The Truth About Leaving Your 9-5
It’s estimated that approximately 27 million people are going to leave full-time jobs between now and the year 2020. Why? To be self-employed. And we are 2 of those 27 million. Like many other millennials, we value our time and our freedom and we want to be able to choose what we work on every day. More specifically, we want to make money doing things that we’re passionate about and good at and we’re willing to work hard for that. While this has always been a dream for us individually, both of us were inspired by the book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, And Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss. Spoiler alert: the whole premise is how to have “mini retirements” and to really experience life instead of working fifty years and then waiting for retirement at the end of your life when your body is a bit run down and your energy levels only allow you to play bridge, bingo, and half of a round of golf. It’s a good book. (Check it out here.)
At the same time, the reality of creating a 4-hour workweek life takes a whole lot more than just reading a book and following the steps. We both have done it (and are still doing it). And we both did it two very different ways. If you’re thinking about leaving your 9-5, we hope our stories will help you think clearly about your situation and maybe give you some courage to go for it. Because we’re avid proponents of taking leaps of faith and creating a life you love.
One Way To Do It: Wake Up One Day and Decide to Put In Your Two Weeks Notice (Anika’s Way)
The Struggling Artist Narrative
Los Angeles is an expensive city. Not only because rent is really high, but because of all of the little things that add up. There are plenty of magical places to visit, but you have to pay for parking at 90% of those places (and if you forget to set a reminder to top off the meter, that’s a $63 ticket). The food in LA is good - like reeeeeally good and it’s super expensive. There are SO many fun things to do - concerts, outdoor experiences, incredible shopping, and museums - and they ALL cost a very pretty penny (or like 5,000+). The most magical part of LA, though? The feeling of opportunity around every corner - that maybe with the right connection, or the right song, or the right audition, all will be well and you’ll be set for life. (That’s really what we pay for. That and the weather!) So when I look back on the time that I was committed to pursuing a career as a background singer and was essentially unemployed, I am dumbfounded at how I was able to pay my $1000/month rent AND the parking garage and eat food and pay my bills (well, most of the them anyway). It was the best of times and also the worst of times.
I Never Really Wanted a 9-5, But...
Because honestly, that struggling artist life gets old - really fast. Yet, I did it for almost two years. Always questioning where the next paycheck will come from and when is scary. Always playing out the worst case scenario in your head? Talk about anxiety! I had absolutely no space in my mind for creativity or even just clear thinking. So I did the super uncool thing. I got an 8 to 5 position as an Office Manager at a tech company. And I was excited... at first. Because it felt so much better knowing when I would get paid. It felt like the right move. Not to mention, it was lowkey so I was able to work on my personal stuff (a different blog I was working on at the time.) The biweekly paycheck was amazing. The benefits were even more amazing. The last time I had that kind of financial security is when I was dependent on my parents. The downsides were that the commute was an hour each way. The job itself was boring and not very challenging. I always felt drained when I came home. So I never had the energy to “be creative” because I would have to go to bed early enough to not feel like a zombie the next morning so I wanted to spend what little time I had resting and relaxing. Needless to say, this 8-5 wasn’t the “investment” into my present sanity and my future entrepreneurial self that I thought it was going to be.
Then, The Quitting...
I only lasted seven months. I was miserable. First of all, I am NOT a morning person. I never have been and I don’t think I ever will be. (Check out our post on sleep and chronotypes here.) And as Office Manager, I had to open the office every day and therefore, arrived earliest. Secondly, my boss was usually nice, but had plenty of days when no one survived the wake of his path. I was at a company that was a real boys’ club and while I felt like I was valued verbally, that’s where it ended. Most importantly though, there was just no future for me there. I couldn’t foresee improvement or any kind of satisfaction in the direction I was headed. So I made the decision to quit in one conversation with my very logical, well-employed brother and put in my two weeks notice.
What Was I Thinking?
