Unjobbing: What It Is and What It Isn’t

I’ve thrown the word “unjobbing” around here a few times. Like unschooling, it’s a word we use that, at first glance, does little to really describe the idea.

Just as unschooling doesn’t mean uneducated (nor is it against school or always done outside of school), unjobbing does not mean unemployed. Nor is it really against jobs or always done outside the presence of a job.

Instead, unjobbing is more about how you do what you do than what you actually do.

Unjobbing is about making a life instead of just a living.

Instead of living for work, we work to live (and to learn and grow and experience). We love what we do; it brings us fulfillment and it enables us to do some pretty wonderful things. But it’s not all we do. It’s not the only focus of our life.

Unjobbing is often used synonymously with entrepreneurship, working for oneself. But I think the greatest downfall of entrepreneurship is the insipid ideas and lessons we learned as children that still linger in our ideas around our work.

Just like deschooling, dejobbing has its place.

Unschooling and Unjobbing (Deschooling and Dejobbing)

If you look at unjobbing like we look at unschooling the definition becomes clearer. It’s obvious to see that the same paradigms linger over us long after the school years are past.

You could say that having a job (or which job you have) is a choice and school isn’t. Except that school is a choice, just one we fail to see.

And like school, we often fail to see our jobs as a choice, too.

Most working adults, just like concerned parents, don’t realize there is another choice: when you’ve been taught a lesson for 13+ years, you come to see it as the only way of doing things.

Adults are just grown kids, continuing to believe the same lessons we learned in our youth:


A sense of obligation to people that don’t even matter to us is taught at a very young age. Extrinsic motivation and meaningless accolades (grades, rewards, punishment, guilt, praise, admonishment) feed our desire for approval and attention and our fear of ostracization. Those lessons linger long after we’re grown and we continue to feel obligated to have “a real job”, to work hard and to be grateful for it.

Hard work and gratitude aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Unless we’re doing something that is meaningless to us.

Life is not meant to be lived for others.

It’s meant to be fulfilling by our own definition. Obligation doesn’t do that. Loving what we do, knowing our reasons for it and loving those reasons does.


Likewise the environment of competition sets us up to compare ourselves to our peers. Who is “passing” or “failing”? Who has the more expensive designer shoes? Who has the hotter girlfriend? Who’s a nerd, a jock, a punk, a slut? Who has the most friends or the highest or lowest GPA?

Just putting that many similarly-aged and -interested people in one room creates an environment of judging, competing and comparing.

In order to stand out amongst the crowd you have to either do better than the others or act out against it. Both are a form of competing for attention.

That competition plays out in our adult life as we try to keep up with the Joneses’. Most of us get stuck always trying to get ahead, get a raise, get a bigger house. (The rest tend to resort to drugs or alcohol abuse, complete disregard for others or a total withdrawal from society.)

We compare and base our value off our neighbor’s value – or what we perceive it to be.

Sadly, while we compare what another family may have we rarely compare what they don’t have. We may see the bigger house and nicer car, but we rarely take into account the extra work, the disconnection, the dissatisfaction.

So as we run to keep up we find ourselves overworked, disconnected and dissatisfied and can’t understand why.


Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room, our sense of worthiness is so strongly tied to our salary it’s a wonder Big Pharma hasn’t created a disorder for it and patented a drug already.

Our sense of self-worth strongly relates to the words used to describe us (or other children around us).

A lack of compassion or attention, an unfulfilled need for validation, even things like “good boy” or “bad boy,” “that’s not nice of you”  or “she should be ashamed of herself” and so on, all plant seeds in our young minds that germinates into self-doubt and fear.

Only if a Superior deems our actions as okay are we to be considered worthy.

And thus we become performers, doing something that doesn’t resonate with us, all for the external validation we crave.

And it’s not just those that have a job that are affected. In fact I’d bet just as many entrepreneurs suffer from these hurtful lessons than anyone else.

Unjobbing vs Entrepreneuring

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 19 years old. For seven years I owned my own mobile massage therapy company, contracting upwards of 20 or more massage therapists, yoga instructors, estheticians and nail techs for bodywork and treatments in homes, hotels and at conventions. I made good money, enjoyed what I did and had big goals for the future.

And I was miserable – we were all miserable.

It took several years to realize that no amount of money, power or job satisfaction alone can fulfill me. I worked for myself, but that didn’t keep me from being overworked, disconnected and dissatisfied.

