I’ve been reading articles left and right on why someone should quit their job today and start their own business, or why it’s foolish not to quit your job and travel. This led me to remembering my very own journey and when I was faced with the decision of starting my own business vs. going back to work. As many of you may already know, I was fired from a very lucrative six-figure job and was faced with a decision to either go back to work for someone else vs. start a new company. What many of you may not know, is how difficult that one year in-between really was. Regardless of whether you make $25,000 a year or $250,000 a year – quitting your job isn’t easy, and surviving the time between not having a job and having success while being self-employed is the hardest part.
The reason why many people who get fired like I did still end up successful is simply because we are forced out of our comfort zone and given a reality check about what comfort really is; we quickly realize that it’s not a 9-5 no matter how lucrative it may be. For those who don’t get fired, it’s even harder to part with something when it’s the foundation on which your survival, comfort zone, and work life balance is built on. Which is why I find it fascinating when someone says you should quit your job to travel.
While I agree that the path to true freedom will never be achieved working a 9-5, I also understand the hesitation many have to jump ship especially when obligations stand in the way, such as having a family.
I want to share a very unique inside look into what happened to me after I was fired, and it’s important that you pay attention so you can make sure you don’t fall victim to the same mental cluster-fuck I went through.
The hardest and most difficult part when jumping ship isn’t even the lack of income, but rather your ability to work without structure or direction.
While many people can argue they are leaders at work (so was I), they aren’t dependent on anyone at work (neither was I), and that the majority of their role may even be selling (so was mine at first), none of these things can prepare you for the void you’re about to feel when you have to completely start over.
Don’t think of structure as someone telling you what to do everyday; think of structure as the fact that you are selling a product that already exists (engineering), within a company that is already established (brand recognition), and with a support system that guarantees your survival (paycheck). Now, all of a sudden you have to start with none of the above.
While you may think that it can be done with discipline, you have no idea the psychological roller coaster it will be once you actually realize how hard it is. It’s even harder if you were in a high position in your previous corporate role, as all of your efforts in the first few months or even year won’t allow you to compensate yourself anywhere near what you were making before. However, everyday you will have to work harder than the combined efforts of all of your past employees – many of which will go unrewarded and unpaid.
The second extremely difficult part will be watching your savings get depleted as your lifestyle will take time to adjust down. In many cases you may not even want to adjust anything; from how often you go out to your shopping habits, most of that will need to change but will take a lot of time to adjust to.
Within that time you’re forced to watch your savings go down and in most cases have nothing to replenish it with, which makes getting another job seem even more promising. You’ll give yourself a hundred reasons why finding a temporary job may be the right fit and best thing to do while you figure things out.
Lastly, quitting will make you realize how irrelevant and replaceable your position really was no matter how high up you were. This will also take an emotional toll on you at some point, as in most cases you’ve spent a long time doing what you do, even if it is across many different companies. Realizing how easily replaceable you were and how quickly people forget about you can make you bitter.
Those friends at work that you felt were close will stop calling and usually only about 1% will keep in touch. The reality is that you will see how much people never really cared in the first place unless there was a reason for them to. This is especially hard if you were in a leadership position and had a close relationship with your staff, who not only is no longer your staff, but also now have no reason to make an effort to keep in touch with you as they no longer have a need to. While this a good thing as you see who really was on your side and who was just looking out for themselves, it’s also hard to accept.
I faced all of these things during my transition from a corporate leader to an entrepreneur. It was difficult, but I did do a few things in order to position myself for success and get past that first “hell” year, which made it easier to deal with the harsh reality check that leaving your job can be.
1) I had a side business.
When I worked for others I also had a side business; it was only making me $30,000 or so a year, but it was still something I knew I could grow – something I didn’t have to start from scratch. While I did start two other businesses, I knew this first one wasn’t a new one that had no traction. This made it much easier to structure my days, so I highly recommend that every person who works for someone else consider starting and upholding a side business, even if it’s part-time in nature.
2) I accepted the residual nature of building my own business.
I started becoming more productive when I accepted that my yearly salary or pay was not an indication of my worth, but rather what I was building held worth on its own. When combining the worth of my business with what I was earning (which was less than my past salary), I realized that despite making less up front, I was certainly making much more all together. The best part was that no one else was able to take it away from me other than myself.
3) I realized that I never really worked for others, but had always really only worked for myself.
I wrote about this before in a previous article about how to deal with getting fired, but it’s true that regardless of whether you collect a paycheck or not, or if you report to someone or not, you always have and always will work for yourself. It may be unclear now, but when you actually quit it will make more sense.
In reality, you work for your own gain, even when you work for others, so all the knowledge you gain and experience you accrue stays with you and can’t ever really be taken away from you. That said, you are always looking out for yourself first and your company second. When you actually quit, you realize your company and you have become one in the same, and even back when they weren’t, you still ultimately always really worked for yourself.
Quitting your job isn’t easy, and shouldn’t be triggered by an article about what you are missing out on, but rather your self-realization that the goals you have will not be reached working under someone else’s umbrella or building someone else’s residual nest egg.
When you realize that and believe it, that is when you quit.