Tag Archives: rat race

It’s time to change your life

Outside our apartment building in Bangkok, a million miles away from the old life...
Outside our apartment building in Bangkok, a million miles away from the old life…

Are you enjoying “paying your dues” at your job?

You know what I’m talking about: the conventional wisdom that perseverance and dedication in a job or other sub-optimal life situation will eventually pay off.  The belief that keeping your head down, saying “yes” to the boss and shuffling through the mundane day-to-day will somehow lead to something better some day.

I used to be a big believer in paying my dues.  I did really well in school.  I was valedictorian in high school.  I was an honor student in college.  I graduated magna cum laude.  I scored a well-paid job, moved on to an even better paid job within the same company and networked like crazy to the point where I had a reliable set of supporters and allies in the right places. I worked long hours.  I was consumed with work.  Even my time off was spent thinking about work. Work took over my life.  By the time I was five years in to my career, I was miserable, stressed, suffering from sleep disorders, gaining weight and wondering where I had gone wrong.

I had to get to the bottom of this.  What was I missing?  After working so hard and spending years paying my dues, why did life suck so bad?

To answer the question I started recruiting highly successful mentors.  I befriended CEOs, wealthy entrepreneurs, savvy investors, local politicians and a handful of very successful doctors and lawyers.  I ate lunch with them, met with them in coffee shops, I joined their clubs and associations,  I visited their businesses, went to their churches and hung out with their families.  I asked them how they had gotten to where they were and what advice they had for me.

Gradually, as mutual trust developed and they started to open up, a common theme began to emerge: these ultra successful individuals had gotten to where they were by breaking a lot of the rules that the masses around them followed.  They had rejected common career goals.  They had fired bad bosses.  They had dared to dream dreams that some would call unrealistic and even arrogant.  They had decided that “normal living” simply was not enough.  They had decided that, no matter what it took, they would break out of the regular rat race.  They would take the big risks and work their tails off for a higher calling. They were going to win and no only that, they were going to be victorious on their own terms.  They challenged me to do the same.

My closest mentors started to get really personal with me.  “Bjorn, you’ve got to get out of here!” a lot of them said.  “If you stay here and just do what is comfortable, you will miss your calling and you will regret it for the rest of your life.  Don’t sell out!”

As the chorus of voices telling me to make a change grew louder and more insistent, I had to start listening.  I had to confront my fears about what it would mean to make a major change in my life.  I started to believe, as my mentors did, that more than ever in world history, we live in an age where we can and we MUST pave our own way.  There is nothing wrong with dedication.  It is essential.  But why dedicate yourself to a bland job at a boring company?  Why dedicate your own finite days to an unworthy cause?  To someone else’s game?  Why not focus on exploiting your full potential?

In the fall of 2012, a switch flipped in my thinking.  It was do or die time.  I had to make a change.

As I’ve shared many times before on CultureMutt, my wife and I quit our jobs to live, work and volunteer internationally.  That was 15 months ago.  I have never once regretted my decision to leave my old life behind.  In fact, I am happier than ever that I made it.  Paying your dues just doesn’t work if you are paying into a bankrupt system.

Paying your dues can be destructive

Here’s what all my mentors said, in one way or another:  there is something soul-sucking about surrender to the system that most of us default into: The supposedly safe 9-5 of the average job where you trudge along year in, year out until you can retire. You cannot be yourself.  No matter how much you may want to deny it, you are completely scripted.  Your advancement and your every move is, ultimately, decided by someone else.  As you live in this kind of system it gradually wears on you.  You become less assertive.  You believe in yourself less.  You forget what it is like to lead.  You become strangely dependent.  It is horrible.  It is like living a perpetually bad dream.

Conventional work is stationary, the future is global

Especially if you are a young person, starting out in today’s work environment, you cannot bet on the world staying as it is.  Having a safe, provincial mentality and only thinking about professional development in one company, town or even country is a recipe for desperation because there is less and less guarantee that these traditional structures will stand the test of time.  If you are unwilling to be flexible, to take risks to go where the work is (or create your own work as freelancer or entrepreneur), your “safe” choices today could mean unemployment tomorrow.

Paving your own way means you have to take ownership

There is something almost magical that takes place when you stop marching to the beat of someone else’s drum and instead have to think for yourself and create your own future: you take ownership on a whole different level.  I know this with my own work.  I have never EVER been more focused or enthusiastic about work than I am now that I feel I can determine my own destiny.  It is incredibly freeing.

