Photo by Vee-vee
I’m not old by any means but one thing I have learned from my 31 years and 8 months in this world is that each of us is unique. There is not one single person out there that looks like me, thinks like me, has the same circumstances as me, or the same thought process as me. So it doesn’t really make much sense to follow the same life course as anyone else.
Much like there is no one size fits all approach to fitness and nutrition, there is no one size fits all approach to how you should live your life.
This is the story of my journey to being who I always wanted to be. It includes why I quit my job, sold my car and gave away $45,000. I hope you enjoy.
Man, this world is crazy!
The universe truly works in mysterious ways. For me, the date of August 1st is significant. Whether I do it subconsciously or not is up for debate but apparently I like to make the biggest decisions of my life on August 1st. Here’s a run down:
- Leave Herndon, Virginia to live in Wilmington, North Carolina. 18 years old, first time away from home and on my own. I would return 6 months later… too hot in the kitchen for this kid to handle.
- Wake up one morning in Virginia with a big questions on my mind. “What the hell am I doing with my life?” The next day I packed up the Geo Tracker, left town, and headed to the left coast. Sunny Southern California. 20 years old, it was time for this kid to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Challenges await and personal growth to be had.
- Was working my regular shift at work and decided it was time to shake things up a bit. Things had gotten a bit stale, I was complacent and getting to comfortable. Something needed to change. The remedy… a trip around the world.
- Adopt the cutest little guy in the world…. What? It might not be a kid but taking care of a living being is a huge responsibility and a big decision.
- Quit my full-time job, steady paycheck, and security. Sell my car, some clothes (thanks buffalo exchange), electronics and other stuff I don’t need. In favor of a job I love, not so steady paycheck, no security. A motorcycle instead of a car, 10 shirts, two pairs of pants, some shorts, and a whole lotta books.
There you have it. My August firsts the last few years. Funny how the Universe conspires stuff like that huh?
Why the need for change?
Whoa… what a loaded question right? I’ve mentioned it before but it really comes down to three things and I think Daniel Pink did an excellent job detailing it in his book Drive:
- Autonomy: the desire to direct our own lives.
- Mastery: a strong urge to make progress and improve in an area you are interested and you find meaningful.
- Purpose: a relentless pursuit or belief in doing something that serves a greater purpose than us.
These were my wants.
I want to be able to dictate all my ups and downs, success and failures, the path my life follows.
I want to constantly be challenging myself. Improving on my weaknesses while playing to my strengths. To do things that matter to me and that I am completely invested in.
I want to do something that matters. Not just to me but for the universe as a whole. You have a unique gift to offer this world. It’s a disservice if you do not share it.
However, these three wants are only part of the equation. Autonomy + Mastery + Purpose = Happiness
Everything I did revolved around Happiness. I said I needed more money. I said I needed to travel the world. I said I needed to quit my job. I said I needed more free time.
All of these things I said I needed I only said for one reason… I thought they would bring me more happiness.
Nearly everything we do in life is related to it. We eat certain foods because they make us happier, we want more money so we can buy more things which we thing will make us happier, we want to quit our jobs and have more free time so that we can do things that make us happier.
So why the need for change? I simply needed to be HAPPIER.
What needed to change?
Ok, so here’s the funny part. I was blaming everything, everyone, and the kitchen sink for not having the level of happiness I desired. I blamed my job, I blamed my finances, I blamed my girlfriend, I blamed the amount of free time or lack there of that I had. You name it… I was blaming it.
The fact of the matter is that nothing needed to change except for myself. I was the one that needed to change. It was time to stop playing the victim and take responsibility for the person I was and the person I was going to be.
The cool thing about life is that we always have a choice. I chose my job, my friends, to go to bed way too late and wake up way to early, to buy an expensive truck that cost and arm and a leg to fill up, and to buy things I didn’t need.
Now having a choice doesn’t mean there will not be repercussions and you might not always like the outcome but there is always a choice. You can choose the food you eat, the job you take, the exercise you get, the people you spend time with, which all essentially adds up to you choosing the quality of your life. The outcome of those decisions might not always play in your favor but again: there is a choice in the matter.
Some of you might be shaking your head and saying “Justin… you’re full of hogwash. I don’t always have a choice”. I’m going to be brutally honest right here. Until you realize you do there is a good chance you will never truly get to where you want to be.
I recently had a conversation with a friend the other day who was expressing his desire to do work he loved and found meaningful. He said this to me.
“Justin, I wish I could just quit on a drop of a dime like that, make changes, and do somethings I really want to do. But I have kids, a house, bills…”
I couldn’t really argue with him. I don’t have anyone of those things (except a few small bills). I have chosen not to. His situation is much tougher than mine. But the fact remains that he can still make changes that get him and his family closer to a life that emphasizes the things that make them happiest. Maybe not at the drop of a hat but over time it is possible.
What really goes on is that we are afraid to give up things we already have. Things that make us feel safe, comfortable, and secure. He has the choice to sell his house and the family could stay with relatives or a motor home while pursuing a purpose. Don’t think so? Well this guy and his family did.
I can see some of your cringe as I type that. Hell, it made me a little uncomfortable just writing it. It’s not that you couldn’t do it. It’s that you don’t want to. It’s hard, and uncomfortable. So was quitting my job and selling my car.
