My Life’s Work

In May of 2011, I’m quitting my job.  Once I finally quit, I’ll talk more about the job I’m walking away from, but until then I’ll have to continue to  keep my anonymity to maintain my well paying job.  And by “well paying,” I’ll just describe it as well into 6 figures.  There are a lot of people  struggling to get by financially, and here I am ready to walk away from a good job that easily allows me to support my family while my wife stays at home to raise our kids.  So if you’re asking “why?”, let me explain.   Here are 5 reasons why I’m quitting my job:

Time is finite.

I can keep working hard and making more money, and I can invest that money and make more money.  And that’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s given me a pretty nice nest egg at 32 years old.  In fact, if I don’t lift a finger for 10 years, I think we have enough to get by.  But what I can’t seem to reign in is time.  I get up at 6 and I work on side projects that I enjoy, while my wife and kids are asleep. I leave for work by 8 and usually my kids are still asleep.  I work until 6 or so, then I go for a 1 hour run. By the time I get home it’s 7:30, and my kids are either asleep or heading to bed.  At best I get 30 minutes with them.

I love my kids very much, and this is not enough time with them.  And that time is rarely quality time, as I’m exhausted from a long day of work.  I don’t need the money, I need time!

It’s sickly ironic that when people retire at 65 years old after 40+ years of service to a company, the traditional parting gift is a watch.  It’s supposed to signify the time you’ll now have to do what you want.   But at 65 years old, it more appropriately signifies the time they took from you.  There isn’t enough time left to do all the things I want to do.  Your kids will have grown, your health will be fleeting, and your youthful curiosity will likely be gone (mainly because the working world stole it from you).  I don’t want this, I want so much more!

I want to play.

My favorite book of all time is Dr. George Sheehan’s Running and Being.  If you haven’t read it, click here and buy it.  Or go to your library and get it for free (which is what I do at least once a year).  First off, George is a man who at 45 years old and an aging cardiologist, started running after 20 years of rest because he felt he wasn’t an appropriate role model as a heart doctor.  Soon he quit his job as a cardiologist to become a professional runner, writer, and philosopher.  This is in the 1960’s, Dr. Sheehan was way ahead of his time. A few years later Dr. Sheehan was winning marathons in his age group and ran a 3:01 marathon at 60 years old.

Back to Running and Being.  In it, Sheehan talks about the importance of “play.”  Play is what you do when you’re in your rhythm, whether it’s running, biking, playing basketball, cooking, playing with your kids, or working hard at a job that you control, this is play.  The opposite, work, is when you are working outside of your rhythm.  Think about your job today, do you go to other people’s meeting and write other people’s reports?  Are you on a schedule? This isn’t your rhythm.  This is work.  I work a lot now, I have meetings from 9-5, sometimes 8-6.  Sometimes I leave the office at noon and work from Starbucks or the library (both have free wi-fi).  At that point I’m in my rhythm, and my work is better and more fun, and I get 10x done what I would in the office.  With my current job, I can’t do this all the time.  When I quit and work for myself, I can have this every day.

I’m smart.

No, I’m not bragging.  Seth Godin recently wrote a post about truly knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and I took this to heart.  I often act self-deprecating that I’m not as smart as some people think. But the truth is, I’m pretty intelligent.  I’ve been very successful in school and in my career with relative ease.  As I’ve moved up the ranks, I’ve seen people limited by their “intellectual horsepower,” but I’m yet to reach my ceiling.  Recently my boss told me bluntly that I was one of the smartest people he’s ever worked with.  I was flattered and embarrassed, but mostly embarrassed.

So how is this relevant?  Because there are a lot of “less smart” people, less driven people, and less enabled people that have taken the leap to start their own business and succeeded.  Sure a lot failed, but I’m not afraid of failure.  I can always go back.  But I have to believe that if I put my heart and soul into creating income from home, I’ll achieve my modest initial goals that will sustain my family.

(It’s not all roses, I also have plenty of weaknesses which I’ll share at a later time)

I want to be a role model for my kids.

Right now I’m a good dad.  I love them very much, I provide for them, I do my best to spend time with them.  My son is 2.5 and my daughter is 7 months, so giving my love is the most important thing I can do today.  But as they get older, I want them to see that there are many ways to live life.  And going to school from for 14 years, college for another 4, graduate schoold for 2 more, and then working 9-5 for 40 years is not the only way.  We are not sheep, we have decisions in life!

Basically I want to teach them this:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!! What a ride!”

I was recently doing some soul-searching about my life, and my purpose in it.  And the question I was stuck on was, what unique thing can I offer the world? I spent 2 weeks trying to figure this out. I’m not an artist, I’m not a great writer (as seen here).  I’m smart, but mostly in a highly technical capacity that I don’t intend to pursue much longer.  I’m moderately athletic, but nothing mind-blowing. For weeks I thought about this, I knew I had something in me to give.  But what was it?

Then I remembered when I ran my first marathon.  And I talked a lot to my family and friends about the experience, the pain I felt, and the reward in finishing the first one.  I talked about the feeling of accomplishment, and the general confidence it gave me in all parts of life knowing I could run 26.2 miles regardless of pain.  But you know the best part of the experience? It’s that I have over a dozen friends and family members that went on to run marathons or ultra-marathons after being inspired by me.  I love that I made them a better person.

And then I think about one person that told me how jealous they were of me, that I could just say I was going to do something and then I could just do it (this is when I was training for my first 100 mile ultramarathon).  And I told her that she could too, and I offered to create a plan for her to run her first 10K.  But she balked, and never followed up with me.  And that kills me that I couldn’t inspire her.

So now I know what I have to offer the world: inspiration that you can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it.  Yes, it’s painfully cliche.  But it’s also real and important and I truly believe that for the first time  I see my life’s work ahead of me.

You must be wondering…  If you’re going to quit, what will you do next?  More to come on that!

I’m curious, have you figured out you’re life’s work?


5 Responses to My Life’s Work

  1. […] not sitting in a cubicle so it’s still a move in the right direction towards supporting my plan to quit in a few […]

  2. Shawn says:

    Ill get Running and Being. Sounds like a winner.

  3. Ryan Hunter says:

    This is an awesome post. Seriously, I am just starting a blog and to read your very first posts and see how this site has grown…

    It inspires me.

    I thank you for being a good father. We need more of them in this world.

    Cheers my friend.

  4. Chel says:

    I am going to quit running on the hamster wheel very shortly NLT 15 months from today – hopefully sooner. I’m very close to being FI and am concentrating on removing the remaining financial liabilities I have left. I am 52 years old, retired military with rental properties. I started reading theminimalist.com blog about two 30 something guys who divested their lives of things that didn’t add value and who are now living meaningful lives. I have been divesting my life of stuff for the last couple months and only purchasing items that add value. I feel freer every day.

    I too am tired of working in a job that just sucks the life force out of me and long to live a different life. Not too long ago it seemed like I had a lot of time and little money. Now it is the opposite. I feel like time is running out and I am aging way too fast. Other than having a desire to travel and being free from “having to” go to my job, I’m not quite sure what I want. I hope that my desire to play/explore/create will live again and has not been totally snuffed out by conforming to what the media/society/ruling class has espoused.

    I am more hopeful after reading your blog. Thank you for the inspiration. It makes it easier to be flexible and believe that if it doesn’t work out the first go round – it’s not an irreversible decision. The responses from family and friends have been less than enthusiastic. My husband is cautious but supportive. Thanks again.

  5. Looking at this post from five years later, I would say you’ve done an excellent job of identifying your calling, since you appear to have inspired many people. Bravo.

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