is it really a rat race?


I’m not a hater.  I do not loathe having had a corporate job. I don’t intend to turn everyone against the idea of a corporate job, which many define as a pointless pursuit of nothing and little reward. In fact, I might return to one myself sooner or later—but definitely with a clearer vision of why I am there.

Many of us were brought up with the framework of school, exams, more school, more exams, then job, then better job, then another job, then better get a fxxking good job to pay the bills and support the lifestyle you want. I had that framework engrained in my head since I could remember. Art lessons were full of “draw your future career” and the likes. We were told doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers, were respectable jobs. If not maybe nurse or teacher; and something a bit out of the world? An astronaut perhaps?

But how come no one told me about being a chef, a traveller, an author, a librarian, an entrepreneur, an anthropologist, a theologist, a bus driver? Maybe because these careers do not bring in as much income as some other positions….?
Really, it shouldn’t really matter what we do, as long as we don’t fall into the trap of running the rat race – striving everyday in the workplace to maintain or improve our position, our rewards, our benefits, and our titles. We network, we make alliances, we gossip – or if not, at least we listen to it in case we miss out on anything. Malicious people intentionally try to bring down others. If you are lucky like I was, we avoided them and no one crossed our paths as such. We go home everyday to our big house and think how lucky we are, and we gloat in front of our friends.

corporate life, international executive, reputation, stress, mental health, depression, suicide

We are jovial on the outside, but deep inside we silently scream: why?

Why have a few million RMB in assets and still want to make money like crazy so you can go travelling – what is the problem with going travelling now? Why let work become the excuse of not joining a friend on a holiday? Why a conference call at 11pm? Why no sleep for 36 hours working on a pitch book?

We live to work, that’s why.

We have our priorities upside down inside out, that’s why.

We think we are doing the “right” thing, that’s why.

But we neglect ourselves, our real selves. We forget our interests and passions.

The famous saying goes, that even if you win, you are still a rat. It conjures up an amusing image in my head, where famous CEOs of international corporations are little mice running around in a maze. It’s a pretty comical sight. In other words, even if you have reaped everything material you can from the job you are doing, you are still cheating yourself.

That said, if your calling is to work in a corporate, then so be it. Flourish and prosper. Just don’t let a job take control of you and rule your life.

It’s not really a rat race if you don’t let it become one.

33 Responses

  1. The Vizier says:

    Hi Noch Noch,

    I agree with you. A corporate job is not really a rat race if we do not let it become one.

    Like you, I was told that doctors, bankers and accountants were respectable jobs. My father hated lawyers and politicians so he warned me about going down those paths. 😛

    Indeed it was always about finding a good job, having a house and money and so on.

    That said, I feel that each of us have different roles in life. Some of us are destined for corporate jobs. Maybe they love the power, the money and so on. Others like me simply cannot find any meaning in corporate jobs.

    I thought it was the way to go but ended up sucking at it. I suppose I simply lack the drive and have no interest in doing something that is not meaningful. We Aries need to have that passion and meaning thing. Without it, we cannot sustain our interest for long I suppose.

    So this works out find in the cosmic scheme of things. Each of us will find the role that is best suited for us given our natures and circumstances. Then the world keeps on spinning. The important thing for us to take away from this is to find something we are passionate about no matter what that might be. This allows us to do what we enjoy which makes it easier for us to be happy in the long run.

    It’s not about doing better or having more than others. It is about doing what we love and helping others along if we can. Life is not really a rat race if we do not let it become one.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! 🙂

    Irving the Vizier

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Irving

      I think that hits it home – it’s about doing what we love and helping others along if we can! Yes, i think if people enjoy the corporate job then why not. As long as they know why you they are doing it. My issue was that I didn’t know why I was doing it, and it seemed to just sustain me and not fulfil me. I’m glad i’m out now. and finding myself through other means!

      Thanks again for being my loyal reader here!!!

