Mr DIP: “It’s easy. You just send them an email with the following content: ‘bye, I’m quitting’. Got it? Done? Do you want me to write it for you?”
RIP: “I know how to quit… But I told you: the doctor gave me another month. Should I say no to free money? On July 30th I’ll meet him again, tell him I’m going to quit and then I send the resignation letter. maybe I’ll consume vacation days first, it makes more sense.”
“Well, I don’t know. More benefits (they’d match my pension contribution while on vacation), more time, a miracle can happen…”
“What are you talking about? What miracle? RIP, listen, we discussed this many times. You’re simply quitting. No excuses, no ‘maybe’s, no ‘stocks are vesting’, no ‘bonus is coming’… I won’t accept any money related excuse. We agreed you need to quit.”
“Yes, I know, and that’s happening! I told you, I made my decision! I’m just optimizing my way out. What if I take vacation and while on vacation HR approaches me offering a severance package? Who knows! Or a miracle like ‘your team has been dismantled, you have 3 months to find a new team or you’re out’. These things happen at Hooli. Maybe I’m lucky!”
“I don’t understand, what’s good in the above statement? Something similar happened to my company and it was a disaster. People cried. Literally. In the office.”
“I know, I’m in a position where being laid off is a miracle. People in your former company who needed the job cried. But for me it would be awesome. Another 3 paid months 🙂”
“RIP! I told you! No money related excuse! Just quit now. Send them a resignation email! Now!”
I didn’t mention Mr DIP so far, but he’s been my best friend in the last few years. Former front door neighbor, moved to Austria for work related issues. Faced unemployment few years ago. He has been another wedding witness of mine (like Mr VCF), and also a holiday companion: we spent a couple of weeks together with our families last year close to Venice and they went to Croatia in July this year without us, because I had to sell my apartment in Milan on a short notice.
On December 2018, a few months before my burnout has been diagnosed (but it was already there) I literally cried at their home after he asked: “so, what are the plans for the future”. Mr DIP knows me very deeply, and he’s been a constant presence in the last several months.
He wanted me to quit, but he also thinks: “you’ll never do that. You’re not so brave“.
“You’re talking to yourself! I’m stronger than you think!”
Welcome to the season finale of the midlife crisis series!
If you stumbled upon this post and you have no idea what I’m talking about, here follows a recap for the lazies: I was going to rage-quit Hooli by end of March. Visited a doctor who told me “you’re burning out, take a medical leave”. I announced on this blog “I’m in a delicate moment of my career” in March. April and May have been tough months, full of internal struggles. I also started visiting a therapist for a short while. Didn’t experience any visible progress so I quit therapy. In June I decided to crowdsource my problems and asked friends and “strangers” for help. The more I talked to people, the more I get convinced I need to quit and Hooli and start my own venture. Thanks to my misery at work, the ideas and projects I want to accomplish on my own, and my financial security I should have all box checked.
Early in July I had an afterthought: “what if I give Hooli one last chance”? Changing role, not just team. Trying something completely different that a few friends tried and recommended? I started exploring that but felt unnatural. By mid July I dropped the idea.
Here we are now.
It’s Sunday July 14th, we’re on a train to Milan. Going “back home” to sell my flat. I’m going to sell my flat for 70k EUR. I’m also going to start coughing badly and get pneumonia.
Fun fact: during the last week of July I had two medical reasons with accompanying certificates to not work, but I still went to the Hooli new campus to relax, think, write, read, prepare for the future 🙂
The Milan trip lasted few days until July 19th. We exploited our Milan trip to visit Mrs RIP family and our friends in Milan. The apartment sale has been weird, folkloristic, relieving. I wrote a doc about the strange things that happened during the sale day, maybe one day I’ll share it.
July 19th, we’re back home, in Switzerland, without a home. Soon without a job as well, without a car, without any significant valuable physical possession outside several banks & brokerages accounts. And of course a lung infection.
It feels strange, light but also unrooted.
The following week I kept going to the Hooli new campus to think about the future. I had a strict plan of blogging, defining a life plan, put together options after Hooli… but I procrastinated the whole week. I read interesting articles and followed rabbit holes well documented on my Curiositips post (July 22nd).
My rational mind wanted to go in a specific direction but my brain refused. I mean… I didn’t simply slack off playing games (just a bit) or doing nothing. I consider my lifelong learning mission a very honorable one but… cmon, RIP, now it’s not the time to take The Art of Reading course on Farnam Street or to read the entire Gervais Principle series on ribbonfarm!
Don’t get me wrong, we’re talking about high quality material here… but holy crap, I’m going to meet the doctor again on July 30th and tell him “I just want to quit”… isn’t it time to make a concrete plan? Isn’t this the right time to perceive yourself as “unemployed”?
Ok, I agree, we’re going on vacation most of August and September, but that doesn’t mean my life is going to get fixed on its own. Be responsible, RIP! It’s already 4 months you’re not working!
Is there something else?
I couldn’t explain what.
“I know what it is. Told you!”
Back to the future for a while: yesterday I watched this amazing TEDx talk by Bill Burnett about “designing your life”, which provides a framework for life changing decision making. Immensely good. Thanks a lot reader Mike for linking it in the comments!
