I have officially quit. My travels have been fruitful and I have found what I was looking for. Three months ago when I took a sabbatical and headed out traveling a colleague asked me, ‘Is it an “eat, pray, love” thing?’. ‘I am doing the eating part only’, I replied then. But she was right in the sense that overworked and lost I found strength to sit down and think of the things which really matter and to re-learn to accept myself and the fact that my love for food is a legitimate way to happiness, relating to the people, looking at the world and making a living. So I have quit as I am relocating to Istanbul and start running food walking tours for the visitors interested in experiencing rich food and eating culture of Istanbul.
I will not pay duties to the tradition of sarcastic writing about my time in the corporate world emphasizing how miserable I felt. Because I did not. I was well paid, wore nice suits, traveled business class to Siberia, enjoyed delights of the expatriate life in the Western Ukraine, dined at fine restaurants, had a pleasure to work with really bright people (and could never relate to the complaints of my friends who said they worked with idiots) and can say that the projects I worked on made a real difference to our clients. This does not sound a misery, does it? Yet, I have quit following a word of wisdom from a senior colleague who once said that only pursuing one’s passion can make a sustainable career.
The occasion of quitting and the circumstances around it inspire me to share a few thoughts on the things to do immediately after quitting your job. Here are the three things I have done and totally recommend to anyone about to quit their corporate career.
Splash on The Long-Curbed Aspirations
This is the time. For one time sake – the right one! If you don’t use it you will never be able to produce a comfortable explanation to yourself as to why you have not leveraged that brilliant opportunity. However willing you may be to safely slide into another job, organization or career – slow down and do what you have been craving for all these years. If in doubt about your aspirations (it is ok if you have forgotten you have any) find out what they are by trial and error – try them all and let the experiences distill to those that click to you most.
Think back and recall what you used to enjoy .. well .. 10 years back, or recall what you have been complimented on most, or page through the glossies at a newsstand to see the mind-blowing range of aspirations and muses that help people around the world express themselves, join friends (or maybe random strangers) in pursuing their favorite sports, hobbies, businesses and what not – ways are aplenty. The key here is to really give yourself time and freedom to explore your aspirations and muses as by doing this you are learning to accept yourself and recognize different manifestations of yourself as legitimate parts of your personality. You never know how serious you may get. It took me time to recognize that a mere interest in eating can bring me as far as to star running Istanbul food walking tours.
The key here as I have mentioned before is to splash on those aspirations. You may not be spending money extravagantly but make sure to extravagantly spend time or devote abnormal amount of energy to doing those things. A friend of mine, a corporate person to the bone himself, once noted that it is the ability to sacrifice time that the corporate world is lacking in its pursuit for efficiency, output and deliverables. You have just quitted, so seat back and for a while appreciate the fact that from now on the only source of your pressure is yourself. Now tell me – how long did that while last, how long you could handle the feeling of no pressure? Practice it daily for 40 days and daily note down the answers to this question. Report back on the progress.
It took me a few weeks of practice to start enjoying hanging out with the guys at the farm where I am learning Turkish language and cooking without looking at the watch and thinking what I could have done instead: completed one more chapter of Teach Yourself Turkish or drafted a blog post. Instead of the never-ending efficiency itching I have gradually learned to recognize the fact that those chats at the kitchen were best live Turkish learning and an endless source of inspiration for my posts, business ideas and thoughts about life. Now it is your turn: find out your aspirations, accept yourself and splash time, money and energy on pursuing them.
Test Drive Your New Career
Try picking up some skills that will be relevant for your new career or performing some tasks that will be a part of your routine as a self-employed. In other words, do something to get reasonably horrified and unreasonably inspired by the new things you are going to do for living.
