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:

Obligation

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.

Competition

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.

Worthiness

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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