Many entrepreneurs mistakenly think the key to happiness is the freedom to work for oneself.

But no amount of independence can make you free when your mind is still shackled to the same ideas passed around Corporate America or Corporate Education.

And that’s what happens to a lot of entrepreneurs: we’re driven by the same sense of obligation, the same competitiveness and sometimes a whole lot more of need to prove ourselves. We carry forward those same lessons of our youth, except now funneling it into making a lot of money.

Don’t get me wrong – making good money is not a bad thing.

But I’ve met too many entrepreneurs (*raising my hand*) who become consumed with their businesses and forget why they work for themselves to begin with.

Will The Real Unjobbing Please Stand Up?

Which leads me to unjobbing, what it is and what it isn’t:

Unjobbing is not about loving your work, although that should probably be a piece of the puzzle.

Unjobbing is not about working for yourself, although most unjobbers do.

I’d argue that unjobbing isn’t even about making a life instead of a living, although it’s certainly an important part.

Unjobbing is about changing the way we think of and view our world.

Unjobbing is about letting go of the obligation, losing the competitive drive and determining our own self-worth.

It about questioning what we take for granted, finding truth among the bullshit and deciding for ourselves what has value in our lives.

It’s about deschooling our adult minds and living outside the status quo, giving ourselves the same freedom we give our unschooling children.

It’s not job satisfaction, it’s life satisfaction.

It’s purpose and passion and following our interests.

Our work either becomes our soulful purpose and contribution to the world, something we feel passionately about and something we feel drawn to do.

Or our work is something that provides what we need to do the thing(s) we feel is our soulful purpose and contribution to the world, enabling us to continue something we feel passionately about or drawn to do.

Either way it’s not a “job”. It should never be something we loathe or put up with for a paycheck. It’s one aspect – perhaps the biggest or the smallest – of one entire life.

Our Unjobbing Journey

Even though I’ve worked for myself for the past decade, I still had a lot of dejobbing to do. Most of it was done around the time that we took Zeb out of school and I began unschooling my life right along side him.

I reevaluated my business and quickly found the meaning and the meaninglessness. It didn’t take much time to decide to sell the company. I worked for another year in my own private practice, seeing clients 5-10 hours a week. (The paradox became that I was working less, making more money and finding fulfillment in new areas of my life.)

Justin’s dejobbing/unjobbing journey has been drastically different. So much of a man’s value is tied up in his ability to provide for his family that even when Justin is providing for our needs (not just monetarily, but our need for time with him as well) he still worries that it’s not enough if his work doesn’t consume 40-80 hours of his week.

He’s written privately about his process over the past year of losing his job and transitioning into working for himself. It’s been a challenge, albeit a fascinating one. Perhaps someday soon he’ll revive his blog and share it with you.

The past year has brought us to a very different perspective.

We don’t want to work hard through our best years only to retire, exhausted and physically incapable, decades from now.

Nor do we see retirement as something we’re likely to ever do. We love what we do and we plan to continue doing the things we enjoy our entire lives, expanding it or changing it organically.

We don’t view work as a necessary evil either. Nor do we think we need to stick to one thing.

We’ve found doing several things – like writing this blog, running the new website, and offering our mobile services – to be much more enjoyable. We can follow our own inspiration, our own passions and we can allow them to evolve as we do. No more stagnancy. No more boredom.

Our work reflects the evolution of our minds and our lives.

We’re entrepreneurs. We’re unjobbing. We’re unschooling our whole lives.

Want some more reading on unjobbing?

This is obviously just one person’s perspective on what works for us. There is plenty more out there to draw inspiration from. A few favorites:

So…what do you think about unjobbing?

This is obviously a big subject and one I’ve barely even skimmed the surface of, so stay tuned for more posts on the topic in the coming months. And feel free to ask questions in the comments below or send me a question directly: theorganicsister at gmail dot com.

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36 Comments. Leave new

Terrell Neasley
October 29, 2010 8:50 pm

So when does YOUR book come out?

October 29, 2010 8:51 pm

That one might be a little while. I have some other things I want to accomplish first. :)

I think I’m in the process of de-jobbing now. It’s taking a lot longer than I expected. But finally, after 18 months, I’m coming out the other side and figuring things out. A little bit, anyways.

