You’re Running Out of Time

Quite a lot of bad advice is circulating around recently. Guys are saying that a man can waste his 20s goofing off and partying. That advice is based in large part on the common human mindset that the party never ends.

You simply do not have as much time as you think. 

I spoke to a 54-year old recently. He owned his own business for over a decade. After a friend ripped him off, the company folded.

Considering this man’s business, you’d think employers would be lining up to hire him at a discount. Everyone who works in IT takes continuing classes to get certifications. Those certifications mean something. This man used to teach classes to IT professionals. He was the certifying agency.

Yet he can’t find a corporate job. He is not in denial about his situation. He told everyone who would listen, “Start your own business. After 50, you are shit to large companies. I taught those fuckers and they won’t hire me.”

A friend of mine was an engineer at Google. Have you ever read the brain teasers and interviewing processes at Google? Suffice to say this man was smarter than most of us.

“I’m 48,” he told me, “and earning $175,000 a year. They’ve moved me into academic outreach. Of course they are eyeing some 22-year old who will work for less than half of what I earn. I’m on my way out.”

A man’s early 20s should be devoted to developing his purpose in life. Work your ass off. Pull all-nighters. Make big moves.

Now you might not like to hear that. OK. But just as its pointless when women rail about being unable to find a good man, it’s nonsense to demand that society, “Take me as I am.”

Isn’t it funny that many anti-career posts that are written by men sound like they were written by women? A woman says, “I can have dozens of sexual partners in my 20s. A tall, rich, devoted man must inseminate my stale eggs in my 30s.”

A man says, “I don’t have to go to college and work hard at a career. I can ‘find myself’ in my 20s. A company had better hire me!”

Dead at 50, dying at 30. Let’s look at the depressing timeline:

  • 25-33: Slave away at a career, build a name for yourself and showing that you can take a lot of pain. Something needs done on Friday at 5 p.m.? You’re the man to do it.
  • 34-39: Assume increasingly important company roles. Become a junior partner or middle manager.
  • 40-44: Now you’re arriving. You are getting older but feel invincible. You are a real partner or a vice president.
  • 45-50: Begin being marginalized at your company.
  • 51: Fight every day to avoid becoming a Wal-Mart greeter.

If you find this unduly grim, look around. How many guys over 50 do you see working around you? Outside of a few people who made it to the top, there aren’t many, are there?

The unfortunately reality offers some positive implications. How many people are afraid of taking career risks? Don’t you realize that working in “safe job” at a “stable corporation” is the biggest career risk you can take?

Imagine that your professional life is over at 50. Perhaps at 30 or 40 you will find a way to start your own business.

The best approach for a young man is to work at a soul-crushing career while he acquires capital. Stash cash and start looking into a side business. Treat yourself like an income-producing asset. Invest in yourself.  Instead of getting married and buying a white-picket fence for your little princess, buy an investment property.

Based on the numbers run by the most anal retentive person I know, investment properties don’t start paying off until about 10 years after you buy the property. But boy do they really start paying off.

If you’re building a business or buying properties in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, then it won’t matter if you are squeezed out in your 50s. Indeed, because you’ll have a safety net established, you’ll be able to attempt bigger jumps.

Do not buy into the hype you can screw around working 4 hours a week. Work hard while you are young and have energy. Sooner than you’ll want to believe, pulling an all-nighter will be a little taste of Hell.

Work hard while also looking for a way out. Don’t be afraid of taking career risks. If you fail, big deal.

You were already dead.

  • Interested

    Interesting post.. I am an 18 years old and consider if college is worth my time. I am in my first year and chose to go to a community college for 2 years instead of a four year to save money. What degrees do you think are worthwhile of my time? I want to own a business one day but as you mentioned need a way of generating capital..

    • Ed_PUA

      STUDY STEM. Science/ Technology/ Engineering/ Math. There will be two types of jobs in the future: Those where you tell a computer what to do & those where a computer tells you what to do.

  • rivsdiary

    good shit man

  • Erik

    damn right.

    if you do this right, you should be financially independent by age 50.

    It’s not that hard if you do it right, by which I mean save 30 to 50% of your income:

  • Maxx

    This is possibly the best post amongst many fine ones that you have made. I bought a house and an investment property in my twenties, married in my thirties and struggled to raise a family as an IT systems trainer. Now my family has grown and my investment is producing cash flow, which lets me train on a free lance basis: much less work but better remunerated with no stress. Life has never been better.

    Too much advice in the manosphere boils down to ‘give up’. Financial independence should be the goal of every man, it frees him from corporate tyranny, allows better decisions to be made without financial pressure and provides a parachute in case an unexpected bail out is needed.

    Be the hamster on the wheel while you have to but instead of buying that flash car on credit buy an investment property, unless of course you want to stay on that wheel but what are you going to do when a younger, fitter hamster comes along?

