Point of No Return
March 1st 2011 was my point of no return. I quit my six-figure day job. It feels great to say those six words. And it is incredibly liberating to write those six words. It is also terrifying and exhilarating and scary and exciting and surreal and unbelievable and, in many ways, indescribable.
A New Day
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me. And I’m feeling good.
—Nina Simone, “Feeling Good”
These words, sung by Nina Simone, are from of my late mother’s favorite song. And these words connote something utterly different for me now. A new beginning. A fresh start. The precipice of something incredibly exciting. March 1 was my first day of freedom. February 28, 2011, was my last day working at my big fancy suit-and-tie corporate job. I worked for a large telecom company for the last 12 years. I worked my way up the ladder from an 18 year-old sales rep to various management positions.
Eventually I was promoted to Director of Operations where I managed a multi-million dollar operations/capex budget for all our consumer sales channels. Most recently I was a Regional Manager (what many companies call a District Manager) for a region of retail stores. I led and managed up to 100 employees in 16 stores. During my career I opened 15 retail stores, hired hundreds of employees, and helped dozens of people grow and realize their full potential. If you want more details about what I did, you can visit my LinkedIn page.
I was very, very good at my job. I won back-to-back President’s Club trips to London and Hawaii for outstanding sales performance. I hired some of the best people in the industry, people who quickly grew and earned promotions throughout the organization. I contributed to people and helped them grow.
And people respected me: when I announced my departure, dozens of people asked me where I was going and if they could come with me. I’m not trying to impress you with these details. If I thought that these things would impress you, then I wouldn’t have left my job in the first place. Rather, I give you these details to impress upon you my need for change. Because even though I was living the corporate dream with a big salary and elevated status, I was not completely happy. I was not pursuing my passions, I was not pursuing my mission in life, and I was not pursuing my dreams. Not completely at least. You see, I don’t care about impressing you, I care about helping you live a more meaningful life.
And now, a few months before my thirtieth birthday, I’m starting a new chapter in my life. I’ll still be leading people, it will just be a different group of people: you, the readers, for whom I am eternally grateful. We already have well over ten-thousand readers each month, and we plan to have over a hundred-thousand readers per month by the end of this year. There are several reasons why I had to walk away from the corporate life…
You might want to know why I did this. I mean, you’re probably thinking, the economy is in the toilet, right? And many people would give several digits off of their non-use hand to make that kind of money. And yet you just walked away from it after working your way up the corporate ladder for twelve years?
Why? I did it to pursue my passions, to pursue my mission in life.
Passions? Mission? What does that mean? Yes, for me that specifically means writing (essays on this site and my true passion, fiction) and helping people by contributing to others through charity work and other means.
How Can You Afford To Do This?
I’m not going to give you the details right now. Instead, I wrote two long essays, Stop Living the Lie; Start Living the Life and Screw You, I Quit!, for Julien Smith’s and Jonathan Mead’s websites. Both essays explain some of the details like why and how I did it, what led to the change for me, how I can afford it, and how you can find your mission and pursue your passions too.
With respect to finances, here’s a hint: it’s easier to survive when you get rid of the vast majority of your bills. You don’t need cable TV or internet or a $600 car payment. You have a choice: freedom or extra bills. You can’t spend money like a drunken sailor and expect to reclaim your freedom. It doesn’t work that way. I wrote this essay for further explaination: Minimalist Finances and Budgeting.
I can also tell you that I don’t have some big savings account to live off of for a long time either (the life I was living didn’t allow me to build up some sort of huge nest egg; this is covered in the essays too). I have enough money to live off of for a few months as a safety net, because I will live a simple life with few expenses. The details are in the two essays.
A Better Life Is Out There
I am not telling you to quit your job. Hell, you might love your job. Good for you if you do. In fact, I didn’t hate my job. But if you’re not happy (and let’s be honest, you’re probably not), if you’re not truly fulfilled, if you’re not living a meaningful life, then you must make a change.
The only other thing I want to say about this right now is this:
Screw You, I Quit!
I didn’t barrel into by boss’s office and yell “screw you, I quit!” I had no desire to do so. My former boss is an amazing guy, one who taught me a lot about life. In fact, he was able to work with me on a separation agreement when I left, so technically we “separated,” but “Screw You, I Separate!” just doesn’t pack the same punch, does it? And I had a lot of mixed emotions about leaving my job. I love a lot of the people there, and there were a ton of things I enjoyed about the job itself: I enjoyed leading people, I enjoyed developing people and helping them see their true potential, and I got use to the comforts that the big salary afforded me.
So, my “screw you” is not to my former job at all. Instead, my “screw you” is to my old lifestyle, to my old life, to a life without meaning. I’m not quitting a job—the job is not the point here—I’m quitting the life that I lived, and I’m committed to living a meaningful life, one in which I do what I love, one in which I’m happy and passionate and free. I’ll focus on my passions. I’ll focus on writing. I’ll also focus on my mission. I’ll focus on contributing to other people in meaningful ways.
I’ll contribute to people via this site. I’m thankful that so many of you find inspiration here. I’ll also contribute through other means, such as charity and donating my time to help others. Here are some pictures of some of the things I’ll be able do more frequently now (click on any pic to increase its size):
Writing and contributing. That’s what I’m doing now. I refuse to be a slave to cultural expectations, ensnared by the trappings of money and power and status and perceived success. So, to my old life, I bid you farewell.
Oh, and screw you, I quit!
Update: read Ryan Nicodemus’s essay Being Laid Off from My 6-Figure Job Is One of the Best Things that Ever Happened to Me