Tweets that mention Unjobbing: What It Is and What It Isn’t – TheOrganicSister -- Topsy.com
October 29, 2010 9:19 pm

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tara Wagner, Megan Gray. Megan Gray said: RT @organicsister Unjobbing: What It Is and What It Isn’t http://bit.ly/bzgg2X […]

I love this post! I am thankful we are unjobbing. I may just blog about unmoneying. :)

October 30, 2010 5:04 pm

would love that!

I am very much at a point of unjobbing. One thing I’ve realized is that although I consider myself and unjobber, I have a job. In fact, I have a thriving business and I work hard at it too! But I consider myself as unjobbing because I don’t work for the man, I work for myself doing what I love. It’s fulfills me, it is creative (which is a must for me), I pick my hours and I still get to be a stay at home Mom too. So, basically what I’m saying is that I agree there is no hard and fast definition of Unjobbing. It certainly does not mean you don’t have a job!
Secondly I think that unjobbing also means reevaluating what money really means to you and the importance it plays. That is not to say unjobbing= being poor because you don’t want to work a ‘real’ job. But I know for me personally, once I let go of money controlling me and every aspect of my life, that is when I connected to flow of abundance and became very rich in my life (body/mind/spirit). My day to day became less about, how much paper money have I made that day, that week etc.; and more about what kind of experiences have I had? Who have I met, who have I helped, how was my life enriched as well.
It’s a beautiful process.
Thank you for this post Tara!

Lauren Luquin
October 30, 2010 6:53 am

I resonate a lot with what you wrote Tara, and Jamie Roth (comment above). Both my husband and I are unschooling ourselves and daughter, but also unjobbing, as we simultaneouly grow our own businesses that we love, all the while making sure not to go astray from our true path and let money rule our choices in life. It’s so true what tou said about what we believe from ourchildhood. It’s so thick for me, how my parents instilled certain beliefs about work and money! They are thanking me now for breaking the mold and showing them a new way of living and working… It’s a whole generational therapy session… We’re all gonna keep learning, and keep seeing what really matters more and more as we nurture our body/mind/spirit… For them having their frist grandchild around the same time I quit my job was a good way to help them transition :) it’s like they realized how precious that time together as a family is now, and they just have had to unlearn and rethink everything! What a humbking experience… I’m so grateful I’ve had their support… I love seeing my family thrive as my parents open their minds to how it’s all happening in ways they never knew would work! Thanks Tara!

renee @ FIMBY
October 30, 2010 7:15 am

On our way there…

Rebecca Burgener
October 30, 2010 11:56 am

This unjobbing and unschooling is all very interesting to me. I’m a homeschooling parent, and my husband works 60+ hours a week just so we can pay our bills and keep on keeping on.

I’m tired.

I’m learning a great deal from you, Tara.

October 30, 2010 5:05 pm

Tired. Yeah that pretty much summed it up for us too. (((hugs))) I hope you guys can find a way through that and into something that works for all of you.

Absent Religion
October 30, 2010 4:36 pm


Your experience with life is priceless, and you communicate it in a way that is very easy to understand.

I have been unjobbed for 7 years. “Un-System” is more like my path. Traveling all over the country with the family while ignoring the “rules” was a fabulous journey.

We had been homeschooling, but now are on the path of unschooling. Life happens so much more when one learns their autonomy. It is painful extricating from the “societal mental slavery” but worth every ounce of sweat.

Keep on keeping on.

I’ve been deworking for about 4 years now and I started unworking (or whole living…would love to have a word that wasn’t “un” something) a year ago.

I worked my last job when I was pregnant K and have been home since with the full intention of helping provide for my family and having the work I do be an extension of my life and passions. There has been a lot of “de-working” and I’ve spent so much time processing all of this and talking with amazing supportive and ultra-smart people to help not just think about this but move towards actualizing it.

I believe it has been easier for me b/c growing babies, breastfeeding, homeschooling provide a situation for me to not work and have that seem normal. I had a lot of space and time to figure it all out. Then about a year ago my passions gave way to opportunity and I found my groove.

What is interesting is that dh has also been on board with this thinking the whole time and has not had a real “job” for six years. He’s done really well creating income for our family on his own terms, but I find he has so much more attached to it. He almost can’t see how close he is to unworking and I see him resenting some of the work he has to do even though from my perspective it seems like he’s created a situation very close to his ideals and very outside of the box he didn’t want. I think men, providing for their families, have another strong set of cultural beliefs to work on.

