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I've known three people who have won the lottery. Not the "Hey, I just won back the money I spent to scratch this off" type. The "go to your boss's house and shit on his children" kind. In all three cases, the winners chose to continue working, despite the rest of the world screaming "Are you fucking stupid?!" Because that's kind of the ultimate dream, isn't it -- to make enough money that you can finally sit back, relax, and enjoy life?

Well, that's the weird part. As you get older, jobs become more than just a means of paying your public nudity fines and meeting the terms of your probation. They're a vital lifeline to precious commodities that have nothing to do with money, like ...

4
Finding and Making Friends

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Something weird happens in your late 20s that hardly anyone is prepared for. As your old school friends find careers in other cities (or maybe you do) and settle down with families of their own, your pool of friends evaporates, leaving you with a list so short, you could write it on the back of a postage stamp. Yeah, it sucks, but it's a part of life. All you can do is try to keep in contact as best you can and move on.

Making friends at that age is hard. Many of us are in a transitional period where the partying is starting to taper off in favor of formerly ignored luxuries like sleep and clarity. You find that social entertainment is mostly geared toward teenagers, so showing up to, say, an arcade to meet new people probably puts you on some kind of watch list. About the only place you're going to find steady interaction with other humans is at work.

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Given, not all of it will be devoid of eye rolling.

Looking back on my own life, I don't remember the last friend I made outside of work. Well, not counting my Twitter friends, each and every one of whom I consider my very besties forever. But that makes total sense ... the friends you made in school were people you were forced to be in the same room with five days a week. The more you talked, the more you learned about each other, until you made a permanent connection. You just can't do that in a one-night setting like a club, unless your goal is to befriend severe alcoholics who scream "WOOOOO!" at bad music.

Work is the adult version of that school setting. Even if you're working alone behind the counter at a gas station, you will start to make connections with the people you change shifts with, or regular customers, or chronic shoplifters. That daily interaction is the key, and you just can't get that by playing Diablo III in your underwear all day. At least not face to face.

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Dude, how are you going to spout racial slurs at 12-year-olds without a headset?

Even if you hate everyone you work with, the social skills are invaluable. Let's face it: Without the job, you'd never associate with them, but when you're forced to, getting along with them is excellent practice for controlling your spontaneous urges to slap their stupid face-beaks clean off.

3
The Experience Makes You More Valuable

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David Wong wrote a pretty brilliant article right here on Cracked, essentially explaining that personal worth is judged by what you can do for the world. Now, that doesn't mean that you have to go out and save the planet or give away your vast riches to a worthy charity -- but as long as you're able to contribute some specific skill set to even the smallest group, your worth to the world climbs another rung on the "not a leeching asshole" ladder.

"But I don't give even the most remote shit about how the world views me," you say through your gold-plated teeth as you wind your giant clock necklace. Fine, let's talk about personal worth, because that's pretty damn important.

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All right, let's just calm yourself down, Chad Soccer.

The past few years, I've been doing something for myself that's made me pretty damn happy and boosted my confidence in fairly dramatic ways. I call it "whittling down to unique." Let's say that at work you're pretty good at installing the kick starter on gas-powered vibrators. That's a pretty unique skill to have ... we'll say that 40 million people in the world could do it just as well as you. But you want to be more unique than that, so you learn another skill: porn star anal bleaching.

Of those 40 million vibrator gearheads, maybe 20,000 know how to de-brown a good butthole. Now we're getting down to a more elite group. Yeah, but how many of those 20,000 can also remove semen stains from costumes? You could probably fit the people who can do all three tasks in your living room. Not only have you whittled down your skill set to fairly unique, but you're now qualified to manage a porn set.

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"That's a wrap. Great fucking, everyone."

The more unique your skill set, the more in demand you will be. Even if you don't follow through with using those skills, it's pretty damn satisfying just knowing that you're one of the special few people in the world to possess them. A forced setting like your job is an excellent place to start. Hell, if nothing else, it helps eliminate the tedium of everyday work. And that's important to remember if you're still searching for your perfect career. Each new job you take on brings that much more to the table when you finally turn in your resume for the dream job.

Most likely in the porn industry.

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2
It Exercises Your Sense of Standards

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One of the easiest traps to fall into when you're not working is steadily letting your environment go to hell. Part of it is because it's simply harder to take care of -- if the majority of your day is spent at work, you're not there to fuck up your house. But I think a bigger factor is that you don't have someone standing over your shoulder, telling you to get off your ass and get that shit cleaned up. There's no one there to hold up the line and say, "This isn't good enough. You can do better. And for the love of God, put on some pants."

When left to our own devices, many of us will let a lot more slide than we would if we were doing the work for someone else, but exercising those standards helps keep our minds sharp and active. If you're sitting at home, it's pretty easy to leave a half-eaten bucket of chicken skins on the computer desk, because who the hell are you trying to impress? It's your house, you'll pick it up later. Then two months pass, and your entire living room is filled with petrified fast food and radioactive rats.

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You'd better hope one doesn't bite you. The powers you gain aren't even close to awesome.

There should never be a time in your life where you are your own supervisor or do your own quality control. Even business owners have customers to answer to, and if they can't comply with their standards, they lose the company. And that's kind of the point when talking about a job that supplies those people for you -- it puts you in that frame of mind. "I have to do this right, or my boss will punt me right in the crotch."

That stays with you, even if you don't act on it. Your house may look like shit, and you may not do anything about it, but your brain is sharp enough to know it. It's not about the action; it's about the mind. But take those authority figures away, and we turn into 1990s slacker stereotypes. Might as well put on a pot leaf T-shirt and write songs about your dad.

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"This one's called 'My Dad Threw Away My Pot Shirt.' Hope you like it."

1
It Improves Mental Health

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I don't know anyone on prolonged unemployment who didn't eventually fall into depression. The longer you go without a callback, the more worthless you feel. You see yourself as a burden to the people who are carrying the financial load. Even if you take some time to de-stress and physically relax, your mind doesn't -- it's constantly nagging, "You could be out there right now putting in applications and resumes. You are an ass-douche and everyone hates your feet."

The longer you go, the more vicious the cycle becomes. Depression sets in, and you find it harder and harder to get out of bed each morning. In turn, that makes you feel worse, because you just know that everyone is thinking you're a lazy sack of shit. It feeds on itself like a dying star until it finally collapses and the whole house gets sucked right into your asshole.

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*FOONT!*

OK, the analogy breaks down a bit there, but you see what I mean. Having that job not only gives you a sense of worth, but keeps you active, and in my experience inactivity is the pig shit that fertilizes your field of depression corn.

Even in tedious settings like working an assembly line or filing paperwork, you're in motion. Your brain is focused on the immediate task at hand, and not on all the ways your life is a burden to everyone around you. Unless your job is "people burdener," in which case ... um ... keep up the good work?

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Damn, he's putting in some overtime. Must have a vacation planned.

I understand that not all of this is going to apply to everyone, and some of you have said "no shit" a few times while reading it, but I've known way too many people who see a job as a source of income and nothing more. Then, when they're out of work, they're genuinely baffled as to why the whole world seems to be caving in on them all at once. If I had known this shit 20 years ago, maybe I'd have spent more time growing up and less time mastering Killer Instinct and cursing the universe for not paying me for it.


John is an editor and columnist right here at Cracked, with a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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