Goodbye, Day Job!

by Haider on July 10, 2009 · 19 comments

in Professional

Today (9 July) is my birthday.

And what better way to celebrate my birthday than to experience a re-birth and opening a new chapter in my life?

Which is why I’ve chosen this day as the last day I work at a regular day job.

But before I talk about the reasons for my decision, I must begin with a word of caution:

Every person I spoke to recommended that I secure another job before quitting my current job. While this may be a sensible approach to many, I don’t believe it was applicable to my situation, and I will cover the reasons for that in this post.

Having said that, my approach is extremely risky by any standard, and I wouldn’t like to recommend it to anyone. I offer this post as a personal account, which you may be able to relate to. But I urge you to consider your own situation before committing to follow in my footsteps.

As much as I hate relying on others for financial support, I have asked family members to help me during the transition into this new model of work that I would like to live by. If you’re not surrounded by a supportive group that is able to offer such assistance, you may still be able to make such a move, but I can’t personally encourage you to take that step. I simply don’t know enough about this journey to be able to make such a bold claim to success. I can’t guarantee for others what I haven’t secured for myself. Making such a drastic move may require more planning than I had anticipated, so I can’t ask anyone to imitate my decision. It’s too early for that.

I suggest you read this post as an insight into why I think day jobs are ineffective, and try to look for ways you can reshape your work schedule so that it can do away with some of the disadvantages of a regular day job.

Reasons for Staying

I’ve been thinking about leaving my current job for over two years, but never took a serious step to finding another job or re-considering my approach to work.

One of the main reasons why I believe I was able to endure my current job without looking for better alternatives was the acceptance that this is what life feels like, and that I shouldn’t aspire for anything better. This is an idea that we may consciously reject, but it sets the tone for the life we lead. We don’t make a move because we don’t believe it’s worth trying. Life will feel the same no matter where we go.

Work is annoying. Work is frustrating. Work is time-consuming. Work is constraining. No matter where you go, work will always be the same. The faces surrounding you will change and the salary might be different, but the experience of working will be the same.

Whenever I complained to people about office politics, they would say: “Big deal. You get that everywhere.”

But should it exist in the first place? Are humans incapable of creating a work environment they can enjoy? Is this the only work template we are left with?

The subconscious answer is usually a soul-breaking: Yes.

If you’re not convinced that this is all that life has to offer, you won’t be willing to go down without a fight. You will accept that there are greater things waiting for you, if you would only pursue them.

But rather than pursue them, your journey is brought to a halt by the twin obstacles of fear and hope. Fear that you might not get what you want once you make your move and hope that things will get better where you are.

I used to proactively stoke the fire of hope by pursuing my own projects so that I can remain excited and engaged in my work. This meant that I was unable to move beyond where I was and to pursue another job.

Reasons for Leaving

One of the projects I felt passionate about was re-designing the student website. Before it became an official project, I was begging my manager to give me this project to work on, but she didn’t believe I had the time to take on such a project (and, being realistic, I believe she was right, given the work conditions at the time).

When I heard that the site re-design became an official project, I was eager to jump on the project bandwagon and offer whatever support I can provide.

But I soon realized that the project won’t be properly managed, and so I offered my recommendations on the management level rather than get my hands dirty with web development (which was being delayed by a management decision, anyway).

There was a consistent stream of wrong decisions being made by the project manager. Whenever I would suggest something, I would somehow be “100% correct” but none of my suggestions would be implemented. Things that seemed obvious to me were entirely overlooked by the project manager and the project committee. The team members that I spoke to would agree with me, but would not be prepared to take on my issues with management. They simply wanted to focus on their own tasks.

I felt responsible to help the project succeed, but I was being treated like an obstacle that was getting in the way of progress. The fact that the project was going in the wrong direction didn’t seem to matter as long as “progress” was being made.

Because I take my work seriously, the project was affecting every aspect of my life. Whenever I spent time with family I would be thinking about the project and how I can help it change course. But whenever I spoke up I would be ignored. The emotional toll this project was having on me was unbearable, but I still felt committed to it.

After giving some recommendations to the committee head, I was told to not involve myself in the committee’s work and to concentrate on my own tasks. This was extremely hard for me to accept, because I knew that the committee’s decisions will determine the success of the project much more than the work that I would be doing. I tried to focus on my own tasks, but I couldn’t. I was effectively being told to paddle upstream in a waterfall. I experienced chest pains and stomach aches for three consecutive days while I was trying to ignore the work the committee was doing so I can continue my paddling.