The day I officially quit I found myself at a Turkish farmhouse where I was doing apprenticeship of Turkish language and cooking – the skills I am planning to leverage in my new career. So that very day, a well-paid consultant mingling with high profile executives in the recent past, I was sentenced to the dish washing duties. After the breakfast everyone got up, patted me on the back and left me with a pile of dishes and piles more to come from upstairs as the guests were just starting their breakfast. How is that for glory? Is that why I have quit? Hey, but how is that different from being “sentenced” or volunteering to a night of working on polishing a client presentation, proofing the translation that is never quite right and doing the formatting that our Mumbai designers could never get to the required perfection. And then after a few hours of sleep sacrificing my morning yoga march back to the office to supervise the printing and binding of the document. See, test drive of your new career will teach you a few things.
First, you will learn to remember and appreciate why you have quit. Even in the dish washing instance I knew that I was there to learn Turkish language and cooking, that these skills will help me to succeed in my new career and with that knowledge in mind I could definitely handle doing some dishes as a part of the learning package.
Second, after a trial of your new career you will clearly see your development areas and most likely will notice how they have traveled with you from your previous career. If you could not get on well with the colleagues or you thought your clients were idiots you would have miserable time trying to build relationships with suppliers, clients and partners in your new venture. If you thought the workload at your previous job was overwhelming the odds are that you will face even worse workload as a self-employed since there will be no one to help you get organized. Your issues did not stay at your desk in the cubicle you left or in the folders of the laptop you handed it. So face them and make a plan to fix them.
Third, a test drive of your new career will disillusion the easiness of the path you have chosen. I am a very fond follower of Tim Ferris, in particular because he strikes me as a very talented marketing person in selling his ideas of low-effort living: check out the title of his book – 4-hour Work Week. Yet I remember a disappointment in the comments to his blog post where he shared the schedule of his random day – they guy actually puts twice as much of the prescribed week limit within a single day by keeping himself busy with intellectually and physically challenging activities. Many readers of his got disappointed: so, the success of a self-employed does not really come with putting 4 hours a week? Should have known before quitting…
Learn Measuring Things by The Contribution to Your Happiness
From day one you should forget the number you made before – not that it is a painful memory, it is rather a useless benchmark for you now. At some point I sat down armed with the microeconomics theory and drew my budget line and utility curve. According to the microeconomics each individual tries to maximize the utility by getting the optimal combination of goods on the utility curve within the budget limitation. So, what is that utility curve for me? I have figured it is my happiness, or ability to experience joy because of doing, seeing or having things.
I have analyzed two time periods in my life: year of 2006 when I was living on very local standard in India and year of 2009 when I was making about 20 time more money. I looked at the differential on the happiness curve and came to the eye-opening findings: I was a much happier person in 2006.
As a friend of mine, a young professional woman, said, ‘”In time we develop a taste for getting our manicure and depilation done by someone else but we were not just fine when as students we did it ourselves?” This holds for many professionals, I guess: you get into the vicious cycle of spending on expensive suits, glasses, watches, dinners and cars because you salary allows but also because your job obliges. And as we are busy making more bucks and putting on more hours we forget watching our happiness curve. As you have quit you have no excuse any more – so, find out what is important for you, what makes you happy and illuminate the rest.
For the three months I have been on the road I have found I can be quite ok wearing the same pair of pants and I don’t even remember how the other 15 pairs I left at home look like – then why on earth do I have them? I have also figured what as long as do traveling or short-term renting I don’t mind my accommodation either: my hostel-hopping in Croatia helped me re-think the number of things I used to carry in my backpack and being hosted by a cleaning lady from the bus station at a small town of Bosnia got me experience the best of the local hospitality. Meanwhile, I have figured it makes me ultimately happy to spend on fine dining, good cooking books and unusual accessories. This is what moves me up my happiness curve and these are the numbers I am going to keep in mind when drawing my business plans and expected earnings. .
.. I am writing these lines as I am sitting by a fireplace in a farmhouse on a hilltop. I am sipping my ginger tea and a cat is sleeping by my knees. The shimmering lights of the bigger towns and cities over the lake down the hill remind me of the great deed I will get busy with in a week once I leave the place…. Three or not these things feel very right to do on the day I have quit my job.