‘The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.’
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb
This quote is doing the rounds on social media, and I couldn’t help but get intrigued by it. These words by Nassim Taleb, scholar, statistician, risk analyst and author of The Black Swan — considered one of the twelve most influential books since World War II by The Sunday Times — couldn’t be more accurate.
You only have to research a little about heroin and you’ll understand its harmful, almost lethal effects. Now about carbohydrates — for anyone going on a diet, and attempting to slowly reduce their intake, or take them off totally, you know what a daunting task it can be.
You’re constantly looking for substitutes, but they just don’t seem to do the trick…
Until one fine day, you commit ‘carbicide’, binging on all the carbs you can find.
And finally for the monthly salary — it can numb your mind, creativity, and several aspects of your life in one fell swoop. Getting addicted to this one is the easiest, and getting out of it can often take years, sometimes a whole lifetime before you do. Only to realize at the end, that your entire life was spent on a desk, working for someone else, and nothing much really changed.
I quit my job a few months ago, in December 2016. It took me almost a year’s contemplation before I could take the bold step. Probably the longest time I’ve taken to make a decision. But now I know why.
Yes, the monthly salary is an addiction. The most Zen detached souls think they are incapable of succumbing to it, but they do. Just seeing that amount come to your bank account every month is a thrill, and to know you can keep making that amount, if you work more or less consistently, is another high.
This is not to deride the job world, it has plenty of benefits and securities, that structure works for many, and has worked for me too in the past. But a challenge in a job only comes when you have some stake in it, which again does away with the notion of a monthly salary. It could result from initiating and steering a new project, getting liberty to execute it the way you want, and having a monetary stake in it too, in the form of a revenue or profit share.
Some research also shows that money ranks fifth on the list of reasons for job satisfaction, appreciation for a job well done was much higher. This also proves that the monthly salary is actually irrelevant to a sense of ‘real’ professional growth.
The other ill of a salary is that you believe it affords you a certain lifestyle, and when you don’t have it you won’t have the same lifestyle. This theory is the biggest myth ever. You actually live a better life without it.
You’re more relaxed, you realize you didn’t need so much in the first place, you learn how to make do with less, and most importantly you’re way more creative and inventive with your work and funds.
Thus, it would be safe to say that a monthly salary teaches you how to consume more than you create. And excessive consumption is an addiction, or a negative pattern, that will ultimately play itself out and destroy you personally and professionally.
Moreover, for those of us creatives and entrepreneurs who don’t like to play small, or even play the same game every day, something fixed in any form is limiting, limiting for the mind, body, and largely for creativity.
Because entrepreneurs and creatives are basically dreamers, they dream of making the world a better place, they dream of a new way of doing things, they dream of what they can create, who they will create it with, and how they will create it. And then they dream some more.
But creative and entrepreneurial dreams don’t come with a monthly salary that allows you to earn, spend and save fixed amounts, secure in the knowledge that the future is taken care of.
Dreams emerge when you are uncertain of the future, and when the future is something you wish to create with your own hands.
It’s not someone else’s dream, it’s yours, that you will build and create on your own. Sometimes you will have limited resources, sometimes plenty. But each month, you will think up new ideas, seek new people, and execute different projects. Eventually you will learn to adapt, grow, innovate with what you know and have.
And in that ability to create you will finally come alive.