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You know you have only one life…

Business man on pavement

Some fabulous career advice from George Monbiot.

  • Ultimately, you must make your own decisions: don’t allow me or anyone else to make them for you.
  • The first advice I would offer is this: be wary of following the careers advice your college gives you.
  • Even intelligent, purposeful people almost immediately lose their way in [corporate or institutional] worlds. They become so busy meeting the needs of their employers and surviving in the hostile world into which they have been thrust that they have no time or energy left to develop the career path they really wanted to follow.
  • How many times have I heard students about to start work for a corporation claim that they will spend just two or three years earning the money they need, then leave and pursue the career of their choice? How many times have I caught up with those people several years later, to discover that they have acquired a lifestyle, a car and a mortgage to match their salary, and that their initial ideals have faded to the haziest of memories, which they now dismiss as a post-adolescent fantasy? How many times have I watched free people give up their freedom?
  • Whenever you are faced with a choice between liberty and security, choose liberty. Otherwise you will end up with neither.
  • Start how you mean to go on. This is unlikely, for a while, to be self-financing, so you may need to supplement it with work which raises sufficient money to keep you alive but doesn’t demand too much mental energy. If you want to write about the Zapatistas in Mexico, earn the money required to get you out there and start covering them. If you want to make it pay, you must be enterprising.
  • Be prepared to live and travel as cheaply as possible: for my first four years as a freelancer I lived on an average of five thousand pounds a year. In seven years working in the poor world, I managed to keep my expenses down to three thousand pounds a year. This is a good discipline for any freelancer, however well you’re doing. If you can live on five thousand pounds a year, you are six times as secure as someone who needs thirty thousand to get by.
  • Work hard, but don’t rush. Build up your reputation slowly and steadily. And specialisation, for all they tell you at journalism school, is, if you use it intelligently, not the trap but the key to escaping from the trap. You can become the person editors think of when they need someone to cover a particular issue from a particular angle (that is to say, your angle). They then respond to your worldview, rather than you having to respond to theirs. It’s surprising how quickly you can become an “expert” in a particular field: simply because so few other journalists know anything about it. You will find opportunities, and opportunities will find you.
  • All the money, all the prestige in the world will never make up for the loss of your freedom.
  • So my final piece of advice is this: when faced with the choice between engaging with reality or engaging with what Erich Fromm calls the “necrophiliac” world of wealth and power, choose life, whatever the apparent costs may be. Your peers might at first look down on you: poor Nina, she’s twenty-six and she still doesn’t own a car. But those who have put wealth and power above life are living in the world of death, in which the living put their tombstones – their framed certificates signifying acceptance to that world – on their walls. Remember that even the editor of the Times, for all his income and prestige, is still a functionary, who must still take orders from his boss. He has less freedom than we do, and being the editor of the Times is as good as it gets.
  • You know you have only one life. You know it is a precious, extraordinary, unrepeatable thing: the product of billions of years of serendipity and evolution. So why waste it by handing it over to the living dead?

You can read the full article here.
Thank you, Rob, for alerting me to this piece.

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  1. Martin McQuaide Posted

    interesting piece al.

  2. Good stuff.

    Where was he living that only cost £3k per annum!?

  3. ANDREW Posted

    I just with that someone had expressed this about liberty and security when I was 18!


  4. Can think of a few places I’ve been where it’s pretty easy to live for £3,000 a year. Just avoid North America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and a few others and you should be alright.

    Vaguely recall this guy making some smart comments in the Traveller’s Handbook….just picking it off the shelf now…yes…about tourism eroding local culture. I like this quote from a Maasai man “We have ceased to be what we are; we are becoming what we seem.”

    Al, I am having a go at your suggested Summer of Adventure fundraising thing. Here’s what I came up with:

  5. A very core Buddhist philosophy, good stuff, it really gives one confidence that there are many intelligent people out there who think the same way I do. George sounds like a person I’d like to have a drink with.

  6. This is one of my favourite things on the internet. Hunter S Thompson gives cracking career / life advice too:



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