There is no passion to be found by playing small-in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.– Nelson Mandela
11 years. 11 years I’ve been doing this shit I thought to myself as I glanced over my computer monitor at the half dozen other cubicle workers sitting next to me.
How have I let my life turn into such a grind, I wondered? Why am I stuck in this soul sucking job? When will I be able to break free and do something I actually want to do?
Rewind 11 years and I had no career. I had no goals. I had no long-term plan. What I did have though was a life of freedom. And although my “career” was as a waiter, I travelled the country frequently and was happy with my life.
But when I turned 30, I thought that it was my time to join the ranks of responsible adulthood and find a real job.
So, without any experience and very little knowledge of it, I jumped into the world of high finance. And as it turned out, it was not quite the right path for me. No, it was definitely the wrong one.
I played the part of stock broker well. I dressed in nice suits, socialized with high net worth individuals, and tried to impress people with my credentials.
But instead of my life being like Bud Fox’s from Wall Street, it was more like Peter’s from Office Space. I was bored to tears and every day was a drain. Every day I wondered how long I would be able to tolerate the drudgery.
Well, I got my answer more than a decade later and in October 2013, I finally had the courage to make the change I had fantasized about for so long.
Taking A Big Risk, But Not Really
I left because I could not stand even one more day of misery. And so I quit.
I left a $200 million financial advisory practice behind to make $40,000 per year running a gym. You might think that’s insane but I say it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
The risk of not making enough money was nothing compared to the risk of spending my life doing work that meant nothing to me.
And I was doing work that lit me up inside. I got to wake up every morning and use my talent and skills to their fullest potential and it was an amazing feeling!
When I quit, I had one thing in mind. My life and how short it really is. I didn’t want to spend it sitting behind a desk typing numbers into spreadsheet. I wanted to live!
Looking Back At A Decade Of Grinding
I can look back now at the decisions I made and how they affected my work and personal life. I have learned from my mistakes and consider them valuable lessons.
And if you are currently in a job you no longer care about (or downright hate), I’ll share a few lessons I‘ve learned that may help set you on the path you want to be on.
1. Your “why” is more important than your bank account.
Sure leaving a job to work for yourself is far safer when you have a stockpile of cash reserves. I didn’t.What I did have was an incredibly strong “why”. I knew it would be brutally difficult to make ends meet but I had I was literally dying at my job and could not justify wasting another minute of my life.
Now, I don’t advocate abandoning conventional wisdom and quitting a job without any money, that’s just being foolish and irresponsible. But I will tell you that if your “why” is strong enough, you WILL make it work, because you have to!
When I quit, I had $500 to my name. So I busted my ass 12-14 hours a day to make enough money to live. Sure it sucked and I was tired all the time, but I was working towards something and had passion for it.
2. Don’t get too comfortable.
If your life doesn’t suck enough, you won’t make the change, period. It’s only when the pain of staying on your current path outweighs the pain the risk of leaving it will be, is when you will make the change. And even then, many don’t out of fear.It’s so easy to fall into the rut of just getting by. You have a family to support, a mortgage to pay, and kids that need to go to college someday. You can’t quit, you say. So you settle in for the long haul at your job and accept your fate as a corporate pawn.
This will lead to settling for mediorcaty and living out your life unfulfilled. Do not let this happen! Give yourself a wake-up call and realize that there is more to life.
3. Discover what matters most to you.
After a decade of working in a job I hated, I knew exactly what I didn’t want. And I knew that the next job or the next business I started would be what I did want.I knew because I recognized my values. Money wasn’t nearly as important as I thought it would be. I just wasn’t motivated by money. Kind of ironic given the vast fortunes being thrown around in the stock market and working in an office where the average income for a financial advisor was upwards $400,000 per year.
I learned that I wanted to build relationships and that’s where my strongest skills were. I learned that I was highly analytical and organized. I valued one on one interaction, personal conversations, and the feeling I got when I felt like I actually helped someone.
So use your work time wisely. And by that, I mean to discover not only what you excel at but what you enjoy the most.
Are there aspects of your job that you love? What would you change about your job? How would you do it differently? What can you add to make it better?
Answering these questions can have a profound impact on your outlook on your job and ultimately, your life.
4. Do something, anything, to get you closer to your dreams.
Three years before I quit my job, I started my blog. I started it out of frustration and as a way to connect with people like me, who felt trapped in a miserable job.Up until that point, I did nothing (except complain) about my job. I didn’t look for another job or try to make my situation any better. I just put my head down and suffered in silence. Not a wise idea.
