It’s officially been 24 days since I quit my job.
Well, 24 days since I put in my two-week’s notice.
And this is officially day 10 of not having my old job. It’s an interesting feeling, to say the least, having time to yourself and calm, relaxing mornings back on the agenda regularly.
But before I pulled the proverbial trigger, I tried to research “how-to quit your job”. And the search results were…???
Everything that popped up in the search was either a how-to for quitting gracefully or having good excuses to do it so it wouldn’t be awkward. And I get that. I mean, I quit less than a month ago, and I had to make sure I didn’t set it all ablaze and burn bridges. I wanted to make sure the reasons I gave made sense.
The one thing that was missing in my search was an actual how-to guide.
More of an internal one :
How do you get to the place where you can quit your job ?
How should you think it through ?
What should make you want to quit your job ?
What questions should you ask ?
Essentially, I was looking for this : a how-to guide for quitting my job that wasn’t focused on what to say and not say, but how to process my own questions and concerns, and then have the courage to do it.
From the Outset
Not everyone should quit their job. If you love it, keep it.
There’s a new movement these days about breaking free from “the man” and not having anyone tie you down. A movement where the 9-5 is a demon and overtime is a torturing pitchfork. A movement that holds adventure and freedom as more supreme than stability. Those things need to be balanced ( read about that here ).
Some people love working the 9-5. Some people love working in food service, or at a bank, or as a truck driver, or whatever. And that’s awesome. Having a good job, a job you like, isn’t a bad thing – and I wish people would stop thinking it is.
It’s easy to generalize everything. It’s easy to say the 9-5 is bad and being your own boss is good. But you know what ? that’s way too simple. There are good and bad things about both – and there are different personalities. And if you sit down and try to read about it, you’re just going to find articles that say “be an entrepreneur – it’s amazing” AND “don’t be an entrepreneur – it’s amazing”. And both are right. There are pros and cons to both sides – and no one can make the choice for you.
That’s why I’m writing this. Because life isn’t as simple as generalized black and white ideas. Each decision is personal and difficult and has so many factors that feed into it.
Again, I am not saying that you should quit your job. All I want to do here, in this post, is what I wish I would have done ages ago. And maybe it’ll help you –
Learn to ask questions to figure out how you feel about your job and current position, and take whatever steps you need to.
Conversations Over Coffee ( Epilogues as Intros )
Last week I was out for coffee with a friend and he mentioned something that helped clarify all the thoughts I’ve had about quitting my job over the past year or so :
“How much money do you need to make to not do what you’d love to do.”
It’s a great question – and it sheds light on so many other things.
How much of “x” ( x being an aspect of your job ) do you need in order to not do “y” ( y being something else you want ). If x is more than you currently have, whether money or time or status or whatever, then you need to process what ought to change so you can achieve y.
Again, as I said above, if you love your job, this little equation still makes sense. If x is “make 50k a year” and y is “be a teacher”, and you ARE in fact a teacher, you win – and the equation makes sense.
With that question, the main thoughts and ideas that had been bouncing around in my head got rooted – they made more sense and I could assess them all better.
So, without further ado :
- My Excuses
- My Freedom
- Your Choice
I worked at a bank. As a project manager.
There were some things I loved about it – and some things I felt the opposite about. And there came a time for me when I dreaded the idea of working there “long-term”. Sunday nights would roll around and my stomach would sink, prepping for another week. Even with all the things I liked about the job, I was starting to hit my limit and wanted to change.
Then something reared its ugly head.
In my mind, a 3-headed beast roared excuses. Excuses I could make that would cause me forget what I wanted to do and stay working in a job I didn’t want to work. And these weren’t the excuses we all make to get out of dinners or parties or responsibilities. These were way more personal for me. They were excuses I was making to not change – excuses that kept me doing something I didn’t want to do and kept from something I did want to do.
Here were some of the big ones for me :
- I don’t have the money to quit.
Living ain’t free. Plus, aren’t my wife and I supposed to save up for a down payment ? Kids college funds ? Retirement on a yacht forever ?
- What if it doesn’t work out ?
This, as I’ve come to learn, is always self-defeating. I couldn’t know if it would work or not – because my magic crystal ball is back in the factory getting fixed. But it was an excuse to fall back on. Why ? More on that below.
- What will people say ?
People talk. And even though I don’t really care what people say about me, I do care about my reputation.
- I’ve got other obligations.
I have a handful of obligations, but people at work had way more. We’ve all got stuff we need to keep our jobs to do. Whether that be rent, kids activities, medical stuff – this excuse is huge.
- You don’t have a solid plan.
I didn’t have all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. I didn’t have m 3 year plan worked out. So how could I quit ?