      Noch Noch

  2. Annie Andre says:

    Noch Noch,
    this is serendipity. I am working on a post about “the 9 to 5 mentality: why i hate it”
    I won’t reiterate what you already know. But i find it hard to tell people from my world how i feel, because they think it’s almost unpatriotic to say that i would rather spend more time with my family, or doing something fulfiling than continue to work like a dog so that i can pay for my expensive lifestyle.
    I think once you are in the rat race, it’s hard to not get sucked in. I only got out because of layoffs in 2007. i miss my six figure income but not the rat race.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Annie

      Hahah – i do miss my income too sometimes, but then i think, now i have time to take care and have a dog, write, learn calligraphy and the Chinese gu zheng, cook.. and sleep!!!!
      so these things are not comparable to any income i can get. life is so much more than the bank account number.
      I look forward to your article – and it’s true, it’s more a mentality, some people can work 9 to 5 but sitll have a fulfilling life, that’s why i’m not against the job, but the mentality too!

      Noch Noch

      • The Vizier says:

        Wow you know how to play the Chinese gu zheng? That’s awesome! I must listen to you play one day.

        Maybe you could play it and post it on your website as soothing music for your readers to download. Maybe some free, maybe others for a small fee.

        It would certainly be different! 😀

        • nochnoch says:

          Hi Irving

          Well – I’m learning, so can’t really play anything yet. but that’s a great idea hahaha – when I can play a tune…

          Noch Noch

  3. Vlad says:


    Reading your posts is like having a good dessert – I can’t wait to finish it all, and then regret that it’s gone…

    Indeed, my experience with the corporate job is that of a rat race. My problem was that I saw right through it and couldn’t embrace it no matter how much I was getting paid.

    At catered corporate meetings I would find myself drifting off, daydreaming of more esoteric pursuits…

    I was able to scale down my possessions and my expenses and escape the race… at least for now.

    Take care!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Vlad

      How flattering!!! Thanks!!! hehe 🙂

      Ah i used to day dream too, but my ambition to climb the ladder over took. I think i was too hungry for power and titles, thinking that they defined me. But one day when asked why, i had no answer. to the extent that i nearly walked out on a client meeting one day because I was so tired of smiling simply

      I’m scaling down my expenses too. Somehow, these expenses i once had, don’t seem so important any more these days. PErspectives have changed. Attitude has changed.

      Let’s realize our esoteric pursuits together !

      Noch Noch

  4. Om in Mom says:

    Great post, Noch Noch!

    I agree. There are so many more options for earning a living than we are taught in school, by our parents, peers, etc. We have to go within to find our true selves and trying different things helps us work out the path for us. I am truly loving the process!

    Hey, I was interested in this post because it spoke to me -I also had a corporate career in the past, and I am passionate about the subject of “finding yourself”, but then I read your profile below and was surprised to see we have had other similar experiences (e.g. I’ve lived in quite a few different countries too, including the UK -where I’m from- France, and Japan!) I’m glad I came across your site today.

    Hope you are well.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Om in Mom

      What a coincidence!!! When were you in France and Japan? I was in Paris as a student for a year and also for work 05/06, and then Tokyo 06-09! Hahah maybe we have somehow crossed paths and we meet here again. Thanks for coming by

      It’s also hard to go within ourselves, because some of it is so ugly and it was hard for me to face. But slowly coming to terms with who I am, and it’s exhilarating and refreshing

      So what do you do these days?

      Noch Noch

      • Om in Mom says:

        Hi Noch Noch!

        I was in Japan 1995-8 (Osaka though) and Paris in 2002. I think my nomadic days are over for a while – I met a lovely Spanish man and stayed in Spain and we now have two boys. I love Madrid though. Have you ever been?

        My corporate days are over, although I recently had a little taster again, but as a freelancer -which was wonderful because after a few madly busy days I could slide back to my quieter life, working for myself from home, which I’ve done for the last 5 years since having kids. I translate and proofread, and more recently I also write for EFL companies here in Madrid. I’m loving trying new things and getting closer to my dreams! There are many many ways of making a living, and if we spend time finding our passion and improving our talents really powerful things can happen.

        Looking forward to reading more.
        Louisa x

        • nochnoch says:

          Hi Louisa

          Thanks for the reply – hahaah I think my nomadic days are finished for a while now. I’m too tired to move and really don’t have the energy! I did visit Madrid before, and Barcelona
          I went when I was studying in Paris. So much fun. I had a friend from Madrid so we stayed with him, eating dinner late, flamenco shows and all that Was so fun!!!!

          I hope also it will happen to me – that improving my talent and passion it will turn into something powerful for me too

          Glad to know it worked for you. Gives me encouragement!