As I begin to help provide our plan is for him to have a little bit more freedom to dework and hopefully have him move more into a place where he feels his work is an extension of his every day life and passions.

You’ve inspired a blog post! Sorry I wrote a mini-novel in your comment section ;)

October 30, 2010 8:57 pm

You know, I go back and forth a lot on using the “un”…I kinda think that until people see alternatives to things like “school” or “jobs” that you almost have to use those words in conjunction with the alternatives. Does that make sense?

Maybe not. But life isn’t always explainable and so we do what we can. :)

In my view, work is germane to being human. We are creative, industrious and capable. I would never stop working, and certainly, being at home with my children is anything but not working. I’ve never had a job that even came close to how much work I do at home!!!

Anyway, work does not equal “job,” which is why unjobbing is the better term, in my opinion, but I too thing a positive assertion is much more to the point than a negation, like “un.” I do agree that until the option is understood, attaching concepts to what is already known is a decent way to bridge the gap. :)

Great article, Organic Sister!

A Green Spell
October 30, 2010 6:40 pm

I’m a total fan of unjobbing. Feel like that is what I am meant to live. Unfortunately, my attempts at unjobbing have been, thus far, unsuccessful, at least in terms of allowing to find a way to finance my life, LOL. In fact, I woke up this morning and started job searching – was pretty depressed – saw this post and it cheered me up immensely. Still am wondering what to do, though….I’ve pared things down a whole lot, but still have lots of bills to pay and a huge student loan. Got to figure out a way to make it happen.

October 30, 2010 8:59 pm

Sometimes the answer is the easiest, simplest one…so simple, so easy that we miss it completely. Or maybe one we think isn’t easy at all, impossible in fact.

Until our perspective changed we couldn’t see it. Now we can’t see it any other way.

Perfect. My husband and I know we’ll be selling our much-loved but too-big house in a few months and moving due to his head-banging frustration with work. We’ll be downsizing in many ways, and the change is giving us the space to rethink our lives. I don’t know what the future will hold (Can we sell the house without losing tons of money?), but I’m trying to hold that space where I know it will work out whether or not I waste a lot of time worrying.

Thanks so much.

“A sense of obligation to people that don’t even matter to us is taught at a very young age.” That is a powerful statement. So true. Like so many of your posts, I will be saving this one.


I’ve been an unjobber since forever. Always working to get the cash to enable me to keep doing what I love to do. :)

I have had periods where I tried to fit a mould, because Husband knew nothing else. Finally I convinced him other lifestyles were possible.

And today, he’s an unjobber. Although I don’t use labels really. But basically, he works to make cash to lead the life he prefers. He probably does as many as 8 different jobs never scheduled far ahead. Now he shudders at going back to 9-5.

“It’s not job satisfaction, it’s life satisfaction.”

I like this distinction. Because I would say that Husband had a lot more job satisfaction in his old 9-5 life. He was self-employed, had a great reputation, worked at a skilled trade and was very good at it…… but there was little LIFE outside of that.
Now work isn’t particularly satisfying, except on occassion. But life is VERY satisfying.

We’ve had a horribly tight economic year, but we still wouldn’t go back. Everything cycles.

We’ve created our own lifestyle. Most of us just don’t realise we can do something so outrageous. :)

How does one begin the process?

Brennan's Mom (aka Corrie)
November 1, 2010 11:49 am

“Unjobbing is about letting go of the obligation, losing the competitive drive and determining our own self-worth.
Thank you for this – six months ago, I quit a job I loved that was tearing my family apart. I took a job I hate and although I know some of the reasons why, this sentence made it all make sense to me and gave me words to finally explain it to everyone else!

We don’t want to work hard through our best years only to retire, exhausted and physically incapable, decades from now.
And thank you for this! This is the other half of our equation now (and part of why I left the job I loved). Our son is young (2.5) and we always feel like we’re missing so much of his life because we’re tied to careers (which my husband aptly defines as a job you do for a long time) and we are starting to find our own way so we can enjoy the now and the tomorrow.

We are working towards improving our tomorrow (as a family) by letting go of a failing system and trying to teach our son that it isn’t what you have that makes you happy.

Thank you for your post – it is an inspiration!

I think I need to unjob. I feel like every job I have worked has been miserable. A lot of them have been “good” jobs that most people would find perfectly suitable and a place to foster a career. I on the other hand have found them to be dull and boring. I start a job and a few weeks later I am stressed out, hating life, and ready to take a vacation. Perhaps I have some re-evaluating to do….

