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10 Reasons Why Now is the Best Time Ever to Quit Your Job

October 20, 2010

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As I write this post I’m looking through my study window watching my children play noisily in the garden.  They’re building a castle out of old bits of wood.

I’ll probably go and join them in a minute.

However, if you’d asked me where I was working three years ago my answer would have been quite different.  Then, I would have been slumped wearily at a desk squinting at a computer screen in a fluorescently lit office.  I would’ve been looking at my watch.  A lot.

Then, at 5pm prompt, I would’ve battled my way through the evening rush hour to arrive home weary and ill-tempered.  The kids would’ve finished their castle long ago.  In fact they would probably already be in bed.

Looking back, I’m so glad I made the decision to turn my back on that all-pervasive mantra of school-college-9-5-mortgage-pension-retirement home.

I quit my job three years ago and never looked back.  It was the best thing I ever did.  Since then I’ve been reflecting a lot on why it is that more people don’t do the same.

So, if you’re stuck in a job or career you hate and are desperate to leave, but keep holding back, either because of inertia, financial insecurity, fear of the unknown or plain apathy, I hope these humble reflections might be of some use in your journey.

The idea of a ‘job for life’ is disappearing

Largely as a result of the need to bail out mindless risk-taking bankers, pension fund managers and various other odious gold-diggers, governments around the world are being forced to implement massive and unprecedented cuts in public spending – and set in train massive programmes of job cuts.

In the business world too, rapacious globalisation, eroded worker rights and the rise of temporary contracts have combined to ensure that, for many of us, a ‘job for life’ is no longer a viable prospect.

The net result is that millions of people around the world are now faced with a stark choice between a life of unstable, short-term contract-based employment or the welfare queue.

If this is the best that the ‘traditional’ world of work now has to offer I say that we are better off refusing to play the game.  Surely going it alone is better than subscribing to this dismal state of affairs and signing away the best years of our lives?

The pensions industry is going to hell in a handcart

Another result of the financial meltdown and plummeting stock markets is that many pension funds are now drastically out of pocket.  This has led many governments to lobby strongly for an increase in the retirement age.  Where I live in the UK, it’s quite possible that I could be working until I’m nearly 70 before I can claim a pension that I’ve paid into all my life – how much more do these f***’ers want?

This philosophy of worry now, live later is like a sort of state-sanctioned religion.  Except, instead of living like a puritan to ensure eternal life we must forego any sense of spontaneity and enjoyment of the here and now in favour of some hazy and ill-defined notion of ‘a good retirement.’

We need to stop worrying about our pensions and get a life – that means here and now, in front of our noses.  Besides, if you quit your job and start doing something that you love, who says you’ll want to retire anyway?

The gatekeepers are quaking in their boots

At the same time as this worldwide fudge has been unravelling, a new generation has emerged that is willing and able to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by technology and the internet in order to create their own reality.  A generation that simply refuses to accept the dish served up by the bloated baby-boomer establishment – choosing instead to invent a new game, with new rules.

This new game has opened up a whole world of creative freedom and possibility.  A world where it is easier than ever before to reach out to like-minded people wherever they live.

More than anything else, the digital revolution means that a whole range of creative people, from writers, artists and musicians to entrepreneurs and freelancers, can now bypass the gatekeepers of the old economy and reach out to their audience directly.  The upshot is that when you create a new product like a book or a piece of music there is no more need to spend years scrabbling around for deals with agents, publishers, record company A&R men.  No more swimming in a murky pool of distributors, marketing men and manufacturers.  No more need for middle-men period – just the joy of creating and communicating with your audience, market, readers (whatever you want to call them) direct.

Lots of fingers in lots of pies

When you jump ship and make the decision to work smarter you no longer have to rely on a single source of income but can instead develop multiple income streams from doing the things that you love.

Perhaps one week you could be writing articles for a glossy magazine, the next you could be finishing off your new eBook and selling it directly to a worldwide audience.  Next, you might decide to set up an online vintage clothes boutique or style consultancy.

The possibilities are limited only by the reach of your own imagination.

As well as allowing you to invent a completely new and fulfilling way of working this multiple income approach has the added benefit of leaving you much better equipped to escape the negative effects of the global financial crisis.

