How To Escape the Rat Race

Are you fed up with the vexations of the rat race?

The daily commute. The pointless work. Your jerk of a boss. The office politics.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Learn how to escape the rat race, which alternatives there are, and what your new life will look like.

What Is the Rat Race?

The expression “rat race” refers to the pointless nature of our corporate jobs.

Like rats in a lab, we have been trained to behave in a certain way. We have been indoctrinated to get “a good job” and climb the corporate ladder.

Just get that raise, just score that promotion, and you’ll be happy — or so the narrative goes.

Well, we’ve been lied to.

Just look at the typical day of a corporate slave:

  • Wake up to an alarm
  • Commute across town
  • Spend eight hours in a cubicle
  • Do nonsense work
  • Put up with an annoying boss
  • Attend pointless meetings
  • Bear the office gossip

All of this misery for what? So you can buy a bigger flat-screen TV?

The rat race doesn’t make anyone happy but those who own the lab.

Why We Are Stuck in the Rat Race

If the rat race is such an ordeal, why do we keep racing?

The problem is that we are stuck in a vicious circle of consumption.

Once your workday is over, you want nothing more than to decompress. You want to live it up a little.

So, you buy that fancy dress or that cool gaming console. You go to that chic restaurant. You book that weekend trip to Tulum.

But now that you have spent all your money, what do you need to do? Right, you have to go back to work to make some more money.

It’s the perfect system — you need to consume so you don’t go crazy from your stupid job. And you need to keep working so you can cut loose again.

But when you live paycheck to paycheck, you are stuck. You have no financial runway to quit your job and explore better options for generating income.

To make matters worse, many people spend money they don’t have.

Credit card debt, car loans, mortgages — the average American household is about $100,000 in debt.

This binds you. When you have a pile of debts, it becomes even more tricky to escape the rat race; just getting back to “neutral” might require years of effort. At this point, most people give up.

The Price of Not Escaping the Rat Race

There is a short-term and a long-term price to not quitting the rat race.

The immediate price is monotony. Every day, you get up, go to the office, and do the same couple of things. It’s Groundhog Day.

That would be okay if you knew your why. Athletes, businessmen, and artists also keep doing the same few things. But they have a reason — they want to be the best in their chosen fields. That makes them put up with the dullness of their routine.

You have no such reason. You are a cog in the wheel.

Then there is the long-term cost of not escaping the rat race — regret.

We live our lives like we have all the time in the world. We keep thinking, “One day, I will finally write that novel/start that business/travel the world.” But “one day” never comes. Before you know it, your time is up.

That is the most depressing thing I have ever witnessed — the dying regretting their life choices. And the number one thing they regret is putting off their dreams to participate in the rat race.

If you don’t exit the race, you will come to hate your own timidness.

How To Get Out of the Rat Race in 15 Steps

Learn how to escape the rat race by following this 15-step game plan.

1. Know Your “Why”

Deviating from the social script is tough. Your parents and your peers will let you feel their disapproval. They will tell you how reckless you are for “throwing it all away.”

Not to mention your own doubts. “What if I can’t pull it off?”

Thus, you must have a strong “Why.” The better your reasons for escaping the rat race, the more likely you will stay the course.

Start with imagining your ideal life. Maybe you would love to become a skateboard influencer on YouTube. Maybe you have a great idea for a screenplay. Maybe you always dreamed of traveling the world.

Imagine your chosen “Why” in all its details. Envision what your day would look like, from getting up in the morning until you go to bed. Think about how inspired you would feel, to do what you love.

Now, whenever you encounter resistance, remind yourself of that inspiring why.

2. Calculate How Much Money You Will Need

Get an idea of how much money you will need each month to escape the rat race.

Consider all your different expenses — accommodation, food, insurance, hobbies, travel expenses, etc.

Don’t just guesstimate. Make a list in Google Sheets.

Also, plan for a buffer. If it should cost you $3000 a month to travel the world indefinitely, shoot for making at least $3500. Unexpected expenses will come up.

Talk to people who have already done it. They will have financial insights you don’t. If you don’t have any escape artists in your network, check out YouTube. You’ll find plenty of people who left the system behind, talking about how much they need to get by.

3. Get Your Financial House in Order

When you escape the rat race, for a while, you will struggle to make ends meet. For example, if you start your own business, you first need to establish a client base. That is to be expected.

But if you are also juggling minimum payments for your mortgage, your car, and your credit cards, it will break your neck. Before you know it, you will be back at your 9 to 5.

You must take care of your debts first.

Make a list of all your debt-related payments each month. For each item, calculate how much more money you owe in total.

Now, order all of these items by the amount owed, from lowest to highest.

For all items but the first, you will just make the minimum monthly payment. But with the first item, you put all the money that you can spare towards that.

As a result, you will pay off this first one in no time. This will boost your confidence. Now, do the same thing with the second item on your list, and so on.