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  • Jeffrey

    Speak for yourself. I’m in an academic and medical field. In this field, while most accomplishments are made during a person’s 30s and 40s, the years of experience in diagnosing cases and teaching trainees makes one invaluable to the younger generation. I still look up to my mentor (who is in his mid to late 60s) and my department was eager to convince him to stay on part-time so they could still benefit from his contributions even though he wanted to retire. Granted, we spend our twenties and thirties in school or training but the situation you describe is clearly dependent on career. An extreme example is Robert DeBakey who continued to practice medicine into his 90s.

  • Simon Grey

    I mostly agree with this post. however, your advice to, “buy an investment property” strikes me as foolish advice, at least for the time being. The current legal climate in the United States is such that property rights are not secure at all. Over the past couple of years, banks have fraudulently foreclosed on a small number of properties that weren’t attached to any outstanding debt (i.e. the properties were owned outright, and not used as collateral), and these foreclosures were often rubber-stamped by corrupt or apathetic judges. Additionally, the current state of federal regulation is such that virtually everyone breaks the law on a daily basis (Harvey Silverglate details this in his book Three Felonies a Day), and one consequence of this is that one can basically be stripped of one’s property at will if you have the bad fortune of angering a LEO or bureaucrat. Thus, I would not recommend owning an investment property since the return on investment is not immediate, and you are not guaranteed to even keep your property at any given point in the future.

    Starting your own business, though, is a much better idea because you have more control over things. You can control how much you earn (and thereby control how much you pay in taxes), and it’s pretty easy to dissolve the business or go underground if the federal government or your state government becomes too progressive in its regulations and taxes. Plus, you’ll always have a skill at your disposal, which means that if all else fails, all you need to do is develop a network and get to work (yes, I know that’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s a hell of a lot more manageable than being an old, washed-up paper-pusher).

  • Simon Grey

    One other thing: demographics will be slightly different for future 50-year-olds. The reason why current 50-year-olds are getting pushed of jobs is because the current labor supply is the largest it’s ever been, thanks to the effects of above-replacement-level birth rates coupled with lax immigration policies. Since the birth rate in America has been low for some 15-20 years, and given that immigration levels are receding, it’s likely that the supply of labor will be relatively smaller thirty years down the road, which means that older guys will have more bargaining power with employers. Employment market conditions are never static, so it’s generally unwise to assume that the current situation will continue indefinitely.

    That aside, it’s still a good idea to follow the advice in your post because a) mass immigration is still a distinct future possibility and b) it’s always easier to make a career for yourself when your young than when your old. Your energy levels and mental dexterity are off the charts, and you can take far more risks. You do not, under any circumstances, want to be playing the young man’s game when you’re 50.

  • vsoze

    Great piece. The Ghost Dog quote goes along well with it and the frame of mind we should keep. Always. This is timeless.

  • Tim

    Absolutely correct. I speak from experience, as a 52 year old.

    I got a degree, worked for a few years, then took a few years off. I value the experience of traveling the world. But, it hurt my career and set me back farther than the actual time I took off. That’s a consequence and a cost you need to consider. By the time I was 30, I had zero bank, but a lot of good memories.

    I was successful enough once I re-entered the job market, but it took longer and was harder than I expected to find that point of entry. Then Internet came along — a once in a generation event you can’t bank on. I led a great team, and I was for several years the oldest guy in the room. Not bad. Then the bust came, and, for reasons beyond my control — and there are such events — the corporation shut down. It’s hard to find work in your 40s. Many of my friends who are talented and hard working, faced the same dilemma. I started my own gig. I’m doing fine, now. But it sucked, hard, for a few years. I run mean and lean, and there is very little margin for error.

    The other thing that people tell you — but that never sank in — was just how fast you hit fifty. Blink of an eye. Turn around and, boom! You’re there. If you don’t die.

    Now, I don’t feel decrepit. I think a lot of that pissing and moaning about age is bullshit designed to neutralize otherwise healthy men. You start buying that, and you’ll be looking for a rocker when you hit 45, and that would be a damn shame. I work out, eat right, juice, take DHEA and feel much as I did in my 30s. Also, if you read the classics, you’ll find that men in their 50s were considered in the prime of their lives. Not today, and not in our society, really, but you need to have a historical view of aging, or you’d think you were toast by the time you hit 25 or 30 — which seems laughable to me, especially in my maturity.

    But, what does happen is the temptation to slack off becomes greater.

    So hit it while the fires are burning hot. Plan ahead, because, believe it or not, the future arrives.

    At the speed of light.

    And about that degree — consider that the people advocating this are generally well connected through their families, their social class and their own colleges. It’s a nice idea that you could side step all the expense and bullshit, and it is possible. But you’d have to be an exceptional person to make it work. I learned a lot in college, both in and outside the classroom. Do it right, and you’ll be much farther ahead than you could be on your own.

  • Rob

    Guest post? My father is 62 and still working as a pharmacist. Americans will always need their drugs.

  • Matt

    Traditional college is a suckers bet. Before graduating high school a student should spend a couple of summers taking CLEP and DANTES/DSST tests. Before even getting a high school diploma having 60-80 hours of college credit is easy. Then find a school that will do lots of other credit by examination. At this point getting a Batchelor’s degree should take 12-18 months. If you need more credentials, a Master’s should take 12-24 months.

