Last October I took the plunge. I decided to quit my job. Hell, I decided to quit my career. I really did. I had been reading all about how folks were doing this, quitting their jobs I mean. Well, not a lot of folks, but some folks. And after quitting, they were writing about it – or people were writing about them – and how wonderful it had been since leaving their boring, monotonous, life-sucking, stress-induced, thankless, purposeless, jobs. Some of these people were now traveling around the globe, making money blogging and writing books. Some moved their entire families to another country, where they house-sat for free, ran their business from abroad, and now lived like kings. Some went on a spiritual journey and decided to dedicate their life to a Buddhist monastery. While others became champions of helping others and spent their time on humanitarian missions.
The thing I noticed that they all had in common was that they were all happy! Go figure. Meanwhile, my regular friends – those with money, those with high paying jobs, those with lots of toys, those that were married, those with large houses, those with nice cars, those with power, and those that seemed to have it all – were not happy at all. Some pretended to be happy, sure they did, but once you got to the root of it, they weren’t really happy at all; at least not the content and peaceful happiness you hear about. So I thought, what gives? Maybe there is something to this quitting your job business after all.
Since I’ve left my job, I’ve had some pretty interesting reactions. The way people respond to me, you’d think I had done something wonderful. You’d think I’d received some major promotion or something, but even when I received promotions in the past I didn’t receive these types of accolades. No, instead, folks have been really proud of me. It’s been a little confusing trying to figure out why, since most folks I know that are unemployed don’t get the attention and support I’ve gotten. Hell, most of them are labeled as being lazy. I think the difference is this: I quit not only my job, but I quit the entire traditional way of thinking, while others either struggle to find work or lose their jobs due to their own ineptness, as they try to fit into the traditional way of thinking. Also, let’s be clear too, I didn’t quit my job so I could sit around all day eating Cheetos and doing bong hits. Instead, I redefined my definition of “work” and decided to pursue a career I enjoyed first and to live within those means, which for me was writing and the means were quite limited. And I know what you’re thinking as you read this. What I’ve done is only what others dream of doing. What I’m faced with time and time again are arguments about why it can’t be done and reasons why only I could do it. I figured instead of arguing with everyone, I would simply write down some steps on how to quit your job and be happy. Please feel free to take them or leave them, agree or disagree, since these are simply my own opinions, which have happened to work for me:
- You don’t know what you don’t know: We spend most of our lives in bubbles. I talk to folks all of the time who don’t know much about anything. It’s really quite amazing. And I don’t mean the type of folks that have all of these political views without a formal education and who never pick up a book, although that is very frustrating too. I’m talking about general knowledge. I’d like to say happiness can be achieved by waving a magic wand, but the truth is you have to want to help yourself, and in order to do so, it involves reading up on and studying things like neurology, spiritualism, and psychology. Once you start realizing how the brain actually works, you’ll realize there are things you can do to make yourself happier and smarter. For example, force yourself to smile! You’d be amazed how over time a forced smile soon realigns your brain’s neural pathways and makes you actually feel happier. On a large scale, meditation, diet, exercise, and mental exercise will do wonders for your well-being and cognitive abilities. So if you’re sitting at a job that causes stress, anxiety, anger and forces you to get fat and eat poorly, then you’re probably contributing to your own brain’s demise.
- Challenge your perception of the norm and reality: This is a tough one for most people to consider, but think about it for a minute. Of all the things around you, what is actually “real”? Things are real in so much as we, our human minds, assign value to it or believe it to be real. For example, gold is worth $1,400 an ounce because we say so, not because it has an intrinsic value. Your Mercedes has the value you assign to it, maybe because you want to be better than those around you, but in reality, a million years from now no one is going to care about your Mercedes or you, assuming humans are even around. The way I figure it, either there’s a God and all of the crap you own doesn’t much matter anyhow because there is a higher purpose, or there isn’t a God and none of that crap you own matters much anyhow, since it will all be dust someday. Either way, why not focus on actually being happy? Why spend your entire life working for someone else doing something you don’t enjoy?
- Let go: Really, who cares what others think anyhow? Now, this doesn’t mean to not care about anything. I used to confuse letting go with not caring, but there is a difference. Not caring is negative. It presuppose a sense of depression and anger. While letting go is an acceptance of what is. It’s accepting what happens. It’s going with the flow. Rolling with the punches. Worrying about the past, the future, and what others think is wasted energy, since they really don’t matter anyhow. Now, this isn’t to say we can’t learn from the past and plan for the future, but don’t let the past dictate who you are today and don’t dwell on a future that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, live in the moment. The moment is the only thing that ever exists. Think about it, when have you ever not lived in the moment? Yet most of us never enjoy the moment. Instead, we allow the past to dictate who we are today and we worry about what hasn’t happened yet, which causes stress and anxiety. Instead, realize that you control the moment and the future will take care of itself.
