Don’t Pay Your Dues


Everyone’s always saying you have to “pay your dues” if you want to be successful and happy in life. I’m calling bullshit on that.


Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.


What does paying your dues even mean?

pay your dues, paying my dues

“My life sucked, so yours should, too.”

What I actually hear when someone tells me to pay my dues:  “My life sucked, so it’s only fair that yours should, too. Then when you’re my age, you’ll get a chance to buy pretty things and have life suck a little less.

Paying your dues generally means:

  • Doing shit work for a number of years until the people with better jobs and paychecks leave, retire, or die.
  • Doing meaningless busy work because your superiors don’t feel like doing it.
  • Taking years of high school and college classes that won’t help you do the job you want to do.
  • Being forced to struggle through an antiquated system to get from point A to point B, because that’s what the people at the top had to do and why should it be any easier for you?

What “Pay Your Dues” does NOT mean:

  • Mastering your craft after a number of years of hard work.
  • Completing your apprenticeship.
  • It’s not a way to prove your worth. You prove your worth by the quality of the work you do, not by how much you suffer and for how long.
paying your dues

Repent! PK-free since 1693.

Hard work is worth doing if it makes you better at your craft. The only “dues” you should pay should go right back into your own piggy bank.

Doctors, engineers, writers, architects, welders, artists, mechanics… all of these professions require years of study and practice to truly master. If you want to be good at the career you choose, you work hard to become good.

You don’t earn the “right” to do anything just because you suffer or work hard. Plenty of people suffer and work hard in this world, and it doesn’t earn them the right to anything extra. Suffering is not a necessary precursor to success or happiness in this life.

If you think it is, you’ve taken one too many swigs of the Puritan kool-aid. It’s time to ditch the PK and see that there is a better way.

Paying your dues to climb the corporate ladder

You want to climb to the top of the corporate ladder? If you really believe you’ve got the talent and skills to work your way up to a major leadership position in a company, then why not start your own company?

I get it. Starting a company from scratch is hard work, but at least you won’t be laying all your golden eggs for someone else.

I understand that job security is important, but job security is now mostly a footnote in the history of modern work.  You either learn to support yourself as a free agent, or you make yourself irreplaceable to any company (or so good that when your company lays you off, another one snatches you up right away).

You do this by “paying dues” into your own piggy bank. Spend your time working on your own skills, not by wasting your time jumping through the bullshit fiery hoops others have constructed before you. (Non-bullshit hoops that you must work through to further your skills and career are worth jumping through, of course.)

Truth: High school does not prepare you for college. College does not prepare you for “real life”.

Real life is real life. Real life is not memorizing facts to vomit onto xeroxed worksheets and then forget. Real life isn’t hanging out all day with people born in the same year as you. Real life isn’t putting up with assholes. In real life, you can almost always walk away from assholes. You aren’t stuck with them for 13 years straight.

If you’re lucky enough to be homeschooled or unschooled, you get to live real life every day.

Furthermore, most professionals agree that a four year college degree usually doesn’t prepare you for the job you’re going to do. It’s the fact that you sucked it up and slogged through that matters to them. That’s what earns their respect.

But why should “sucking it up” and “slogging through” earn anyone’s respect? What are you proving? You’re proving you’re willing to put up with bullshit and jump through fiery hoops. That’s a sign you’ll make a great entry level employee.  (It isn’t until approximately the 18th year of education– graduate school– that you’re finally able to specialize in any meaningful way and learn your craft.)

I was thinking about my priorities and what I believe in last night and I realized independence, flexibility, owning my work, and doing meaningful work top the list. I’ve heard people say that you can skip paying your dues as long as you’re willing to settle for less money and a lower level of success. I call bullshit on that, too, but maybe that’s better left for another post.

Your hours on this planet are limited. Don’t waste them doing soul-sucking, meaningless work that your superiors hate doing. Don’t wait for someone to die or retire to move up the chain and get paid more. Follow your heart, do what you love… and don’t sit around “playing it safe” and “paying your dues” for some future imaginary payoff.


What did you think?


Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field