Over to you

Do you feel like I did in the fall of 2012?  Like you are trapped and need to get out?  Rather than paying your dues to the conventional rat race, how about switching things around and paying into your own future instead?  I am not talking about being selfish.  I am talking about consciously investing in your own future so that you can ultimately give more.  Only you know what this enhanced future could look like.  Only you know what is really on your heart.  Only you know what the dream really is.  I am not telling you that you should spend your life the way I have for the last 15 months.  But what I am saying is that breaking out is absolutely worth the effort.  Do not stay put if you know deep inside that life can be better.  You deserve more.

See you on the other side.



Do you feel imprisoned by life?

Life should not feel like a dungeon...
Life should not feel like a dungeon…

Do you feel like you have to put up with the following?

1)  Tedious bumper-to-bumper commutes

2)  “Mandatory” office meetings that make you want to poke your eyes out

3)  Passive aggressive or straight-up-abusive people at work

4)  Living in fear of a massive layoff at work

5)  Wondering where all your money went at the end of the month

6)  Being unhappy with life

7)   Feeling like you HAVE to keep sprinting away in the rat race because you have to maintain your current lifestyle.

Well, then I know exactly how you feel.  I felt trapped on the corporate hamster wheel for years and, even worse, I felt helpless to do anything about it.

You can choose!

I felt that way until I decided that I had to do whatever it took to make sure that the number one commodity that I would seek in life was the ability to choose.  I needed to wake up to the fact that I had options.  Not stock options.  ACTUAL options, as in having the ability to make life-enhancing choices.

Hardly a revolutionary idea but definitely a shot of adrenaline when I actually started pursuing it.

San Francisco Beginnings

This is how it all started:  On a cold, fall night, on a visit to San Francisco, I locked myself into a bathroom stall and decided that enough was enough.  This was it.  For years I had dreamed of having the guts to do one thing: claim my right to options.  And that night I decided that I needed to do what I had wanted to do for years: travel the world and volunteer, not as a short term trip but as a lifestyle.

“We need to do this!”

Within days I told Jammie of my decision.  I still remember where I broke the news: in her workplace parking lot during her lunch break.  “We need to do this!  We’ve talked about it forever. Let’s quit our jobs, travel the world and do service projects.”. It didn’t even take her a minute: “I’m in.”

It’s impossible to exaggerate how much happier and fulfilled we now feel. Now we wonder what took us so long.  Why did we wait so many years to choose differently?

Jammie and I dedicate CultureMutt to talking about how we can all live better lives by claiming our right to options in life.  To claiming our right to serving those around us by doing what we are best at doing.  Join us in that quest.  Thank you for being part of the CultureMutt community!




Five Time Wasters To Shut Down

Source: techcrunch.com via Anish on Pinterest


OK, thanks again goes out to my pal Vishnu, the blogger behind the new and amazing Vishnu’s Virtues (a blog on spirituality and overcoming challenges) for the last two posts.

And now back to Lifestyle Design.  For those who are reading this without the context of my last two posts, check out “The Bald Fat Man in the Red BMW Convertible” (a full-scale condemnation of rat race sellouts) and “Why Travel Should be Mandatory” (the title sums this post up).

Just as a reminder, Lifestyle Design, as defined by bestselling author and blogger Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek & The 4-Hour Body), is a way of life that values time and mobility over autopiloted accumulation of wealth and selling out to the 9-5 rat race where most people work in meaning-deprived careers for the best parts of their lives in order to get by, saving retirement for the very end.

We have dealt with how important travel (or mobility) is in Lifestyle Design but today we are looking at the value of time.  Using time correctly is critical.  If we blindly accumulate by selling out to the rat race then we, at best, will have money but very little time in which to enjoy life.  This is obviously totally ridiculous.  Relationships, health and other critical indicators of quality of life plummet and we are left with the scraps at 65 when we retire.  Hardly the savvy, global do-gooding we strive for on CultureMutt! At the end of the rat race when we are no longer able to continue, we are sent off with a muted office “party” at Applebees and an engraved pen thanking us for our service.  What a miserable way to go!!

