By Jonathon S. Platt
Web and social media editor
“Is it 5 ‘o clock yet?” “Oh how I hate Mondays.” “One more day until the weekend.” “I’m probably calling in sick tomorrow.”
These are phrases used to describe our time at work — something that, according to numerous studies, consumes more of our life than sleep. Every day at 8 a.m. the masses drag themselves into high rises, cubicles, factories and assembly lines and every day at 5 p.m. (sometimes 4:55 p.m.) the masses rejoicingly rush out the doors.
Work is something to despise. Work is what keeps us from what we love. And we’ve been taught there’s no way to escape the 9-to-5 grind.
For over a century now, we’ve been coaxed into believing that work is something we do to pay for the things we love: making art, helping the world and connecting with others.
Since first grade, each of us has been taught to show up on time, sit in an assigned seat, go where we’re told, produce what is asked and then leave. Then repeat, like shampoo.
The dream is to one day break free and become an artist — someone who makes their art for a living.
“I’m just waiting on the right person to pick me,” we tell ourselves.
This ideology can be traced back to the time of heavy industrialization. When educators and legislatures were piecing together public education policies, they asked factory owners how to expedite the process of educating dozens of children in a consistent fashion.
“Make it consistent, make it replicable, make it scalable,” was the answer. Intentions were honorable, but when factory processes are repeated in education, it only makes sense that mass-produced replicas of nearly the same student are what comes out.
As public education grew, standardized testing, uniform classroom seating and universal grading policies continually contributed to the one-size-fits-all mantra. From the perspective of a 1900 factory owner, the more alike his workers are, the more easily they can be replaced.
Students leave school having been told how to work, not how to think. Remember back to fifth-grade math, when you might have been told that it wasn’t the answer that mattered, it was the process.
That mindset enters the workforce and makes workers think of themselves as means to an end, instead of valuable pieces of the process.
We weren’t born to be cogs, but we’ve been molded into them.
Fewer and fewer people in America work in factories, but the idea is still the same: show up, do the work you’re told to do and then leave. Do what is needed with the least amount of resistance.
Even modern, highly praised business books, such as Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth Revisited,” promote the idea of replaceable employees for maximized productivity.
“If you’re model depends on highly skilled people, it’s going to be impossible to replicate,” he wrote. “The business model should be such that the employees needed possess the lowest possible level of skill necessary to fulfill the functions for which each is intended.”
Read that again: “… the lowest possible level of skill necessary to fulfill the functions.”
It’s no wonder that Mondays are so hated. Who wants to show up where you’re seen as a plug-and-play piece of a machine?
Because there have always been gatekeepers, people who let the selected in and keep the unworthy out, we’ve rarely gotten to make art for pay without numerous levels of red tape.
Until recently, you needed an agent to publish a book, a newspaper to mass-circulate your opinion or a television or radio station to have your voice broadcast. But now we’re in a new era.
You don’t have to wait for a gatekeeper to say yes. Go start a blog and tell the world your story or your opinion. Create a YouTube channel or a podcast and let the world hear your ideas.
What keeps more people from doing this — from betting the farm, swinging for the fences and being free?
Fear of failing. Fear that it’s not possible. Fear of going outside the norm. Fear of instability.
But, historically, until modern times, instability was life. We were hunters. Then we were farmers. Then we factory workers. Then we were button pushers.
Now, the gates are open, and we can all be artists. It’s a scam that you’ve got to stick around in the rat race.
You deserve to love showing up at 8 a.m. You deserve to love Mondays. You deserve to be cherished and invaluable, not treated like a replaceable cog.
So stop waiting around for someone to pick you. Pick yourself and go make art.