You’ve heard it a million times before; start working on a side project while you’re working your full-time job and someday you’ll be able to quit.
Well that didn’t work for me and the reason it didn’t wasn’t because it’s impractical. It’s because my mindset was still that of an employee. I had been conditioned to think like an employee and reliant on everything associated with that. A steady paycheck, group benefits, a 401k Plan, etc.
I simply didn’t have the mentality to quit to become an entrepreneur. I wasn’t ready for it.
Turning The Grind Into A Positive
And although I spent more than a decade grinding it out and being unhappy, I have stopped resenting that fact and have learned to embrace the lessons I’ve learned.
My sincere hope is that you read this and it prompts you to make a decision; a decision to live your life on your terms.
So tell me, what is your grind and how are you going to end it?
Photo by Georgie Pauwels
Scribd is a ticket to endless knowledge and entertainment. This unlimited subscription service has been described as the "Netflix for books" because it gives access to millions of audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, comics, and sheet music selections. You can try Scribd free with a 30-day trial. Click here to learn more about Scribd.
Follow us on Instagram
25 thoughts on “Turning a Decade Of Grinding Into My Life’s Passion: One Man’s Journey Out Of the Grind and Into His Calling”
I quit my job as well and now finding a way to my passion – a wedding gown designer. The problem I had with my job was I didn’t realized that I was suffered and unhappy. I told myself “I love my job I will have a good future” and swallowed all the negative energy. It was killing my years, health, patience, mental and I became numb the longer I worked in there until I decided to leave the job without a good saving in account too. But I’m glad of my decision which lead me found my passion and life. I had a dream, covered it at the bottom forgotten. Now I’m trying to make my dream come true, and I’m happy.
That’s awesome that you have found your passion! It’s far too easy to get stuck in a job/career that is unfulfilling yet we are too scared to make a change. Good for you!
My grind is working the same corporate job for the last 17 years and having the same daily routine. I have no desire to advance and I didn’t imagine myself still here after all these years. I’m going to end it by quitting next August with all my vac and sick time which is two months of sick time to allow myself to find any evening job so that I can spend the day time hours building my company.
Hey Valerie. 17 years, ouch.
It sounds like an interesting plan you have.. What is your business?
Yes, 17 years right out of high school. I’m 35 and have never worked anywhere else. The positive side of all this is that I am damn near an expert at what my employer does to sustain this wildly successful multi-billion dollar retail outlet. I plan on branding a revolutionary concept in the grocery industry to fit the needs of our future. I’m very confident that this concept will be financially rewarding, but that’s not why I mapped it out… the idea originally stemmed from me wanting to solve a few problems on our grocery shopping habits. My goal is to reduce environmental waste by eliminating packing, be part of a sustainable financial ecosystem that will allow better value and healthier choices to consumers, and more importantly, create rewarding jobs for people.
Thanks Steve for the post,
It’s really hard to quit your job because you feel that’s the only thing you know how to do well.
It took me 4 years to quit and start freelancing, and I’m now working towards my own business.
Like you said, it really felt like I can’t take it anymore. And the burn out in the IT business is massive.
For me the hardest part was to believe I can start my own business, although I didn’t have a plan yet. But when I agreed to be out of my comfort zone. When I started breaking my glass ceiling.
That’s when my courage and confidence came.
I believe the confidence comes only after you have the courage to take the first step into the unknown.
After 11 years in the finance game, I was very burned out! I too had very little confidence that I could make it and am hustling every day right now to try to make it.
What business are you building? I see you have a new blog, VibrantDad, is that it?
Yes VibrantDad is my new blog.
I’m working towards a business that helps family men find and live their life purpose. To live fully by being a great dad first.
OK, Benny. Are you planning on making the blog the business or are you working on something else?
I’m planning on making the blog the business.
Although currently I don’t have a business plan.
I’m only in the beginning and working towards getting subscribers.
I greatly identify with this article…we all have our excuses of not making a change, but when the pain gets intense enough, to change is the only way to survive.
Thanks for sharing ur story. It was inspiring and though provoking for me
Steve, this resonates! I’m a Steve too. I’m a 58 year old ex-Hawaiian Ironman finisher who’s fifty pounds overweight, stuck in a soul snatching job, wondering how I got to this point. People think I’ve got the best gig in the world (I’m a ranger at the Alamo, Carry a 45 on my hip, etc.) but what I want to do is write. Your blog is a great one. I too like to meet new people everyday, make new friends, form relationships and be around people who like to do the same things I like to do, ie write, play music, paint, sculpt. Maybe a I should get a blog going. My vision of success would be a thousand new friends from writing about my experiences. What do you think?
