People on Quora were asked: “What was it like quitting your high-paying job for a less stressful lower paying job?” These are some of the best answers.
I quit the Navy after 8 years. I was an officer in nuclear submarines: given the pay plus relatively good odds of survival, it’s the best elite they have. I had a shot at commanding one of those beasts in another 7 or 8 years. In the main, I loved the guys I worked with.
What I didn’t like was the culture of competing to stay awake the longest and push the most papers and look the busiest. I didn’t like the degree of fakery that went on: everyone knew that it was impossible to do everything we were supposed to; occasionally someone would get burned for “radioing” some “vital” piece of paper, but mostly things just went on. I didn’t like knowing that I had at least 3, maybe 4 more captains to work for — I was relatively lucky to have had only one genuine psychotic and no dangerous incompetents out of the first 4.
When I left, it was like rising from the dead. I missed a lot of things (still do), but I didn’t have to play the game any more. I didn’t have another job lined up, I didn’t even need one right away. I just gloried in having every day off with no end in sight. I eventually did some construction, fixed burglar alarms, got into computers again, and it was all fun because I still felt free.
If I’d had a family or debts to pay off it might have been different; I’m glad I didn’t, for several years. It all comes down to how much you like something about your rat race — prestige, money, whatever, and whether having a career means anything to you. If none of that matters as much as wasting your youth doing something you don’t like, JUMP! It will be worth whatever it costs you.
I did sales from age 19 to age 31. I was really, really good at it. At times made 10K per month or more. Others around me made a lot more, but they were true sociopaths with nothing resembling a conscience.
In 2009, I finally admitted to myself that my entire career was about deceiving people into parting with their money for things that they truly did not need. I decided to do something I love, and have been in school to be a nutritionist ever since.
Even though I have barely scraped by since, working jobs that are well below my skill level, I sleep well at night and have never, ever been healthier or happier. Money and material wealth are [nothing]. They are shallow pursuits for people who are ravaged by insecurity, whether conscious of it or not, and truly do not like themselves. True happiness and fulfillment come from helping people.
Circa 2005, I was enjoying the dream of working in Hollywood. I had worked my way up the totem pole, first working as a security guard to get onto the lot, and eventually worked my way out of a security uniform into an office and became a studio liaison working with incoming film and television productions,executives, and talent term deals like the production companies of Sam Raimi, Will Smith, and especially Adam Sandler. It wasn’t what one would call an overly “high-paying” position, but it was a dream come true beauty no able to work directly with respected Hollywood names and icons. And I had my own golf cart and access to the stages, etc. I even played basketball with Sandler often and had one-on-one time with him talking about the Midwest (where I was from) and Chris Farley, who grew up where I lived for five years.
I then began another dream job as a script reader/story analyst. Again, not a high-paying gig, but it was a dream come true.
And then in August of 2005, we had our first son, Jack. Anyone living in L.A. knows that childcare is ridiculously expensive. My wife, a career micro-biologist, suggested that I leave the studio and stay home full time with our son while I focused on my screenwriting full time. After much thought, I did. I did it for our family and later we decided to move out of L.A. to return to our home state of Wisconsin to raise him close to family.
So I left a high-paying job – as far as it paying okay in wages but outstanding as far as how it paid the realization of my dreams – to become a work-from-home father.
The decision and move paid more to my life than any dollar amount could. I am raising two boys now, near family in Wisconsin. We bought a nice house in a great and safe neighborhood (something we could never have done in a big city like L.A.) with amazing schooling and awesome friends around us.
I haven’t worked in an office environment since 2005. 11 years now almost. I never liked the office environment. I had some good friends but it takes its toll, especially the politics of it all that always come into play.
Ironically, I didn’t see success in my own writing until after I made this major life change, moving 2000+ miles from Hollywood. It gave me the time to write great work that got me management and meeting with nearly all major studios right before moving, and then after having moved, I nabbed a deal with Lionsgate, additional studio assignments, and even a produced project with a name cast.
None of that would have happened had I not left that “high-paying” job to be a work-from-home father and writer.