Life does not have to go this way, we have the choice to make far better use of our time.  In order to do so though, we have to actively avoid certain time wasters.  Here’s a start on a list of them:

Well-Meaning Sellouts

There is never any shortage of these guys.  They have been slaves to the system for so long that they cannot picture life outside the punch-in / punch-out mentality where life is mundane and you just kinda have to endure it until you get to retire and then do very little more until you kick the bucket.  These types counsel you to “pay your dues”.  They sit around and compare potbellies and talk Nascar.  They are slowly dying.  They are not bad people but they are not making much of a dent in anything meaningful, just their outdated La-Z-Boys.  Don’t take their advice.  It is short-sighted at best.  You will waste your life on a “company man/woman” philosophy which no longer works today if what you want is a happy life. 

Easily-Threatened “Friends”

We each have these friends in our lives. If you mention travel, a radically different career or anything vaguely ambitious that breaks from the norm, they automatically get on the defensive.  They try to cover for their own lethargy by putting you down with false praise or questions like, “are you done trying to be a traveler?” or “when are you going to get a real job?”  Leave these alone in their miserable little worlds.  They are life saps.  Fire them as you would these guys.

Low-Achieving Communities

Society can be a major weight on your life.  When those around you are not succeeding and are satisfied with less, the temptation is do so yourself.  What is it about the status quo that is so seductive?  Get off it.  There is no strength in numbers.  Everyone that has escaped the “destiny” that society has for them knows not to put too much stock in the perceptions and attitudes of those in their immediate surroundings unless they want to stay right there.  Be the gutsy one that breaks from the norm.


I will confess to being a self-sabotager at times.  I talk myself out of doing things based on moods and temporary motivation levels.  Recognize that energy levels are cyclical and that you do not have the time or existential luxury to listen to yourself when the inner voice is being negative and defeatist.  You deserve better than that.  There is a better version of yourself out there.  Relentlessly pursue him or her.  You don’t have the time to do otherwise.


This is a tough one as well.  Being “realistic” can stop you doing something remarkable and meaningful.  Cynics are quick to tell you to be “realistic” when you talk about big plans.  What I typically do is look at the person who is giving me advice before I decide how to take it.  Are they the kind of person I want to spend my time trying to emulate?  Or are they just licking their wounds and sulking about reality and their lot in their small little corner.  Reality is what you make it.  It is not dictated to you, you dictate it.

My thoughts on Lifestyle Design are definitely evolving.  I would love your thoughts on the above.  I realize I’ve been harsh on a number of issues.  But I feel like I have reason to be harsh.  Boundaries need to be drawn with time wasters.  Nuff sed.



Bjorn Karlman

Why Travel Should be Mandatory


Here’s my Part II on Lifestyle Design.  To recap my last post, I am taking the Tim Ferriss definition of Lifestyle Design and fully embracing this quote from the 4-Hour Workweek:

“Gold is getting old.  The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan (living the rat race until retirement and then trying to live it up when you are old and wrinkly) and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility.  This is an art and a science we will refer to as Lifestyle Design (LD).”

For this post you’ll have to allow me to be absolutely dogmatic about the mobility element in Lifestyle Design.  Here’s something I believe with every fiber of my being:  Travel should be required of every able-bodied person on earth.

Here’s why:

It is one of the best ways to gain perspective

Travel is one of the best ways I know to hit the reset button in life.   Being away from the familiar and mundane, being exposed to new things is like an injection of objectivity for your life.  As soon as the plane leaves the tarmac I am able to sever contact with my day-to-day life for a while and reflect on what is going well and what isn’t.  It is very liberating.  Some important decision making and fat cutting can happen when I leave it all behind for a while.  Try it.

It does not cost a lot of money – lack of funds CANNOT be an excuse

Here’s the thing:  You do not need to be rich to travel.  To experience the beauty of travel you don’t need to go far.  A simple relocation will do.  Go to a different town and walk around.  Sit in a cafe and think.  Meditate.  Drink in the differences.  Even overseas travel doesn’t have to be pricey.  There are volumes of books written for the budget traveler.  There are options for heavily discounted travel and free accommodation.  Stop making excuses for yourself.  You can do this.  It is not that difficult.  You can travel in style for WAY less that you are spending per month in your apartment… but that is another post.

It is the antidote to small-mindedness. 

It is impossible not to have your perspective grow from travel.  Most of the narrow-minded people you meet are people that never experience the education of travel.  They don’t want to be reminded of the fact that they are from a very little pond.  They can’t deal with different rules.  Different ideas.  New ways of seeing things.  Don’t join the ranks of these ostriches, burrowing their heads in the sands of provincial oblivion.  You can do better.

