The term ‘rat race’ was first coined in the 1900s, meaning a highly competitive struggle of education or jobs. Today, it is mostly seen as a situation where people work a job they hate to buy things they don’t need and impress people they hate. You’re here reading the article ‘How to escape the rat race’ means you really want to escape the rat race.
But why? Do you hate your job? Do you want to get rid of societal norms and stop doing things you don’t want? Or do you want to escape the rat race because it is new and cool? Well, I’m not complaining but this is something we’ll address too. Let’s start:
Understanding the Rat Race
The term “rat race” shows a vivid picture of what most of us experience daily. It’s a cycle where we find ourselves caught up in boring routines, long work hours, and no personal time. We truly feel like a rat running around a circular treadmill.
What fuels the rat race? A major factor is the societal pressures and influences that surround us. From a young age, we’re taught that success means moving up in our careers, making more money, and having lots of things.
Examples of rat race-
- If you’re a teenager or in your 20s, you must’ve prepared for IIT and PMT. Not because you wanted to but because your parents and society wanted you to.
- If you’re a graduate, you know that you HAVE to get a job. Work more hours, switch often, and get a good package ASAP.
- Do you want to quit your job and do something else? Many do. But do they all take steps? No. Why? Societal and family pressure, stuck in the paycheck loop, etc.
- This one is crazy – Many of us don’t know ourselves. We don’t know what we love, what we are good at, and how we want our future to look like. Result? We follow the herd. We do whatever the masses are doing.
There are many examples, yet the above four are the most prominent. Also, it’s crucial to recognize that the rat race isn’t solely about financial or career constraints. While money plays a part, the mindset and societal expectations contribute significantly.
Many of us fall into the trap of believing that financial success alone will bring liberation from the rat race. However, that is a rat race in itself.
The biggest mistake people make is – they think that the answer to their ‘how to escape the rat race’ question is Financial Freedom. Sick!
Differentiating Rat Race from Financial Freedom
Financial freedom is a term often mentioned in the same breath as escaping the rat race. But what does it truly mean? Financial freedom means having enough money coming in without having to work, so you can do whatever you want. It’s the ability to choose how you spend your time without being bound by the necessity to work.
Gaining financial freedom can help you escape the rat race, but it’s not the only factor. Many individuals have achieved large wealth and financial independence, yet they find themselves trapped in the rat race. This proves the point that gaining wealth isn’t the answer to escaping rat race.
Example – Consider a highly paid corporate employee. He may be earning $200K per year but remains stuck in a high-stress job they despise. Although they can afford to leave, the fear of losing status or validation holds them back.
This showcases that the rat race is not just about money but also about personal fulfillment, purpose, and a balanced life.
Are You Really Trapped in a Rat Race?
Before you seek the answer to how to escape the rat race, you need to confirm if you really are in a rat race. Let’s clarify something – Being in IIT, doing B.tech, or having a job doesn’t mean you’re stuck in a rat race like others.
To put it in short – you’re only trapped in a rat race when you’re doing something you don’t love. Do you love preparing for IITs or PMTs? Do you love studying engineering? Do you like your job? If yes, you’re not stuck in a rat race.
The world is glorifying entrepreneurship and influencer culture. This doesn’t mean people following this path have escaped the rat race. No. You may be an influencer, and your life may seem cool on social media. But if you’re not happy behind the scenes, you are trapped in a rat race.
Look inside. Try to feel your true self, irrespective of family, relatives, and society. Don’t let external factors decide for you, and answer – Are you really trapped in a rat race? Yes? Okay, then, let’s get to the point:
How to Escape the Rat Race (and never get caught again)
Escaping the rat race may mean different for different people. For you, it may be achieving financial freedom and getting more personal time. For me, it is doing what I really love and have complete control over. For some, it may be wanting to travel more, picking up a hobby, etc.
You may have different reasons and motives. But in this article, I’m going to address the most common one – Quitting what you’re doing right now and doing what you love.
1. Understand your Why
Why do you want to escape? What’s your end goal? What is the most irritating part of being in a rat race? Is it your pay, bad work-life balance, work, or having a boss?
You need to know the answers to these questions. Your ‘Why’ determines your end goal. And your end goal determines the path you need to take. If you’re unaware of why you want to escape and what you want to do after that, it’d be pointless.
