Fuck The "Real World:" A Manifesto
There’s nothing “real” about dreading Mondays.
My life made perfect sense until, as a 17-year old, male athlete, I got a disease meant for older, pregnant women.
We “millennials” (who, by the way, only use that vomit-inducing word ironically) have had a life manual whispered into our ears since birth. Follow these instructions, and you’ll climb the corporate ladder to happiness. That’s how the Real World works. That’s physics, little kid.
We don’t know better, so we listen. If you were from a village in India and went to Carl’s Jr. for the first time — wouldn’t you believe your mother if she said it was good for you?
Obey your parents. Go to school, pay attention, shut up, get good grades. Do extracurricular activities that impress colleges — so you can get into a good college, get a good job, get a good wife, buy a good car, and a good house, and raise your 1.5 good children to do the same.
When you turn 17, you must ace your SATs, or be relegated to the streets, where your thumbs will be plucked and fed to raccoons.
Speak up about living the life of your dreams, and be called entitled.
I struggled to sleep my junior year, convinced that one wrong step would permanently fuck my life.
I will never get that goddamn white picket fence if I don’t play ukulele to orphans on weekends, after correctly bubbling-in the cosine of the word ennerving.
I was a tightly-wound ball of stress, and while there’s no way I can prove that’s why I was diagnosed with Grave’s — an uncommon disease whose only known cause is indeed “stress,” especially in older, pregnant women — I’m sticking with that explanation.
Miraculously, I calculated the cosine of the word ennerving (it’s 0.7 storkfarts), and graduated from a “good college” (Michigan) with a “practical” major (Economics).
Everyone at college spoke of the Real World, and everyone was smart enough to see it was a trap.
And yet, we felt forced to submit to these mythical laws of Life Physics.
It was the “Deferred Life Plan, explained by Randy Komisar in The Monk and the Riddle. Spend 65+ years doing what you must do; then spend, according to lifespan projections, ~15 years doing what you want to do.
While in declining health, unable to rise from your tour-bus seat, soaked in swamp-ass.
We all remember Newton’s Fifth Law: Mondays must suck.
We act like ridiculous, corporate-American policies are physical laws; universal human truths.
Did caveman sit at the dinner table, munching on their guacless Chipotle — because they couldn’t afford it — groaning, fuck, I don’t want to work tomorrow?
What’s “real” about 72.3.% of Americans feeling disengaged at work?
What’s “real” about watching the clock until the next time you can get drunk?
Every time I go somewhere mid-day and interact with an employee, they always smile and ask: are you off work today?
… doesn’t that sound like a (much) friendlier version of prison?
If we aren’t tethered “online” 8–10 hours a day, regardless of output … will the world explode?
How the hell is that healthy, and how the hell does that have anything to do with running a functioning economy — where your workers are “free” … but chained to a desk for 40–80 hours a week?
Our generation laughs at people for being religious. You’ll really stake your “belief” on prose relayed via millennia of games of Telephone?
… but how is our blind faith in the Real World any different?
Oxford University has estimated that “47% of US jobs could be automated within the next two decades.” Robots have beaten humans at Jeopardy! and Go! … even medical diagnosis and surgery.
Will your job be destroyed next year, or in 50?
There’s no way to know — and bureaucracy and regulations may slow down the crumbling — but I sure as hell wouldn’t want my life security based on blind faith.
The average Class of 2016 college graduate is saddled with $37,172 in debt. And counting. 44 million borrowers owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt.
If you’re one of the lucky few on the winning side of debt and saving — on track for retirement — have you accounted for current projections of Social Security running out in 2034? Are your savings protected against inevitable economic collapses?
Are you sure your salary is gonna keep increasing?
The odds are against the average “millennial” making it safely to retirement — which, as we’ve been over, is a Deferred Life Plan trap anyway.
The Real World is a nightmare.
Fortunately, it’s also not real.
You can opt out of any part of the mythical Real World with a big fuck you.
Call me an “entitled millennial,” but I refuse to take advice from apathetic people who are convinced that apathy is destiny.
Life only sucks when you follow people whose paths led to prior suckery.
A Manifesto of Fucks
Fuck “good jobs.”
What’s “good” about 72.3.% of Americans feeling disengaged at work?
Fuck “safe jobs.”
What’s “safe” about “47% of jobs being automated within the next two decades … working at a company that might die itself — or will fire us the second they find someone cheaper?
Fuck “Happy Hour.”
The deals are great — the idea that a “Happy Hour” must take place outside of work is toxic. Have many Happy Hours at work — and then grab a drink at Cheap Hour.
Fuck the idea that we’re all screwed.
We’re only screwed if we use outdated rules to navigate a new world marked by accelerating technological innovation.
We live in a world where creation, communication and distribution are nearly free and decentralized. You can make anything. Connect with anyone.
We‘re not screwed if we say fuck the real world and pave our own way.
Fuck waiting until retirement to live.