Passive income generation is better than wage slavery

When you work for someone else, if you don’t turn up for work you don’t get paid.  The reward system is inherently bound up with the idea of ‘serving your time.’

But what if you could make money while you sleep, or perhaps while you’re sipping mojitos on a palm fringed beach?  Sounds farfetched?  Well, for a growing number of people this ‘crazy’ idea has become a reality.  These people have been turned on to the notion of passive income generation.

It works like this – First, you produce a digital product, maybe an eBook or an album, or whatever else inspires you.  Then, taking advantage of the internet and the existing infrastructures within it, you market and sell the product.  Sound good?  Well, it gets even better.  The beauty of the system is that, if you set things up smartly, the entire system runs automatically – that’s right, once the system is set up you won’t have to lift a finger, just sit back and watch the money roll in.

Just take a look at sites like e-junkie and you’ll realise how easy it can be to set up a business like this.

If you’re interested in taking this idea further, one of the best books I ever read on the subject was Cloud Living by Glen Allsopp.  Other great resources for advice on steadily building a passive income stream are the Internet Business Mastery Academy and this excellent ‘Make Money Writing for eHow Guide.’

It saves money

Just for a minute think about all that money you spend travelling to and from work, the quick coffee before work, the business lunches and the meals out with clients, the smart work wear … the list goes on.  This phenomenon of seemingly small but, over time, increasingly expensive expenditure patterns has now been well documented as the latte effect.  So, if it’s money that’s stopping the big quit, it’s time to cross it off the list.

No more ‘Steve from accounts’

Working on projects and schemes of your own devising means that you no longer have to run things by Steve from accounts or Kelly in marketing before forging ahead.

The freedom of working for yourself allows you to work on all those projects that are close to your heart and, perhaps more importantly, create things of real value – both to yourself and others.  In essence, it lends you the ability to create your own little slice of immortality.

It enhances your flexibility and leaves you free to follow new and exciting paths without the need to secure permission from a vast and weighty bureaucracy.

In sum, you get the chance to invent your own reality rather than living someone else’s.

You won’t be stuck in one place

A new generation of smart entrepreneurs are embracing the possibilities that wireless technology offers to become location-independent and literally live and work from anywhere in the world they choose.

Here again, I’d highly recommend Glen Allsopp’s book Cloud Living, where you can find out how to harness the power of wireless technology to build a lifestyle where you can live and work anywhere.

You can work at your own pace

Many people in paid employment tend to fall into one of two groups.  The first, let’s call them the strivers, are the people that fill up their days (and often their nights too) in a state of constant busyness.  You can always tell a striver because they tend to be the loudest in the office.  They’re the ones who’re forever caressing their Blackberry’s, or hassling you to join in on some fruitless and unnecessary project, or organizing an endless series of meetings where they drone on enthusiastically about nebulous concepts like efficiency and productivity.

In his masterful essay Quitting the Paint Factory, journalist Mark Slouka described his exasperation with these characters:

“I distrust the perpetually busy; always have.  The frenetic ones spinning in tight little circles like poisoned rats.  The slower ones, grinding away their fourscore and ten in righteousness and pain.  They are the soul-eaters.”

Spot on Mark.  As far as I’m concerned, these types are a lost cause.

The other group, let’s call them the skivers, tend to do the bare minimum required of them and spend the rest of the day biding their time until 5 o’clock, (or whatever other time has been sanctioned by the management as the end of ‘office hours’).  Since they have to be physically based at the office for an unchangeable amount of time each day, regardless of the amount of work that needs doing, they perhaps inevitably start to devise elaborate strategies to avoid work.  In reality, what this tends to mean is that skivers spend huge swathes of their time indulging in what Tom Belsky calls insecurity work.

This group is much more interesting.  They are normally the people in your office that still retain some spark of life.  The ones who refuse to let their identity be subsumed into the corporate behemoth.  The resisters, the awkward ones.

Most importantly of all, they are almost always the ones with the genuine ideas, the creative flair.  If you’re a skiver (and if you’re reading this while you’re at work the probability is that you are) the great news is that when you work for yourself you actually need to work less hours.  By cutting out most of the pointless fluff that nowadays constitutes the typical work day it’s even possible to achieve a four, three or even two hour work day.  I know this is possible, because I’ve done it myself.  Everett Bogue has done it too, and shows you how to do it in his essential book Minimalist Business.  In some ways though, it doesn’t matter how many hours you work each day as long as you’re doing something you enjoy and over which you have total control.