There’s no doubt in my mind that had I stayed there at Sony, even if I broke through and gotten my writing off of the ground while working there, I would surely be making much, much more money. No doubt. If I had stayed in L.A. just for my screenwriting, the momentum I had would have more so continued having been able to attend more face-to-face meetings, etc.
But at what cost? No house to raise our kids in. No close contact with our Wisconsin family (this our boys wouldn’t know their grandparents as well).
Sometimes happiness trumps all. Money can buy a means for happiness sure, however, it can also trap you into falsehoods.
I work from home. I deal with very little office politics. I see my boys every morning and evening after school. During summers, I see them every day. They always have one parent there, never needing daycare. We have an amazing house surrounded by amazing neighbors. We see family all of the time instead of 2-4 times a year. Life is good. We’re more rich than we would have ever been with me working a big studio job, etc. Money can’t buy what we’ve been blessed with.
I was told my entire life that work had nothing to do with fun and enjoyment. I went to college and received my degree in a field that I never really wanted to work in but I knew it would provide me a lucrative career. About eight years ago I was in an accident that nearly killed me. I remember lying there as the doctor was stapling my head back together and promising myself that even though I have a huge student loan to pay back, that I would start doing what I really wanted to do, which was act. Head still barely held together, I said “[screw] it” and enrolled in some acting classes.
Eight long but fulfilling years later I am proud to call myself a working professional actor. I’m not going to lie, it has been extremely difficult and trying at times but loving what you do more than makes up for it. Stay the course and focus on your goal. I can’t tell you how many times I second guessed myself just because others tried to convince me that acting was a dead end career and I would never make any money off of it. I’m not living in a mansion or driving a Ferrari but I can make ends meet and I’m doing what I love. That’s all I ever wanted and it’s more than most of my friends and family can say. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an extremely difficult career (both mentally and professionally) but you damn well better believe it’s going to be for something I love doing.
I joined [a computer company] in 1991, with a good allotment of stock options. I later calculated that if I’d stayed for 6 years, that initial stock would have been worth $2M, never mind the larger incentive stock that came later. Salary back then was below market, but still good. Total compensation wasn’t investment banker money, but not bad for someone fresh out of university, either.
By late 1993 I’d burned out. My girlfriend became a PhD student, and I decided to leave to work at her university. I gave up most of my stock to do so, because I didn’t realize how stock options worked (among other things). I left with less total pay than I would have made making market rate salary somewhere else. The pay at [the university] was good, but total comp was far less than [the computer company]. Still, moving was a great decision.
The difference between being staff at a university and a software engineer was astonishing.
At [the computer company] I felt constant self- and peer-pressure to work overtime. An average week was 60 hours, my worst was 110, sleeping a few hours a night on my office floor. Any time I took off – say, a Sunday afternoon – I felt like I should be working.
As facilities staff, I worked 40 hours a week, including time spent to take a class every now and then, and a half hour for lunch. There was no pressure to work more, and things took however long they took.
At [the computer company], the review was all-important. It told you if you were passing or failing. It determined whether you got lots of stock or very little. It determined how quickly you were promoted, which in turn led to more money and more responsibilities.
At [the university] the review was done once a year because it had to be. It talked unambiguously about how you were doing, which was usually ‘fine’. Financial incentives were minimal.
I left [the computer company] because – with the naive idealism of the young – I was afraid I was trading my youth for money. I chose to follow love and to get out of the grind. The love didn’t work out, but the chance to catch my breath let me come back and work at a sustainable rate later. And, I got to work towards all the unfulfilled dreams I had at the time.
How does it feel to move from a high-pressure, high-paying job to a less stressful but lower paying one? It feels like a vacation, like a burden lifted from your shoulders. It’s a breath of fresh air that gives you a chance to stand up straight and think about what you want out of life. And then you can decide whether you want to keep that freedom, or if you want to jump back into the shark tank. It’s awesome.