4. Cut Your Expenses

Even if you are debt-free, you are still living paycheck to paycheck. You have no financial runway to quit your job and try something new.

To change that, you must radically cut your expenses.

You don’t need a house — you could just rent a small studio apartment or get a roommate.

You don’t need a car — you could just take your bike or use public transportation.

You don’t need to eat out — you could just invite your friends over and cook something together.

And you most definitely don’t need another dress, another electronic gadget, or another online subscription.

Now, I understand that most people will balk at the idea of downgrading their standard of living.

But that’s the choice you have to make — do I want to suffer now so that I can have freedom 2–3 years from now? Or do I want to keep my amenities, but be stuck in the rat race forever?

If you are serious about quitting the rat race, make a list of all your expenses in Google Sheets.

Now look at each item. Could you eliminate this? Or could you at least drastically reduce the associated cost?

Don’t be timid. If it means selling your house, so be it. To get to a fundamentally different place in life, you must take massive action.

Once you are done with this process you should be able to save around 40–50 percent of your monthly income.

Set up a standing order in your online banking. At the beginning of each month, amount X automatically goes into a savings account. You never get to touch that money.

After a year or two, you will have a solid financial cushion. You now have the option to quit your 9 to 5 and try something new to generate income. This is a game-changer.

If you’re not willing to downgrade your lifestyle for a year to have a lifestyle you want forever, you care too much what other people think.

Jim Carrey

5. Start a Side Hustle

To leave your 9 to 5, you need to start a side hustle.

For example, you might decide to build a niche site about snowboarding, which you can then monetize through ads.

The challenge — you must give this project your every free minute. You must put in as many hours as you can, while still holding a full-time job. Otherwise, you won’t reach critical mass with your new project.

Let’s be clear what that entails. Every day before and/or after work, you will focus on your side hustle; at least 2–3 hours of daily deep work.

Your weekends go completely to your side hustle. That’s another 15–20 hours of deep work.

Yes, it will be hard. While all your friends are enjoying their time off, you will be hustling. But that’s how it works. It first has to get worse before it gets better.

6. Offer a Service

The quickest way to get out of the rat race is to offer an in-demand skill. Examples include:

  • Copywriting
  • Graphic design
  • Video editing
  • Anything online marketing (SEO, paid Ads, social media, etc.)
  • Programming

This model comes with several upsides:

  • You will be able to set your own hours; you can work when you feel most productive.
  • You can work from home; you won’t lose time commuting.
  • If you choose to, you can travel the world while working from your laptop.
  • If you price yourself right, you will eventually make more money than you did before.

If you offer these services to businesses and deliver good work, you’ll be out of the rat race in 3–6 months. It’s the fastest escape route there is.

“But what if I know nothing about copywriting/graphic design/programming?”

What you do is pick a particular subset of your skill set. Then you offer it for cheap on a platform like Fiverr or Upwork.

Let’s say you decided to go with copywriting.

Now, instead of offering the full range of copywriting services, you only offer to write product descriptions for e-commerce stores in the beauty industry (an industry you happen to be familiar with).

By narrowing it down, you now have a smaller skill set to learn. You can read a few articles or watch a few videos about writing product descriptions, and you are good to go.

Also, by first offering your services on low-cost platforms like Fiverr, buyers won’t have high expectations. They are more concerned with price than quality.

Once you master product descriptions, you expand a little. Now, you also offer a gig for headline rewriting. Then another one for email copy. And so forth.

In essence, you are creating your own paid internship. You get to learn your craft while already earning.

This is much more effective than hunkering down with some expensive course for six months before you take on your first project. Most people don’t go through with that anyway.

7. Turn Your Passion Into Your Business

Offering a service like copywriting will be a huge step up from working a 9 to 5. You will gain a great level of freedom.

However, at the end of the day, it will still feel like a job. You are still being told what to do — just not by your boss, but by your client.

To overcome this, you must turn your passion into your business. You must take the thing that you are most excited about in life and find a way to make a living from that. If you are in love with what you do, it won’t feel like work.

Let’s say you enjoy the sport of Brazilian jiu-jitsu more than anything else in the world. How do you you monetize that?

  • You could start a BJJ gym.
  • You could create an e-commerce store for BJJ gear.
  • You could start a YouTube channel about BJJ and monetize through info products (ebooks, instructionals).
  • You could become a full-time competitor and find sponsors.

However, never start with a passion business. Always start with a service business (as outlined above).

Passion-based businesses are notoriously hard to get off the ground. Expect 3–5 years before you start seeing real money. With a service business, you will have instant cash flow.

Don’t look at it like a detour. Pick a skill set for your service business that will come in useful later when you start your passion business. For example, if you offer video editing, you can later use that to get your YouTube channel off the ground.

In essence, escaping the rat race is a two-step sequence. You have to start two side hustles — the first one, a service business, to set you free; the second one, a passion business, to make you love your freedom.

8. Learn Marketing and Sales

No matter what side hustle you decide on, you will need to learn marketing and sales.

