Why I Couldn’t Wait to Quit the Highest-Paying Job I Ever Had

I once sat through an hour-long business meeting about fake trees and men in tights.

I remember looking around the conference room, seeing a cloudless blue sky and sunshine through the window, freedom just beyond my grasp.

Inside, my colleagues discussed in passionate tones what type of fake foliage to order for a “Robin Hood” themed protest, and whether or not a troupe of male actors in tights, masks and pointy hats should be brought in to illustrate the benefits of the “Robin Hood Tax” our organization was being mandated to support.

I was sitting inside that conference room as an employee who (thanks to the benefits of my labor union contract) was guaranteed a six percent raise each yearregardless of performance. I was making an unreal salary, had incredible health benefits and was about to qualify for a defined-benefit retirement pension (which are all but extinct in today’s corporate environment). To top it off, I knew that short of standing on the roof of our building with a bullhorn and shouting that I was anti-union, it was all but impossible to get fired thanks to our contract.

(Note: This post isn’t meant to be an anti-union screed. I’m just stating the reality of my employment situation at the time.)

I had it made. It was a cake job, one I could coast through for the next 20-30 years, piling up my pension and benefits without the pressure to perform or the fear of being fired without warning.

I couldn’t wait to quit.

As my colleagues talked about the importance of plastic trees and colored tights in the fight against the nation’s wealthy elite, I looked out the window and thought to myself: Is this really all there is? Is this really what my life has become?

I quit the job a few months later, leaving behind the career version of a “sure thing” and instead launching my own marketing agency without any real savings, clients or assurances I’d make it.

Here’s why: No amount of money and no amount of job security is worth giving up on your true passion.

You can – and will – fool yourself for a while, maybe even for decades, but in the end you’ll be miserable. Sure, you can have a cabin or a country club membership, but the one thing that matters most – the man or woman in the bathroom mirror – won’t be able to meet your eyes in the morning.

I battle this all the time. Why not take the easier, safer route? Why not just be content to work a job I’m not passionate about, drink the corporate (or union, in my case) Kool-Aid and enjoy weekends at the lake?

Millions of people do it every day, and, to be honest, it would be much easier than what I do now.

Measuring True Worth

But how do you put a price tag on your soul? How do you ignore the very thing you were made for and fake it through an entire career?

It doesn’t just impact you, either. It impacts your family. It impacts your marriage. It impacts your mental health and emotional happiness.

Also, your heart is too strong to just sit there and take it. I look back now and understand why I wasalways doing side projects – starting a rock band, writing a novel, building a website – while working jobs I wasn’t passionate about. No matter how much I tried to shove it down, my creativity and true desires kept bubbling to the surface in one form or another.

Yours do, too.

Look, the last thing we need is one more professional working a job he or she isn’t fired up about. It’s bad for you, it’s bad for your customers and it’s bad for your employer. Everybody loses.

Before you go any further, make this agreement: I’m going to start pursuing what I love. I’m going to identify my purpose. I’m going to seek my passion. I’m going to demonstrate persistence, no matter what gets in my way. Period.

Think it can’t happen? Think it’s too late? Tell that to Grandma Moses, who didn’t start painting until she was in her 70s. Tell that to J.K. Rowling, who was newly divorced, living on welfare and getting her manuscript rejected by one publisher after another. (Her Harry Potter books have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide.) Tell that Stephen King, who used a large spike to nail all the rejection letters he received to the wall of his bedroom. (King has gone on to sell more than 350 million copies of his novels, and has an estimated net worth of $400 million.)

Your Story isn’t Finished

I have yet to hear the story of a man on his deathbed gathering his loved ones close to him and saying, “I’m so glad I played it safe. I’m so glad I never swung for the fences or chased my true passions in life. Now I can die in peace.”

Like it or not, you are crafting your legacy right now. It’s the narrative of who you are and what you’re about.

If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, what are others going to remember you for? What type of stories will they tell at your funeral?

I’ve said this before, and I mean it: If you aren’t using the gifts and talents you were put on this earth to share, the rest of us are being deprived as a result.

Maybe you aren’t going to become the next Grandma Moses or Gahndhi, but you dohave something of massive importance to share with the world, and if you’re not finding a way to channel that calling into your everyday work, the rest of us are getting cheated.

What’s more, it has never been easier to cash in on your passion.

Are you going to be about spreadsheets and weekends at the cabin? Or are you going to be someone whose art, passion, product or service changes lives and inspires others?

I want to tell you something scandalous: You can have it all. You can do what you love for a living, and you can make money doing it. It might not result in a country club membership or stock options, but remember this: True wealth is what you have that cannot be bought.

What do you say? Are you with me on this?


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