Cogs: An Excerpt From “Permission To Quit”

I’m about to release a book about how and why you should probably quit your job as soon as you can hot-tail it out the door. The book is called Permission To Quit and it will be available on the Kindle in a few weeks. Here’s a short excerpt from it about what a job really is. 

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To understand why you need to leave your job, you need to understand what a job really is.

A job is a cog. 

More specifically, a job is just a cog that has a person inside of it. Each cog is an interchangeable part of a big machine. The machine is the store or shop or office or company and that machine needs some cogs to keep it running. If you’re in a job right now, you’re inside one of those cogs.

The key thing about the cogs is that they are interchangeable. Cogs are replaceable. They have to be. You can’t have the entire machine shut down forever when one part is removed. You need to be able to pop one cog out and put another one in its place.

Factories have line worker cogs and supervisor cogs. Restaurants have cook cogs and server cogs and dishwasher cogs and manager cogs. Offices have sales cogs and receptionist cogs and middle manager cogs and that guy who sits by the copy machine and nobody is sure what he does cogs.

No cog is irreplaceable. Of course, every person who fills up the cog is an individual and some do their jobs better than others but that doesn’t change the bottom line; the person in the cog may change but the cog remains the same.

If your favorite barista quits working at your favorite coffee shop, they will be replaced by a new barista by the very next shift. Maybe the new one will be a bit better or a bit worse but the whole business is actually designed to run just fine whether any individual barista is there or not.

The business isn’t based on individuals.  It can’t be.

In order to create a consistent product or service, you can’t have too much individuality. When the customer orders a mocha cappuccino, it needs to be pretty much the exact same mocha cappuccino that they ordered yesterday no matter who made it. It needs to be the same tomorrow, too.

In the grand scheme of the business machine, that favorite barista of yours is just a cog and life goes on without them. They don’t matter. They can’t matter.

And if you have a job, you don’t matter either.

Gulp. Ouch.

This is a really hard pill for many of us to swallow because most of us have heard over and over again since childhood that we’re each a special flower. We want to believe it. We want to think that we’re important and that we matter and that our hard work makes a big difference.


Wait, cheer up. It is more complex than that. We’ll talk more about this later, but actually you are quite a special flower and you are super important and you really do matter and you can make a big, huge, amazing difference in the world. Just not in a job.

In a job, you’re a cog.

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1 Comment

  1. Sounds great but how does one meet financial obligations? Most artists have day jobs.


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