It teaches the value of experience

Experience is a currency that not a lot of wealthy people are rich in.  Often, those that have prioritized accumulation of wealth and traditional careers have sacrificed time and attention for these status symbols of yesterday. Experiences are a far more valuable currency than cold cash.  Experiences are what we remember.  Experiences cannot be bought.  They are forged through the correct use of time.  They require courageous decisions to embrace better priorities.

It shows other ways of being human

One of the best things about travel is the fact that it exposes you to other cultures that show you ways of life that can be extremely valuable.  Travel allows you to learn from these cultures and incorporate them into your own lifestyle.  You can treat world cultures like a buffet – you get to pick and choose the best of the best.  Some of the most interesting people out there are people that have successfully fused the highlights of a several cultural traditions.  They are CultureMutts:)

It makes you a better person

It is hard to travel and not be edified by the process.  It is often a spiritual experience to be on the trail.  Life as usual is life on autopilot – not particularly enlightening or challenging.  It is lazy living.  Don’t settle for this.  Determine to grow.  Determine to become better.  Determine to travel.



Bjorn Karlman


The Bald Fat Man in the Red BMW Convertible

I am not sure why this quote from Tim Ferriss has had such an effect on me over the years, but it has:

“There have been several points in my life… at which I saw my future as another fat man in a midlife-crisis BMW.  I simply looked at those who were 15-20 years ahead of me on the same (professional) track… and it scared the hell out of me.”

This passage from “The 4-Hour Workweek” is one of the most motivating I have come across in current lifestyle lit.

Whenever I feel like my priorities are off or I am making bad long-term decisions I try to project out 20 years or so and think about what will happen if I continue life like this:

Boring Job – Will I be stuck in a mind-numbing job?  A close friend of mine just graduated from law school last weekend.  We had some downtime after the commencement ceremony and were talking about what motivated our generation relative to what motivated that of our parents.

We decided (perhaps unfairly) that whereas our parents’ generation had money as their main motivator when it came to professional life, our motivators were more lifestyle driven.

For example, if you wanted to recruit our parents’ generation when they were young professionals you could lock them in by promising to double their income.  That, while still attractive, would not go as far with our generation which would likely prefer a 50% increase in income, two weeks of additional paid vacation and the option to work from home.

More importantly, Gen Y professionals crave meaning in their work lives.  THAT is why the bald, fat man in the red BMW scares the crap out of us.  We don’t want to be corporate automatons.

Ridiculous Mortgage – As the options of mobile living and worldwide travel/work become more and more of a reality today, home ownership (with the recent memory of home values plummeting insanely) is less and less of a draw.  Why tie yourself down to one location?  Why sign yourself up for the golden handcuffs of an awful (yet well-paid) job just to pay the mortgage for a house that you have long-since come to resent despite its square footage?

Estranged Spouse and Kids – If there were ever a thing that the boomers proved conclusively, it is the fact that their obsession with work and materialism ruined families.  Time away from home skewed priorities and the Western epidemic of workaholism has added up to a lifestyle where relationships that should matter, don’t.  The result is the most dysfunctional set of family dynamics on record.

Overworked – Allow me to continue on the subject of workaholism. An entrepreneur friend of mine with a lot of physician friends says that he hears the same thing over and over:  “How do I get out of the rat race?  I want out!”  These doctors, while well paid, fully realize that if they stop working their 12 hour days, shuttling patients in and out of their offices, the game is over, no moolah.  So they are trapped.  And they hate it.

Obese – When you take on boomer work values you also take on their tendency to be obese.  Part of what’s so scary about the guy in the red BMW is that, despite his status symbol, he is a chunkster.  Nobody is impressed.  And worse yet, the rat race is only going to make it worse.  The downward spiral of horrible lifestyle decisions, fueled by comfort food, late hours, terrible relationship and anti-depressants is a heart attack waiting to happen.  We need something new.

Savvy, global do-gooding

We each have an opportunity to define this “new” lifestyle.  My goals behind CultureMutt are to help contribute to this conversation about a healthier, more compassionate, more exciting, more globally-minded lifestyle.  We need to get intentional about savvy, global do-gooding.  What is the cost of a little experimentation when the “norm” is the rat race and nobody healthy enjoys it?

Another Tim Ferriss quote:

“Gold is getting old.  The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility.  This is an art and a science we will refer to as Lifestyle Design (LD).”

Stay tuned, the next couple posts will be about Lifestyle Design.



Bjorn Karlman