I started blogging in June 2016, driven by the desire to connect with others, document my journey to Financial Independence, get feedback on my strategy and my plans from people smarter than me, learn new stuff by forcing myself to do some research and trying to teach something, be accountable on my commitments, and try to inspire others. And many more reasons, of course.
I started blogging in June 2016 mainly inspired by a single blogger: Dr. Doom, the mind behind the blog LivingaFI.
This hero of mine is not blogging anymore since 4 years. The hope that one day he comes back from darkness is still alive because he replies to comments every few months.
Doom, please, come back!
I want to know how your FIRE life is going! I’m not the only one who’s asking for it! Please, come back! At least do what Jacob did: a 5 years retirement update. And do not worry, we won’t judge. If you came back to work six months later because you were bored… good for you, no one is here to judge! But I really want to know what happened to you. I miss you.
Btw, I saved all your posts as PDF and uploaded on few cloud systems, I hope you won’t mind. You know, in case you think of deleting your blog from the internets 🙂
Yeah, I know, maybe I’m violating some copyright blah blah blah but I don’t f***ing care!
“Hey RIP, what the hell are you doing? I came here for the title… gimme the juice NOW! Did you quit Hooli?”
Oh my dear friend, do you know that you yourself might be another LivingaFI inspired creature? Well, I don’t remember if he engaged in self conversations this way, so maybe you’re ok. Maybe you have some drops of originality. Mind that nothing is truly original anymore though, everything is based on something else and even this free will thing I’m not sure it’s truly a thing…
“Yeah yeah who cares. Did. You. Quit?”
Almost every post by Dr. Doom was deep, inspiring, and strongly relatable (at least to me). Today I want to celebrate him by sharing the article I’m (re-re-)reading right now, which is yet another article that feels like I could have written myself, if I were that good at writing.
It’s this one, and it’s called “Leaving the Cushy Job“:
“What is this… hey, that’s me there! Is this a recursive post? We need to go deeper!”
So I wanted to celebrate my all time favorite FIRE blogger by sharing one of its posts about “actually quitting” because his reasoning, feelings, fears, and the timing of this thing align very well with what I’m living right now.
I plan to share it verbatim, with my commentary added [RIP Note: in this form].
Here’s the link to the original post.
Enters Doom (5 years ago):
I have a pretty decent job, all things considered. And I’m going to quit it anyway.
[RIP Note: Doom says he has a pretty decent job. I have a pretty amazing job, all things considered, and I’m going to quit it anyway]
But that’s all big man talk. In reality, I’ve found this is easier said than done.
I’m not even talking about whether or not I feel financially ready to quit. I am — I’ve covered this in great detail in other posts and I’m simply not worried about the money anymore. If anything, I’ve over-saved.
[RIP Note: (okay, okay, you knew it, right? I’m going to break the flow frequently 🙂 ) – I’m not. I’m fucking not financially ready. I’ve not over-saved at all (for Switzerland)]
Nope, the real problem is that I no longer hate my job in Software/IT. There are even times when it provides some small bits of satisfaction, perhaps a couple of times a week, as I solve a tricky technical problem or automate an irritating task.
[RIP Note: this is more complicated. I don’t hate it anymore, I’m just indifferent to it. Until 6 months ago I was collecting all the reasons why I can’t tolerate my job – and I’ll write about it in a veeeery loong series of posts in the near future – but I don’t feel them to be so important today. When someone asks me “what do you NOT like about your job?” I have hard time answering this question. But definitely it’s not hate. Ok, a bit of resentment for killing one of my creativity channel, i.e. software development, but I guess it should have been expected. Every time you transform a creative endeavor into a job, it ends up threatening your inner unchainable creative essence. That’s why I’m reluctant to monetize my blog for example]
Other acceptable aspects:
- a) The people are all right.
- b) My manager, although sometimes a pain in the ass, is by no means an out-and-out dick. Occasionally I’m almost fond of him.
- c) Salary is good. (Money good. Money always good. Mmmm, money.)
- d) Hours and Commute are fine, i.e. I have as much work-life balance as it is possible to obtain while holding down a job in my industry.