Two weeks holiday a year is criminal

We want to reclaim our dignity and freedom – why get out of bed and travel across town to an airless and starkly lit office in the middle of winter?  We should be lords of our own destiny.  If we want to spend a delightful, absorbing morning writing 4,000 words on our latest book and do nothing but take a bath or go for a long walk in the afternoon – we should be free to do so.  Who are these people who control our lives to such a degree that we must submit to a measly and soul destroying two weeks off a year?

No, it’s time to resist.  We need to develop a way of working characterised by what Tom Hodgkinson calls ‘paroxysms of diligence followed by extended periods of idleness.’  In other words, we should work when we like and rest when we like – it’s more productive anyway.  Take a mini-retirement or spend a week locked in a study to write a book of poems – the important thing is that the choice is yours and no-one else’s.

Anyway, excuse me – I’ve got a castle to help build …


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Image Credit – tommy the pariah via flickr on a creative commons license.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2010 10:22 pm

    Whew! What a long post. I guess not having a 9-5 really frees up time to blog! You had some great points in the post. Happy wood castle building!

    • October 21, 2010 10:09 am

      Thanks Jonnie. Yes, it’s amazing how much more you get around to outside the m-f 9-5! Glad you liked the post – hope it was useful too.

  2. October 25, 2010 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration and advice! I’m working toward the goal, slowly but surely. So far, I have quit the 9-5 job in favor of telecommuting for my family’s small business. It’s still doing things I’m not fond of, but at least it’s flexible and frees me up to lay the groundwork for being independent of the work grind and off to pursue dreams! Always needing support from articles like this (and people like you) because I often think I’m being ridiculous seeking out this utopian life.
    I’m not.
    And I will get there.

    • October 25, 2010 6:55 pm

      Hi Laura – thanks for the support! I’m so glad you’ve decided to start taking some practical steps towards one day pursuing your dreams. As Rob Wringham mentioned in his recent interview for Rainy Day Wonder, making that initial decision is sometimes the most important thing.

      Please feel free to let me know what sort of articles/advice you’d like to see on the blog in future.


  3. Macs permalink
    November 2, 2010 2:59 pm

    “If you’re a skiver (and if you’re reading this while you’re at work the probability is that you are) the great news is that when you work for yourself you actually need to work less hours. ”

    Huh? What? Who, me??? 😉

    Nice piece, and I’m going to enjoy filling a few of the 9-5 hours (okay, I confess 9-6 hours, I’ve been a mug…) reading more of your prose here… I’ve just about sucked all the juice out of the New Escapologist and ERE during previous ‘work’ days, hence I’m glad to have found another source of spiritual sustenance to tide me over until the escape tunnel is fully dug and I can make a break for the perimeter fence.

    Nice one, I’ll be back.

    • November 3, 2010 10:53 am

      Hi Macs – Thanks for the encouragement. Keep working on it, I’ve been there too and know exactly what it’s like to be stuck at that desk…

      To keep you occupied until the escape tunnel’s dug – have you ever read Corinne Maier’s book ‘Hello Laziness – Why Hard Work Doesn’t Pay’? A great read on how to subvert the system from the inside.

      • Macs permalink
        November 3, 2010 12:19 pm

        Thanks for the reply – haven’t heard of that book, but I can always ask at the library 😉

        One part of me wants to reply ‘I’d rather subvert the system from the outside‘…

        In return, can I recommend ‘Idle thoughts of an idle fellow’ by Jerome K Jerome?

        Funny thing is, I don’t actually mind hard work or long hours, when the rewards accrue to me. What gets me down is having to be the customer-facing part of a dysfunctional organisation. It’s soul-destroying. At least I get the chance to download orders for my own sideline business whilst no-one’s looking 😎 And so far, no-one’s questioned why I’ve suddenly started to go out to the post office every lunchtime, instead of sitting at my desk munching my frugal lunches.

        I think there’s light at the end of the proverbial tunnel now, the mortgage will be dead before the New Year, then I just have to make the leap into uncertainty. If I can ramp my alt-income up another £100 per week, that would be a leap into security even without the slave-wage… not far to go.


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  3. Top 10 Ways to Find Your Passion « Rainy Day Wonder

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