John L. Miller
I had a pretty good job in finance. I wasn’t exactly a top-paid banker, but I was doing pretty well. It was secure (debt management, so pretty recession-proof) and challenging enough to be enjoyable. The people were cool, and the prospects were very promising. There was little reason to go do anything else. However, I also enjoy occasionally acting, so I did bits and bobs with the local amateur dramatics group. Nothing too big, but enough to quench the acting bug.
Then I heard of an audition call for Little Shop Of Horrors.
It was an amateur production, but it was big. This group would throw tens of thousands at a show, and I knew their regulars were top notch. I ummed and ahhed about auditioning for a while. It was a show I love, but it was very high-brow and the standard was amazingly high. I nearly didn’t go, but I went “[screw] it” at the last minute and went.
As I thought, the others were amazing. I would gladly pay to hear each and every one perform, but I gave it my best shot. I sung my little heart out, and got a call-back, much to my surprise. Went to the callback with the cream of the crop, and put my all in. After a few exhausting hours, I went home to wait for the outcome.
Then, two days later, the director rang. I was Seymour!
Words cannot describe how excited I was. It was bliss! The rehearsals went on for four months, and was beyond exhausting. I worked harder than I ever worked, even at work. In fact, work became that thing I did to pay my way through the acting. It became more and more back-seat.
For the show run, I booked it all off and “lived the life” of an actor. I slept in, pottered around the house, went to the theatre in the afternoon for vocal warm-up, put on a show, then went out for drinks afterwards. Rinse and repeat. I don’t think I can summon the words to describe how beautiful that time in my life was. It was just beautiful.
Then the show ended. The audience clapped, and it was over. I went to work on Monday, sat down….. And I almost cried. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I’d tasted too much of heaven, and I couldn’t go back to my cell. I had to do it.
I quit. I left my secure job and salary, sold my car, and went to study acting. I just couldn’t go back to my old life; I was going to become an actor. I graduated this year. Tomorrow I start rehearsals for my first professional tour around Birmingham, UK.
It’s hard. It’s not secure. It’s testing. But my god, I couldn’t do anything else, and wouldn’t change it for all the job security or company cars in the world.
I have absolutely no regrets.
I’ve been in tech as a second career now for over a decade, working my way up from desktop technician to engineer and architect roles. I was project-managing large construction work in the IT space, and generally putting in sixty hour workweeks on huge projects.
It wasn’t, however, fun. It was filled with stress, the massive corporate environment, that sense of ‘make-deliverable-or-die’ that doesn’t breed anything but extra hours and painful experiences, and all of the usual problems of pigeonholing, vertical pressure, and… well.
I gained weight, damaged my health, and made a mess of my social life … for what? A few bucks and an occasional pretty desk kudo?
Recently, I transitioned away from that kind of environment to a wholly-telecommuting position in the part of IT I love the most, acting as an advisor and consultant to other firms. It has been an absolute joy – I do travel (which, for me, is a plus), I have more time with my kids, I’m able to do things like home maintenance, my wife isn’t out to kill me, and I can contribute time to my worthy causes and toward getting my social world back together.
If you can live on the money, then the money doesn’t matter – there’s a certain threshold where you’ve achieved financial independence based on your lifestyle and choices. Beyond that? It’s not about cash anymore – it has to be about health, joy, and life. Choosing that has just made the world a fantastic place, and put my priorities in order.
What more could I ask for? Choose less stress, more joy, and more time. You’ll never regret it.
I was the top producer in a large industrial supply sales organization. Big money…great perks…but didn’t like my lack of control over policies and direction of the company. I’m not a whiner – and when it felt intolerable, I left and formed my own similar but smaller company.
It’s been 20 years and I never stop questioning my decision. I don’t really like the control that I resented not having. I’ve learned that I’m a better follower than a leader. My income can swing drastically from month to month. Work is on my mind 24/7. Every problem, from a major audit to a leaky faucet, is my problem. I no longer have the option of quitting and doing something else. Of course there are offsetting positives – but the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.
In my case I moved from a highly paid nomadic lifestyle as a freelance SAP consultant to a permanent job in presales for a software vendor that came with a desk.
