What Does It Mean to Escape the 9 to 5?

escape the 9 to 5

Escaping the 9 to 5, it sounds nice right? But what does it really mean? I’ve spent the last seven years trying to figure it out. In my humble opinion to truly Escape the 9 to 5 one must:

—Work as an entrepreneur, freelancer or creative

—Master delegation and the 80/20 principle

—Enjoy freedom of location, even if you don’t act on it

—Embrace wonder and the simple joys

Okay, now let’s break it down. I write this as much for myself as for anyone else; because as I sit here in my local cafe by the beautiful South Park district of San Francisco I am restarting my own escape from the 9 to 5…

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Limitations: the Entrepreneur’s Friend

Limitations are the entrepreneur’s friend. This is often not the way it first seems. People say “if only” a lot.

If only I had a little investment capital… 

If only I was born into a family of means…

If only I didn’t have a mortgage and kids in college…

If only I had a technical cofounder…

If only… then my dreams would come to fruition.

Fortunately for the majority of us without unlimited means, or unfortunately for those who were born Luksic’s and Arnault’s, human creativity and ingenuity seem to flourish when limitations are present.

The human race built most nobly when limitations were greatest and, therefore, when most was required of imagination in order to build at all. – Frank Lloyd Wright

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The Corporate Ladder: Climbing Versus Building Your Own

corporate ladder
One of the first things that propelled me to begin my escaping the 9 to 5 journey was horrifying concept of having to “climb the corporate ladder”. I knew as a young women that if I entered the traditional workforce I would most likely deal with glass ceilings, and most definitely have to deal with corporate bureaucracy.

The idea was off-putting to a lackluster student who already had trouble dealing with authority figures I (rightly or wrongly) perceived as incompetent and had no ability to schmooze corporate types. I knew I’d have gotten nowhere flat trying to climb a ladder that hopefully led to a position that provided enough income and autonomy to enjoy life.

Then one day, as learned more about entrepreneurship through reading biographies of people I admired, the concept hit me: why climb a corporate ladder when you could just build your own?

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Happiness Islands and the 80/20 Principle

happiness islands

Happiness Island… say what? I wrote this post originally seven years ago, and may not have happened back upon it if it wasn’t for Pat Flynn’s recent podcast on deleting/re-visiting old content (if you have a blog, it’s definitely worth a listen).

Many of my original posts make me cringe; the writing, the bravado, the idea that my 23 year old self had so much to *teach* others… all makes me LOL now (as perhaps this will again in ten years). This post, however, made me re-assess my own Happiness Islands and I wanted to share the concept with you.

The concept comes from the book The 80/20 Principle, one of my staple “must reads” and a modern understanding of Pareto’s Law. The gist is that 80% of results come from 20% of input. This applies to business, economics, agriculture, crime and even personal happiness.

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How Varied Interests Super Charge Innovation.

How you super charge innovation…

Though focus is vitally important to creating anything (be it a business or work of art), there is no rule that says you must focus on only one thing—instead you must focus on only one thing at a time.

There is a large body of both research, and common sense, that draws connections between having various interests and a heightened ability to innovate. Sometimes this concept is called “the cross pollination of ideas“, I personally call it my-attention-span-is-about-90-minutes-so-I-have-to-switch-it-up-alot-ism.

I’ve written in the past that the more we work, the less productive we are, which is backed up by the science of the ultradian rhythm. Since adjusting my own schedule to not “force” myself to work more than 90 minutes straight, and to take breaks in between these work sprints, my productivity, creativity and general well being has gone waaay up.

ultradian rhythm - super charge innovation

In addition I now encourage myself to have multiple interests going on at once, so in a given day I may work on 2 to 3 various projects, switching back and forth between 90 minute blocks. The crazy part is these varied interests actually inspire innovation among each other far more than would happen if I was focused on one thing alone.

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6 Things You Don’t Want in a Virtual Assistant

virtual assistant
I’ve had a virtual assistant, often several, for the past 7 years. I fell in love the concept of delegation the moment I heard it quantified on the IBMA podcast, and then gobbled up every piece of content I could get my hands on—the best being Tim Ferriss’ now legendary The Four Hour Workweek.

