Living on the fast track

ImagesI know a young woman who was zooming up the fast track, living life in the fast lane, working like a dog and found herself exhausted and in a life she wasn't so sure she wanted.  What did she do?  She jumped ship.  It took a shit load of courage and guts but she did it and the last time I saw her she was literally beaming as if the entire weight of the world had just come off her shoulders. 

She sent me this article that was in the WSJ this week, Single and Stepping off the Fast Track.  It isn't just women with children who are taking a step back but others as well.  This article is one of the many conversations I have been having over the past few weeks starting with what will the word career mean in the next 5 or 10 years.

I am looking at businesses such as 3rd Ward and Windowfarms where community as well as a return to our roots although with a 2012 urban twist is happening.  At 3rd Ward there are classes from jewelry making to sewing to photography to urban ecology.  These are classes that expand our creative genes and connect with a community.  At Windowfarms, there is a virtual community that discusses their own techniques and skills on how to grow your own garden. 

Perhaps people are looking around at the intensity of how we work and are constantly connected and are taking a step back wanting to simplify and enjoy their life through something that they are truly passionate about.  I am not so sure we are slowing down but we are shifting.  We are moving into the next generation post-2008 when the world imploded.  We might be slowly coming out of that time but the economy, the Internet, the world is a very different place.  The changes are subtle now but in a few years we will see them more intensely as the generation graduating from college now makes their mark on the world and the ones jumping off their career paths.

A bold move for someone to get off the fast track because they want a life style shift not because because they are having children or settling into family life.  The question is how they take that empowering shift and live their lives. 



Comments (Archived):

  1. Cam MacRae

    There are two currencies in my life: money and time. Money is a strange beast. If you don’t have any life can be pretty tough, but you don’t need to make a mountain of it before making more becomes a fairly marginal proposition.Time on the other hand is finite and precious. You can’t make more of it, but you can choose to utilise what you have left in ways that enrich your life and the lives of those you love.Over the past 30 or 40 years our society has come to place far too much weight on making money. Odd then, that you never hear the dying wish for anything but more time.I hope this stepping off the fast-track represents a fundamental shift in societal attitudes, and not simply a survival strategy while we wait out the great-recession.

    1. Gotham Gal

      every time we travel to europe, we are all so enamored with the lifestyle. obviously it has been smoke and mirrors for years as financially it obviously does not work yet the enjoyment of time and life are apparent. there needs to be a balance of both worlds.

      1. Cam MacRae

        It hasn’t worked for Europe because under the single currency the highly productive core has held costs stable to inflation, but on the periphery costs have continuously risen at a fair clip without a corollary increase in productivity. Add a liberal dash of global financial crisis, shake, and serve chilled to Brussels. They knew it was coming, just as they knew from day one that the books had been cooked, but such was their ambition to become an economic superpower they wilfully ignored it. The Greeks actually work longer hours than the Germans.But to your point, I agree, balance is everything. I really don’t think there is anything wrong with striving to make money beyond the point of necessity, so long as striving to make money is something you enjoy. But if you don’t, go find something you’re passionate about.

        1. panterosa,

          @cammacrae:disqus  I have a BFF who is German and can attest to his countrymen working less hours. But he works smarter. PS He could Never move back – he now is 20 years in NYC doing turbo German in NYC. Rocket fuel!!My mother is ENglish and I was raised in Europe during my teens and twenties on and off. Yes, there is something to be said for less go, go, go. My mother, just back from Paris, loved that one and all were NOT on their phones.I totally agree on time and money, in your previous comment, as the only currencies to balance. Trying to get my 10 year old up to that balance very quickly. Fortunately, many only children of amicable divorces are great listeners and want to participate in their household’s greater goals. With a startup mom, whom fortunately she is very proud of, she is being raised in an #awesome household a la Grimlock. We have very little kickback here – just a lot of go chase it if it’s fun and intrigues you. That is part of the time money balance no?

          1. Cam MacRae

            Germans as a general rule work smarter – for example, a worker in the US has to work an additional eight 40 hour weeks per year to achieve the same productivity on average as their German counterpart. If your German friend can sustain that kind of productivity advantage in NYC then he must be quite the powerhouse.Time is best spent doing something you enjoy; sounds like you’ve created an awesome environment for your little tacker. 

  2. Jim B

    I think you are picking up on a combination of long term changes in the economy and responses by different generations. We all know the steady 40 year career path with the nice pension and retirement at the end probably started disappearing 15+ years ago. That is old news to everyone. The big wake up for many has been the long term changes in the economy and world of work since the 1999-2001 boom.  Like many in the middle of my career over the last 10 years (35-45 years old) I have been through not one economic course correction but multiple economic cycles. I work really hard in the corporate world but I have drastically changed my outlook. I’m keeping personal overhead low, spending spare time doing stuff I am passionate about (sports etc) and building the skills I need to break out on my own. The bigger corporate title and nicer car in the garage don’t cut it anymore. Its all about being nimble and flexible to have more personal control.You are spot on when you say we are not slowing down, we are shifting. The world moves too fast to slow down, but we can all shift to get more personal control over our destinies. That is refreshing and energizing.

    1. Gotham Gal

      you are so right, it is about personal control.

      1. jerrycolonna

        I agree and I’d expand it by adding that one of the best ways to feel some relief is to feel like you’re the one calling the shots in your life (and not some twisted, warped, internalized metric of you are supposed to be). Getting off (or, perhaps, even on) the fast track does that for you.

        1. William Mougayar

          That’s so very true. It’s a liberating moment. 