- Realize you only have one life: As far as I know and as far as anyone has been able to show me, we only have one life. Because you only have one life, why the hell would you not enjoy it? Why wouldn’t you make the most of it? Why would you let a perceived reality that has no meaning control your every move? Or, if you’d like to believe, why would you let a reality that does have a meaning become a life without compassion and purpose? It’s ridiculous. Enjoy life, you only get one. This means, enjoy your job too, since that’s where you spend most of your time.
- What’s the point in having “stuff” if it doesn’t make you happy: This one seems kind of crazy to me. I’ve never, and I mean never ever, ever – and I’ve met a lot of people – have ever met anyone that is happy because they have a lot of stuff. I’ve met a lot of people that are “happy” right after they buy something, but soon after that they are depressed because they want to buy more new stuff or the stuff they have is no longer good enough. If you need to buy stuff to be happy, then you are looking for happiness externally, when all you need to do is look inside, since that’s where happiness resides. I remember the freedom I felt when I first wanted nothing. When I walked through the mall and didn’t need to use self-restraint to avoid buying things, since I truly didn’t want them. I felt empowered. I felt true freedom. It was the freedom from want. So ask yourself, are you working to buy more stuff that makes you happy or are you working to actually be happy? If you want to actually be happy, you might want to start by actually enjoying what you do. What’s the point in being miserable in order to buy stuff to make you happy that doesn’t make you happy when you can simply be happy by doing something you enjoy (a confusing sentence, I know, but read it slowly and it will start to make sense)?
- Most corporations are trying to make money, not trying to do good: While you’re working for a corporation, realize that most of them don’t care much about you. I realize there are some exceptions and this is one of those massive blanket statements, however… based on my biased experiences, most people that are tied up in the corporate world are in it to make money. Money makes the world go round. Although I don’t dismiss productivity and the need for manufacturers and corporations, just make sure you see them for what they are. If you love what you do, then that’s awesome, but most folks don’t and it’s important to realize that the greed motive plays an important part in business, so watch your back, since you probably won’t find purpose or happiness in this type of job. Instead, you’ll probably end up working just to pay the bills. Either that or find a corporate job you enjoy doing. My point here is to look out for yourself if you decide to stay in the corporate world since the greed motive isn’t going to look out for you.
- You’ll be much more successful doing what you enjoy than what you don’t enjoy: People used to ask me, why would you leave your job, you’re damn good at what you do? I would say, well if I’m damn good at what I don’t enjoy, imagine how successful I’ll be doing something I love. Realize if you aren’t happy doing what you’re doing, then you’re probably not living up to your full potential anyhow.
- Have a resume: Look, I’m all about not playing the “game” and not conforming, but it’s going to be real tough to do your own thing if you never apply yourself. Although I’ve quit my job, I’ve spent a great deal of time building my resume. For example, I was an officer in the Marine Corps, I have a Master’s Degree, and I was a VP of Purchasing for a national home builder. Now, I’m not saying you have to be all of these things, but having credibility, intelligence, references, and a strong background only opens up doors for you. Don’t expect to sit on the couch and have stuff fall in your lap. When we house sat for someone living in Costa Rica, they welcomed us into their homes because we had a solid background, not because we dropped out of high school and lived with our parents for 15 years. I’m not saying there is a right way here, but be smart and realistic about things. Quitting your job isn’t an entitlement program.
- You need someone that agrees with you you: If you and your partner don’t see eye to eye and don’t grow together, then nothing is going to work. Following your dream can only work if you’re with someone that believes in or shares your dream. Someone that’s fighting you along the way is only dead weight and you both would probably be happier with someone else anyhow. So if you’re going to try and make any unhappy relationship work, either hope for a revelation from your partner (or yourself) or buckle down for a long life of unpleasantness, otherwise, find someone that’s on board with your goals or embrace the single life until you do. I’ve met plenty of folks that have told me marriage is all about hard work and compromise. And I guess part of that has to do with what you want out of life. But if you realize that both of you would be happier with someone else who supports you and thinks like you, then perhaps that’s the path to go. It isn’t worth staying together and having both parties unhappy for the sake of “toughing it out”, because then you’re just being stubborn or believe you don’t have a choice, which is never true.
- Figure yourself out first: This is a pretty big one. Half the reason we struggle so much and have bad relationships are because of our own baggage. We always seem to think the world is against us and everything is always someone’s fault, but that’s because we let our own ego get in our way. Half the reason we can’t find a good mate isn’t simply because he/she isn’t out there, but mostly because we have our own unresolved issues we haven’t figured out yet. It’s important to understand that as children our brains are impressionable and our neural-pathways are just forming, so anything that happens to us as children has consequences throughout our entire lives. If we ignore those issues, then we’ll never understand why we do what we do. Once we start accepting our past and that we’re all messed up because of it, then we can avoid the same mistakes, make improvements, and thus consciously change our own neural-pathways for good. This in turn will help you find a healthy relationship and a career you enjoy, so stop blaming others and stop being your own roadblock.