I needed the move. A year before it happened my first child was born and because of the constant travel between the U.S. and China (I lived in the UK) for a project I missed about 7-8 months of his first year. Also, the higher contract rates effectively pay for added risk and discomfort, which is expected, and this client ended up being a really poor customer with expenses and payments being severely delayed.
The change was done based on quality of life, travel expectation and proximity to home – as well as security of income. I had a choice between management consulting for a top 4 firm, SAP consulting for an established tech firm and enterprise software presales for a growing business. I opted for the latter to try something new and have stayed in this field ever since. The new role presented new challenges and an opportunity to learn, while the travel expected was usually for a 1-3 day trip every two weeks. This was much better than the 3-4 weeks I would spend away from home at a time in the previous role.
And the 60% pay cut? It was worth it. I spent more time with the family, gained some new friends at the new company and developed expertise in my current profession. It took about 4 years to claw my way closer to the salary I had in the previous role but the permanent role came with some added benefits that contracting didn’t (getting paid for time off, for example).
In hindsight, based on my personal circumstances at the time, it would have been silly not to make the change.
In 2009 I felt like my work was contributing nothing to the world, other than helping some stockholder’s dividends increase, so I decided to give up my corporate job of 10 years and go somewhere abroad to work with children. I found a small organization that funds one small orphanage and school in Rwanda, so I offered to volunteer there for six months. I donated everything I own to a battered women’s shelter, pulled out everything from my savings and retirement and headed out to Rwanda.
A month after arriving I found the local staff was misusing funds and mistreating the kids, so I wrote back to the donors in the US to inform them of what I was seeing. They asked me if I was willing to take over managing the program. I had no previous experience running an organization, managing people or working with children, but I saw this as an opportunity to really make a small difference in the world, so I accepted.
Now, three years later, I am the executive director of the project and have been elected to the board of directors. Early in 2010 I met another volunteer from another nearby orphanage. She was from London. We became friends and eventually fell in love. Now we work together running the program and we have nearly 100 children who look at us as their parents. Together we make very little money but we are very happy with our lives.
Running an orphanage in Rwanda, hell just living here, is very hard. The poverty is heartbreaking, the government is difficult to work with and trying to keep our little charity from going under due to lack of funds are all issues that cause endless stress. But seeing one of our boys, who when he came from the streets was filthy, malnourished and hopeless, change into a clean, happy, hopeful child who works his butt off in school is worth every trial and tribulation.
When I left high school, unlike my friends who travelled the world and partied into their early twenties – I had only one focus: to do well in my career.
I was first given a menial job in a call centre for a telecommunications company. Within 3 months I was a team senior, and within 6 months I was a manager. After a year, I moved on to become a social media community manager. And after that was picked up by one of Australias leading hospitality companies as the digital marketing manager for a luxury chain of hotels. After a year, I was the digital marketing manager for 3 chains of hotels and multiple restaurants and bar – a total of 60 properties.
At this point, I was 24 years old. I was making more money than all of my friends. I bought myself my dream car, moved into a beautiful home and treated myself to dinner in restaurants 4 nights a week, and would visit fancy bars even more often. I was taking 2 overseas holidays a year, staying in 5 star hotels. Whatever I wanted – I would buy. My wardrobe was full of designer labels – some never worn with the tags still on. Id buy top range groceries and premium spirits. Half the groceries would never be eaten.
I became obsessed with making more money – it was never enough. I convinced myself I needed more, more, more. But I never was. I was stressed. I was spending all my time working for someone else.
I kept saying to myself: Next year Ill do that big trip I have always wanted to do. It never happened. Id been unhappy a while; discontent with my material items, disappointed in my own creative efforts (or lack of), unfulfilled by my career. I wanted something more. Surely there was more to life.
One day, my manager called me into her office. I expected it was for another project discussion – we had them almost daily. I was her right hand man. We were a duo, I was indispensable to the company. Or so I thought. 5 minutes later I was walking out of her office, a severance envelope in my hand. Id been let go.
At first I was angry – how could they treat me like this? They need me! But within 24 hours my mind had already began to unfog. This is what you asked for! my conscience echoed in my head.