Thanks for your comment here. I’ve discovered that it doesn’t matter what people think about your job. It’s if you like it. I used to think wearing an expensive suit and telling people I managed $200 million is client assets made me important. But at the end of the day, I hated doing it. It was all an act. And truth be told, nobody really gives a shit anyway. Why not make yourself happy and do something that inspires you?!?
It sounds like you would be a good blogger and if you truly enjoy writing and building relationships, I say go for it. You have nothing to lose, literally. You can set up a site for free and just start creating content. You never know who your writing will resonate with..
Keep me posted please.
I loved this! it’s so inspiring and challenging! I’m in between jobs, and this is super encouraging!
Good for you for making a change, David. Don’t settle for just another job..
I am glad you have found a way out of the grind. When you are trapped in the grind and barely making ends meet, or not at all, it is difficult to find the path out of the thicket of your soul-sucking job. It is always easier when you have a six month cushion to meet living expenses. I thank you for pushing others to make the leap and your words of encouragement. This quote also helps to push me forward; “If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.” ~Saint Augustine.
Love the quote.
Sure anyone with a surplus of cash can afford to take more risk than those without, but to me, it’s having the “have-to” mentality that will push you out of your comfort zone and into action. Since I had no money, I have had to hustle day and night to make it work, but it’s worth it.
I think we can all understand the feeling of being stuck in a soul-sucking job. As we work toward our own goals, remember to be grateful for what you have in the present. It can help you get through while you work on your own ideas in your spare time.
I’m grateful I work for a company that values my skills. I’m grateful for my paycheck and my health benefits. I hope some day to be able to offer these things to someone else who needs and appreciates them. Hopefully, I’ll be able to build a company that doesn’t make people miserable.
Thanks for the encouragement, Steve. Glad you got out.
Indeed a very good comment, offcouse till we find solution to a problem we must remain contended, calm and cool. So that we do not lose our present in pursuit of future.
I wonder why you only had $500 after a decade of working – I’m about halfway through my corporate slog (it’s been about 9 years) and plan to leave once I have around seven figures to take with me, not quite enough to retire on, but enough to live on a $40k salary without sacrificing college for my kids, etc. I’d like to be a teacher. I figure another 8 or 9 years won’t be so bad, and if I’m able to save about half my income in the meantime I’ll be in a great spot I my early 40’s.
If you could do it over, would you have saved more (half your income) and still done the 11 years, or skipped the whole finance thing altogether?
Good question and surprisingly one I rarely get. I am a big advocate or saving and think some of us may be in big trouble by the time we need Social Security, but that’s another story. The reason I had so little was twofold:
1. When we bought out house, we went into massive debt thinking my salary would increase significantly. It didn’t. I ended up paying off over $60k in consumer debt with my savings.
2. I’m divorced and left the marriage will ALL of our debt, including healthcare debt among others which was still significant.
Yes, I could have done far better at saving throughout the years, but instead chose to spend more than I was making. Bad move.
Going forward I have a slightly different strategy..
There’s something about working in finance that distorts our values so that money is the only measure. I quit working in “wealth management” before I got to two years. The longer you stay the harder it is to get out.
Currently I’m catching up on more important things like working in the garden and on the house.
Thanks Roy. I too have been in that situation. I was told from a young age that I wasn’t smart but whenever I did anything I was always astonished how good I was at it. Because of that I studied and took classes I hated but wanted to prove that I was intelligent enough to do well. I studied accounting. Did a Masters Degree and on the final day of college cried so much on the train that people thought I was dying. I felt like I was dying because I hated accounting and didn’t want to work in that field.
I went home and decided that I would never be an accountant even though I did the CPA. I knew I wanted to help people. I wanted to make people feel special about themselves. I knew I wanted people to know that no matter how hard and scary it might seem there is always hope.
I am doing that and I love it.
Thanks again for your post.
Hey Steve thanks for creating this blog. My names Karl and I’m currently working overnight at a gym. At 26 years of age I want to make something out of myself but I’m not yet sure exactly where my path will take me. I want to quit my job and get out of the rat race all together but I know I have a many ways to go. Without getting too down on myself I believe I will find a way and will do as much as I can to pursue my dreams…