Are You A Civilian?

I was a civilian for a long time.

I worked in my cubicle, hoping to get a raise… a promotion. Sometimes the cubicle changed and it would be a new title, new company, new “friends,” new employee handbook. New boss to choose whether I flourished or suffered.

Sometimes the boss would look at me: his eyes over his glasses, like I was the worst interruption he had ever suffered. Sometimes he’d laugh at my jokes and I’d feel happy. Sometimes he’d praise me and I’d call home and tell my parents about it.

It wasn’t that he was bad. It wasn’t even I was so pathetic (I was though). But that’s civilian life. I was a civilian. Not aware of the bigger world out there. Not aware I could survive in it.

We have two zones: the comfort zone and the Other zone. Civilians live in the comfort zone.

Nothing wrong with that at all. It’s comfortable. It’s where we were raised to be. I tucked away the dreams of childhood so I could guarantee survival until death.

Being a civilian is a decent survival technique. Not the best. But decent. I wasn’t ashamed of it. I just wasn’t happy.

I wanted to get a book published. But I thought I needed a publisher to pronounce me talented. Only then would I succeed.

I wanted to sell my business. They liked me! I wanted to get a girlfriend. She likes me!

I’d wake up at 3am disgusted with myself. 1997. And in 2010. And in 1992. And in 2016.

Disgusted because I wanted these things from people. But also disgusted because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Double disgust.

I was civilian because I didn’t believe I deserved anything. I didn’t believe I deserved money unless my boss, and his boss, and his boss, thought I deserved more money.

I didn’t believe I deserved to publish a book unless an intern, her boss, her editor, his publisher, her marketing team, those bookstores, and on and on, thought I deserved to have my words read.

I didn’t believe I was worth of someone loving me unless I had X, Y, and Z already in place before then.

I was ashamed when I didn’t get what I wanted. Was I a loser? So I’d put on the mask and pretend.

I was a civilian because I was focused on me getting validated. By who? I didn’t give a..

I’m not so sure I believe I deserve anything now either, to be honest. It’s really hard to have that kind of confidence.

So I stopped thinking about it. I don’t deserve anything. Who cares.

I had to build myself a better story. The theme of the story is who can I deliver value to? Even if it’s me.

Every story has a where. Every story has a who. Every story has a why how what.

When I sit down, every morning, I try to fill in those blanks. Where can I help someone. Who? Why? And so on.

Then spend the rest of the day doing it. Then I don’t have to worry about whether I deserve anything or not.

I did it! I didn’t deserve it. I did it!

I don’t know what it means to say… I’m not a civilian. There’s not really a good word for it.

But I see the people walking with their heads down in the rain at 8am in their suits, with their briefcase, with their uniform, with their eyes grayed over, on their way to work.

Everyone has something they wanted to create when they were kids. A painting, a book, a kiss, a secret agency, an evil plan, a laughter buried inside that never quite came out.

Sit down and do the who, what, where, when, why, and how today. Those six words are my best friends right now. They are my best friends every day because they get stronger and stronger.

Then that secret buried inside can be delivered. I need to deliver the secret to get the kiss. To get the reward. To come in from the cold. Mission accomplished.

Yes, they deserve to create and finish what their child hands started. And when they realize they deserve it, when they feel it all the way through even for a moment, they also won’t be civilians any more.

Ideas for a world out of balance… sent straight to your inbox!

My goal is to deliver to you a fresh perspective…

Something to help you make sense of the chaos.

Sign up below for Altucher Confidential, my tell-all FREE weekday e-letter.

By submitting your email address, you will receive a free subscription to Altucher Confidential. This daily investment newsletter delivers free independent financial forecasting and commentary along with carefully selected products and services that we think might interest you. We will not share your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Statement.

  • This is the sad reality for most of the working class people in today’s world – “But I see the people walking with their heads down in the rain at 8am in their suits, with their briefcase, with their uniform, with their eyes grayed over, on their way to work.”. As per one survey, a whopping 70%+ American workers are disengaged at work. They are forced to join the corporate rat race and work in a job they would not like to do at all since they are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings (as per another survey, 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck). That’s “Why Working Towards Quitting the Rat Race is So Very Critical?”. Read more here –

    • AtlasAikido

  • MillenialMayHymn

    You’re either a civilian or civillain in the eyes of modern day. Bruce Wayne a trust fund, ivy leaguer vs The Joker whom never graduated college or had a 9 to 5. Or Robin.. an intern who specializes in coffee.

  • Lesa Le Monnier

    Ouch! to read this, cringe…to see myself in this but inspired to change -thank you.

  • Ted Scarborough

    You are a recruiter James. No, you’re a drill instructor. Into the special forces, except everyone is eligible. They just have to realize it. Oh wait, you are already an honorary colonel. Thank you.

  • Soniya

    I am a civilian right now :( Hope I will change it..

  • George Marques

    I think what James means by civilian may be something like the idea of matrix. Most people take the blue pill and stay in the matrix, a few decide to take the red pill and see what happens…

  • Nishita

    For those who are civilians, somehow it is very difficult to reach to a non civilian level.. but this is a great read.. Hope i will be a non civilian soon!!

  • I haven’t been “a civilian” in the sense that James is saying since 2003. But even working for myself since 2003, I made myself a civilian. There were 2 of me; boss me and me that hated boss me. Even in working for self, I was looking for that comfort zone – validation from clients or perfect situations. It’s funny how you can be self-employed or a an entrepreneur (as miserable of one as I was) and still be a slave to the grind. The key is comfort zone destroying. The comfort zone is the curse zone and by grace I’ll continue to break a shell. Fear of death, fear of (the loss of) money, fear of insults, they all keep us caged in a comfort zone. If we stay we die, if we move forward we die, therefore, let’s die big. Let’s die saying we took some big ass steps… that’s my new hope. Comfort zone, get thee behind me.

  • NewHampshire

    Trying not to be a civilian but navigating crytpos is just so hard and I can’t seem to get any answers.

  • Leslie Hickcox

    I just love you James. You always inspire me.

  • Patti Carnahan

    all I have to say is you wanted to be a writer and you have written and self-published, good for you… but when you write things in your blog like ” and I have read every word more than once, but when I read things like: “Everyone has something they wanted to create when they were kids. A painting, a book, a kiss, a secret agency, an evil plan, a laughter buried inside that never quite came out.” I think to myself (as my heart kind of expands, just reading that…) His creativity LIVES. And we luck out getting to read it. God bless you.

    • AtlasAikido

      No disrespect to your heartfelt, it would seem James is blessing himself by his own grace…

  • AtlasAikido

  • Christine McFadden

    I have read and listened to all your information James since 9 January. I live in Australia and have tried to email your company and ring and eventually got through today to be told that I cannot subscribe to any further information as I live in Australia due to the tax laws here. I am bitterly disappointed as I wanted to grow from your ideas and make some money as well.