What’s “smart” about the Deferred Life Plan — putting off living until it’s too late to live?
Fuck ignoring dead people.
Yeah, ignore The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. What do dying people know about regrets, anyway? They died! Losers.
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. I wish I had let myself be happier.
Fuck arbitrary corporate rules meant to control you.
Call me a hippie — but, seriously, all of these “rules” of working life in the “real world” have no scientific or natural basis.
Remember every rule that pisses you off at work, or in school, and ask yourself: Did this “work” in any capacity other than making me more obedient?
As Seth Godin explains in Stop Stealing Dreams, our education system is outdated. Horace Mann led the creation of “common schools” (public schools) after the Civil War. They didn’t exist before, and were designed to:
“…create the workers we need to fuel our economy. The mission used to be to create homogenized, obedient, satisfied workers and pliant, eager consumers.”
They would do that by …
“instilling values such as obedience to authority, promptness in attendance, and organizing the time according to bell ringing helped students prepare for future employment.”
When you say things like “accept reality” in reference to taking the conventional path — you’re just being one of Horace’s obedient robots.
It’s what Godin calls “the mass production of students.”
Fuck all shoulds and can’ts.
I should work in “business” because that’s “smart.” I should go to college. I should buy a home. I should move to this city, take this job, blah, blah, blah. Ask yourself: Why should you? Where does that belief come from?
I can’t enjoy work. I can’t start a business. I can’t be a writer, painter, actor, social worker, whatever. Do some research.
Are there people who violate these can’ts?
What makes you different? Are you sure you can’t?
Fuck following other people’s schedules.
What’s “productive” about being forced into useless meanings, working fixed, long hours — having nothing to do with your energy and creativity levels?
Fuck measuring productivity by hours staring at a screen.
What’s “productive” about measuring productivity in terms of raw time input (hours staring at a screen) versus output and value created?
Short, focused deep work is more valuable than long, distracted busywork.
Fuck 40, 60, 80+ hour workweeks.
Longer doesn’t mean better. (That’s what he said.)
Fuck being chained to a desk.
Again, productivity = value created. Not suffering endured.
Fuck taking life advice from unhappy people.
Look at those people who tell you life is hard. Misery loves company. Don’t be sucked in. Don’t bond over shared misery.
Fuck acting like travel is only for rich people.
Traveling the world on $50 a day isn’t just reasonable — it’s actually on the high end.
Fuck separating work and life.
You can travel and work at the same time.
Fuck home ownership being the Holy Grail.
It’s not a “safe” or “smart” investment.
Fuck company loyalty.
Your boss may be a doll — but the company will fire you the second they find someone cheaper, or can automate your job.
Be kind to the people, but fuck your company.
Corporations aren’t human — they’re ruthless machines.
Fuck two weeks vacation.
Fuck “being professional.”
Being “professional” is just a word for being obedient. For wearing a mask, hiding yourself — acting like a cog, a robot.
Keeping your personality out of your work means you’re being a robot. And humans can’t beat robots at being robots.
The reason your friends keep you around — your unique skills, personality, experiences and stories — are your competitive advantage.
The only way you can beat a robot or software is by being human.
Fuck thinking our ideas are a dime a dozen.
As corny as it sounds, the only thing someone can’t beat you in is being you. Anything else can be outsourced to Asia for a fraction of your price.
Fuck being busy.
We wear “busy” as a badge of honor — because we know most of our time is wasted at bullshit meetings with self-important drones.
Most of us equate work with stress.
Science clearly proves that stress is not only bad for your health, but it’s bad for productivity. Work is killing us.
Fuck competing with each other.
Mass-produced students are taught a scarcity mindset. If I get a job, you can’t have one. If I make a dollar, you can’t have one. In a corporate environment where the size of the pie is determined by the higher-ups, that’s often true.
So we hoard our ideas. We don’t help when we want to. We’re taught that giving is losing.
It all traces to our distorted vision of “capitalism” — in which we worship GDP over actual, human value. Umair Haque nails it with his aspirational Eudaimonics.
“If I were to deface a mosque, church, or synagogue, hiring cleaning crews would add to GDP, just as breaking your legs would, because you’d have to go to the hospital , just as building a car factory does — and from there its income-maximizing imperative trickles down to companies, cities, towns, banks, markets, funds, households, and so on.”
If the game you’re playing rewards you for breaking legs — play a different game. Zero-sum games kill happiness.
Instead of guiltily stealing pie from your friends (or even your enemies), focus on increasing the size of the pie.
But fuck being afraid of money.
You probably think I’m a hippie communist — but money is a good thing when used properly.
If you create big value, you deserve big money. And you should ask for it.
We shouldn’t be afraid of charging big dollars for big results — if that’s what they’re worth to the recipient.
We also shouldn’t be afraid of working for free if the non-financial benefits (connection, experience, etc.) — are worth it. Or the recipient can’t pay, and we want to help.