That passion for delegation and working virtually led me to start Zirtual.com 5 years ago. Today, though I’m no longer involved with the company, I still am an avid virtual assistant user and crazy-delegator.

I was thinking this morning as I completed my morning ritual that everyone talks about what you *should* look for in a new hire, but just as important is what you *don’t* want.

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Why Mortality Makes Life Worth Living


At TED this year they ended the final day of talks with a reminder of mortality. A fictional monologue was given from a character living hundreds of years in the future—in a future where human beings live 500+ years and death is seen as a failure. She talks of how perfect her world of near-mortality was, until her wife gets diagnosed with cancer and is “sent back to Earth to die”. Her wife takes dying with grace, and embraces her own mortality, whereas the narrator has a harder time accepting the inevitable.

The moral of the story was an obvious one: in a world where humans live longer and longer—and immortality is just around the corner—life becomes bland and pointless.

Death gives life a due date. Our human existence is bookmarked by birth, when we come into this world, and death, when we depart it. If life is a train route, death is the end of the line.

I could write a lot more on why it’s “right” or healthy to embrace your mortality and on the current debates on “curing aging” versus aging gracefully. But instead (since as of this writing we have not found a way to be immortal) let’s just all agree on the fact that we are all going to die.

That being said… ENJOY YOUR LIFE.

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Purposeful Disconnection

purposeful disconnectionToday I had to tap a grown man on the shoulder and ask him to more or less “move it or lose it” in line for the water fountain. When the gentleman in question queued up, with a line growing behind him, began texting furiously and whilst doing so completely forgot the world beyond his cell phone.

One reason I jump at any chance to get out of the country is because it’s an opportunity for purposeful disconnection. I refuse to buy an international plan and instead limit my device use to wifi hotspots. This means that driving around a new city, walking to get coffee, waiting for the subway—all take on new meaning. I get absorbed in the sights, smells and sounds—versus focusing in on whatever or whoever demands my intention through my phone.

Something magical happens after hours of purposeful disconnection: inspiration hits.

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The Power of a Daily Ritual

maren kate daily ritualI’ve had a daily ritual for a long time now, but fallen off the wagon occasionally. Normally these tumbles coincide with a particularly reactive time in my life, and when I look back I can see the havoc it wreaks.

After Zirtual I found myself incredibly grateful for my daily ritual. It gave me a semblance of order when the rest of my life was in chaos, and after several months it allowed me to restart my entrepreneurial mind and begin the process of building my next tribe.

Today I’ll share with you my daily ritual; feel free to borrow what you like, or create your own. I highly recommend the making your bed and meditation part—but all else can be swapped or moved around.

The first daily ritual: make your bed.

It might seem too small to matter, but starting your day by making your bed gives you a sense of accomplishment. This gives you an instant feeling of success and the feeling that you are on top of things. You feel organized and ready to take on the day. This two minutes of work sets the tone for the rest of the day. Jennifer Wasylenko explained why this exists in her article on productivity.

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OH SNAP! Or, How I Learned to Stop Hating on it and Love Snapchat.


One of my mentors told me a while back I needed to get on Snapchat. My first response was “I’m not 14 and don’t need to send naked pics…,” paired with a roll of the eyes and that holier-than-thou voice we all affect when rebuffing the latest trend. But as Snapchat has continued to blow up I finally decided to join, more from FOMO than anything else. Over the holiday break I started toying with the app and after some failed attempts at mastering the UI—I was hooked.

First off: Stop saying you are too old.

If I had a dollar for each time someone who was born before 1985 says “I’m too old for this” in regards to Snapchat, or any new technology really, I could fund my Starbucks habit for a few solid months.

As the Buddha said:

The mind is everything. What you think you become.

You aren’t “too old” to learn a new technology, even one with a confusing UI learning curve like Snapchat: you are either too lazy or too scared.

If you’re too lazy, that’s fine, just don’t complain when new tech and ways of connecting pass you and your business by. For a while, I too was in the lazy camp (which is my usual base camp before attacking any new social network). After poking around, watching some videos made by tweens, and asking a 16 year old for pointers—voila! Snapchat usability mystery solved.

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