I want to be clear. It’s not easy. Nor should it be. But guess what? You’ll figure it out.
How I did it
Now before I dive in some of what has been written might not resonate with some of you and that’s ok. None of us are cut from the same mold and we all have different virtues, beliefs, and desires. For some “the script” we are supposed to follow is ok. The security, the comfort, the just good enough will do.
But for some of us it is not. I’m one of those people and if you are still reading with me chances are you are too.
Truth be told it may have seemed like all of this was a change at the drop of a hat but it was actually a work in progress for about a year.
The first thing I asked myself was: what do I really need? This will be different for everyone as we all have unique situations. This step is extremely tough and requires you to be very honest with yourself. The idea of giving up things that make life a little more comfortable can be overwhelming. Here is what I asked myself.
Q: Do I need my car?
A: Nope. I currently am able to walk to work, bike to the grocery store, and to the bank if needed. A means of transportation would be nice in case of emergency so I decided to use the money from the sale of my car to buy a motorcycle. The rest put into an account in case of an emergency.
Dilema (The what if game): What if it rains, what if I have to move, what if I (insert a million different things right here).
My answer: I’ll figure it out.
Q: Do I make enough money with doing the work that I love to support myself if I leave my current job?
A: Yes but not in the way that I thought. Instead of taking a look at how much I was making I decided to take a look at how much I was spending. Turns out that I was spending $400 dollars a month of gas, $120 on car insurance, $50 on a membership I was not using, $100 on DirecTV, $400 on groceries (I love WholeFoods), $60 on a gardener, another $150 on a personal service. YIKES!
With no truck I was eliminating $350 in gas, my insurance was cut in half with a motorcycle, I cancelled that membership, cut some services on DirecTV (I have roommates and they wanted to keep it to save $20, starting shopping more frugally and at cheaper groceries stores with a specific list grocery list based on exactly what I eat each week (saved $150), no more gardener, and cancelled the personal service.
Total savings: $840/month
I could now make $840 less per month and live comfortably. It takes some creativity and discipline to really evaluate what you really need and what you do not. If you try this you will most often find yourself making excuses for why you need the television, certain foods, the car, a membership, or what ever else it might be. This is one of the hardest steps to act on.
Q: What is my worst-case scenario if I fail?
A: I have to leave California and move back home. But guess what? I continue to do the work that I love. Personally, I believe that the universe has a way of rewarding those that are serving their life’s purpose. Case in point. After I announced I was leaving my job within a week I had added three more clients and 2 more short-term gigs. Most of these opportunities came through my former employer. Another reason it is extremely important that if you are leaving your current job to leave on good terms. There is no reason to burn bridges. I for one did not hate my job. It was easy, paid me well, and I loved the people I worked with. It just wasn’t want I needed to be doing in life to make me happy.
Long story short. If you are pursuing what you enjoy most in life you can’t fail.
Sometimes you need to get rid of your chicken gate
I’m sure most of you have been on a roller coaster before. Well, you know how when you get to the top and it’s time to get on you are given the option to either get on the ride or take a sharp left under the velvet rope and make your way back down. I like to call that the “chicken gate.”
I’m a firm believer that if you are given two options you will never truly be dedicated to one. In my case this was work. I had been toiling with my side project for sometime now but never really fully invested myself in it. I kept myself from doing so because I always had something to fall back on.
I liken it to a crutch. When you break your foot you’re given a crutch to help you walk. It makes you feel safe and secure. But what happens if someone kicks that crutch out from under you? You’re left to hop around. You have to figure it out. Sure it may be tough, but before you know if you’re hopping around like a champ and the cast comes off at the same time regardless if you had used a crutch or not.
What to expect
I’ll just briefly touch on this real quick as I have only noticed one big significant change since I started to pursue my purpose full-time.
Most people are very excited for you but think you’re nuts!
Most of the people closet to me were happy I was pursuing the life I wanted to live but often would tell me that I was not being “realistic” and that there are to many risks involved. I would just remind myself that this was only because they loved me and wanted me to be safe and secure. I would simply say thank you to them and I appreciated their concern. And I really did. It was nice to know that those that mean the most to me care enough to voice their opinion and apprehensions.
It’s very difficult to go against the grain. At a young age your entire life is shaped and molded based on a certain path you are expected to take. The school, the job, the 2.5 kids, and the house to go with it. Work hard, get annual pay raises, and do your best to retire at the ripe old age of 65 (although this keeps going up).
It just so happens that I’m not interested in that. Sorry.
I wish there was something profound that I could say here but the only thing I have is the truth… hard work. That’s what’s next. I said it at the beginning of this article and I’ll say it again.
It’s not usually less work that you want. It’s usually more work that you love.
I will constantly be keeping three things in mind as I continue on this journey.
- Do I really need more money or do I need to spend less?
- Do I really need more time or do I need to evaluate where I am spending it?
- I don’t know what to do or I am not an expert. Just get started, I’ll figure it out.
Imagine if Stevie Wonder never shared his gift of music with us, Picasso decided not to paint, Or if the Wright brothers gave in to all their failures of flight and decided to give up.
I have a unique gift to offer to this world and so do you. It would be a shame to go an entire lifetime without sharing it… don’t you think?
What are you waiting for?