Quitting the Day Job

I’m sure you’ve seen the classic scenario where a lottery winner quits his or her job the day after winning the big prize – before even cashing the check.

My opinion? A huge mistake.

No, not the quitting, necessarily, but the lack of thought put into the decision.

Having money doesn’t mean that quitting your day job is the right thing to do. There more to work than just a pay check. Much more.

What’s Your Purpose?

In an earlier essay I mentioned that I’d seen co-workers who’d “won the stock option lottery” leave, only to return a couple of years later nearly broke because they’d run through all their “winnings”. Well, I also saw folks leave, only to return after a time because they were bored, uninspired or just unhappy without the structure of “a job” in their lives.

Not working isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

Now, I could get all metaphysical and talk about how people need to feel that they have a purpose in order to be happy, and that for many an important and appropriate purpose is their career or even just a job. And I’m sure there’s a very deep discussion that someone has probably already had on meaning and purpose and self-actualization as it relates to all that.

I’ll just put it this way: You need to have something to do.

Quitting your job is silly if you don’t know what you’re going to do next. That kind of retirement kills at any age.

Don’t Leave, Go Instead.

Don’t leave your job. Go to something else.

It’s an important difference in perspective.

Don’t leave your job just because you can. Leave your job because you have something else to go to. Something better, something that perhaps doesn’t generate income, but it’s some thing: travel, volunteering, a new business, a hobby, whatever, something. It just has to be specific and thought out before you jump ship.

Don’t leave until you know the answer to “What Next?” Once you have that answer, go there.

The only difference your newfound wealth really makes is that you can now choose “what next?” without as much regard to its income generating potential. That’s all.

But there still needs to be a “what next”.

My Approach

I kept working at my company longer than I needed to financially; probably a couple of years longer. I kept asking myself “what would I be doing instead?” (aka “What Next?”), and for the longest time it looked so much like what I was doing at work that there was no reason to leave. (Yes, I really enjoyed my job.)

One day I decided that “other things” I wanted to do were creeping up on me, and that I needed more hours in the day. That’s all, just more hours in the day. I went part time for a while, but eventually when those other things called, I left my job in perhaps the most extreme example of simply trading time for money.

But I’m still working. In fact, I often joke that I’m working harder now in my “retirement” than I did at my job.

And I honestly think that that’s key; to find something that you’ll enjoy doing so much that not only does it give you “purpose”, but it gives your life a little direction and personal fulfillment.

And it doesn’t matter what you call it, “having a purpose”, “doing something”, “working”, “playing”. It’s just that when the opportunity arises don’t take it lightly. Think long and hard.

Don’t quit your day job.

At least not right away.

7 thoughts on “Quitting the Day Job”

  1. My story is a little backwards from the “had a good job, won money, quit job, and am now unhappy.” I was working as a locomotive engineer for a large railroad, when I was injured on the job by a defective seat on a locomotive. As I was operating the train near 70mph the seat upon which I was sitting suddenly collapsed. This ruptured a disk in my neck and to make a long story short I was given a rather large (although not huge) amount of money in a settlement with the railroad. Now I spend my days around the house with little to do because I suffer from chronic pain from the injury. This pain prevents me from doing much of anything else, including travel by car. Airplane travel isn’t too bad though.
    So, for those of you who are lucky enough to win money, do something with your life. Sitting around works on the mind and is not good for your physical well being either. Get off your butt!!

  2. Your statement:
    “And I honestly think that that’s key; to find something that you’ll enjoy doing so much that not only does it give you “purpose”, but it gives your life a little direction and personal fulfillment.”
    is very true. After I retired from the Navy as an Electronics Technician, I went to work for a major newspaper. It was a major disappointment because while I enjoyed the job itself, the working attitude of everyone around me was very sour & negative. As a result, I became very negative at work and didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything worthwhile.
    After 6 years I was lucky enough to find employment elsewhere, and this job is 180 degrees out. It’s a very positive working environment where I like the people I work with and for, and I find a sense of “purpose” in the job I do. As a result, my life in general has become much more positive.
    My grandfather “retired” some 45 years before he died at the age of 98. He kept busy right up until he physically couldn’t do anything anymore, thereby proving to me what you so eloquently stated:
    “find something that you’ll enjoy doing so much that not only does it give you “purpose”, but it gives your life a little direction and personal fulfillment.”
    Thanks for the writing. I too came here from Randy Cassingham’s Newsletter called “This is True”.
    John Wolfe
    Corinth, Texas

  3. Sadly the choice to stay or go isn’t always wholly in your own hands, and it’s not always the recipient who is changed by their good fortune.
    The sister of a friend worked for the directory enquiries arm of a major UK telecoms firm. She genuinely liked her job and her colleagues. She had recently achieved a long standing goal in being promoted to a supervisory position.
    Then she hit the jackpot on the UK National Lottery.
    She initially chose to keep working, wanting to carry on doing the job she’d worked towards for a long time. However the reaction of her colleagues made it untenable for her. Many of them changed the way they treated her utterly and made it clear they thought she had no business being there.
    Effectively, to the extent that a job is about much more than the work and the money, her job simply ceased to exist. In the end she left, and last I heard was keeping herself busy doing various kinds of voluntary work.

  4. After about 10 “career changes” due to layoffs or corporate mergers, I would often find myself between jobs. While it’s not the same as having won the lottery, in that I wasn’t independently wealthy, it was the same as not having anything to do to fill your day. Job hunting only took so much time on a daily basis. Without that place to go to on a daily basis, my physical well being suffered. I agree that even in retirement, without a plan of what to do next, people begin to deteriorate. I’ve known many people that have worked past retirement age, because they had no other purpose in life. Sadly, work is not only a means to a financial end, but it serves a social function as well. Striving for financial security is only one purpose to get up and go to work every day. While I would love to have enough money to not have to work, I wouldn’t want to end up like one of the spoiled celebrities that we read about daily. (even without the fame) People need to make a plan for their non working lives, or get used to working for the rest of their lives!
    P.S. “This is True” rocks!

  5. Good points. For me, I was downsized out of a 30 year career a few years ago and could not get a job in the same industry. (They can not say it’s age, but you be the judge when you get into your 50’s)
    When the dust settled I figured out that I didn’t “have to work”, something about saving all the time pays off eh? I stay so busy teaching for others and plenty of projects that I am always a bit put out when the end of the day looms and sleep is required.

  6. Great Idea for a site!
    I’m a computer/network integrator, I’ve always said if (when) I win the lottery, 50% off the top goes to charities, and I’d continue doing what I do, just a little differently. Like maybe showing up at a small church, and asking them where they’d like their new systems.
    Also, I’d occasionally hang out at the sites where you have to go pay your utilities when shutoff is pending, and maybe hand out $100 bills, I know too well the feeling of being there.


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