- You don’t need to be wealthy and single: In order to leave your job, you don’t need to be wealthy and/or single. This is what most people tell me. “You must have a lot of money.” To that, I say, “No, not at all, my ex-wife got it all.” The other thing they say is, “You are lucky you don’t have children.” To that I say, “My fiance and I are trying to have children now.” We also have friends that moved to Costa Rica with their three year old because they were having financial problems. You just need to be flexible. A lot of the reasons why people think you need a lot of money is because they don’t realize how inexpensive it can be to live oversees. The reason people think it’s impossible to move with their children is because of the responsibilities they’ve established where they now live, such as schools and friends and so on. Although this doesn’t necessarily need to be a deterrent to leaving the country, a more prudent response is that you don’t need to leave the country to enjoy your job and find happiness. I’m of the mindset that spending quality time with your children is far more important than spending money on them, which is slightly ironic since you have to work more at the job you don’t enjoy in order to spend more money on your children and less time with them. Go figure.
12: It doesn’t happen over night: This one dovetails off the last few points, especially since I probably got a lot of folks upset above, who are probably thinking, “It’s just not that easy.” To that I say, “You’re right, it’s not that easy.” It really isn’t. Look, none of this happens overnight. Once I got it in my head that I wanted a life with more purpose and enjoyment, it took 3-4 years to make it a realization. I had to get a divorce and find someone that was on the same page as me. I had to foreclose on my house. I had to move multiple times. I relocated with my job. I quit one job and went to another. I had to finish my alimony payments. I had to get rid of all of my possessions. I had to pay off all of my debt. It all took time. Once you evaluate your situation and once you make a decision to change your life, the ball gets set in motion whether you want it to or not, which all takes time. For those with more responsibilities, it’s going to take longer. So be patient. Accept what is.
- Live within your means: We all have this idea of what the “American Dream” is and what we want to own someday, then we work our asses off to buy those things. Then, once we have them, we realize they don’t make us happy. Why don’t we do it the other way around? Why don’t we find what we enjoy doing and then live within those means? After all, who gets the last laugh; the person with the most toys that’s depressed or the person that’s the happiest with no toys? I had a friend with a 7,000 square foot mansion in one of the nicest parts of Orange County ask me how I was so happy. I smiled. I wondered at the time, why aren’t you so happy? Unfortunately people look for happiness outside of themselves, while it’s inside of them all along. I feel empathy for folks like that. Change your definition of wealth. It’s not what you own, it’s who you are.
- Life goes on: Life does go on. We think that if we change something that the world will come tumbling down. People are going to think less of us, we think. I foreclosed on my house, got a divorce, gave away all of my possessions, and told my parents I was quitting my six-figure job. Again, our worst enemy is our perceptions. If we accept things as they are, then what can ever really hurt us? I love J.K. Rowling’s story; it wasn’t until she hit rock bottom before she realized nothing could destroy her. It was then that she wrote the Harry Potter series. If you quit your job, the world won’t end.
- Time if finite: Why don’t we realize this one? We treat our lives as if time is abundant, but it isn’t. Time is limited and precious, so don’t waste it. At this point in my life it seems madness to me to think that anyone would spend time in a job they don’t enjoy doing. In order to chase a bigger paycheck, larger promotions, and higher status, I spent the last 10 years of my life removed from my family, while my five year old nephew has grown up without me. My father retired and my mother watched her husband, my stepfather, die of lung cancer. All of this has happened without me. There’s no amount of money that can buy my time any longer. My time is not for sale.
- You were born happy: Happiness is within you. Somewhere along the way we learn that happiness is something to pursue. The pursuit of happiness. But happiness is within us. It should be the pursuit of freedom. We think we are born free, but after we accumulate credit card debt, a mortgage payment, car payments, and all of the other financial obligations, I wonder, who is really free? If you’re looking for happiness, you won’t find it in a job you don’t enjoy.
- There’s no excuse for being miserable: Look, if you’re miserable, you’re doing it to yourself. Sure, you might have had a horrible past that’s tough to get beyond, but it’s in the past and it’s not who you are now. If you can’t get past it, then see a therapist. I wrote a book, and that was my therapy for when I was young and for my experiences during the Iraq war. It helped me realize how messed up I was. Regardless, do something. We create the world we live in. We really do. We assign the perceived values. We assign the rules. We create our own burdens in our heads. If you don’t believe me, then you’ll always be miserable.
18. Finally, be nice: If you’re nice to everyone, the world is your oyster. It really is. I’ve found that the greatest happiness comes from helping others, not from helping myself.