You’re Doing It Wrong

“Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life!”. Or so we’re told. Usually by some kind of nauseating lifestyle blog or motivational poster.

These days it’s not enough just to turn up, work hard and bring home a wage; we should all be following our passions, chasing that dream job, and waking up every morning raring to get to the office. If your job is tedious, you hate your boss, and Monday mornings make you want to cry, it’s probably YOUR FAULT for not being ambitious enough.

This radio show and podcast (the podcast is five minutes longer) by Emily Knight and Adam Buxton is rather good. The first episode is about attitudes to work and the potential alternatives to the nine-to-five.

There’s an especially good chat with Ross, a poet and entertainer who talks about his “fake front as an office worker” while writing poetry into a spreadsheet and gradually transitioning into subsisting on his art.

There’s also Sophie, who discusses how she quit her stressful, job-based London life in favour of creative work and more time with friends and family in Margate.

The show reminds me of Richard Herring’s Bad Habits but with more Doctor Buckles.

Is the idea of a ‘dream job’ – one that inspires and fulfills us and makes our lives worth living – really possible? Or idealistic nonsense designed to make you feel guiltier, work harder, and complain less? Can we really be happy at work and should we be?

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

4 Responses to “You’re Doing It Wrong”

  1. Antonia says:

    Hi everyone! I am not sure even where to start from. Also, I am not used to interact on blogs, thus I may get my comment wholly wrong (in terms of size, contents, etc.) Apologies in advance! Well… I have been working in the development cooperation for about 17 years. It is something that I decided to do when I was at university or before even. I pursued my professional path with a certain perseverance. The first seven years were spent “on the field”, while later I returned to Italy (where I am from) and continued to work from HQs but paying regular trips to everywhere in Europe and beyond. Since 2011 (after experiencing a horribly toxic work environment in an NGO’s HQ where I had eagerly returned to three years earlier) I decided to quit and go freelance. “Free”lance, might perhaps have been the first step towards my personal freedom…? Not sure. I did not have an “escape plan” however. I just had enough. At first, I enjoyed my freelancing. Interesting projects. Good money. However, I kept working long hours per day (but already appreciated the difference in being able to go to the swimming pool, doctor, local services whatsoever during hours when most people sit in office, skipping crowd and queues). In March 2013, I had a baby boy, who is now 5. My life changed. Enormously. Work-wise, I had announced to my network that I would re-start work in about 4-5 months after the birth. Forget about! I took one full year off, just for my baby and family. I could do that, as there was no employer to negotiate with, nor any law to abide to on maternity leave etc. I supported it with my own savings, only. After one year, I re-started to take in consultancies. Since then, I stick to a 4 hours per day schedule. This is the time I think I can devote to work, also considering that we do not have any family or friend network in the place where we live. I occasionally have a baby sitter coming in the afternoon when I have unusual workload peaks. It would be perfect like that for me. However, our financial resources are starting to shrink. My husband has a reasonably well-paid employee job. He commutes 3 days a week for about 4 hours a day. The other two days he works from home. However, he has two teenage sons from his previous marriage, which complicate the picture (I am speaking about finance now). I am really torn in between should I try and go back for a regular, full-time job, with all that implies (first of all, having my child in school 8am to 4pm or longer, which I find wrong, albeit I understand that we all have different views on child rearing etc. etc.), or should I continue like this. And if I do so, how can I decrease our consumptions in order to cover with what we have? And, what about the future? What if I get ill one day? What about when I’ll be old? I red a few books, including ‘Escape everything’ (still reading it) and How to be idle. Still looking for inspiration. I would like to be part of the discussion here, and I commit to share as much information and views as it might be helpful to any of you. Thanks for welcoming me onboard in advance! Antonia

  2. It must be extremely difficult and hard work to run a successful freelance business and serve as a full-time parent. Many people do this, I suppose, but would your partner consider being the sole bread-winner in exchange for you being a full-time parent? My friend Matt recently became a full-time parent while his partner goes to work and they seem rather happy with the arrangement. If you’d like to ask Matt about his experience, email me directly ( and I’ll put you in touch. I should recommend Tom H’s book The Idle Parent as an entertaining and potentially helpful read too.

  3. Antonia says:

    Hi Robert! Many many thanks for your reply and nice to make your acquaintance – albeit virtually. Indeed, it is proving to be increasingly difficult for me to ‘stay in the business’ and to be a full-time parent. Actually, thanks a lot for naming me like that – full-time parent -, as it made me realize that I AM, indeed, a full-time parent, despite the fact that my boy spends 4 to 5 hours every morning in school. As I said, it has becoming increasingly difficult to run my business, for a number of reasons. Mainly, because in my sector, I should be ready to pay duty trips to remote and dangerous areas of the world as I did before, which, both due to logistics (with my husband working full time, and commuting, if I travel, he has to take leave!) and psychologically (I do not feel like travelling extensively, going to risky places, since I am a mother, and probably you all will understand this… albeit some of my friends and colleagues do that). Another difficult psychological aspect relates to identity, I suppose. Before I became a mother, I identified myself a lot with my job. Really a lot. That has changed enormously, both because I changed priorities since, but also (and as a consequence) because I am no longer on the top of all interesting projects, not so renewed as I was before… that is hard to take at times. But deep inside, I feel that I do not care so much… I wonder what would/will happen if I get completely out of my professional environment. Social identity and recognition… issues that you discuss well in your book… difficult to resolve internally, though. And my husband alone cannot be the sole breadwinner, financially speaking. He pays a monthly check to his two other children (who are not teenagers, but still dependant), so we do not have enough to support our family (the three of us). And I wonder whether we could do much in terms of cutting consumption. Also, I wonder how would I feel if I had to spend someone else’s money to pay for my own expenses and goods (e.g. a pair of shoes). Never happened since when I was dependant on my parents. Yes, I will email you and kindly ask for your friend’s contact, it would be good to exchange views! Thanks a lot and I will keep following your blog, Robert. I think what you are doing is very useful and inspiring, indeed! Antonia

  4. Hi Antonia. I’ve received your email re: Matt. I’ll put you in touch shortly. I’ll also send you an article I wrote for the Idler magazine about escaping as a couple/partnership. It’s similar to what I wrote on the subject in Escape Everything! but perhaps a bit more detailed as I wrote the Idler piece much later. I don’t know if it’ll apply directly to your situation but I’ll certainly send it along.

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