For the next 3 months I did pretty much nothing. At the end of those 3 months, I went to Bali, Indonesia and relaxed for 3 weeks and it was then that I had an epiphany. All I needed was a little bit of income to achieve the dream.
I used my severance money to pay off my debts. I sold my car, got rid of all my clothes and belongings, moved out of my house and before I knew it I was on a plane to Bali again – this time to live.
I started freelancing – 4 hours a day at most – in marketing for small business. Id use my high power corporate knowledge to lift small to medium sized businesses off the ground. All in all, I was working about a third of the hours I was before, and making about half my old salary. You do the math. I was actually making more per hour, but now I made only enough money to live a simple yet comfortable life, with more than 75% of the hours in my day free to do whatever I wanted.
I am painting again, I am designing my own jewellery line, I am blogging, I am helping friends and family with their own websites, I am surfing, I am reading, I am relaxing. I live 10 minutes from the beach, I ride a scooter and my only belongings are a laptop and a suitcase of clothes.
I have NEVER been happier. For now, I dont care if I make more money or keep making the modest amount I do make – because its enough. Its enough for a roof over my head, food on my plate, petrol in my scooter and to have fun with friends in a tropical paradise.
I can still afford to save money because the cost of living here is so low compared to Sydney, Australia. So I am able to make trips to other parts of Asia every 2 months.
My message to you – figure out what it is you REALLY need in life.
For me it was time. Time to spend on me – whether thats riding through the rice fields in Bali by myself, smelling the fresh air and feeling the breeze in my hair, whether thats heading down to the beach just before sunset for a surf, whether thats reclining by my pool with a good book and a cheap beer, whether thats spending the afternoon painting what I dreamed of the night before. All I needed was time. Not a fortune, not luxury material items or fancy restaurants (mind you I can still eat at fancy restaurants for under $15 here in Bali!) – all I needed was time.
Time is the most valuable commodity we have. Make the most of yours. If youve been sitting on the fence – trapped by your insecurities – stop thinking about it and just do it.
At 40 I felt like my life was going nowhere. I’d been with the same company for 13 years and was probably as high as I was going to go. I wasn’t married, had no kids, no girlfriend, and no life.
Found an ad in a newspaper asking for English teachers for China. Applied and was accepted. Gave two weeks notice at work. Sold what I could (my car) and gave everything else away except small and precious stuff: stamp collection, jewels, anything special like letters from my deceased father.
Moved to China and I’m there still. Married, two kids, own my own apartment (paid off). Learnt a second language. New food, new culture, new everything. Life is great.
I would say, DON’T do it the way I did. I lost a lot of money and possessions because I did things too quickly. All the same, it was the best move of my life. As the song says “might as well jump”. Sometimes in life you have to take a gamble, and the less you’ve got to lose, the more sense it makes.
I spent over 20 years working at a company that went from being small to being part of an absolutely huge organization.
At first, the pay was “okay”, but the work was awesome – lots of cool problems to go after, enormous freedom to pursue those problems that drove you [wild] and so on.
Once the business became big enough that it was a target for acquisitions, things turned. Sure, pay improved, but suddenly the pressure was entirely on the bottom line. No longer was there freedom to take a few days and explore a problem, instead the focus for every minute of the day became “is this moving the current priority project forward?” (and worse, because managers were put in competition with each other, the idea of priority was random to say the least).
After I left, I knocked around for a bit doing contract consulting (which was essentially the same work, just longer hours and no benefits) before deciding that I was tired of the “what have you done for me this week” mentality of big business. Big business pays well, but unless you like trying to placate self-centred people all the time, it’s very high stress.
Today, I find myself in a completely different career path, learning again and working to help people make their lives better. I’m making less money, but I don’t feel the least bit guilty about packing off to the mountains for a few days either.
July of last year I left a computer science PhD program to teach myself game design and Android development. I released my first game, Quantro, in August of this year, and updates have continued since.