          Noch Noch

  5. Justin Mazza says:

    Hi Noch,
    I worked in the Corporate World for 15 years so I can totally relate to what you are saying here. I am not a hater of the Corporate World either and I have even met a few people that actually like/love their “jobs.”

    I have always been of the entrepreneurial mindset tough even when I had a job. I like to earn money and have a career on my own terms including deciding when and how much I will work.

    I don’t regret working in the Corporate world because of the experience but I probably would not go back to it.

    Jobs wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t take up so much of our time. Think about how much time people spend everyday getting dressed for work, commuting to work, actually being at work, and then going home. For most it is 5 days a week 52 weeks a year minus vacation, Holidays and sick days.

    At the end of working when it is time to retire people are exhausted and regret spending so much of their time working.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Justin

      Good to hear from you here again 🙂 So honoured you took some time to drop by my little bog!

      Me too, I don’t regret having been in the corporate world because it has taught me skills too! I don’t know if i would go back yet, since i’m not at a point where i have to make a choice. right now i’m focused on getting better and finding what i love. But if i went back it’d be a different mind set, and it’d have to be flexible enough to cater for my lifestyle choices

      That’s the irony though isn’t it, at the end of working, we all wonder why we work so much. Yet, it’s hard to raelly tell people something if they are not ready to hear it. Sometimes, when my friends say, they can’t do XX coz of work, i’m very tempted to ask them why they can’t spend time with me because of work, or why they are bound by how many days leave they have. But those who are not ready to find out for themselves will be deaf to it. So I guess we just tell them our experience and let the rest be done naturally.

      Thanks again for your thoughts and coming by
      Noch Noch

  6. It’s all about the mindset and what one can comprehend. I spent a considerable amount of time pondering this in the past… wondering “why,” until one day I had that moment of realization.

    Some people just can’t see it or feel it the way others do. They’re perfectly fine in the role that their in. Hell, they’re happy as can be about it.

    They need the consistency, the rules, the familiarity. They do not WANT to see, or they are not READY to see the challenges life has to offer, and that is not of our making.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Jason

      Can’t be better said than this. I probably did not want to see it before. Now I have also come to this realization, I can move on and stop thinking “why”
      Ready for more challenges life has to offer!!!

      Thanks for coming by, hope you will come back soon 🙂

      noch Noch

  7. big mouth man says:

    yuen loi hai nei, enoch. i’m 2/f big mouth man.
    came across by a link in fb shared by your 8/f sister
    gung hei fat choy!

    • nochnoch says:

      HI big mouth man!!! long time no see!! how are you? 🙂
      Thanks for coming by haha
      Wishing you the best for Year of Dragon too!
      Noch Noch

  8. farouk says:

    i worked for a multinational for 6 years and then i decided that i am not going to work for someone for the rest of my life. its not that working for someone is bad but its just that my psychological make up makes it a really bad experience for me

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Farouk

      Thanks for going through my blog and reading my articles! Yup, i think some people are not made for working in corporates and maybe need to do something else on their own. Like running a blog like you! 🙂

      Noch Noch

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  11. Elly says:

    Sounds so familiar…

    I’ve been there, observed what you write about from inside… and along that way I almost lostg myself.

    Luckily, I am on the other side now 🙂

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  13. Wow I really love this post. I am also a believer that people tend to forget their ambitions, passions etc.

    For some the “material” lifestyle is the way to go, but for others (often unheard) they live their passions & dreams.

    Which ever way you choose, just be happy and make your life worth living!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Jeremy

      I Heart Travel too!! But have had to stop for a little as I regain my strength. I hope we can all live our passions and dreams, and do what we want. Like you say, we just need to be happy and make our life worth living!
      Glad you like this post!

      Noch Noch

  14. Max says:

    The most difficult thing to do is to “make the move”.
    To say that you will quit your job is easy, but to do it is another thing. And one of the things that scares us is the unknown and also, in some case, the financial instability that comes with it.

    If we REALLY want to quit our corporate job, I think there is always a way.

    Thanks for your inspirational post!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Max

      you are right – if we REALLY want to, we can make it happen. Sometimes we are bogged down by inertia and our comfort zone, and fear of the uncertainty. Glad you made your way over and hope to stay in touch.

      Noch Noch

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about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.