The Joy and Freedom of Turning Down a Job

About a month ago I got a call from a friend and former co-worker of mine.  He’d left our company for greener pastures (a new job, same industry).  He liked his job and wanted me to join him.  He knew I planned to leave my job as soon as my 2-year contract ended.

I declined.  I didn’t explain to him the BNL philosophy or my financial independence, just that I was done working for others as an engineer.

It felt good.  Kind of.

A few days later, he emailed me and convinced me to just send my resume to see what would happen.  He really loved his job, the project and the team. And seeing that it was a small office of 3 people, he thought I might enjoy it.  He knew I liked to work from coffee shops and from home, and confirmed that this would be OK for this job also.  I caved, and sent in my resume.

Fast forward a week, and I’m sitting at a bar with my buddy and the hiring manager over a beer.  We talked about the job and I must admit, it sounded pretty good.  But then again, most things usually do sound good when someone is selling it to you (and paying for the beers).  I agreed to an interview in Boulder (where the larger office is) and they offered to drive me since they knew I didn’t have a car.  :)

The interviews apparently went well, since I left with a job offer.  A 6-figure salary, work from “wherever”, no required travel, and a challenging job that most engineers in my position would drool over.

After the interviews ended at 2pm, I was ready to go.  But since I carpooled, I had to wait for some other meetings to end.  So I sat in a small room, and surfed online.  Fortunately I figured this might happen, so I brought my laptop.  An hour passed.  Then 2.  Finally, they stopped by to tell me everything went great and that I would be getting a formal offer in the next few days.  Then the VP, who I had interviewed with, stopped by and wanted to talk to my local Colorado Springs friends a little more about the project before I left.  Another hour passed.  At this point, I was texting my wife to apologize because I had promised to be home by 6pm to watch the kids while she left for some other commitments.  6pm came and went. My friend apologized, and explained that this happened almost every time he made the trip to Boulder.

Every time!?!

It was at this point I wondered, “why am I here?”  This lack of respect for other people’s time is exactly why I don’t want to work in this environment anymore.  I respect that the VP wanted to capitalize on the occasion of having some of his guys in town in Boulder, but I had my own personal agenda to get home. I waited, and waited, and waited a bit more.  My wife eventually took the kids to our neighbors.

On the drive home, I decided I would turn the job down.  Not because it wasn’t a great opportunity, but because I realized it was no longer for me.  The next day, I wrote the hiring manager an email to decline the job.

I couldn’t hit send.

3 days passed.  I still hadn’t hit send, but I decided to text my buddy to tell him I was going to turn down the job. He was bummed, but understood.  Then he asked me out of curiosity if the salary offer was too low.  I laughed when I received that text, because it was the first time I realized I hadn’t even opened the pdf file to see what the salary offer was.  :)

Still, I hadn’t hit send.

Lucky for all of us, we have smart and sane people like Mr. Money Mustache to punch us in the face and remind us that life is not just about going to work and making money until we die.

Another day passed, and I finally hit send. It only took 4 days and a few shots of whiskey.  I felt relieved that Sunday morning.

Then Monday came, and I got an email from the hiring manager.  He wanted to talk for “just a few minutes.” Ugh…

I didn’t know what he wanted, but I assumed it was to try to convince me to take the job. Before I called him back, I just remember thinking “I’m NOT that good!  Why are you still trying to hire me?”  Eventually we talked, and I confirmed to him that I’m not interested right now.  I explained that I wanted some time away from engineering, and that it wouldn’t be good for either of us if I joined them and wasn’t fully committed.  He understood, but made it a point to explain how this was disappointing to him, and put him in a bind because he thought he had the position filled.  I felt bad, which I suppose is what he wanted.


An hour passed.  I still felt bad.  Not for me, but for the hiring manager and my friend – because I had disappointed them.  Then I got in the car to run an errand, and turned on some music.  The next thing you know, I’m totally out of character and blasting some pop music and singing at the top of my lungs like Tommy and Richard.



That’s when I knew I had made the right decision.  Life was good.  I don’t need the money, and I don’t want the job.  The world is too beautiful to waste it away worrying about trace impedances and S-parameters, filling out performance reviews, all while sitting under halogen lighting in a 6’x6′ cubicle.

Yep, the world is too beautiful and I’m ready to enjoy it.