Making Quantro was the most rewarding experience of my professional career. However, I’ve been living off savings — and my girlfriend’s generosity — since I started, and it hasn’t exactly been a big moneymaker. My girlfriend has started looking into graduate school in Public Health and we expect her income to shrink for a while, so I’ve looking for regular employment as a software engineer to pick up the financial slack. I intend to continue working on Quantro and designing other games, either during my own time while employed or after building up some savings again.
My advice is follow your passion, but that’s easier to do when you’ve got some money lying around. Keep your options open for traditional work, either part-time or as an emergency recourse.
I didn’t quit my job, but when I was laid off, I chose not to return to that industry and to work for myself.
I was working as an account manager in the pharmaceutical industry when I got laid off. I had been with the company for about seven years and had all the perks you’d expect: company car, expense account, six-figure salary, etc. I had been living in the Midwest for 24 years and had a transfer lined up to Santa Barbara. My son was graduating HS, and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to move to a warmer climate. I was in a promoted position in a division I enjoyed, where I could be kind of a science geek with very little pressure to sell short term and more of a goal to make connections with key thought leaders.
It was announced that a bigger company was gobbling us up, and the tension for nearly a year before the merger took place was terrible. There was a lot of upper level micromanagement, and most folks, including me, were afraid they would be either be kept on to work for a very, er, difficult company or somehow denied a severance package. The stress was awful. My transfer was, of course, nixed. Staying, had that been an option, would have been untenable.
Every time a similar position was announced elsewhere, there was a feeding frenzy of responses, but the bottom was starting to fall out of the economy, and salaries were going down while expectations were going through the roof. The industry was getting to be even nastier and more competitive than it already was. I didn’t even want to be in that field, but I figured before the takeover I’d ride it out a few more years in a nicer place and finish a novel or two, maybe write a screenplay. By the end, I was praying to be let go, but I couldn’t get anyone to understand why.
Long story a little bit shorter, I wound up moving to Mexico, so I could still be on the west coast but keep my overhead low. I started a practice in equine massage therapy and did whatever I needed to supplement my income–nannying, dog sitting, working horse shows, tutoring, and the like. I was doing the horrible border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego nearly every day. I also did a lot of writing during those five years, which wound up serving me well (plus the fact that I had done a fair bit of writing for many jobs in the past). It wasn’t ideal, but it was a step in the right direction.
When a puppy got dumped on my doorstep and I had to scale back my work travel, I was ready to make a living pretty much full time as a writer. It’s been tight, and at times financially stressful, but I’ve been able to work for myself for the last five-odd years. I live well below the American poverty level (which is low to begin with), but I’m able to rent a three-bedroom cottage on the ocean. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, and I still deal with, “When are you just going to move back to the States and get a real job?” Life here has been a roller coaster, but I have had experiences I couldn’t possibly make up, and I can mine those for years to come in my work.
I’d still rather eat rice and beans, mend my old blue jeans, and drive a car that always needs repairs than go back to working for someone else. Heck, I even get bogged down dealing with freelance clients, and I’m taking time away from most of them in a few weeks to finally finish a book and start a couple of other projects.
The way I see it, you can always go back into the work force if you don’t like it/can’t make it, but everyone should try being self-employed, at least for a little while.
At age 35 I quit a $100K job that made me famous (pro athlete) and looked like a dream to others, because it felt stupid– to become a spiritual therapist. I make half of what I used to make. My husband also quit his $150K a year engineering job to become an artist. Now makes about $30K a year. We don’t have kids- that makes a difference. Harder to follow your dreams if you have kids.
Are we happier? Not necessarily. I’m a naturally happy person, and I remain so. My husband is a naturally unhappy person, and he remains so. But we feel so much more honest and creative. We are more proud of ourselves too and life is more of an adventure. We do not have regrets about leaving.
High stress jobs make you dread going to work each day. When this happens repeatedly, it is time to find another job — or solve the problem. Unhappy workers don’t get the job done. The problem is the assumption that the job creates the stress. Many people who are stressed out at work will be stressed (after a while) at any job. Most people who feel stressed are stressed because they do it to themselves.
Perfectionists, anal folks, … all build up stress as things are not perfect. The job and their accomplishments may be fantastic according to the needs of the organization. But to them, the result is not good enough. This is how most of us build stress at work.
