This post was originally written on Medium in 2018
After a bumpy start, in my late 20’s I decided it was time to get a career and move on in the world. Time to start adulting. You know, work harder, take on more responsibility, earn more money, and probably wear a suit more. Buy grown-up things. And despite not really knowing what I was doing it turned out I was pretty good at this career thing. Things went stellar in fact. By 38 I was a director of a multi-billion-pound international business. I earned a great salary, had a big house with several acres of land, a couple of cars, all the gear for several expensive hobbies, and shiny toys for the garden like chainsaws and ride-on lawnmowers.
The downside of all that was that in reality I was miserable as fucking sin.
I hated that I spent night after night away from home. Some days I managed to drive over 400 miles or sitting in traffic jams for hours on end. I did a lot of meetings and conference calls. Wrote a lot of emails. Was regularly beat up by customers or my boss. And was doing work that was uninspiring for a company I wasn’t interested in, for an owner I didn’t care about. Tired, stressed, and had no joy in my work. Which was odd, because it was in a field I had always loved.
All this was because I had gone too far, I had sold out and bought into the constant career drive, the race to be “more important” and to be able to get more — more money, more possessions, more hobbies, more status symbols. More things that I didn’t really want and did not need.
Oddly enough a long time ago I already knew that I didn’t want more. I had enough to be happy. My old home was fine. It needed some work but was already bigger than need be. I had all my hobbies covered and I knew what made me happy. But I was caught in the career trap, which also means a consumption trap. And I had forgotten that.
It was a career crisis that made me remember it. Without going through the entire story, I came very close to a breakdown. Too much work, without any passion. Being driven by a boss who did nothing to inspire me. Fighting for the reputation of a company that only had a bad one. I just couldn’t take it any longer. I came close to breaking.
I know I like security, especially in work or finances, I don’t like debt and I don’t like the fear that I get when it comes to worrying about paying the bills. That’s me, I am a worrier. I don’t mind a risk, but it is always a very carefully calculated risk. But the worrier in me is what keeps me in a situation that pays the bills, rather than ignites any passion.
So, after some deep soul searching I had my “Milburn moment” (see “the minimalists”) and wrote a proposal to my boss explaining why I wasn’t doing what was needed and my job in its current form wasn’t needed,
It wasn’t quite “get rid of me” because there was still a job to be done in an area I really care about; people and the environment. It just doesn’t need someone with all the things I had to deal with as a director. I suggested they “right-size” my job to a more junior one, reduce my benefits and let me be happy and thrive doing something I care about passionately. Be more authentic. He could even consider letting me work remotely from anywhere in the world. I had visions of a “4-hour work week” or being on a beach in Asia or South America and scuba diving every morning……
Well it turns out my great idea was rejected outright. Like immediately. While I was still in the room. Over.
Nothing changed. Same work, same problems, same constant travel, and hassle. So, then I had my “Milburn Moment №2” and decided I had to commit to the change, because I really needed it to happen. As a natural worrier, I tend to play safe, and I really need a push sometimes.
In early 2018 I told my boss that I would not be working for the business in 2019. I gave him three scenarios — I would get another job and leave for something that excited me more, he could lay me off when they did the budgets for the year or I would resign at the end of the year and not come back in 2019.
One of those three things is coming true in the next 7 months (it’s May 2018 as I write this). It looks like 2018 and 2019 will be an interesting year. Either way, I will find a life that aligns with my values, my anchors, and my passions in my life.
I will follow up on this in a 2020 update soon……