you!

  5. I’ve paid a huge amount of focus to my career early only largely because I knew it would unlock a much higher income and thus allow me to focus less on it later, if that makes sense.

    • Frankie

      Makes sense Mr SLM! My only concern with this is the risk of leaving behind all that other ‘potential’ – that once you eventually come through the other side of the JOB with all that money, even if you’ve turbo-charged it, many other areas of life have already been abandoned or withered. It’s not always easy to get these things back!

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