It is important to approach tasks with realistic goals. If you achieve the goal, it is easier to put aside the wish to have done it better.
I did leave a very stressful situation (much of it was my own doing, but the job certainly added its share). The stress of finding another job was bad. The stress of starting a new job (as bad as the old one was — I knew how to do it successfully).
Even though you walk away from the old stresses, new ones greet you. As you understand this and develop personal strategies to deal with and avoid stress, it may become easier to change jobs and start the new one fresher. But starting a new jobs, with out history, with out background, with out context, with out some of the skills you need, with out friends, … can certainly be stressful.
Being your own worst critic is a good thing — but it leads directly to stress. Balance in life and in yourself can help.
I’ve been in IT for 19 years. It was really fun in the early and mid-90s. before Grandma “discovered” the interwebs. Before Y2K, before idiot managers destroyed the enjoyment of technology.
I just walked away from a $75K job that was going nowhere, but going “well.” It provided for my lifestyle, and involved interesting technologies. However, the managers were tools and the customers clueless.
I now live at 9500 feet of elevation at a world-class ski resort. I am making $60 a night tending bar and waiting tables. I eat and drink extremely well. I ski nearly every day. The summer mountain biking is world class.
Yes, I am struggling on the financial side. However, clarity of thought, fitness of body and lack of anger and hatred toward my fellow man make up for the moderate income I was struggling with. 15 years of wage stagnation. Simply not worth it.
I spent the early part of my career (late 90s) in startups and trying to be get Internet-rich. Had a company I was a co-founder in that filed for IPO but when it all crashed, our biz model was exposed and it all went to hell. I shifted to non-profit not to slow down, but to bring digital marketing and eventually social media success to some very large organizations. Unfortunately, the 4 hour PER DAY commute just about killed me.
From there, I jumped to a big 4 consulting firm where I was promptly sent off to work different projects. Travel was required and I was away from home Monday-Thursday as is typical for those firms.
It’s all relative but I was making good money all along – to the point where I could afford to live comfortably in San Diego and then New York with only my salary + bonuses and was able to have my wife stay home and raise the kids.
So I quit the big consulting gig, took a $100k cut in salary (my wife did go back to work, but on her terms and because the kids are out of school) and started exploring new opportunities. I tried a small agency that was a terrible fit. I tried helping a friend get his start up off the ground (fun, but he ran out of money). I tried my own consulting (yea, what was I thinking).
I finally landed a few months ago at a stable, lifestyle type company running a variety of events. I work from home. I exercise every morning or take the dog for a walk. I meditate every morning. I read books. I watch TV shows. I started writing a novel! I chased money and job titles for the first 20 years of my career and it made me miserable. I’m going to chase serenity, intellectual pursuits and art from now on.
What was it like to quit a high paying job for this lifestyle? It is terrifying. I can’t bear to watch GaryVee because I feel a massive guilt for not hustling more. I am afraid that my choices mean I will never be SVP of Marketing or CMO of a big brand. I am scared about paying for retirement, colleges and weddings and nice vacations like we used to take.
But it also liberating. I worked with a coach to try to understand my own personal money hangups, and why I am so attached to job titles as a way to validate my intelligence and success. I’m on a new path now and to be honest, it feels pretty amazing. Life’s a journey and for me, one that is no longer dominated by ladder climbing, mind numbing career madness.
I quit a really atrocious graphic design job years ago to draw a webcomic. It took a few years of work, building a fanbase up, doing freelance illustration on the side, but this year it paid off with a really successful Kickstarter campaign. Now I’m a legit self-published comic artist and it feels pretty good. Granted I’m still too poor for luxuries like health insurance or even a cell phone, but I’m doing what I love which is more than most people can say.
I made a commitment when younger that I would not make any decisions based on money in the first ten years of my career. The ten seems arbitrary now, so I may extend it. The point is, I knew money would never make me happy. I believed the research and tried not getting caught up in the emotion of attaching my ego and pride to my salary.