  3. AG

    Happy you wrote this post. As someone in the very beginning stages of creating a career that will require a tremendous sacrifice of soul and time in exchange for a paycheck, I often wonder whether I’m making a mistake. There are so many warnings around me: older, single women who wanted to marry and raise a family, some of who did not and others who adopted an did so alone. The common denominator, the ones that have families, married of not, don’t have time to spend with them. I’m not sure what the answer is for a woman who wants to be financially independent, afford life in this great city, and be in a position to provide hair her children the best possible education. But he mentality certainly has shifted, and to some degree I think that has to do with being another generation removed from the depression era and those who immigrated from a position of poverty. Especially for those who have grown up privileged, there is a lot less to lose and fear.

  4. Morey Bean

    It truly is a fascinating time! With all the resources we have built as a nation, there’s no reason that we can’t “shift” to work hard spending every breath doing what’s important to us, working creatively toward financial security and time well spent. My post 2008 life has been one of major change and a constant search for a better daily and weekly time “budget”, which frankly eschews a serious 8 to 5, M to F cubicle, replacing it with several smaller endeavors, including high priority time for taking care of my body by taking time to eat right and to get lots of workouts and yoga in. We are so fortunate to have built an national infrastructure, both physical and creative to be able to live our hours smartly, as we build a new future for ourselves and for our nation. To me the new renaissance will be our primary role in spreading our wealth to the world. Hopefully we do that in a way that includes helping the world understand the importance of eating right and getting lots of exercise and doing lots of yoga.

  5. DLC

    I really can relate to this post. I was working at a “top” hedge fund in the city, putting in 15 hours of work a day and realized it just wasn’t worth it. Every day I’d walk by beautiful buildings and landmarks that people from all over the world visit to see, and I was too tired to appreciate them. So I “jumped the ship,” and decide to do my own thing. Now I can work when and how I want, and still have time to enjoy the city. Not only have I seen a monster productivity boost, but also an improvement in my health, my attitude, and passion for my work.

  6. William Mougayar

    Very important topic. I often wonder if the NA way of lifestyle is better or more enjoyable than the European one. Having a fast/slow life may or may not be related to the societal environment you’re in.

  7. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I relate businesses like 3rd Ward and WindowFarms to the upsurge in local crafting, sewing, gardening classes and groups. I went to my first sewing class at Craft Gym in SF several years ago – they had a waiting list to get in! I think these particular things have to do with the human need for the tactile, to use our hands. We were enamored with our computers for a long time, and then we realized that creativity on a computer is not the same as making something to wear, getting paint on our hands, soil under our nails, etc. No amount of creative activity on the computer can replace the satisfaction of doing something tactile (and relatively permanent), IMHO :0)

    1. Gotham Gal

      Agree. IMHO too

  8. Suzan B

    I spent 15 years slogging it out in the corporate world. As a single woman I found that I was often expected to work harder with the idea that I didn’t have anything else going on in my life (in reference to the WSJ article). I worked my rear end off only to discover that my employers weren’t loyal and I was just on a hamster track going nowhere. And? I was single with no social life. After the 5th and final layoff in just over 11 years I decided not to go back. I now work for myself, enjoying the time and freedom I have.  I still work hard but it’s on my terms and it’s doing work I love. I have also nearly replaced my income, am traveling more, dating and actually have a social life. Like the Gotham Gal I suspect the 2008 implosion has radically changed the way we look at careers. I like to call it Career 2.0 where more people work for themselves or have much more flexible arrangements AND it’s more acceptable.

    1. Gotham Gal

      it is all about being an entrepreneur. good for you!

  9. Emily Merkle

    I am at a weird place. I love love love what I do. It is my life. But my health is in the way.

  10. Walker

    I think part of the current zeitgeist is skepticism about the status quo. With sky high tuition, student loans, high unemployment, dubious social security, underwater mortgages I think the pragmatic approach is not to buy into the system which for many (other than the marketable, highly talented and lucky) seems less like a sure thing and more like a long shot.  The current ethic is one of self determination and responsibility. But at the end of the day we all hope, hurt, fear and aspire the same – men, women, young old, etc – always have and always will… 

  11. Emily Merkle

    I am making a life shift as we speak. I have worked in business development and such in media for as long as I can remember, and it’s a hella fast lifestyle. Right now we own our own ad network. I am stepping off. I am going to start working on a bigger cause that is reflective of my education, passion, etc. I have thought about it for a while…I am stoked. It is an effort to make a change to our education system to teach kids How to think instead of just what to think; to tie in mobile gaming technology, and to endeavor to foster empathy and leadership along the way. <whew>. I am going to start to work on networking in gov’t and crafting a loose curriculum. Anyone want to play?

    1. panterosa,

      Emily, interested in your downshift. You made a comment a little while back on the games I’m working on. Connect with me on

      1. William Mougayar

        I like the “Connect with me on”. Cool 🙂

        1. panterosa,

          Of Course!!

  12. Deirdre

    Great story!  I applaud this woman who made this shift. I couldn’t agree more that 2008 has changed things, forever?  We’ll see.  Although I think in many respects there was pent up “demand” for a shift, there were just no external forces that unleashed the demand, until 2008.  I did research in grad school on consumption and the environment and was very interested in Juliet Schor’s work (see The Overspent American).  As a solid  believer in manufacturing, productivity (making things), and a serious environmentalist, I struggle with the notion of needing to be productive, having a vibrant economy, while balancing consumption, time, and environmental considerations.  How to reconcile all this?  Love the discussions here.  

  13. panterosa,

    @gothamgal:disqus  Loving the promotion of the non type A. Many are cut out for that……and many are not, and need to recognize that. My feeling is that actually, many entrepreneurs are not as type A as thought, and more into simply following their own thing, on their own schedule. Bravo!