[RIP Note: I feel like shit while reading this. In my personal situation: (a) the people at Hooli are not just “all right”. In my personal experience I’ve only met amazing, smart, interesting, and nice people. (b) my manager, and all my previous managers, have been great. Sincerely, I’m not writing this because some of them read my blog. They’ve been great managers. (c) Hooli salary (and stocks, and bonus, and extra benefits) is awesome. My total compensation is more or less three times what Doom earned. (d) Commute is a 20 minutes bike trip with minimal interaction with cars, or 25 minutes by bus. Hours are as flexible as one could hope in my industry]
[RIP Note: … which means that I’m in a worse financial position, and working in a way better company than Doom was five years ago. And he was reluctant to quit. What am I doing? I must be crazy, and one day I’ll regret it 🙁 ]
So it makes sense that inertia has taken hold. The easiest forward-looking option is to select the default: Continue to report to work. Continue to grind through week after week. Continue to chase additional security, i.e. The Endless Pursuit of Happiness Through the Accumulation of Money.
I’ve come to believe that what I’m going through is normal for many people as they reach the last few miles of their Financial Independence / Retire Early marathon. You know you’re going to finish the race, but at the same time, there is some powerful questioning going on behind the scenes: You are closely examining, perhaps for the first time in several years, your real reasons for leaving the job. This examination may lead to elements of doubt creeping in on the fringes of your consciousness.
Unless you have a powerful motivating force urging you to up and quit, it’s difficult to change the status quo.
[RIP Note: I couldn’t have found better words. Deep questioning everything while confronting obstacles called Inertia, Comfort zone, Doubts, Paralysis, Status Quo… Being intentional in this world is a continuous fight, most of the time it’s a fight against yourself]
Good, Evil, and N/A.
SuperHeroes usually need an event that turns them into what they are. A traumatic experience occurs and suddenly there’s no going back. Peter Parker could have been a lame-assed Spiderman who did nothing but wrestle for money except for the fact that his Uncle Ben died because of his irresponsibility. Spidey just couldn’t deal with that, and a Good Hero was born.
Batman may have decided: Fuck Gotham. But he couldn’t, because of intense internal wrangling with guilt and anger over the murder of his parents, which motivated him to try to save a city full of sin. This idea holds true even for SuperVillians. Uh… Jack Napier thrown into a vat of acid, anyone? Nicely done. We’ve instantly created the Joker.
Geek Note: Yes, I know that Napier is a construct of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. Please don’t send me emails explaining that I don’t understand Comic Book Batman versus Movie Batman. It will make me sad. [RIP Note: I wonder if Doom watched the new Joker movie. I didn’t btw]
At any rate, for people in the real world, that aforementioned happening might take the form of a health issue that makes you increasingly value the limited time you have left on this planet. Or it might be a Horrible Boss. Maybe you need to immediately switch to full-time child-rearing, because hey, your kids are only going to be young once. You get the point.
Thing is, none of these scenarios apply to me. I want to quit, sure, but that particular feeling doesn’t feel all that urgent most of the time. Instead the path forward seems uncertain and obscured, as though it’s clouded in fog. I could leave, or I could stay, either way. Meh. Whatever. Does it matter?
There hasn’t been a single specific horrifying incident to prompt me to make the leap. Lots and lots of things that bother me, yeah, but no particular event that’s made me say: That there — that’s the final straw, ya see? I’m outta here!
Bottom line: I’ve got that FI power, but I’m not yet doing all that much with it. I’m a completely inactive superhero, just sitting on the sidelines, watching shit go down around me.
[RIP Note: that’s me as well. No single FU event. Neither inside nor outside the office. Well, I might consider my burning desire to do something else with my life as a “motivation from the outside”, but it’s not really the case. I actually tried more than once to lie to myself and force a fake a FU event, but I failed. “Oh shit, this bug assigned to me is unbearable! I’m going to qui…” – “Ok RIP, relax. I’ll assign the bug to someone else. Take it easy. Go to the gym 😉 ” – “No no no manager, you’re supposed to play the evil guy and I’ll tell you ‘I quit!!’… you’re not helping me! 🙁 “]
[RIP Note: … which means the status quo is so comfy, so much comfy that quitting is the hardest thing in the world]
Inability to take action is often based on emotional turmoil lurking beneath the surface of our inner worlds, so I think it’s time that I list out concerns that flicker in and out of my consciousness. Then I will refute them. And this is all going to be done in tabled format to make it more easily digestible.