My first job after business school I was working for a leader that I did not click with. I was desperate to move. A recruiter called me for a job that was probably paying about $20-$30k less per year. However, it was something I was passionate about – so I told the recruiter the same thing: “I am perfect for this role, I am passionate about the topic and I don’t care about the money.”
I got offered a higher level role at a salary slightly above my current salary at the time. The job was a LOT less stressful because I was doing something I loved while also working for a great manager.
I would have taken less, because in the long run – doing things that excite me are going to help me succeed and stay energized in my career. Prioritize things you are excited about – not money.
I went to art school, ended up working in IT support for 5 years. It was a fun, interesting, challenging job, and it paid well allowing me to live up my 20’s. A lot of my company’s clients were design firms, and so I spent a lot of time around designers, and always felt sad that I didn’t make it as an artist or designer.
I started teaching myself 3D modeling as part of a side project, and I got pretty good at it. A few years ago I made the jump to working as a freelance 3D modeler. I’ve found a specific niche within the field, which is modeling vegetation and landscapes. I get a good amount of steady work from landscape architects, city planners, and architecture firms.
It’s been hard leaving the security of steady paychecks, benefits, paid vacation, etc. I have to supply my own disability, health insurance, and the scariest time is when there’s no new projects on the table. Still, I’ve survived and even thrived over the past two years, and so I am starting to feel secure in knowing that more work will show up.
The hardest part is that it’s all up to me – every dollar I earn comes from actual hours of work. No more goofing off and still collecting a paycheck. The days are unstructured and I have to make myself do things like not work in PJ’s until mid-afternoon. I get envious when I see people come home from their jobs and I know that their work is over, while mine is always there, and there’s always some project I could work on for a few hours. I write a lot more emails than I would have expected.
The best part is that I’ve never once looked at the clock at 3:00 p.m. and thought “two more hours until I’m done”. I enjoy absolutely every moment of my work, and it’s addictive. I give myself a little happy hour on Fridays and work while drinking beer as I close out the last day of the work week. I can even decide that Friday is a day off if I want to, or Monday for that matter. The path I’ve chosen is as hard as it is rewarding, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it to someone who isn’t prepared to spend countless hours just getting started from nothing, but I am mostly glad I decided to strike out on my own.
My story is far from dramatic, but after majoring in anthropology in undergrad I spent three years working retail, which all in all provided me with a relatively comfortable existence, for a single male. I didn’t have much money, but had enough to live with some friends and feel like an independent adult, whatever that means.
The choice to work an easy, low-impact job allowed me to play music with two bands, but I began to paint more and more after two years and eventually set myself the goal of getting into a Master of Fine Arts program. I moved to Philadelphia for school and will be finishing my program this year.
I don’t have current job prospects lined up but I have been able to sell some of my art and will be applying for teaching positions in the next month. So, it’s not that I gave up a hugely comfortable life with many responsibilities, a family, etc. but it did involve leaving financial independence behind, taking on loans, and not having any guarantee that my life will be any more stable than when I entered school.
However, I have gotten to explore and develop my life-long passion to a degree I never would have been able to reach while working a full-time job, and that has been completely worthwhile. 8 hours of painting in my studio everyday has been invaluable, despite the very real loan burden I’ve taken on.
I had recently got an opportunity in GULF for one of the leading food start-ups in their business strategy team. So yes, I was being compensated 2x of what I am making now but the job had demanded for 24×7 mental presence. Now, being 24 years old, I felt like ‘I was trading my youth for money’ since I wasn’t able to focus on anything else except my job. Hence, my frustration and stress started building up.
I will try to jot down a frustration formula for youth per my understanding.
Frustration = (one’s expectations – one’s efforts in that direction) and stress is just a byproduct of frustration.
So, being an explorer, I needed time to explore, which I was deprived, in my high paying job. Hence, I decided to start working for much lower stressed, and lower paid job. I am quite happy with the decision that I have made. And now, I could do so much more other than my job to figure-out my destiny.
But having said all of these, the way you truly feel about your experience of moving from one job to another is only a matter of ‘how directional your efforts are to achieve the goals that you set for yourself’ !