32 Responses to The Joy and Freedom of Turning Down a Job

  1. Shey says:

    I’m happy youre happy with your decision :)

    if you feel the need to go back to work after retirement, for yourself, I think you should come to the conclusion by yourself, without any outside pressures

  2. GE Miller says:

    Good story. I’ll be in your shoes in another 2 years. It’s kind of funny that those who have the opportunity of early retirement are the ones who stand to make the most money and get the best opportunities by staying in the race. I’ve always wondered why multi-million and even billionaires stay in the high stress, high pressure jobs that they do – and the only good reason I have is that the stress and power is their life. They have no identity without it.

    • I’ve seen 4 primary reasons why people stay in jobs long after they’ve made so much money:

      1. They love the power and/or money that comes with it
      2. They truly love the job (which may or may not point back to #1)
      3. They feel a moral obligation to stay (teachers, doctors, etc)
      4. They don’t realize other options exist prior to turning 59 and a half
      5. Fear of the unknown with things like future healthcare costs, kids education costs, hyper-inflation, and so on.

      I think for the billionaires and multi-millionaires, you can probably rule out numbers 4 and 5

  3. I’ve had a similar thing happen to me about 6 months after I retired early. I thought about it a bit just like you and turned it down. FWIW, I think you made the right decision.

  4. krantcents says:

    I love it when opportunities come up when you are not looking. You are sticking with your plan and that is something to be proud of. Good luck, you got past a hurdle.

  5. Retired Syd says:

    Congratulations on resisting the pull back to work. I retired five years ago and was lured back into part-time work for a couple years of it. I’m a sucker for that kind of recruiting–people telling you how great you are and what a great asset you’d be to the team. And then once I was there I had a hard time disengaging when I knew it was time to go. The job was fun and the people were fantastic, but just like you described above, my time was not my own anymore. I don’t regret doing it, but all of your discoveries during the interview process were right on the mark. Good for you for paying attention to that inner voice.

    • Thanks. To be honest, I shouldn’t have even interviewed. A few days before I agreed to the interview, I met the hiring manager for lunch. While I sat at the table waiting for him to show up, I sat there asking myself “why am I here again?” That was the third time I decided I wouldn’t take the job, and yet an hour later I agreed to the interview anyways…

      I chalk it up to being a type 5 in the enneagram personality model – a personality strongly driven by fear.

  6. Those last few lines made me all teary eyed.

    Nice job. And, this won’t be the first time this happens. You’ll be turning down work for the rest of your retired life. I’m turning stuff down all the time, as is MMM. It’s kind of crazy. That’s why I find it funny when people say that you’ll never be able to find a job after you retire. It seems like the jobs keep coming even faster when you finally decide to take a break.

    Enjoy!! When is your last day anyway? It must be coming up soon… Woohoo!!

    • Hey Mrs. MM, good to hear from you.

      The last day of my 2-year contract is 5/29, although I may stay on another month or so to finish up a project and use up some accrued vacation.

      Plus, I told my wife that I would buy her “anything she wants” for our recent 10-year anniversary. So depending on what she decides on, I may need to stick around to pay for that. She’s leaning towards a yacht, but I’m pretty sure she’s joking. :)

      • Hey that’s my bday! Good to know I won’t be the only one celebrating on that day. I have to admit I’m jealous of you hitting retirement so early but I’ll be there one day with all you happy, smart, good looking people. :)

  7. Mr. Bonner says:

    That’s awesome! Did you tell your friend or the hiring manager you were planning on retiring?

    • I told the hiring manager that I had some entrepreneurial cravings outside of engineering that I’d put off too long. This is true in the strictest sense, although what he perceived and what I meant are likely different.

      I told my buddy a closer version of the truth. I explained my rental income and hard money loans, and he already knows I live a very inexpensive life. What’s interesting is that he’s only the second co-worker/friend I’ve told over the past 2.5 years since I made the decision, and his response was almost identical to the first person’s. It’s probably worth a separate post to describe those conversations. It says a lot about how people think about work and jobs.

      • EricB says:

        Just wanted to say that I’d really like to see an article on this topic :)

        Thanks for all your hard work on this blog!

  8. Tippy McFitz says:

    Wow BNL, this post gave me some serious goosebumps. You (as well as all the other ER heavyweights in these comments!) are a real inspiration. I think you did the right thing – and there’s no need to feel bad about letting anyone down – “it’s just business”, as they say.