Well, you might be thinking, “Anika, lots of people are miserable at their jobs. They don’t just up and quit. That’s not a very wise thing to do.” Yes, but at the time, I had a plan! Sort of. I was in a group coaching program that focused on mindset work surrounding money and having all the things I wanted. I had made some really big strides and internally, I felt unstoppable. I felt like I could dive into a coaching business of my own and that by the end of 2018, I would be on my way to six figures. In my mind, the probability of success was high. But that didn’t exactly happen either.
To be honest, I crumbled. My life fell apart. I had done the bare minimum in planning. I had saved only enough money to pay my bills for one month. And in that month, instead of trying to find something else that would pay my bills, I hoped for, depended on, and waited for one particular person to say yes to being my client. And then they said no. So there I was, a week before my $1000 rent is due and for the first time In almost six years of living in Los Angeles, I couldn’t pay it. I was embarrassed. I felt paralyzed. This was not the exhilarating ride of entrepreneurship I had envisioned. (Which, looking back now - this is exactly what entrepreneurship is. Maybe not smart entrepreneurship, but it’s the reality of the journey nonetheless.) I was so overwhelmed with thinking about money, success, what my friends in LA thought of me, what my family back home thought of me, what the coaching industry says I should do, what the entertainment industry says is “cool” - all of it. And at that point, I completely lost sight of who I was, what I wanted, and even just what I enjoyed doing. Then, what used to be my absolute last resort, felt like an oasis - I got a sublet for my room and I moved back to my tiny hometown and in with my parents.
This was actually the best thing that could have happened to me. Don’t get me wrong, I was embarrassed and it was not easy, but I needed a reset more than I realized. I had time to rest and recenter myself. I slept a lot and I spent time with my family. I fell back in love with cooking and a quiet night at home with people I love. I began to fully understand the benefits of discipline and stability. I relearned what makes me happy and discovered the things that were truly important to me. I also got to know Adrian during this time and I’m glad because I was soft and vulnerable which means they got to see the truest me. I was not the most successful me or the most impressive me, but I was real and raw - and luckily, Adrian liked that.
When I came back to Los Angeles, I had brand new determination. I started driving for Uber and actually really loved it. (Okay, that’s a lie, but I didn’t hate it and that was better than my 8-5!) Being able to make my own schedule and make the money I needed for my bills while also saving up for traveling is kind of the dream. What I’m trying to say is that, I did things the crazy way and I still made it out alive. I needed a little crashing and burning in order to build myself and my life the way I really wanted. Now - if I could go back, would I have done things differently? Maybe. I might have stuck it out at my 8-5 job just a little longer. I probably would have started driving for Uber sooner instead of depending on something that wasn’t guaranteed. I would have made a few choices that were a bit smarter. At the same time, I can’t regret how things went because I wouldn’t be where I am now. When we are thrown into the fire (even if it’s a fire we made and we throw ourselves in), that’s when we find out what we’re really made of. We find out just how strong we are and we learn the things that were actually holding us back the whole time.
Another Way to Do It: A Year of Planning, Prepping, and Saving (Adrian’s Way)
A Little Backstory on My Job Situation
I’ve never not had a 9-5 job. Writing that now feels kind of strange, because I’ve never really thought of myself as the 9-5 type. Growing up, I loved the idea of being an entrepreneur and creating my own business. Of course, setting off on that path isn’t always easy, and the pressure to conform and get a steady job is immense during those high school and college years. Actually, now that I think about it, I never wanted to go to college either. I took a year off from school after high school, but eventually circled back and applied to my local college when the pressure to “make something of myself” got really intense.
I was lucky enough to line up a job right out of college where I started working full time as a web associate. And the rest is history, as they say! I continued on the web path, learning a lot about ecommerce and building websites. I ended up at a small industrial supply company where I worked my way up over several years, learning the company inside and out. About three years into the job I realized I was feeling restless. I felt drained, and bored, and ready for my next challenge. I told the owner about my plans to leave, thinking I would move on to another more exciting job. To my surprise, he offered me the option to stay, become a partner in the company, and make an extra 20k a year. It was a tough decision, but I ended up staying. The new title and extra money made me feel better for a while, but I knew deep down that I was craving something more.
