The second paragraph from the Wikipedia page sums it up pretty well: The term is commonly associated with an exhausting, repetitive lifestyle that leaves no time for relaxation or enjoyment.
The most successful people in business are those people who refuse to compete in the same way. I could name names, but I’m sure you’ve already read about those people.
You can’t appreciate the freedom of leaving the rat race until you’ve competed in it. I haven’t met a retired person yet who didn’t spend time in it.
There are people, today, who refuse to enter the rat race. They could be those 30-year old men living in their parents’ basements. They could just be young adults afraid to go out and make names for themselves.
If you can start a successful life without doing things the way society wants you to, more power to you. Society expects you to go through school, get a job, and raise a family. If you can be successful without following “the plan”, without being a burden on someone else, you’re a lucky person. Or a genius.
I’m repeating myself and I don’t care. I left the rat race a few months after my 45th birthday, in 2006. I officially retired when I chose to live in the Philippines, one of the few places I could afford to live on my military pension. Olongapo was my destination, a city I was already familiar with.
All together, I had about 28 years of employment where the government took Social Security and Medicare premiums from me. Despite what some American government “leaders” say, I’m entitled to my money when it comes time for me to draw it out.
Too early to retire, you say? Many people die before they reach the “normal” retirement age. Some people refuse to retire because they’re addicted to work. Many of the relatives on my side of the family died shortly before or shortly after retirement age. They never got to enjoy a life without working for someone else. I don’t want my life to end like that.
Even if I only make it to 65, I will still enjoy more retirement years than most people. If hadn’t left the rat race when I did, I would probably still be working for someone else today, in the United States.