People say things like “my hourly rate is $X.” That’s unethical, and unwise. Your work is worth different amounts to different people — and it has nothing to do with how long you work. My writing is occasionally worth big dollars to certain people or businesses — but it’s usually worth less than a penny.
Focus less on “getting what you deserve” — and more on creating big value that people can pay for. Value is contextual.
Create 100 slices of pie, and you can take fifty, guilt-free.
Fuck needing certainty to act.
Do things that might not work. Exclusively.
At some level, “this might not work” is at the heart of all important projects, of everything new and worth doing. And it can paralyze us into inaction, into watering down our art and into failing to ship.
Again, school has taught us to be loss-averse. We equate an idea not working with failure. It’s not failure; it’s feedback.
It’s like a sports team bragging they’ve never lost — but they refuse to ever take the field.
We call settling into apathy being realistic. It’s not — it’s giving up. Look at the people telling you to settle — are they really happy?
Fuck keeping your ideas to yourself.
You never know if an idea is poop or gold until you feed it to someone.
The alternative is keeping your ideas to yourself. In your head, your idea is worthless. It’s sperm in your head’s scrotum. Spew it into the world — it might die, but then you’ll know to spew a new one — or it might resonate and grow into a living organism.
Fuck selling your soul.
Picture yourself in 40 years. Do you regret it?
Silicon Valley no longer cares if you went to college. If you can prove you can create value and be effective to any reasonable human or company — they will hire you, regardless of credentials.
Learn things. Make things. Have a portfolio. Get testimonials and referrals.
A college degree is a crappy signal that you might be good at a job. Create your own degree — which will serve as proof you’ll succeed at your unconventional career.
Fuck “what do you do?”
If robots could talk, a reasonable first date question (don’t ask me why you’re dating a robot) would be: what do you do?
Robots do. Humans are.
When you restrict your identity to a job function, you pigeonhole yourself. You are capable of many things, and real companies don’t pay for titles — they pay for the value you create, which is often multifaceted.
Fuck job titles.
Read: above. Don’t tell me what you do — tell me what change, value and results you create. For whom, and why they care.
Fuck your job description — go beyond. Find problems and create custom solutions.
Fuck ignoring our hearts.
We’re taught that following our hearts is “irrational.” But following our minds leads to short-term apathy and “security” — and long-term misery.
Start by following your heart.
Then use your mind and the market to make sure you’re not doing something stupid — like assuming your shitty paintings will make millions.
Dream drunk, act sober.
Fuck following your passion.
Your passion is a starting point (if you even know it). Start on the demand side — what results and change do people want?
Try to fit your passion — or something tangential — into the market. Your passion follows the market — not the other way around.
Use Ramit Sethi’s “Paid Certainty Test:”is my market both willing and able to pay? Because …
Fuck peachy expectations.
Just because anything is possible doesn’t mean it’s likely. Most of our dreams won’t happen — it’s about testing and testing and learning and learning until one bet hits. Eventually.
Start today. Fail, learn, iterate. Win eventually.
Fuck waiting for opportunities to find us.
Nobody is looking out for you except you. Fuck passivity. Be active.
I have to quit my job or suck it up. No. Keep your job and let it fund your escape.
I have to follow my passion or be realistic. No. Be realistic for now, but never settle long term. Start working today.
90% of either/ors are false dichotomies. Ask yourself: Is there an exception?
Fuck pretending we can’t learn anything on our own.
School was a failure. But everything you need to know is free or cheap online or at the library — in books, blogs, podcasts, online courses, YouTube videos. In-person classes exist. So do nice people willing to help you. Connect. Ask. Listen. Learn. Beginner’s mind.
You don’t need to go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt in grad school to acquire practical knowledge. Find it. Use it. Get feedback. Learn. Grow.
Fuck acting like this is selfish.
Obeying nonsensical rules is why we’re in this predicament. Why the economy is fucked.
As Umair Haque explains — “all life is the universe … are thus oriented around the pursuit of a single end: maximizing short-term income.”
Until we start to “reimagine the world for Eudaimonia,” we’re all fucked.
Settling for apathy is the selfish thing. We’re all in this together.
Yes, people need to do the dirty work. We’re not afraid of the valuable dirty work. But we object to cleaning toilets that nobody’s even shitting in.
Most of all, fuck “one day.”
Fuck “paying your dues” — virtually anything you want to do can be done now. Don’t wait for permission to write, paint, sell, dance, eat, poop, whatever. You won’t necessarily be paid until what you do is valuable and has resonated with a market — but you won’t know until you start.
Are you ready to take one small step towards your dream life?
A manifesto is nothing without action.
Do you really want to start living your dream life?
Do you finally want to start that business? Find or create your dream job? Launch that podcast, that blog, that book?
Join the Fuck the Real World 30-Day Challenge, and every day, you’ll receive one reasonable-but-scary challenge to start building your dream life. (Completely free, of course.)
As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, we’ll “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Are you up for the challenge?
Or more importantly: Are you tired of living someone else’s life?