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