  9. Awesome! It’s great that you were able to stick to your gun. Nice that they made it easier to turn down by making you waste your time too.
    MMM is quite helpful with this one. :)

  10. savedpenny says:

    Congrats! I’m not there but hope to be to that point some day. I don’t think you made a mistake in interviewing for the job. It sounds like your experience in Boulder was just the recipe you needed to validate your chosen path. If those workers are stuck late every time they go to the corporate office, you would too if you were working. Just remember that next time you get an offer that seems too good to refuse!

  11. Iowa says:

    Great story! And I’m looking forward to hearing posts related to those conversations with your co-workers….actually more posts in general.

  12. I think anytime you make the decision reject a raise, or a job, you have won the battle of wills and held true to your values.

    Recently I turned down a 30% raise for different job. While the money was alluring, the feeling I had after rejecting is was stupendous. I stuck to my guns, analyzed with as little emotion as possible the outcomes, and made my decision. Without a doubt it was the hardest, yet most rewarding decision I’ve ever made in my professional life up to this point.

    I think you will find down the road that you will feel the same about this in time. While tremendously hard in the moment, the lasting reward of realizing you made the right decision will outweigh it in the end.

  13. tom says:

    Then I got in the car to run an errand

    I thought you didnt drive?

    • My wife and I have one car, mainly to haul the kids around. So 95% of the time, I don’t drive.

      Usually the only time I drive is to take my kids somewhere, or to haul larger objects (Home Depot, Sam’s Club, etc). I believe the aforementioned errand was to pick up several large containers for some self-watering garden bins I’m working on.

  14. renee s says:

    This is the first post that I’ve read from you and I know that I will be perusing your blog a lot more, but I wanted to drop a little note!

    This post leaves me speechless and I can’t wait till I am in your shoes! I am doing side hustles and working my full time job accumulating money so that I can achieve FI early. So it just seems so awesome to me that there will be a time when I can quit the rat race and not need their money and not be a slave to their timelines and deadlines.

    I *know* you made a great decision and like Mrs. MM says…you’ll be turning down jobs left and right! So if you ever find yourself wanting to go back to work, you’ll be able to :)

    This is such an inspiration! Thanks!

  15. Brian says:

    I would have been really tempted in your position. There’s also the feeling of being wanted and valued that can suck you in for the wrong reasons. It sounds like the job may have been interesting, but early retirement will be even more interesting, I’m guessing.

  16. […] Brave New Life discusses the joy and freedom of turning down a job offer. […]

  17. RW says:

    Congrats! Awesome feeling isn’t it! Been reading your blog for a little while now and this is the best post yet. I just retired last Dec. The feeling of freedom and time better spent with my little girl is priceless. I tell my wife who is still working that I am busier now than ever before. I can’t wait until she calls it quits also. Congrats again, the best is yet to come.


  18. I just had to weigh in. The first time I did this, I was giddy with joy and feeling super guilty. Over time that feeling passed and now things just feel they are as they should be. Well done, sir.

  19. I am in awe of this post. That is spectacular. We are newlyweds working toward financial freedom. I can’t wait until we are in your position. I can’t imagine anything better than staying home with your family and doing the things you love (like blogging) instead of spending your time doing the frustrating and time consuming office job. Congrats!

  20. […] I was interviewing for the job that I eventually turned down, I met with the VP of Engineering as my first interview. After he finished asking me a few […]

  21. […] I was interviewing for the job that I eventually turned down, I met with the VP of Engineering as my first interview. After he finished asking me a few […]

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  23. Rachel says:

    “Then Monday came, and I got an email from the hiring manager. He wanted to talk for “just a few minutes.” Ugh…”

    Been there, done that. Never take that call is my advice. People who can’t take “no thanks” for an answer the first time you say it are the worst. And they honestly think they’re being subtle and non-obnoxious, when they are in fact being about as subtle as Pepe Le Pew, and are acting in just as unwelcome a way. You don’t need to hear how “disappointed” they are that they were unpersuasive. Their staffing problems are not your problem. I’m sure they wouldn’t entertain some candidate they’d only met a couple of times telling them how dismayed they were they hadn’t received an offer, and bitching about how now they won’t be able to pay the rent.

    The basic problem is that even a polite rejection in a scenario when they thought they had all the power is generally a salutary ego-slap for that type of individual. These days when I get that sort of self-indulgent request from a hiring manager I just email them to say “A further talk wouldn’t be a good use of my time or your time. I’ve made my position clear already. Good luck in finding a more suitable candidate.” Some of them still don’t get the message after that, unbelievably. Thank goodness for junk mail filters and phone block.

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