[RIP Note: I love this exercise, and I’m going to add new entries to the table]
|I’ll lose skills in my industry and never be able to come back to a high earning job again, even if I need to.
[RIP Note: same here. Plus I’m old and obsolete]
|Fear||You’ll always have a core skillset to which you can return, even if it means you have to take a crappier job.
[RIP Note: maybe. but I also fear I don’t have many people who’d refer me in this industry anymore. I’m not achieving anything impressive in my career since 2-3 years at least – Not fully debunked 🙁 ]
|If I do have to find another job, it’ll never be as good as the one I currently have. I’d be a fool to give this up!
[RIP Note: same here. Even more scared!]
|Fear|| There are a wide variety of jobs out there. You can find decent something in the unlikely scenario that you need to, which you probably won’t. Statistically we’re talking about a couple of percentage points’ possibility of this happening.
[RIP Note: yeah, but Hooli is Hooli – not fully debunked 🙁 ]
|I won’t know what to do with my time once I’m not working.||Fear||Are you kidding me? Exercise, sleep late, read, spend more time with friends and family — all while pursuing semi-retirement, i.e. finding something constructive to fill 10-20 hours a week. My experiments with extended time off are among the happiest of my life.
[RIP Note: agree. I don’t fear not knowing what to do, even though I fear “wasting my time” and not being able to focus on just one or two projects (instead of a hundred), not being able to do “deep work”, not being able to find internal motivation and so on. I’m lazy by nature – not fully debunked 🙁 ]
|My lifestyle requirements may unexpectedly go up in retirement i.e. I may regret limiting myself to a 20K annual spend rate.
[RIP Note: 20k annual spending? LOL. I do fear this, even though “luckily” I’m already experiencing what is probably our “all time high spending regime”. I don’t think we’ll go above our current spending level of ~7k CHF/Mo]
|Fear||Ridiculous. I’ve been spending below this level for over a decade.
[RIP Note: yeah, me too… but I was single, in good health, with no kids, and living in Italy. How much of my well being would I (and my family, since mine is close to zero already) give up to get back into that mindset? I might be overestimating the impact of lowering our standards though – not fully debunked 🙁 ]
|My manager and teammates will be disappointed I’m leaving.
[RIP Note: nice people, but I think my teammates and my manager would be happier with a more motivated colleague]
|Guilt||Yeah. They probably will, in the short term. But they’ll also forget about you in 6 months. And you’ll forget about them.
[RIP Note: I have a lot of amazing connections with many colleagues, mostly outside my new team. I’ll make an effort to preserve them]
|If a Net Worth of 750K is great, 1 million must be 33% better. I should hold on. Maybe I want to be rich!
[RIP Note: 1.2M EUR is great, but 2M EUR is better. And I’m not joking]
|Greed||We always want more than we have. It’s human nature. Don’t confuse the pursuit of money with the pursuit of happiness.
[RIP Note: well, when you’re not FI maybe more money and more happiness have some correlation – not fully debunked 🙁 ]
|Other people would be grateful to have the job I currently have. I shouldn’t just give it up.
[RIP Note: people would sell their mothers to get hired here]
|Guilt||This is precisely why you should give it up. Other people will be grateful that you’ve left your job — your employer must hire someone to fill your position and it will be a massive professional upgrade for them.
[RIP Note: very good point, I buy it 🙂 ]
|Maybe the quality of my relationship with my wife will go down due to this life change.||Fear||Doubtful. We will finally have time to go adventuring together. Right now all we do is “cope.” Suck.
