Why would you let your dreams depend on the success of a single business or the whims of a single person?
Chances are you’ve spent most, if not all, of your adult life as an employee. I can likely safely make that bet because society has taught this as the cultural norm for generations. This is the path most sane people travel. You are sane, aren’t you?
Growing up, it never occurred to me to question the worldviews I was taught. After all, people with much more experience and wisdom than I were all saying the same thing: “Get a good education, earn your college degree in the major of your choice, and find a good job with a reliable company.”
It all made so much sense really. If I showed up each day and did the work I was hired to do, then every two weeks I’d receive a paycheck. Sound familiar?
401(k)s, health benefits, vacation days, and a predictable stream of income served as irrefutable evidence to Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, that safety and security were found in some version of the 9 to 5.
YOU’VE BEEN LIED TO
The only problem is, it was all a lie.
Sure, these mantras were mostly true for our grandparents and for our parents. But in 2015, with so-called knowledge work being outsourced and automated at an exponentially increasing rate, how safe and secure are you?
More than ever before, the whims of one person can so easily take those things away from you. Trust me, I’ve been on the receiving end of the whims of one person more times than I can count. I know the shock first hand.
The funny thing is, each time it happened, my first instinct was to find another job as fast as possible so that I could live my life at the whims of yet another manager because, well, that’s just how it’s done.
At least, that was my approach until just less than three years ago.
PUTTING AN END TO THE CYCLE
In early 2013, I began seriously thinking about what my life might look like if I started getting intentional about my future.
What if I said goodbye to safety and security and hello to freedom? Life without a net? Me?
You see, there was a time when the idea of not earning a steady paycheck was the single scariest situation I could fathom. But, in part, because I’d developed a love for reading in recent years (specifically business and non-fiction), the worldviews I once held dear and took at face value were no longer a foregone conclusion.
I’d come to believe that true, honest to goodness safety and security were found when I held the keys to my future, not some boss; that freedom, even without a net, would be a more pleasurable existence than manufactured security.
Unfortunately I knew deep down that, even if I could convince my wife leaving the only job she’d ever known me to have was a good decision, I still might not have the courage to quit when the time came.
But that’s when the irony of all ironies stepped in.
HAPPINESS IS A GENEROUS SEVERANCE PACKAGE
Through no fault of my own yet another job – one that had lasted 14 years – had come to an end. Once again, the whims of one person decided I would no longer be eligible for a steady paycheck and all the things that went with it.
But this time, it was different. This time, I didn’t freak out. In fact, I didn’t even cry uncontrollably in the HR Director’s office (this actually happened once in 1997.)
I was completely calm and at peace. Why? Because immediately I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders…and it felt wonderful! I had no idea what was next, mind you, but all I could think about was all the things I no longer had to do.
- Attend more meetings? NO!
- Drive to work? NO!
- Drive home from work? NO!
I’ll admit that having two other colleagues suffer the same fate that day helped my ego to feel a little less bruised. But the important thing was my schedule was mine to do what I wanted. You know, like go to a movie in the middle of the afternoon (severance packages can be a blessing and a curse.)
STILL JOBLESS AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
Fast forward 30 months and I still don’t have a job. Not because I can’t find one but because I’ve yet to look for one. I simply haven’t desired or needed to.
Yes, sometimes I feel like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Indy: I’m going after that truck.
Indy: I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.
But mostly, I treat my solo career the same way I always approached my traditional jobs: with consistent dedication and intentionality. Sure, it’s a little unpredictable sometimes, but I’ve come to realize the pros far outweigh the cons.
In fact, the last two and a half years have been the most enjoyable and rewarding of my entire 28-year career (I now spend my days as a full-time coach, speaker, podcaster and writer, all of which I love.)
So the next time you’re shown the door, don’t freak out (okay, freak out just a little.) But then realize that it just might be a blessing in disguise.
Yes, it might actually be the sign you’ve been waiting for to leap out in faith and live the life you were meant to live all along. No matter how old you are (I’ll be 50 next month), it’s not too late.
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Photo: Getty Images