When I was called in to be briefed about committee decisions that were made that day (some of which I had suggested 6 months earlier), I realized that my efforts were in vain. The head of the committee distanced me from the decision-making, even though I reached the decisions that she had reached 6 months before. I walked out of the meeting and sent an email to the committee head informing her that I had left the project.

And after securing for myself some financial support if I was to resign, I told my manager that I would be resigning.

Although I had the intention to leave a long time ago, this experience acted as a catalyst that forced me to take decisive action, rather than fear uncertainty or hope for uncertainty. It crystallized some important facts that I was choosing to ignore. These facts are what led me to decide that I should no longer aspire to hold a regular day job.

The Facts that Made the Difference

Throughout my 4 years of employment, I always struggled to come to work on time. Most days I would have to chisel myself out of bed. I usually blamed lack of motivation for this. But motivation had nothing to do with it. I was experiencing a struggle I was hoping would go away.

I was trying to conform to policies that I did not agree with. I don’t believe that developers need to be present in a specific location to be of value and that they need specific work hours to offer their value. I don’t agree with such an approach to work, but I was trying to force myself to fit into that mold. Don’t get me wrong. Some jobs require attendance and a specific work schedule. But do these factors apply to the type of work that I’m doing? And – more importantly - am I doing the work that I want to be doing and is most suited for me?

Some people enjoy selling products to customers. Others enjoy writing in a secluded corner. A day job doesn’t distinguish between the two. It simply tells you to show up at a specific location during specific times, even if that’s not the best approach to the work being carried out.

This was only part of the struggle I was experiencing. There are other issues that fueled my inner conflict. But what I realized was that this conflict was between my values and company values, but the inner conflict emerged because my actions weren’t stemming from my own values. My actions were trying to adjust to company values. That’s why (or one of the reasons why) I found it difficult to get out of bed. I was trying to ignore my values, while my body knew that I wasn’t convinced with company values. You can’t live according to other people’s values.

This struggle meant that I was wasting my time, my energy, my emotions and my life doing things that I shouldn’t really be doing. I’m not doing myself a favor or anyone else on the face of the planet a favor by wasting my life living against my values and not looking for a way that I can truly shine.

What pushed me over the edge when it comes to abandoning the whole notion of a regular day job is the fact that different people have different strengths. Some are good at programming, others are good at managing. Some bring the greatest value to others through their ideas, while others do it through physical labor. Some can see the big picture, while others can see the finest details. We each have unique strengths that should be the basis for our career decisions. I wasn’t at a job that harnessed my greatest strengths, which meant that I was doing the world a disservice by staying there. What’s more, I realized that my greatest strengths reside in tasks that don’t fit the day job mold.

I am better at defining a process than carrying it out. I can tell a company how they should handle customer care rather than be a customer care staff member. Once I realized what my greatest strengths truly are, it seems only sensible that I should abandon the idea of a regular day job, and look for ways I can make the most use of my strengths.

I cannot afford to waste more time stuck in my day job trying to look for another day job when the work model itself doesn’t suit my style of work.

These are the main reasons for my decision, and why I can now celebrate my Personal Independence Day, knowing that I made the right decision.

I look forward to sharing more about my experience with you, and hope I can be a source of inspiration and information for you to realize your own dreams and share your own strengths with the world!

Stay tuned to find out how my life unfolds and what lessons will be unravelled along the way.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jay July 10, 2009 at 4:43 am

Good for you! Set some goals and hang in there.

2 Bashar July 10, 2009 at 9:27 am

Well I obviously can do nothing but cheer you here, and thank you again for helping me experience the work independence. I’ve also reached this conclusion of dead-end after 5 years. I quit my first job looking for more open space, politics-free environment. I recall my manager words very clearly back then “Bashar you can’t swim against the current”. Regardless, I did try. I did work hard in a bigger company for a year and a half, before I realized I was diving into an ocean of politics, and little did my real work had of value. I also had problems with strict working hours, but my manager had no issues with that. Even with that, I looked him one day and asked my self “If I pursue my career here, I should end up in his chair once. Do I want this? All the politics that’s going on will be my daily routine” I realized then that, I really don’t!