Riley Yielding
November 3, 2010 7:59 am

i am 48. i live in alabama. i play and sing in bars and restaurants. I also build guitars (about 100 so far). I have (it seems like) always had these feelings about how earning money to live off of relates to “work” or a “job”. I have never really met anyone, or seen anyone, who address this arrangement in the way that i have been doing it, until i read this blog. I went to conventional schooling and colllege (100% useless), and have spent the last nearly 30 years “unschooling” (just learned that term about a year ago), or “deschooling” (just learned that term about 5 minutes ago). Now, I realize that I have been “unjobbing”, and have been in pretty much a constant state of “dejobbing” for many years.
I never knew that I was a pioneer. Thank you very much for this blog.

Sometimes I hate my job, and an appropriately timed email. « Pariah Blogs.com
November 4, 2010 11:08 am

[…] I receive an email to this wonderful blog post about unjobbing and unschooling. It came at the perfect time, when I was sitting here at my desk […]

Hebrew Herb Maiden
November 7, 2010 12:06 pm

Thank you for this post, so much of it hits with me as I am moving forward in RV life and and a new source of income. I insert worship to Hashem in there first but so agree with your concept of unjobbing. Great post!

Rv blog:

So.. that’s what I’ve been doing:-)

At least now I can pass on a link when people question me about why I don’t want to go get another job…..

I had never heard of “unjobbing” before, but I think I need it, too. I have recently reevaluated my needs and know that I need to stop being away from my family for 40 hours per week.

What you say about that sense of obligation really hit home for me. My husband often chimes in “don’t go to work… stay home with us!” and I feel I MUST go to work… not even so much for the paycheck (though that too!), but because I feel needed and that I’ll be letting people down if I don’t go. But you know what? I wouldn’t even KNOW those people if I didn’t have that job!

Great post… very insightful in a concept that is often hard to describe. I am adding it to sunday surf and I became your newest follower.

Deschooling, Doctorates and Dejobbing…or how I ended up here, today! Part II! « Unbounded Ocean
November 13, 2010 3:09 pm

[…] Now, I’ve strived hard to find a decent definition of unjobbing, and failed dismally.  I found this post about unjobbing, which has something of a definition – being ‘unjobbing is about making a life […]

For many of us older parents, who realized after we were invested in the whole work ethic syndrome that unjobbing was what we really wanted, it’s hard to transition into it. Especially in this economy, and in states like ours, Maine, it’s just not possible to sell a house that you owe more than you can sell it for. And, even if we wanted to just “walk away” from it, Maine doesn’t allow it. Add in that DH, who has been the outside earner while I’ve stayed at home with the kids, is almost at retirement age and trying to hang on until then without getting laid off permanently.

I’m raising my kids to look at their lives in a different light, but I’m still struggling to figure out how to get to where I want to be in my relationship with work vs unjobbing.

I’m adding you to my blogroll and going back to read your other posts.

Shine On,

Yup this is definitely right where I am. Just yesterday I felt a huge wave of gratitude and awe at how the Universe has birthed me out of one supposedly ‘comfortable’ situation into a different world that is far more in keeping with my nature and needs.

It has taken about 7 weeks to recalibrate inside to trust the new reality, but as I give myself time to feel ‘who is in’ within me, I find joy is starting to dance around my cells and give me a whole new perspective and understanding.

Hopeful Weekend Links « New Urban Habitat
December 10, 2010 2:11 am

[…] Unjobbing: What It Is and What It Isn’t – Organic Sister […]

The Art of Organization: Using Efficiency to Create Time, Clarity and the Life We Want to Live | ...infinitely learning...
January 17, 2011 10:06 pm

[…] This guy is cool. He’s already got the whole unworking concept […]

Tara you have described the way I want to live my life. I was so sick of working for other people. So I started my own business , it’s not going very well and I feel like it just isn’t for me, yet I need an income to make the mortgage payments. I am so stuck on ideas on how to make an income and not have to do what I do for work everyday :( I feel worn out, and like I am not being myself when I am at work if that makes sense. I know I have a greater purpose but I don’t know what that is yet?

Unjobbing? - Natural Parenting Forum
September 7, 2011 6:31 am

[…] great post with more info- http://theorganicsister.com/unjobbin…-what-it-isnt/ Pikkle, what do you love to do? Maybe sit down and brainstorm what you would do with your time if […]

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