[RIP Note: the fear is real, but data suggest that when I’ve been not working in the past couple of years (parental leave in 2018, medical leave in 2019) we’ve been doing great. I suspect it will be different when I won’t have a traditional job to come back to, but a desire to work on my projects. We’ll see – not fully debunked 🙁 ]
|I’ll get bored or depressed.
[RIP Note: I’m a bit scared, given my current pessimistic mental state, but I also know that I can’t see truth while fogged, and I can’t unfog if I don’t quit]
|Fear||You’re bored at work already. Work already places you two steps away from depression because you dislike so much about the grind. If you’re not feeling any better without work, just go back to work, dummy.
[RIP Note: yeah. What the hell do I have to lose? Am I really anchoring to a “negative 80” points situation because I fear “negative 90”, when the spectrum goes from -100 to +100? Nonsense]
|Leaving work will change relationship dynamics with your friends and family — for the worse.
[RIP Note: a bit scared as well. People will interact with me differently for sure. I’ll lose my “title” and the prestige associated. It won’t be easy to find a good narrative for myself and to tell others]
|Fear||My friends are OK with what I’m doing. My family will be told I’m “freelancing” so they think I’m still working. Relationship dynamics will be fundamentally unaltered.
[RIP Note: my wife strongly supports me. My best friends as well. My readers are kicking my ass for not doing it. Who else should I care? Yeah, myself… you’re right…]
|RIP Original: Moving back to Italy sucks. Staying in Switzerland is expensive. Moving to a country other than the two above scares the hell out of me and my family.||Fear||RIP Original: Moving back to Italy doesn’t suck that much. Staying in Switzerland is expensive but gives me higher chances of earning an income with my projects. Moving to a different country might actually be the best thing that could happen to us, if we find the courage to try.|
|RIP Original: My daughter will live an inferior life if I stopped earning such a huge salary and if we moved back to Italy.||Guilt||RIP Original: I grew up in a shitty neighborhood of Rome. My parents are ok people, but didn’t expose me to all the options the world was going to offer. Same for my in-laws. They were salaried workers who worked 35 years in the same company and then retired. My daughter will have 100x more opportunities than I had. She’ll be guided by me and my wife. We are modern and curious human beings who have seen a lot of stuff and speak 3 languages. I “made it”, despite my preconditions. My daughter will either make it as well, or signal she wouldn’t have made it anyway. It won’t matter what we’ll do and where we’ll go. Plus internet. I was going to forget this detail. Internet.|
[RIP Note: there are many issues not completely solved. Residual fear / guilt needs time to be understood, faced, and defeated]
It’s time that I recognize all of these thoughts for what they are: Stalling tactics.
The primitive part of my brain is urging me to not change anything about my lifestyle because it has, to this point, kept me alive. So there is an underlying survival mechanism that’s urging me to just keep on keepin’ on, because since we’ve been walking down this path we haven’t had any trouble finding food to eat or shelter to sleep under. Hell, we even have a pretty good mate. Why would we change things up? From the standpoint of getting our physical needs met, we’re doing just fine.
[RIP Note: amazingly written, and amazingly real. Never thought about in this terms. This primitive brain behavior is also well described in the first post of “The story of US” series by WBW. I loved the passage “keep on keepin’ on”. It perfectly describes my last 3 years at work]
Thing is, our primitive brain isn’t looking out for our emotional health. It’s only concerned about our ability to feed ourselves and produce offspring. It wasn’t evolved to care whether or not we’re “happy.” To our ancient mind, staying alive and making babies is the same as happiness. That’s why it creates all of these primordial feelings which are designed to make you stay the course.
[RIP Note: oh Maslow, how dare you? Self actualization? Meaning of life? Ikigai? Shut up and do nothing!]
But in the modern world, these things are not enough. Humans need more than just food, shelter, and an occasional toddler underfoot for mental well-being. We need intellectual stimulation, variety in our day-to-day activities, numerous healthy friendships, continual learning and growth, and a feeling of connection to our communities.
I’ll be damned if I let my crusty old lizard brain define a future life of sub-par mental happiness because of a few stone-age concerns.
[RIP Note: put this way it makes much more sense. Kill that lizard!]