I moved gradually through a Government job, and then to a web entrepreneurship life. I have made some progress, but I’m not there yet. I’m still in the chase. But if you can control and discipline your self, if you can focus and work real hard, there is nothing more enjoyable than being your own boss, running the business you like, just the way you like. If you don’t like the marketing, only you can change it, and same with everything else.

When I’m really working hard, I can think much less of all the other joys in my life. Soccer, games, movies all become to me less of importance, for I’m doing something that I love, pushing me to the edge, improving my skill, and adding to my business, hoping to eventually see the return. The one KD/dollar you make on your own tastes much better.

You have what I call “Dark Days Ahead” no matter how you like them, so Good Luck!
Bashar´s last blog ..Google Voice Is Not Available In Your Country :( My ComLuv Profile

3 Jean Philippe July 10, 2009 at 11:55 am

Wonderful post and great example :)
Go for it!! Now you are going to be of service to the world. That’s a noble endeavor :)
Jean Philippe´s last blog ..The Unexpected Value of a PaintingMy ComLuv Profile

4 Haider July 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Thanks for the support, guys!

It’s highly appreciated.

5 Sue Sorensen July 10, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Good for you! I quit my job last week. I’ve been developing a business on the side for several years and I’ve also started selling some of my own artwork. Leaving my job gives me time to market myself, write a column, take on short-term projects, etc. Lots more freedom! I figured out a while ago that life has its challenges no matter what you do–so you might as well be doing what you want!

6 Masi July 10, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Hello Haider,
I got so happy and excited for you this morning as I read your post. Keep faith (no matter what happens at the start) and before long you will realize the freedom and joy (not to mention the financial means) that comes with the leap you’re taking! Congratulations and all the best.

I thought of you as I read this post just now:
http://in2deep.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/the-leap/

PS may be now you will be more free to publish the book?!

7 Jen Murphy July 10, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Congratulations! I have experienced many of the same frustrations in corporate jobs (no matter how small) and experienced a great improvement in overall quality of life due to “going solo.” Like the old saying goes, “You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole!” It takes a lot of courage to do this and our society doesn’t necessarily support us in this decision.

I would like to offer up some constructive criticism along with my congratulations. My intention is not to devalue in any way what you offer here, both in this post and in others, but to offer a way to add value to your posts. I am not singling you out either, but putting this out to any who write and share their written offerings. I ask you as a reader to please be more grammatically correct, and hence more clear. When I have to read a sentence more than once to determine its meaning you lose me as a reader. For instance, I kept losing the thread of your meaning while reading today’s post because I was focused on how the verb tenses in your sentences did not tend to match. This confuses your meaning.

I am not intending to nitpick here. One does not need to abide by ALL grammatical rules to be clear in meaning. Take the case of incomplete sentences. Not only have they become commonplace, but they add an air of informality to a piece. But if you really want lots of people to read your posts and understand them on first reading (which is crucial to blogging) you need to follow most of the basic grammatical rules to ensure clarity.

I see incorrect grammar over and over in the blog-sphere, even from writers who are making their living from their blogs! It makes me think that many writers do not edit their own work or are not proficient at it. If a writer is not a proficient self-editor he or she should ask someone else to edit their work before publishing–as a courtesy to their readers. Let’s up the ante in the world of internet publishing and see work that is well-written and easy to understand. Take the time to make it publishable. It is about the quality–not the quantity.

I do hope that I have not offended you in any way. I really do enjoy your posts!
~jen

8 Haider July 12, 2009 at 9:03 am

@Sue: Looks like we’re venturing out into this new world together! I definitely agree with you about life’s challenges. Best of luck with your busy and I wish you a fruitful life!

@Masi: Thank you for your continued support. I will definitely be spending more time writing now, and am looking to publish the ebooks in the near future. I’ve also arranged to give a presentation for a gathering of friends about the PGM so I can get some feedback on how to structure my content. This will for the basis for my PGM ebook.

@Jen: Thank you very much for your feedback and constructive criticism. Please feel free to express your thoughts, without the need to apologize or feel apprehensive. I have my own reservations about some blog trends, and it’s only fair that I listen to what my readers have to say about what I offer.

9 MBH July 12, 2009 at 2:29 pm

So you weren’t motivated by me quitting my company as well? :p

I waited for my company’s ERP project to finish, and a month after I gave my resignation, to leave a month after that (to make sure everything is handled properly).

