A Richer Understanding: Indentured Servitude

Around age 22 I attended an information session for Amway. At the time of the invite I did not know it was ‘Amway’ … I was simply a young man trying to make some change, literally and figuratively.

“There are far better ways to make a living than selling yourself into indentured servitude.”

I can’t remember many details from that day, however, the quote above stood out. I’ve held onto it all these years, primarily because it sounded intelligent to say as a 22-year old, but as I started to make ‘job’ choices; jobs that were driven by money not passion, desire or happiness, the quote started to take on a more personal meaning for me. I went from managing restaurants, to property management and then into banking.

Time over Money - FadeI was working 50 hours a week making the same as someone working 40, so I left the restaurants. I was working weekends while everyone else was out enjoying life, so I left property management. I seemed to be chasing an ideal (read: money) never considering doing something I enjoy or something that makes me happy.

Outside of relationship building (read: pyramid building) approaches for network marketing, home-based businesses I have also been approached about other entrepreneurial opportunities. In retrospect I was on the ground floor, so to write, of a few ideas that are income generating businesses to date. Mobile detailing, concierge services and meal preparation/ delivery. I remember very vividly each one of these ideas and the pitch, however it was hard for me to see the need for any of them.

There are car washes all over the city, why would someone need that?

Who would want someone to wash/ dry and fold their laundry or pick up their dry cleaning?

Who would pay for someone to cook and deliver their food to them?

When you do not truly believe in something it is hard to “sell” it, at least for me. In its simplest form the indentured servitude quote speaks to working for yourself and not trading your time for money. While I’m not at the point of walking away from working for others, I have started to seek additional streams of income.

Not chasing money but having something you believe in, and doing something that makes you happy … I can’t think of a better way to make a living.

I remain,


Brian Tramuel is a regular contributor and helms the 'A Richer Understanding' series. He lives with his wife Michelle, their children Geneva and Brian, and their Cocker Spaniel Maestro in Charlotte, NC. They, along with his two older children from a previous marriage, Davina and Aaron, provide a constant source of inspiration. Aaron lives, works and plays in Charlotte and Davina lives, works and plays in Roanoke, VA.


  1. One thing that frustrates me about the concept of work is that each and every job/career involves some form of sales.

    Whether it is selling a product, selling an idea, selling a brand, or just selling your skills and perceived competencies, each and every person goes into work with the idea of convincing someone else that they are providing value.

    The fact is that we just place different value on different careers and decide that some forms of selling are prestigious or admirable, and others are just irritating.

    • Whether it is selling a product, selling an idea, selling a brand, or just selling your skills and perceived competencies…

      Performance Improvement Plans are a great example of selling your skills and perceived competencies.

      One of the first things we ask when we meet someone new “What do you do / Where do you work?” … I agree that there is value (measure of our worth/ identity) placed on productivity or monetary success.

  2. Been taught from young to always follow your dreams. That means working in jobs that suit your passions. Sadly, this is very hard to come by and you can’t say “I am waiting for the perfect job.” Money controls our lives in some aspects but not in many others. Like you pointed out above money cannot extend time (even though you can technically buy some if it is a medical problem) nor get you genuine friends.

    • ” … nor get you genuine friends.” Indeed. Great point, my friend.

    • The perfect job is hard to come by, like you I’ve been taught to listen for ‘your’ calling. My wife will co-sign that I have not mastered the art of listening well. I am thankful for the understanding it has led me to; What can we do that makes us the gladdest until that time those things I’m gifted to do and enjoy are converged with those that are needed.

  3. I feel similarly. If I’m just not into something, it’s hard to do it just for the money. Life’s all about balance — I have an uncle who works non-stop, and has pretty much all his life. He has tons of money, but not many experiences to show for it! It’s about trade-offs, and finding the right equilibrium.

    • “He has tons of money, but not many experiences to show for it! It’s about trade-offs, and finding the right equilibrium.” I certainly don’t want to be that guy. The idea of balance was also touched on in the recent post, Are You Saving Too Much?

      Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

    • I have family and friends who work hard like your uncle, believing that happiness will come after the work is done. I have not seen workaholism ‘work’ for anyone. The things that should matter most begin to suffer; relationships, personal health and a view needed to enjoy the little things in life. Work should be an important means and not an end.

      • “Work should be an important means and not an end.” Indeed. I’m not sure of the source of the quote, but with respect to this conversation, I believe the following is apropos.

        “On their deathbed, no one ever says, ‘I wish I had just one more day in the cubicle.'”

  4. When I read through this latest post, two thoughts came to mind. First, when we are in a position where we have to work for someone else for our livelihood, we are truly slaves to the grind, and the only way to escape that grind is to develop a portfolio that can generate income and to develop passive forms of income – a better way to convert your time to money – something you astutely note.

    Second, over the last few years it seems like every week or so I’m struck by the death – Prince being the latest – of someone that is a contemporary of mine (~ 50 ish) that passes. It is a painful reminder that money can buy you a lot of things but it can’t buy more time. Therefore, the lesson is to convert your time to money in the most efficient way possible and to spend the resultant saved time to do the things you enjoy with those you love, family and friends.

    • I’ve noticed that experiences more than things/objects (well, except my socks) make me happy. To your second point, I’ve lost school age friends and co-workers, looking back on their experiences for most the following quote is very true

      “for the sake of making a living, most forget to live”

      Echoing you and Frank Facts, find balance.

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