Top 10 Lessons Learned From Working A Regular 9–5

Jimmy Early
9 min readSep 11, 2021

As an entrepreneur that takes pride in enduring the rugged roads of the “two selves”, self-employment and self-sufficiency, it may seem strange in learning that I praise a lot of my strengths for growing in business from my experiences working regular 9–5s. I mean the biggest influence, I would say jokingly, was how each job told me in its own way why I should never think about going back to that profession ever again. But, other than that point there is much more to the story.

Each employment experience brought about a novelty of real-world challenges that became necessary for what I would later apply to many of my previous and current business ventures. These types of lessons, in my opinion, could have only been learned by working for someone else, as well as working with diverse varieties of clientele that came with the atmosphere.

Although these career choices quite often were frustrating and draining, the understanding I gained once I decoded the matrix and grasped the concepts that inadvertently taught me nuance stages of business was vast. Because of this I would like to write and take a moment to pay some homage to my years in the rat race by unveiling the top 10 lessons that I have received as the best examples of why working for and with people can credit you with invaluable life experiences.

Note: The regular 9–5s I am referring to are referencing the many low wage employment opportunities that I once held. Despite the skills that I have learned, in many of my employment opportunities I was grossly underpaid. I make this statement for clarity and for the general understanding of why I decided to finally venture out on my own in creating a career that I felt best reflects my life’s mission and goals.

Time Management:

I am sure many have heard the saying, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ This is true in a multitude of ways, but when it comes to applying the correct ratio it could go from a wise saying to organic procrastination.

Working for someone else or working under a set of specific rules and guidelines, created the perfect environment to prove that I could maneuver under constant stress within a network of limitations. This gave me the ability to understand priorities within a closed system; hence, giving me the discernment of what to spend time on first, what steps in my work can wait down the line, or when I may need to neglect a step all together for my job to run more efficiently. Time management is a learned skill and can drastically affect how well you complete a task, or if the task will be completed at all.

Adapting to Changes:

Many of my former employers, during the hiring process, have asked me how well I am at adjusting to change. They may wonder if a sudden switch up or two (or several) would leave me immobilized and confused, mentally knocking me off my game. Therefore, this concept is extremely important, and something I have seen several self-employed individuals struggle with through their personal journeys in business.

To be rigid is to be stagnant. Stagnation is one of the biggest killers of a great business concept and gravely affects the longevity of whatever venture you may pursue. One of the secret weapons I have acquired through my experiences in entrepreneurship and working under an employer, is my level of instantaneous adaptation. This does not mean I learned to become a chameleon at work, although I am great at this camouflage mechanism in public if need be, but rather how well I have been able to adjust swimmingly to new information and spontaneous workplace mandates.

Understanding the Rigidness of Others:

It is not just the physical job that I had to adapt to in order to do my roles well, but also the complexity of the customers or clientele that I had to cater to that gave me the best understanding of people’s wants, needs, and ideas. Learning about a plethora of different personalities that seem to demand my fluid mobility towards their way of seeing the world, has been my most challenging quest and my most beneficial reward. This is especially true within the genre of customer service.

This understanding of people’s rigid behavior and personality traits is not just limited to the customers. Learning how to manage and positively deal with my former peers and coworkers is a must in this realm of worker knowledge. The wisdom I gained with this understanding increased our [my peers and I] production activity and team working assessment. With this concept, comes one of the more known and appreciated canon of 9–5 skill training.

Chronic Work Ethic:

If there was only one thing that I could share out of this list of 10 concepts that a regular 9–5 has proven and taught me, is that I have an undeniable work ethic. Notice that I placed the word “chronic” in front for a reason, and it was definitely not to showcase a linguistic Dr. Dre Easter egg to make the topic pop a little (some of you may get the small random reference, if not no hard feelings). For me, my impeccable work ethic was not truly set in stone until I had applied this skill in a continuous manner.

The skill may appear commonplace and is usually a default statement on a resume next to perfect attendance. However, to chronically or repeatedly show that you are capable of grinding and giving your best no matter the task or employer, is something that is vastly different from a sporadic or temporarily applied can-do attitude. At times I had worked a minimum of two full-time jobs not including side hustles and contract gigs for extended periods of time. As an entrepreneur, if you are not willing to put it all on the line like you would do for an employer, then your journey of mastering the two selves (as stated earlier) will have great limitations.

