Monday, July 16, 2018

How I decided to quit my job

I mentioned in my last article that I quit my job to become an solo maker. There’s likely a lot of people who dream of doing so. So I wanted to go a little more in depth in this decision and explain the reasons behind it and why it made sense for me.


I remember not long ago I was working a pretty stressful job. After I got home and had dinner it was already pretty dark. Its not like I had too much energy to do anything even if I could. My mind was already mush from the workday and I was exhausted. Looking back if I really had put my mind to it I could probably have overcome and gotten work done on my side project. Many entrepreneurs do this. But I didn’t have the discipline. Poor discipline and a poor environment means no progress. Instead most of my activities (reading, drinking with friends, relaxing) were to enjoy a momentary escape and recover from the workday.

In addition, the tides were changing at the company. There was a change in management, the community broke down and the people who I shed blood and sweat with started leaving. My rate of growth slowed down a lot. Although I made good money there I realized that it would be really dangerous to stay. What do I mean by dangerous?


On NPR’s How I Built This Podcast, Jim Koch, the founder of Sam Adams talks about the difference between scary vs. dangerous. Many things that are scary to us are not dangerous. Oppositely, many things that are dangerous are not scary.

He gives the example that repelling off of a cliff is scary but you are held by a belay rope which could hold up a car. Therefore it is not really dangerous. Things like walking near a snow mountain when the weather heats up probably isn’t scary, but is really dangerous as it could cause an avalanche. Not wearing sunscreen out to the beach may not be scary, but dangerous.

Jim then explains that him staying at Boston Consulting Group would not be scary but would be very dangerous as one day when he is 65 he’d look back at his life and see that he wasted it by not doing something that made him happy.

And I felt the same way. I looked at the other people further down the path that I was on. I didn’t like what I saw. Sure, if I kept the path, I might get promoted a few times and make a pretty decent salary and have a cushy job. Others might call it successful, but I would know that it wasn’t. It was a safe choice but one of regrets for me. I came to the conclusion that although staying at my job didn’t look scary, it was dangerous.

Whenever something is scary, we should also ask if it is dangerous. If not, then don’t be afraid to take the leap. Quitting my job sure looked scary, but was it really dangerous? I truly believe that it is not dangerous.

I should clarify. This is not universal advice to quit your job. I’m saying that for me at that time, it was right. Why do I say that? Because I had started to build up the discipline. I actually took a couple weeks off using my holiday hours in order to test this theory. I wanted to see how I would respond. Would I sit around and watch NetFlix or would I be productive. The result is actually not as important as the work ethic. All I wanted to see was myself actively taking steps towards my goal. I actually surprised myself on how focused I was. I loved the freedom. So that’s how I knew it was time to go.
"At 29, walking away from data processing, I was terrified. [...] 6 years at a job I felt stuck in. Maybe I was afraid of change.
The world might say you are not allowed to yet. I waited a long time out in the world before I gave myself permission to fail. Please, don’t even bother asking, don’t bother telling the world you are ready. Show it. Do it." — Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones actor.
The most successful people in life are able to take calculated risks. They are great at capping the downsides. What are the downsides here? That I’ll never get a job again? I’m sure I’d struggle in the competitive market, but I do already have 10 years of software development experience including management, plus I’d have a papertrail of a bunch of projects that I worked on and unique skillet that would set me apart. I’d argue that I’d be MORE antifragile than my peers. Lost opportunity cost and income? The real risk would be to NOT pursue a dream lifestyle of mine. The money is nice but what would I want to spend it on? I’d want to spend it on quitting my job.

In the end I believe if you have the discipline to work, and you have the drive to learn, and you have the confidence to get back up after hitting obstacles. You’ll end up accomplishing your goal.
But that’s not all. There’s another very important thing you need before you quit your job.


What is the thing that you want do most in life? Its probably not your job. But we spend most of our time at our job? Why is that? Well its probably so we can have enough money to pay for basic things that we need as well as little luxuries. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if instead you dream of something else. And you want the freedom to pursue it, then you need to think of money in a different way.
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” — Dave Ramsey
Thus if your priority is to pursue something else, you may need to adjust how you spend your money(life energy) to optimize for that. Sometimes we fail to see the connection between us having to work to pay for our expenses; if we could limit our expenses we could limit the work. The more runway you can build for yourself the higher your chance of success. You will be less stressed and give yourself more at bats and learning opportunities. Good luck!


I want to point out that this is not the norm for entrepreneurs wanting to do a startup. I am speaking more to those who are on the fence. If you aren’t mentally committed to your dream, don’t do it. If you have a family or mortgage and don’t have the runway yet, don’t do it. It can take time to create the right situation for you. If you carefully examine your situation and find fear but not true danger, then don’t be afraid to take a leap.