Today I quit my job.
I put in my two weeks notice and my last working day there will be September 15th. I turn 25 in three days and I am walking away from my cushy desk job, along with the salary and benefits I thought was all I needed from a career when I was in college. Little did I know that a 6’ x 6’ cubicle could leave a lot to be desired. Even my request to take a sabbatical leave of absence for a few months was not approved because there wasn’t one that “fit my needs.”
There goes leaving my options open.
After discussing this life changing moment with a close friend recently, they told me: “You are one of the safest people I know. You usually plan everything. I am surprised you are doing this.”
My wife and I have told other people who don’t really seem to understand either. We always default to one simple answer:
“Because we wanted to.”
I believe that too many people only do what they think they should be doing their whole lives. I know this because for 24 years I was that person. I got good grades, joined student organizations, compiled the perfect resume, planned my attendance to career fairs like it was a military operation, graduated from college with two degrees and high honors, got a comfortable job, got my graduate degree, and asked for more responsibility and promotions at work, etc.
Very few of the things I did with my life were done because I wanted to do them. There needs to be more people doing what they want to be doing with their lives. This reminds me of a related quote that has always stuck with me:
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Dr. Howard Thurman
I have been waiting for this moment to come alive. I have been looking forward to this moment since I first thought about having a career in fourth grade as an architect. Or when I originally planned to stay at my company for just two years to complete my MBA. Those two years quickly turned into three, so that I would receive the company stock I was issued. Here I am three and a half years at my company, a few months after receiving the bonus (that will be the safety net for my wife and I) and now that our wedding is behind us, we are ready to take the leap.
We are stoked. We are scared. We have joyfear.
My wife and I are both really excited about the opportunity we have to pivot our life in a new direction. We have a big road trip planned for the rest of 2011 and in just ten days we are moving our stuff from Seattle down to San Diego. (I’ll write more about this part soon.)
This may seem like it is all happening pretty fast, but so much thought, late night talking, and effort have gone into this decision over the past year. Here is the journey that we took together over the past year to get to this point.
Last fall I was considering pursuing a career in video game design or film. After finishing graduate school in May of last year I had all of this free time after work that I devoted to exploring what I really wanted to do career wise. I felt so unfulfilled by my day job working in corporate finance that I thought I needed to do something drastic to switch things up.
Both of these choices would have entailed me going back to school, so I visited some schools. I also would have to restart my career, essentially working my way up from the bottom. After much debate, I concluded that the film and television industry was not for me, so I’ll just keep it as a hobby. I also tried for months using all of my connections to try to break into the gaming biz at Microsoft or Valve in the Seattle area. I never got a response from the countless resumes and cover letters I sent. I felt stuck.
During this same time, my wife was stuck in a day job she was unhappy with and spent nights and weekends applying to graduate schools in art history. You could say we were both in a rut, but we were both very optimistic and knew it was only a matter of time before our situation would change for the better.
After we got engaged last November, we sat down and talked about what we wanted our lives to be like in 2, 5, and 10 years. We both wanted to set our careers up for the independence, freedom, and lifestyle we desired before we settled down and had children. And ideally, for us to only have to depend on my income.
The Whirlwind That 2011 Has Been
Fast-forward to earlier this year. After I started blogging, I realized that my deepest passion lies in helping people with their personal finances and career development. Another passion is helping small businesses leverage the power of the web through customer and audience engagement. The struggle was in how to turn my passion into a full-time income that could sustain a family. I continued to work countless hours on nights, weekends, and early mornings to learn everything I could about blogging, internet marketing, technical skills, work to build Pocket Changed into a helpful website for my readers, and make connections with people that are doing with their life what I want to do with mine.
My wife on the other hand, got into the schools she applied to and was even offered a substantial financial aid package to attend the University of Washington, which is just ten minutes south of where we currently live. This would have been the easy solution. For two more years we would live in a city we enjoyed (even if the Seattle gray and rain get to us), she would be more marketable to find a job in what she has interest in, and I would (hopefully) be closer to working in a career I enjoy too.
Just before this, I had bought my wife a Canon 60D DSLR camera. She had fallen in love with taking photographs. She always had a love for photos, but she hadn’t considered pursuing it full-time. All she ever wants to do now is go shoot pictures, edit them, and share them with everyone. She turned down the safe route to pursue her dreams. She told the grad schools “no, thank you” and is working to be the best and most successful portrait, wedding, and puppy photographer she can be.
That decision took guts, courage, and a lot of long talks. In life, there is no way of knowing if you made the “right choice”. All you can do is make the best out of the choice you make.
From Career Man to Business Starter
On my end, I have recently changed gears and have been doing consulting online to earn a side income. Doing work such as web design for clients (here’s my most recent project) and joining the Think Traffic team. Through these endeavors and my future plans for Pocket Changed, I’ll be hustling as an entrepreneur for the foreseeable future and not looking back.
I could say it was just from reading a single book or blog post, but that would be a lie. There weremanypeople that influenced my psychological shift from thinking I need to spend my life tied to a desk job for forty plus years. I started listening to audiobooks and podcasts on my commute that gave me the confidence to succeed and helped me formulate what I wanted out of my career. I had numerous Skype calls and in person conversations with other entrepreneurs hustling to succeed.
All of them had an impact on me. I’ll need to just list them all someday.
What About You?
Am I saying that you can start a blog and nine months later you will be able to quit your day job? Not quite. This blog is only a piece of the bigger picture for me, but it did open doors.
What I am advocating is that you take some time to determine what you really want your life to be like and then take small actions everyday to get there. Join a local interest group, take some community college classes, learn some technical skills through a 7-day free trial at an all-inclusive training website such as Lynda.com, or attend a conference. Just a simple step in the right direction can open multiple doors to walk through.
I’ll have an upcoming post outlining the epic road trip and travel plans my wife and I have lined up for the rest of 2011 (hint: it will be over 8,500 miles long), but until then, I’ll leave you with this.
"Time is a zero-sum game, a limited resource. Life is too short to do only what we have to do; it is barely long enough to do what we want to do." - Tal Ben-Shahar (Happier)
So go. Figure out what you want to do with your life, set a date and then do it. You owe it to yourself. If you're not at least a little scared about the future, you are not pushing yourself hard enough.