At best, you’ll escape from the rat race and enter another.
2. Calculate how much money or time you need
Now that you’ve decided your why, you probably know the destination and path you need to take.
The first thing to do is know how much money you need before you quit that job or education. Know how much time you need to start earning or getting results from the new venture.
And I know it’s not something like millions of dollars or a decade of time. It is probably much less than what we think. In case you want to retire, the retirement amount is popularly known as your FIRE number. (FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early)
One quick calculation – (25 x Your annual expenses) is the amount you need to retire. Depending on the amount you need to craft a time span to achieve this.
In case you don’t want to retire and only want to change your career, your numbers will reduce drastically. For example – I wanted to quit my job as a developer and become a writer. I saved close to $0, started writing on the side, and completely switched in 5 months.
In conclusion – know your goal and calculate the amount of money and time you need.
3. Cut down Expenses
No, I won’t ask you to stop drinking that coffee or stop going out on vacations. However, I do want you to consider spending less. Maybe stop buying things on EMI, and start following a budget like the 50:30:20 rule. Spend 50% of the money on necessities, 30% on wants and desires, and the rest 20% go for savings.
The goal is to get out of debt, stop buying things you don’t need, have less clutter, and save enough to reach the destination early. The money you save can be re-invested into your new career or venture. You can use that money to upskill yourself, build teams, start businesses, etc.
4. Build New Skills
Considering you want to switch your career or want to start a remote-work-whenever-you-want-online side hustle, you need to learn new skills. It could be development, writing, designing, etc. Plus, there are two non-negotiables too: Sales and Marketing.
Digital Nomadism is the new cool. It is the phenomenon where you have remote work (freelancing or online business), and you keep traveling to places with minimal belongings. To achieve this, you need three skills – One that you’ll sell, Sales, and Marketing.
For example – Consider you want to quit your job and start a freelance logo-designing business. First of all, you need to learn design skills. Then, you need to learn sales and marketing to sell that skill and build your business or career.
5. Build Portfolio, Scale, Outsource
Now, you’re saving money, building a corpus, and learning new skills. The next step is to build a portfolio (on your own or get initial clients). This portfolio will get you the first high-paying clients. You can also use the saved money to hire lead-gen experts and buy client acquisition systems.
Once your side hustle is set up and going well, the next step is to scale the biz, outsource different tasks, and buy more free time. Use this free time to further scale the business, try to run it on auto-pilot, and achieve the prominent 4-hour work week.
But, but, but, it is not as easy as it sounds. This may take years. Read this: How to Start a Side Hustle.
6. Now is the time to Quit
Once you’re side-business or side-career takes off. When you start earning equal to or more than your primary job, it is time to quit. But wait, I’m telling you again – You don’t want to escape one rat race and enter another. So, build the side-biz or career, keeping in mind that this is something you’re going to do for the rest of your life.
Imagine this before you quit – You have no boss. You’re the boss running a business. You have a good inflow of clients, good cash flow, and location independence, and you don’t have to work 10-12 hours every day. Does that excite you? Good.
You’ve almost escaped the rat race. Yes, almost. Quitting the old job and building a new business doesn’t mean you’re out.
7. Maintain the quality of life
There are thousands of examples who quit their job, started something else, and got trapped in another rat race. How do you save yourself from that?
Make more time for yourself. The whole point of doing all this is to have location and time independence. Outsource work, sell high-ticket services/products to fewer clients, and have fewer belongings and materialistic wants.
Start investing your profits to build a portfolio for the future. In case you decide, in the future, to stop working at all, your portfolio will have your back. Whatever you do, just make sure of two things –
- You don’t feel trapped, bored, or burnt out.
- You have a steady inflow of income.
That is it. That is all the reason to escape the rat race and do what you love.
To conclude, the term “rat race” captures the struggle of chasing things we don’t truly need through jobs we don’t enjoy. This article also uncovers a common misconception: that financial freedom is the magic key.
Instead, the motive of escaping the rat race is finding what truly drives us, rethinking money, and stepping into more rewarding paths. Escaping isn’t just about quitting a job—it’s about building a life that sings the song of purpose and balance.
Rethink your priorities, break free from the hamster wheel, opt for a fulfilling journey, and work for yourself, not society.