The Breaking Point
Fast-forward to about a year and a half ago. I was feeling restless again, but this time it was different, and I knew I had to make some drastic changes. I joined a local acting class and started pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone. (I’m a total introvert.) I think finally getting back into something creative and challenging opened me up and allowed the fog to clear, so to speak. When it did clear, I could see that I was totally unhappy... and not just with work. I was in a long-term relationship that wasn’t right for me. I had put all my creative endeavors on the back burner.
I came to the realization that I had been living my life according to what everyone else said was best for me - not what I truly wanted and would make me happy. I decided I needed to take stock of where I was in life, what I really wanted, and what in my life wasn’t serving me. My conclusion wasn’t an easy one to come to, and it took me some time to accept what I needed to do to move in the right direction. I needed to leave my company, end my relationship, and start working on something I was excited about.
In Summer of 2017, I announced to the main owner of the company I would be leaving the following June, in 2018. I knew I needed to build in plenty of time to take care of all the legal stuff and make sure I left them in a good place. I started consuming tons of online articles and podcasts about building your own web based business. I read The 4-Hour Workweek, and vowed to never work another 9-5 job again (if I could help it). I decided that I should sell my things, move to Thailand, and build my own business online.
Not long after I “quit” my job, I ended my relationship of 5+ years. It was incredibly difficult and painful, but I wasn’t happy and knew I had to do it to move forward. We sold the house we owned together, and I sold or gave away almost everything I owned. I moved in with a relative and started saving as much money as I could in preparation to leave my job and move to Thailand. Between selling everything off and saving on expenses, I was able to save up a solid “runway” fund to keep me afloat while I worked to get my own business off the ground.
How Did it Feel?
I honestly felt happier than I had felt in a long, long time. I felt free, and light, and in control of my own destiny. I repeatedly told myself that I was open to all good things and opportunities, and I truly believed great things were on the horizon for me. I felt like a totally different person - in the best way.
It felt great knowing that I had money saved up for my new endeavor, but I have to admit, I was VERY anxious to leave my 9-5 after giving my notice. Waiting a whole 9 months to leave a job you’re less than thrilled with feels like forever. By the end I was feeling checked out and kind of useless going into work each day. But - I still felt way better than before I decided to quit. If circumstances were different I would have left sooner, but in the end I’m glad I did things the way I did.
It was during this final “countdown to quitting” that I met Anika, and my plans to move to Thailand became plans to move to Los Angeles. Like me, she was interested in living a life she truly loved, working less, and experiencing more. Together we planned to build A Life So Full to document our journey and encourage other people out there who were feeling like we were.
In Conclusion, The Truth...
Now, you’ve gotten to hear from both of us about how we dove into the self-employed life. And we hope that you can see that no matter which way you do it, you really can’t get things wrong. Every person’s life path is different. Everyone moves differently, thinks differently and values different things. Everyone has different thresholds and different levels of patience. And that is perfectly okay. There isn’t a right way and a wrong way. Every direction will teach you something, if you’re open to learning. You do have to make a move though. As cliche as the sayings might be, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take or nothing changes if nothing changes.
So if you’ve recently quit your job without a lot of planning, don’t freak out. You’ll make it through. Your current state is temporary. And no matter what anyone around you is saying, you did something really brave and the universe is massively abundant. You’ll get exactly what you need when you’re ready for it. And if it feels like the tunnel is only getting darker, that means you’re at least halfway through. Just keep going.
If you feel like you’ve been planning forever and time seems to be dragging on, making you question everything you’re doing, don’t give up! There is a reason you decided to do this. It can be scary, but focus on the exhilaration of it. Focus on the outcome you desire. Create some affirmations that you can use every day to remind yourself just how badass you are and exactly why you’re doing this. Learn something new every day about the new thing you’re pursuing. You can do this.
The truth is that you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. You don’t know who you might meet, or how it might hurt, or what magic you’ll discover about yourself. And no matter where you’re at, if you need some encouragement, you can always message us! We want to connect with others who are also pursuing their version of a life so full.
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