Repetition Makes Perfect:

Like some of the dishwashing jobs I have had, the great secret to perfection is to wash, rinse, and repeat. Oftentimes in the business world, frustration can arise from not taking advantage of the season of cycles that are inevitable to surpass, on the road to self-autonomy. Repeating a season or ending a cycle no further from where you left off, is not a death sentence if the mind is still able to grow and learn.

If you know better than you will do better, and to know more about something in a specified way may require repeating a step as many times as necessary. As a human being, what we strive for will probably never be true perfection, in our general sense of the word, but it will create a familiarity and, in most cases, highlight what can be improved for better application.

Running on Fumes and Why It Matters:

At first glance, this concept may look like a repeat of chronic work ethic, but there is a definite difference. It is one thing to repeatedly show your work ethic skills when you have the energy; however, can that skill still be shown if no energy exists. Former jobs have made me conscious of my ability to find the second wind that is needed to endure the many tasks allotted for my hired position.

As stated before, if you cannot commit to the same work principles required of you from an employer to your own business endeavors, then your priorities for achieving true financial and life independence are definitely out of whack. There were several situations, where meeting deadlines or managing an entire event without proper rest, demanded that I dig deep to withstand the barrage of responsibilities that were crucial to my success. This feeling of fatigue mixed with stress can become an anxiety infused nightmare and must be mentally controlled at whim. Such knowledge of perseverance can literally be the biggest lesson for surviving steep troughs that await all aspiring business owners.

Listening for Understanding and Clarity:

When it comes to the best practices for maintaining a great relationship with most of the people you will meet in your life, this has got to be the number one step if nothing else. I have seen in more ways than I could write about how often negative situations with people arose or escalated, because neither party thought to fully listen and attempt to comprehend the other’s position. Listening is not just a work or business skill to me, but also a means for survival. I am sure most individuals have experienced the spiritual bitterness of someone not understanding your point of view, based on the lack of listening comprehension.

You cannot say that you are really trying to know a person better if your mission is not to seek understanding of their world, or strive to find a common denominator in their reasoning. In order to do this more effortlessly, listening and not just hearing the individual speak can move mountains. I have had the privilege to practice this skill under all my previous employers, and it has got to be my most prized ability.

Becoming More Empathetic:

As someone with nearly seven years of hospitality experience under my belt, I biasedly believe that customer service is the most underrated genre of all professions. One of the main reasons I stand strong on this notion is that it takes an unethical amount of empathy to really be good at it. Being empathetic outside of your friends and family is easier said than done, but just comprehending the general essence of why it is so useful can be life changing.

Most of my best entrepreneurial successes come from empathizing with my target audience in a more constructive attempt to know their needs, concerns, and financial priorities. This helped me in underlining consumer purchasing habits and creating better experiences for them with every business encounter. Most importantly I learned to be a more compassionate and caring human being. This rewards me with a more positively influential drive when helping current and future customers, as well as potential business partners.

Controlling Your Anxiety in a Chaotic Environment:

Having a strong and relentless work ethic means nothing if you do not have the knowledge to demand control of how you handle stressful, and chaotic situations. Please notice that I did not say how to control your external environment, for that would be just as lackadaisical as professing how easy it is to change the weather. Controlling your mental state in a turbulent workspace is something that generally takes time and experience to become better.

Because of this fact and my many years in both a corporate and gig economy dealing with an influx of different types of customers, workers and institutions, I have become very well versed in this display of mental gymnastics. There will be several instances where the spirit of confusion and disorder infiltrate the field of a celebrated personal project or business venture. And just like how the head of a bull dictates the direction of its horns, your thoughts and emotions will only materialize what the mind believes is the safest route of execution.

Mastering Basic Human Psychology:

The final objective in this work-related list of fundamentals is probably the most unexpected trait that I have genuinely learned from all my previous employers: becoming an honorary psychologist. This became evident over the years once I realized how well I naturally read people. From years of responding to cues and undertaking the crazy unorthodox challenges of reading people’s minds, I can honestly say that this psychic ability has turned me into quite an unexpected clinical physician-or unintended sociology major.

As a natural introvert, being exposed to different types of people is emotionally costly and draining for me. It is also possible that I still could have learned to develop the people skills necessary to grow a business without working so many 9–5s; however, the level at which I currently understand natural human behavior would have probably not be as keen, and I doubt that I would have been exposed to such a diverse work environment so early on in my life. I tease about myself becoming an actual psychologist (and physic), for I have close friends in that field and honor their hard work, but I cannot deny the strengths I have grown in parallel to that science and I am grateful for having learned them.