Of all business skills, it’s the most important one. When you know how to make people want stuff, you will never go hungry.

Here are some ideas on how to go about it:

  • Every night before you go to bed, read 5 pages of a marketing book.
  • Every time you do the dishes or work out, listen to a marketing podcast.
  • If you would like a more structured approach, take a course. You don’t have to go with a paid one. There are plenty of free options available.
  • Every day, cold-call three local businesses and practice selling them your services.

This might sound like a lot of effort, and it is. But invest in these skills and it will pay massive dividends down the road.

9. Consider FIRE

Some people quit the rat race by using the FIRE framework (=Financial Independence, Retire Early).

The idea is that you keep working your 9 to 5 for now, but drastically cut down on your expenses. By doing so, you should be able to save north of 70 percent of your income.

Invest your savings wisely, and about 10 years from now, you will be able to retire. Now you can do whatever you want with your time.

There are different versions of this, like Lean FIRE where you keep living frugally throughout your retirement years and Fat Fire, where you maximize earnings so you can live it up during retirement.

If you would like to learn more about FIRE, check out the Early Retirement Extreme blog by Jacob Lund Fisker. The Mr. Money Mustache forum is another great starting point.

10. Move Countries

If you are pondering how to escape the rat race, another option is to move countries.

If you move to a low-cost country like Thailand, Egypt, or Colombia, you can have a decent quality of life, while spending $1000 per month or less.

Especially if you earn in dollars or euros by working online, this will make for a great escape. You might have to work as little as 5–10 hours per week.

But there are also some drawbacks to consider.

Leaving your familiar environment behind will feel scary. However, this is temporary. Spend six months anywhere, and it will start to feel like home.

You will also have to leave your friends and family behind. But if you move to an expat hotspot like Vietnam or Panama, you’ll meet plenty of new people to connect with.

Your host culture will feel inaccessible in the beginning, due to the language barrier and the cultural differences. The solution is to learn the language and study the culture.

Most people will let these fears get in the way. But moving to a low-cost country is one of the most reliable ways to get out of the rat race. Also, it will be the adventure of a lifetime.

11. Go Off-Grid

The most radical option for quitting the rat race is to go off-grid. You can buy a plot of land, build yourself a cabin, grow your own produce, and hunt/fish.

Many people will consider this an extreme move. But in truth, this way of living is much more in sync with your DNA than what we are currently doing.

We were hunter-gatherers living off the land for millions of years. Only in the last 10,000 years, with the advent of agriculture and the industrial revolution, did we get bogged down in the rat race.

And what has it gotten us? Obesity, depression, and cancer.

Returning to a more natural way of living will fix these. It is something we should all seriously consider.

12. Find Allies

To successfully escape the rat race, it is important to find allies.

Going against the social script will create pushback. Your parents and your peers will all question your decision. “Don’t throw your life away,” they will say.

Eventually, you might cave.

But by surrounding yourself with people who have already done it, it will be easier to withstand that pressure. You will have living proof that it is possible.

The trick is to find these people. In all likelihood, there won’t be any escape artists in your immediate social circle; they are a rare breed.

Start looking online. Try to find digital nomad meetups in your town. Facebook groups are a good starting point.

Another good option is to vacation in places that attract a lot of online entrepreneurs. Examples are:

  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Canggu, Bali
  • Mexico City Mexico
  • Lisbon, Portugal

Here, you will constantly run into people who have already done it. Befriend them and stay in touch. Now you have your allies.

13. Be Consistent

The reason why most people never succeed with “How to escape the rat race” is not a lack of skill. The reason is a lack of consistency.

For several years, you must take massive daily action. As an online entrepreneur, you must constantly tweak your website, improve your product, cold-call clients, and study your marketing. This is all before you see any cash flow.

Most people won’t go through with it. They don’t have the staying power. But these are the same people who come to bitterly regret their life choices.

Don’t be most people. Be consistent.

14. Don’t Sweat It

People are way too anxious when it comes to getting out of the rat race. They act like it can never be undone.

Don’t fall for that.

If at some point you decide that quitting the rat race wasn’t for you, you can still go back. You return to the corporate world as if nothing happened.

“But what about my CV?”

Lie. That is what everybody does on their CVs anyway. Tell them a story about how you took an extended sabbatical. If anything, it will make you look more interesting.

The corporate world will always be there. Don’t sweat it.

15. Don’t Stop There

Learning how to escape the rat race is just the beginning.

To truly become free, you must question other sacred cows as well.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Why do we all have to get married and have kids? What’s this obsession with the suburban lifestyle?
  • What’s the deal with monogamy? If someone told you you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, would you go along with that too?
  • Why are we so susceptible to groupthink? For example, why do so many of us buy into the religious nonsense pushed by evangelical mega-churches?
  • What’s this fixation with consumerism? Is accumulating more stuff worth watching the ecosystem around us collapse?

Don’t stop at quitting your job. Question everything.

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