Plan A

A letter to The Guardian‘s career advice column asks for help with the safety/risk dilemma:

All my life I seem to have gone for second best – I have had dreams and ambitions but end up going for Plan B, because Plan A is scarier. Plan A is a dream of being an artist, or film-maker; but I know I am missing a lot of skills which you need in order to succeed at these kinds of jobs.

I will be job hunting soon and I am scared I will just do what I always seem to, which is panic and take some Plan B job to support myself , which ultimately I don’t like and can’t do, and which once again will take up all my time and leave me no freedom to do the things I love. I want to do what I love and get paid for it.

Doesn’t this just sum up the “employment versus life” problem? It’s the quintessential fork in the roads in choosing to become a wage slave or a free radical.

Here’s the thing. Plan B isn’t safe at all. A lifetime of servitude and dream-squelching is a far higher cost than living in a modest apartment or riding around on a rusty bicycle (if those are indeed the material fears). If you’re reporting to someone else’s office every morning and hating yourself, you’ve already failed, even if your house in the suburbs has four bedrooms in it. Plan B isn’t safe. It’s the most dangerous option, leading as it does to a life of misery.

Moreover, this particular person’s Plan A isn’t particularly risky at all. “Artist” and “Film Maker” are both real jobs. It’s not like he wants to become a professional chocolate-eater or freelance boob-squeezer.

This being said, he probably needs a firmer idea of his Plan A. He wants to become an artist and/or film maker. But what kind of artist? What kind of film maker? And is he confusing a desire to eat cake with a desire to open a bakery?

My feeling is that we shouldn’t fear this kind of risk but mitigate against it by developing a clear and flexible plan. Also, visualise the worst-case scenario: how bad would it really be to live in a modest apartment or ride around on a rusty bicycle, even for the rest of your life? Is it any worse than never, ever, doing what you want?

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

One Response to “Plan A”

  1. Bush says:

    People are jealous and suspicious of those with freedom. They have poor self control because they can’t control desire to shop and party. Whilst the plebs spend their week working, evenings watching TV, and weekends drinking, shopping, surfing and sleeping – i’m out walking, city cycling, adventuring, reading and coming across things. Rather than watch the news or sport, i let others tell me about it – often amazed at my lack of knowledge of mass media, I let them tell me about the latest news and then try and pick holes in their interpretations.

    Regarding Plans A&B. you have to guard your time – it’s your life.
    in order to do this, it is essential to avoid meetings, friends who party constantly, expensive women with career ladder expectations, and never make a rash purchase decision. Once you buy into the material constructs of society or buy into an image, you become self conscious and thus develop a sense of relativity of those around – where you are in relation to everyone else – salary levels, job position, pension plans, car & house value, designer clothes, where to holiday, gyms, pubs, social gatherings etc…

    The best way to avoid this is working for oneself and meeting people with similar values. Sounds simple, but it’s very difficult to get off once you start.

    I ride that rusty bike and i have a house in a poorer part of town, i walk a lot – in jeans, plimsolls and blazer. As a result, i have a good disposition and people tend to approach me more than when i wore a suit and a smurk. I’m not competing for top jobs, trophy wives or penthouse apartments and therefore i don’t care.

    This is a no-brainer, everyone wants to work for themselves and leave the rat race but those that don’t are those concerned what other people think.

    You can’t control what others think but you can control what you do. 1 life

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