I will quit this job and start the next phase of my life.
[RIP Note: … “hey RIP? Did you say anything? RIP?“]
The Next Episode
We can boil the entirety of my internal debates down to one simple fact: There’s no requirement to RE just because you’re FI.
[RIP Note: yeah, imagine if you’re not even half FI!]
Although I’ve done what I can to make sure I’m ready to quit my job, leave my industry, and, ultimately, move on, nothing is making me leave my job.
[RIP Note: same here, same here!]
I should point out that, in the past, I’ve had no trouble whatsoever quitting. In fact, I’ve quit four, for various reasons.
- Left Job Number Uno after becoming fed up with the work and, unfortunately, not seeing any path out that might result in better professional satisfaction.
- The second I left because I couldn’t tolerate a particularly toxic manager, who I nicknamed The Cthulhu.
- Job Three I departed mostly because I was overworked, but also because I was bored with the underlying function.
- The fourth was simply a mistake — I took a job in Startup Hell, reporting to a psychopathic CEO. I lasted just over six months and took great pleasure in leaving.
[RIP Note: again, the parallelism is incredible. I also quit my Research Group and my PhD (twice!) in 2004 and 2007, and – exactly 10 years ago, at the beginning of the previous decade – GameCompany. And of course all the companies I worked with during my Freelance years, one of which (NavalCompany) offered me a full time job more than once in 2011 and 2012. Heck, I actually quit a company before joining it (BiggerGameCompany) on Valentine’s Day, 2010, exactly 10 years ago, and faced the unknown… this is starting to get creepy!]
But the point I’m trying to make here is that I had a reason for leaving each of these jobs — survival, pure and simple. Looking back at my past, I can see the pattern: I quit after reaching a low point with an employer; the worm turned and things suddenly felt intolerable. From there it seemed as though I had no choice but to leave.
[RIP Note: same here, more or less. Maybe except Freelancing and NavalCompany – which I left because I got the job at Hooli… and don’t get me wrong: I don’t regret it!]
On the other hand, I’ve never left a job before reaching that rock-bottom point. Sure, I have less than terrific days, but even then, the feelings of anger or dissatisfaction do not remotely resemble how I felt during similarly marked “bad days” at any of the jobs listed above. Attributes I associate with Bad Days with my current employer (overwork, fatigue, conflicts with co-workers and management, boredom) are exactly the same as Average Days felt in Startup Hell. There’s really no comparison.
[RIP Note: not for me. I’ve experienced hellish days at Hooli. Not the same hell as Doom describes, and probably mostly due to my own attitude and detachment, not because of actual workload. Maybe because I’ve never been 7.5 years in the same company, or maybe because the Corporate Life killed my creativity, or because because because… but I can’t say my average day here sucks. My average day here is just perceived meaningless by me. And as time passes, and the Grim Reaper gets closer, I perceive the opportunity cost associated with being a Lizard going up. And we crossed the break even point a couple of years ago]
My observation is that we tend to work until the point at which we can no longer stand it. Very few of us are able to leave prior to hitting that breaking point, and I haven’t yet reached it, hence, my mental waffling and the intense stalling tactics described above.
The challenge, then, is to actively and consciously choose a path which I believe will result in greater life satisfaction. To choose to get the hell out before I’m feeding at the bottom of this lake.
[RIP Note: and it’s a hard challenge. I’ve been discussing about intentionality with so many people these days. It’s so hard to prove yourself you’re at the helm of your ship! And even if you do, does it really matter? Is it worth? Isn’t everything futile? This fog must go away]
It’s time to put the fears, reservations and hesitation behind. Time to move toward something interesting and awesome. Time to focus on a new future instead of a difficult and boring past.
It’s time to choose life, whatever that may be.
[RIP Note: yeah, let’s do that! Not the crime though 😉 ]
[RIP Note: “…and?“]
… and I did that!
I sent my resignation letter today. I’m quitting Hooli for real by end of March 2020.
And I’m scared as hell! Fuck you, lizard!
I’ll write much more on this topic over the following weeks, stay tuned 🙂
Have a nice day!