And when I look at these excuses now, it’s easy to organize them into some main categories. I was afraid of failing, making mistakes, and being embarrassed because of those two things.
My excuses came from the stuff I was afraid of in life. And I used those excuses, I think, as ways to rationalize my fear and keep myself the same. That’s the magic right there. That’s what you need to find out in order to quit your job.
You’ve got to pay attention to your life and figure out what excuses you’re making. But that’s not enough. Excuses don’t help anyone. Excuses are a rug we sweep our fears under. I hid behind my excuses because I didn’t want to deal with my fears.
I was ( am still sort of am ) afraid of failing and looking like an idiot.
So what ? That’s the other big question I needed to ask myself. And that question led to something else – something that I didn’t quite expect.
It wasn’t my freedom; at least not at first.
The first thing that popped up when I asked “so what?” was apathy. It was a real lack of interest – in almost anything. I asked “so what?” about almost everything. Why would those things ( failure and embarrassment ) make me afraid ? Why should I even get afraid ? So what about fear.
That might sound like bravery, and I think that’s the trick apathy schmoozes us with. Not caring can make you seem strong – for a while it made me feel strong. But it didn’t end in strength. It felt like not feeling.
The excuses were gone, so too were the fears. Problem solved, right ?
The only issue was a lot of my hopes and dreams and aspirations left too. The things I want to do with my life, those things were once fires – now they were fading embers.
I had to do something else.
I had to address my fears. At first, it sounded a bit too “I wear a bad fitting suit, have a great tan, and do a lot of yoga” to me. Classic-old-school-hippie-motivational-speaker. Maybe that’s my fault. Because honestly, facing your fears and addressing them might be the bravest thing someone can do. Maybe making fun of it before was an excuse not to deal with it. Who knows ?
But that’s where my freedom came from. My fears showed me what I actually cared about.
And not the fears of failing ( in general ); but the fears of failing at what I wanted to do. Not what I had to do.
There’s not enough space here to list out how I found out what I wanted to do – but guess what, I have written about it already. You can read about finding out your purpose here.
Once I had those two things, facing my fears and pursuing my purpose, on lock-down, I felt truly free.
The excuses of not being able to leave the job that started filling me with dread evaporated. The fear of failing at doing what I wanted started to shrink. And as far as quitting your job is concerned, that’s freedom. It might not be William Wallace screaming for freedom – but it was Josh feeling liberated to hand in his two-week’s notice.
The Choice is Yours
None of this is my call. I had to make the decision for me – and I had help. Life isn’t intended to be done solo.
Maybe you’re in a job that is crushing you and stressing you out. You have a choice.
Maybe you’re in a job you love but want to be more challenged. You have a choice.
A lot of people are going to try to define that choice for you – and almost EVERYONE is going to throw their fears on top of you. I know this from experience. Once my two-week’s notice was handed to my Senior Director, it was done. There was no going back. That’s when I felt free.
Then the email to my department got sent out. People came to my desk in droves ( not droves, really, but a lot did come ). Each of them would ask “Aren’t you worried about _Insert Worry Here ?” And at first I tried to defend myself and how I wasn’t worried. And we would get in weird debates. But then it clicked. My coworkers weren’t too concerned with my future ( though some are ), they were more concerned with their own fears. Each of them were vocalizing ways they wouldn’t be able to do what I did.
I learned to ask them, “what about that worries you?” and people would share.
The choice was mine and their choice is theirs.
Ultimately, no one is going to make that choice for you. No one can, really. No one else knows you like you know you. I wish I could have got a text spelling out the next five years of my life. But I didn’t. I had to choose a different way if I wanted to pursue the things that get me excited.
Wrapping It Up
I am not telling you to quit your job – or quit anything in life. I’m only asking you think about who you are and who you want to be. I’m asking you to think about what you’re doing and what you want to be doing. Maybe those things line up and maybe you’re on the path to get there. Maybe not. I wasn’t. I needed to change.
When I realized that I need a change I started taking steps towards it. And the first thing that I had to face was a mountain of excuses. Those excuses were just fears. Fears that I needed to face.
And my first solution to facing them was apathy. But that got me nowhere.
I needed to address my fears – I needed to rationalize them and reason through them. And those fears revealed to me, in a new way, the things I wanted to do.
Lastly, I needed to act. I had a choice : to stay in a place that would depress me, or to pursue dreams that would motivate me. ***
So, I made the choice. I quit my job. I quit my job because I needed to. And now there’s a new road open in front of me. And I will probably need to make another choice soon. Because that’s life.
*** Disclaimer : sometimes we don’t have this luxury – there are definitely situations where to survive and provide, a person needs to work in a depressing place.