Before You Quit Your Job, Read This
“Sometimes my striving toward growth becomes the object of amusement to the part of me that is watching me.” - Will Schutz
For a culture famed for its obsession with accomplishment, this quote lends some levity in a moment when so many people are questioning their relationship with their jobs and their work.
7 years ago I wrote a post titled: We Can Stop Crushing It Now. I argued that success was more about intention than it was about blindly doing; because the “it” so many people were “crushing” was their wit’s end.
Admittedly, it was counter to the American dream and Puritan ethos—those long-fabled Möbius strips of more—that had us believe that work is both the means to our end, and the end itself. What we didn’t realize is that struggle was already baked into the process, and it’s literally been killing us.
But things are changing. Sadly, it took a global pandemic for a number of people to let go of the cult-like trance of worshipping work. Folks are realizing that they can care less about their jobs and they won’t disintegrate into a cloud of dust. In fact, they’re learning that the whole goal is to work less.
For those who have shed the Sisyphean cloak of American hustle and are feeling a bit naked, I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be ok. This new my-job-is-not-my-life mindset is pretty sweet, trust me.
Inevitably, you’re going to ask yourself one of these questions: Should I quit my job? Should I start my own business? Should I chase my passion?
Here’s some advice for those rethinking how they want to spend their useful hours.
You Don’t Need To Quit Your Job (Yet)
I know. “Everyone’s” quitting! But take a deep breath first.
It might not be your job that’s the problem, it might be your relationship to it. Do you know what success is? Are you caring more than you need to? Have you articulated what’s important to you?
First up, let’s get you some boundaries before your brain becomes a halfway house for everyone else’s half-baked requests again. Boundaries?! But Bassam, I thought I was supposed to build bridges? Look, bridges are great, except when everyone gets to walk across a bridge right into your living room. The trick is to rid yourself of more and replace it with intentionality. Sometimes intentionality is a bridge. Sometimes it’s a fence. And sometimes it’s a castle wall with a moat.
The most important aspect of having a fence is informing people that you value your time. It is not something that they can just take.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed with work I ask myself:
What are my priorities today?
Why are they my priorities?
What do I have to get done today?
Is that true? What would happen if I didn't get all those done?
You’ll find pretty quickly that work stress comes from a combination of:
A lack of autonomy
Too much ambiguity
Our inability to say no
Our failure to predict how long something will take
Maybe it's not a new job you need, but a way to create some elbow room and clarity.
Of course, you might certainly have a sh!t job that you need to leave, but remember to not get seduced by a new job opening without doing your research on the company and their culture.
A job description is a bunch of bullet points. Your actual job is the space between those bullet points.
The good news is, power is in the hands of the employee like never before. The “Great Resignation” is forcing terms of employment to undergo a “great reset.”
You Don’t Need To Start A Business
I love hearing stories of affluent entrepreneurs telling us “Life is short! There’s no better time than now.”
But when we dig into their story, we learn that they didn’t start their business until they were living out of their car, or after they had suffered some life-altering accident/loss.
In short: they didn’t start this new venture until they were forced to. That’s because leaping into the capitalist unknown is terrifying. So, no, you shouldn’t start a business “because one day you'll be dead.” That’s not a why. That’s a fact. “The sky is blue” is also a fact, and it’s also an awful reason to start a business.
Know this: Just because you’re living a quiet life doesn’t mean you’re living a life of quiet desperation.
Having your own business can be very rewarding, but no guarantee you’ll be working any less. In fact it is quite the opposite.
Using an analogy from The Goonies, often when you start a business you’re like Brand (Josh Brolin) on a tiny bike with training wheels. It’s awkward and taxing, but it’s yours. Then, the demands of revenue, sales, marketing, and customers pull up like Troy, pawing for your time and attention...
If you’re someone who already struggles with boundaries, be careful of the lure of entrepreneurship. Know what you value, why you want a business, and what you want out of your efforts, lest you go careening off the proverbial cliff.
Your own business is your business 24/7. Sometimes the joy of a 9-5 is knowing it isn’t yours.
You Don’t Need To Chase Your Passion
“You should chase your passion!” A statement hawked so often, it’s like life’s version of the “Get your ice-cold soda here!” at a ballpark.
Passions shouldn’t be chased, they should be escapes.
The things I’m most passionate about are non-employable skills/interests. It’s better that way. When people tell you to “chase your passion,” what they mean is, “Try getting paid for it.” Be careful. Enjoying something and trying to make money off that something are two totally different things.
It’s ok to earn money doing something you’re good at. You don’t have to call it your passion to sell yourself on the merits of your effort.
In Defense of Chill
I’ve never wanted to be my work. I didn’t want it to be my identity. I wanted to do my work so I could have the free time to be who I am. It’s the difference between thinking of “work” as a noun and a verb. I batch work, as a verb, so I can have white space on my calendar to do things in life I enjoy.
We are experiencing a generational moment in the playing field of work. Whatever you do next, keep an eye on diversifying your self-worth. Your employ is not your sole reason for being. I’m not advocating for you to be a barnacle on society’s ship. You have to interact, be useful, earn money; but while you can’t live without work, you can’t excel at life without space.
Be intentional. Establish boundaries. Redefine your story. There’s never been a better time to do so.