When I graduated from university and started my engineering career about 10 years ago, I was very eager to learn. I was eager to learn new tasks, take on new responsibilities, and learn new knowledge. I was like a sponge, trying to absorb everything that came my way. I was also very eager to learn about the company's corporate structure - who were the senior executives, who were the VP's and who were the directors. I would take every possible opportunity to be in the same meetings as these people and try to talk to them.
I was quick to realize that the corporate game was very repetitive - the weekly reports, the monthly reviews, the quarterly reviews, the semi-annual reviews, and the yearly reviews. It was important to write sound reports to demonstrate your values. It was important to provide highlights and lowlights in the reports/reviews because things shouldn't be always bad, and things shouldn't be always good. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Since most managers had to submit their weekly reports by mid-day Friday, that forced the peons to complete their reports by Thursday or earlier. The directors and VP's would then take managers' reports and compile them into summarized reports to present to the senior executives.
These weekly reports from directors and VP's would come out on weekends.
In high tech, it seemed that people worked all the time. There was no such thing as downtime.
Thus, the never ending perpetual report machine was created!
A few months into my job, I was told that I had to go to a test lab in California to complete some tests one Wednesday morning. Because I had commitments for that specific weekend, I told my managers that I must be back by Friday afternoon. It was agreed. So I booked a $3,500 plane ticket from Vancouver to California. While the tests didn't complete, my commitments were higher on my priority list. As per the agreement between my managers, I flew back to Vancouver the Friday afternoon. When I landed, I saw that someone had left a voice mail.
"Hello Tawcan, sorry to say this but we booked you for another flight down to California Saturday morning. You need to cancel your commitments. Please come in the office so we can talk."
I was told that faithful Friday afternoon that short notice travels would be an expectation for working in high tech. My managers told me that they've missed some important commitments in their lives because of work.
That was not the last time I had to go on a work trip on short notice...
I quickly realized that I didn't want to play the corporate game.
Yes making lots of money is great and all. But how much is enough?
What is better? Earning $70,000 a year working 30 hours a week, no over time, or earning $300,000 a year working more than 100 hours a week, and expect to pick up your phone whenever it rings?
Where do you draw the line?
Do I want to move up the corporate ladder only to expect to work longer?
Do I want to spend even less time with my family and friends?
Do I want to be expected to check my emails and answer phone calls while on vacation?
Do I want to become a manager and be responsible for teaching my employees how to play the corporate game?
I've come to the realization that job title and money are not everything. If I'm enjoying my work and I'm getting compensated fairly, life is good.
But life could be even better if I have the freedom and options to decide what I want to do. This is where financial independence comes in.
I learned there are other ways than working until 65 or older. I learned that quitting work early and pursuit my dreams is indeed possible. Because people have done it.
It's called passive income! Receiving money for doing absolutely nothing? Sounds great to me!
So given the question of...
Climbing the corporate ladder and getting paid boatloads of money or being financially independent and having more freedom and options in life?
I'd take the latter choice any given day.