    As far as being washed up at 50, I’m 55 and I’m still in strong demand in the IT business. Besides being a lot more personable than a lot of younger geeks, I also emphasize my interest in making things run very smoothly. COmpanies that want heros aren’t interested and the ones that actually want to get things done are very interested.

  • Brent Encens

    This post really made me stop and think. But it also made me realize you’re placing a high value on status and competition. I would like to hear from men in their 50s how important they think it is to compete for status as a younger man. So much stress, and for what? Surely there is some form of alpha to be found outside the rat race, even if it isn’t quite the same thing.

  • Danos

    Spot on post Danger. I’ve only really starting to find traction on the career path at age 28. Still a bit of time, but I felt a sense of urgency earlier this year. My dad always told me that your 30s are the most hectic time of your life, so make sure your shit is in order when that time comes. Thankful for that, working on the side hustles as we speak and hopefully if I can avoid accidentally knocking up some slut, life will continue to be golden!

  • damngringo

    I agree with the general sentiment of the post. It took me less than a year to realize that I don’t want to work at a “large successful company”, so I’m working to start out on my own.

    But there is a caveat. The case in point of your post – a guy in his 50s being squeezed out just took a wrong career turn. As you grow older, you should increase your personality value – reputation, connections, network, i.e. become irreplaceable for the kind of person you are, not for what you actually produce. If your market value of your product drops (it makes sense to hire new grads to work on new technology at Google for half the price tag of that guy), you have to compensate for that in one way or the other. Don’t do it – and you’re out. It has always been like that.

    Also, I’ve recently been in a corporate meeting with a 50 y/o or so IT Director. His knowledge and skills were way out of date, and his job could be more efficiently completed by a grad / mid level specialist for fraction the cost to the company.

    • damngringo

      Also, college / university allows you to meet LOTS of people and learn how to behave in social situations. There are still some weirdos and creeps (womanese) who graduate, but their proportion is significantly lower than among those never pursuing a degree. Most of people without are degree are likely at some level to be perceived as socially awkward (based on my personal experience of meeting hundreds of people).

      Talking at length about ridiculous topics like the upperclassmen do is a fine art, believe me.

      • Strauss

        In STEM fields the most likely to graduate are socially awkward guys, the courses are hard and they left little spare time to socialize and interact with LOTS of people.

        • damngringo

          Fair enough, and that also enforces the point that the education system is tuned to mass-produce the office fodder for large companies, irrespective of a degree title. Large companies need neither well-connected engineers, nor socially awkward managers.

          The ones who break out these norms or deeply specialize achieve status & success in their respective fields.

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  • Tim

    @Brett: Status is relative. An army colonel is high status within his group; outside, it depends. Same with a college professor, an artist, or an engineer. There are only a few universally high status occupations. That said, status counts. You can be as Zen as you like, but you’ll want to feel you’re making progress on what matters to you. That might be being a corporate SVP or building log cabins.

    @Damngringo: Agreed that social intelligence is key, but you still have to have hard skills to sell. So I see both the point you make and that of @Matt. Older men bring perspective and balance and the proven ability to see projects through. But unless those qualities are allied to other skills, you’re vulnerable.

    What counts is working on yourself at any age. I’ve seen lots of guys give up as early as their mid-thirties, bloat up and die on the inside.

  • Ed

    I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of stashing cash and building up investment properties/ separate income streams. I have seen older guys “pushed out”. This definitely motivated to keep stashing cash and working towards my first investment property. I did want to add some perspective on the college part. College isn’t always a “scam”, and it’s not cool to piss away your 20s, but many majors are worthless, so you really have to be careful with what major and school you go to, and use of student debt.

    Also, I’ve seen so many guys who did not go to college and made out extremely well because they were disciplined and were good at teaching themselves. The director of software development at my last company never went to college, made low six figures in his late 20s. I have two friends who have opened up their own shops doing web programming, both are doing great doing websites and now have their own employees. Same with real estate – I worked in IT for a company for a few years that trained investors in my city, a year long program (this was 07-10, quite an interesting time in RE). It was interesting seeing who would succeed and who wouldn’t. The guys who benefited the most were the non-college educated guys with jobs as handymen/plumbers/etc. They knew how to fix up the properties but were well-disciplined and were able hit the books to learn the accounting, finance, legal aspects of real estate. Those types would be quickly earning more investing part time (equity + cash) than they were from their regular gigs. The engineer/finance/IT guys with masters degrees, were obviously highly intelligent but they always tripped up. They didn’t know how to bargain/manage contractors, or just never took any action period because they were so risk-averse, academically-oriented. I saw this play-out literally, hundreds of times.

    I’m never going to hate on someone who decides to take time off and start grinding straight out of high school, in whatever line of work they want to do. The #1 key is drive, discipline, and the ability for self-study. For the guy coming out of high school who doesn’t know what he wants to do, and he’s going to need student loans for his education (IE no scholarships or parents), I’d say start with community college first and figure out so you have a plan before you load up on a bunch of non-dischargeable debt without a solid plan on how you are going to pay it back.

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