No motivation, politics, policies … the old school stuff doesn’t always fit IT :/
MBH´s last blog ..DB2 Container Rebalancing: Choosing the right filesystemsMy ComLuv Profile

10 Haider July 12, 2009 at 5:39 pm

MBH, you were an inspiration for sure!

I’m technically on holiday now until the end of the month (when my resignation begins), and I’ll be using this time to wrap things up.

Thanks for stopping by!

11 BloggyLife July 13, 2009 at 8:25 pm

1st HAPPY BIRTHDAY ;P I too resigned from my 1st job on my birthday, what’s up with that ;D

The best part is that you realized your potentials and know where your strengths are.

I even suffer from politics, is it a world wide thing, I see stuff simple but others complicate it, so what do you think, if all people who are suffering from politics put to work together, will that be a better outcome! Or again, complain about office politics ;) that would be an interesting study case.

Wish you the very best and keep us updated :D
BloggyLife´s last blog ..My iPod CoverMy ComLuv Profile

12 Haider July 13, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Hi BloggyLife,

Welcome to the site ;)

Thank you for the birthday wishes and message of support.

I wholeheartedly agree with Einstein’s saying: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

One of the problems I had in the project was that the project manager was making things simpler than they were. The guestimates were off the mark by months, and it was obvious when I first looked at them. At the same time, I thought that development was being delayed unnecessarily. You don’t have to wait until you get every user request until you start developing. That makes the entire process unrealistically complicated.

The problem of office politics exists everywhere, but it’s important for any organization to instill organizational values that place the focus on outcomes rather than sticking to policies or rigidly conforming to a hierarchy.

13 Gavin July 15, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Congratulations and best of luck. Please share your ups and your downs with everyone along the way.

I’ve been struggling with most, if not all, of the issues you described in the workplace and have been able to make some changes by moving up the ladder, but most have been short-lived uphill battles that left me drained of energy and lacking motivation.

Hang in there,

Gavin
Gavin´s last blog ..To Drink…Or Not To DrinkMy ComLuv Profile

14 Haider July 15, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Hi Gavin,

Thank you for your support. I’ll be sure to keep my readers updated on my experiences, and the lessons I pick up along the way! :)

Although I was offered to go up the ladder, I knew that the problems I faced exist on every level of the company, so there was no hope of escaping them. I could’ve stayed longer and tried to improve company culture, but I know it’s a losing battle, and I can have a greater influence on mankind if I’m not tied down to a company that doesn’t share my values.

15 Omar August 9, 2009 at 3:53 am

It takes courage to chase your dreams. It’s better to live a happy life doing the things you love than settling for an unrewarding job. Great post.

16 Haider August 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Dear Omar,

I totally agree.

I actually enjoyed part of my job, and I absolutely love the people I worked with (my manager is beyond great! She was helping me look for a job before I left!).

But I owe it to myself (and the world) to go for a job that’s more rewarding.

Great comment! ;)

17 Rick Walker August 21, 2009 at 12:58 am

Haider,

I have worked as an employee, under government contract and as a consultant.

Most of my work has been as a consultant in the resource (i.e. Boom and Bust) Industry and I have experienced some real boom and bust times in my career. However, of all my jobs, my life as a consultant is the most enjoyable.

I honestly love my job. I define my hours and, having said that, work some very long hours on occasion (i.e. during this last year trying to survive the “economic downturn”). The prospect of paying the next months bills encourages (hmm, I wonder if that might be an understatement) one to think outside the box.

I can take time for my family, to see their school plays, concerts … even just pick them up for lunch. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission and I can make up the time, if required, later in the day, the evening or the weekend.

I don’t have a social safety net (i.e. employment insurance) and so HAVE to find work to pay the bills. I don’t have family resources to assist me and so the responsibilty to make it work lies solely with me.

I understand why you quit, I know where you are going and having family to help will smooth out the rough edges as you get established in your new role.

I wish you the best. I can be a truly enjoyable and liberating job, working for your SELF.

Rick

18 Haider August 21, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Dear Rick,

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I’ve already experienced a heap of benefits from quitting my job, and many challenges as well.

I’m off to write a belated update now, and will be covering some of the issues you’ve raised! It’s inspiring to see people who’ve already taken the same path achieve success.

Hope to hear more from you!

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