Please, take a look:
19:15 Bill explains how our brain reacts to choices, choice overload, and how to narrow them down. As a strategy to reduce the effects of FOMO and the “paradox of choice”, he suggests: “you won’t decide how you feel about a decision until the decision has made, so cross options off. If you cross the wrong one you’ll have a feeling somewhere in your stomach that you did the wrong thing“… And “you cannot choose well if you choose only from your rational mind” (quoting Daniel Goleman and EI). The rationale behind is that the basal ganglia is responsible for summarizing emotional decisions for you, but it’s a very old part of your brain, and it doesn’t communicate with the prefrontal cortex. You can only “read” what the basal ganglia is telling you thru felt sensations.
Why am I saying this?
Are you ready to get disappointed?
My gut feelings were trying to tell me something, but I didn’t understand what.
Then one day, it was Friday July 26th, I woke up at 4am energized, with a single thought in my mind: “I’m going to be a Reliability Engineer at Hooli. I need to try this out! I need to not leave that unattempted!”
And I felt good. I felt excited by the idea.
I don’t know where it came from, but that was how I felt that morning.
Maybe it was my ego talking.
Maybe my ego wanted approval, confirmation that I can still be considered valuable, not necessary be valuable, in the field I devoted 30+ years of my life, starting at age 9, coding on a Commodore64.
Maybe my ego rationalized this way: “there’s always time to try something completely different, but there’s only TODAY to try to save your career… and take that fucking medicines for the pneumonia, you’re coughing badly!“.
I don’t know.
I went for a long walk that morning, trying to keep my unmotivated excitement at bay. I told myself “ok, but this is really last attempt“, and “holy crap, what about timing? I can’t tell Mrs RIP we need to cancel some other vacation (already canceled Croatia to sell my flat), family stability comes first now“, and “ok, in order for this to work it has to start on October 1. It would mean 6 months without working this year. Enough to recharge and try this last one adventure in my old career“.
Rationality took control and started planning, trying to please the irrational/emotional part of my brain that happens to be in charge of big decisions.
Thanks to the medical leave I didn’t consume many vacation days this year, so I can cover a full month with vacation days (depleting my budget for 2019). Problem is: we’re still 2 months far from the beginning of October. And I can’t see myself coming back to the old desk for a month (doing what?), having canceled our September family vacation and made my family sad. That was not an option.
And I need to find a team that wants me, before I leave for August vacation in Italy on August 1st. And today is July 26th!!
WTF, panic for what? Am I setting unreasonable expectations on myself now? On the exact opposite direction of yesterday’s unreasonable expectations for my future life without Hooli?
Oh, come on!
Relax, breathe. Cough! Take medicines as well.
I’m going to try this path, and if it won’t work for either timing, or lack of a hiring manager willing to hire a half-broken nonstellar-performer like me, or lack of an actual team that I’d like joining… then it’s over. But at least I tried.
I think the odds of the stars aligning are still below 20%.
But that’s a great improvement (is it? Time will tell). From 99% quitting (end of June) to 90% (mid July) to 80% (end of July).
I spent the day in the office, laser focused on this project. Reviewed internal teams structure, identified candidate teams, checked open positions, took a look at the teams’ mailing lists and public team documents, sent a bunch of emails, scheduled 7 consecutive meetings on the following Monday July 29th.
I never felt more productive since… since I don’t even remember when.
At home, in the evening, I’ve explained what happened today to my wife, ready to be kicked in the ass. To my surprise, she understood.
We agreed that it’s either October or nothing. And I still only have 3 complaints points. And let’s be honest… October is 3 months away from yet another windfall of stocks vesting and yearly bonus.
Let’s get cynical: what’s the worst that could happen? That I realize that even changing role wouldn’t lead to an improved quality of life? Ok, then I’d quit in January 2020, and for the inconvenience I’ll get compensated ~120k CHF in salaries, stocks, bonus and pension contributions over the next 4 months. Is this the end of the world? I don’t think so.
“It IS the end of the world, because you will never quit.”
On Monday I had my meetings with hiring managers. Luckily my pneumonia was almost completely healed. An entire day meeting teams working on interesting projects. I was able to sustain the entire day in meetings, while 4 months before I’d fall asleep after 20 minutes while in a meeting. Being 4 months away from work recharged my batteries, I didn’t expect that. I felt motivated to investigate 3-4 more teams, but time was scarce.
The day after, on July 30th, I met the doctor. I just told him the truth, exactly what I’m writing here. If you send me back to work on August 1st I’d just quit. I feel motivated to make a change, but if you send me back to my old team today I wouldn’t know how to handle this, and I’d simply quit. I’m negotiating with other teams, and I’m excited about it. But August is coming, many managers are going on vacation, it’s hard to close the deal. Do you remember a month ago? I told you “I just want to quit, I don’t want to work here anymore“. Today it’s different, I want to try. But I need more time.
The doctor gave me another month of medical leave.
First problem solved. Odds of staying at Hooli increasing from 20% to 50%.
During my August Italian vacation I kept communicating with the hiring managers, applied for 3 positions, got quickly accepted by 2 teams. Third one was too slow evaluating many candidates and I didn’t have much time. I’d meet again the two managers (plus a third one who showed up spontaneously… they’re hiring like crazy) and tech leads when coming back from my vacation. I need to close the transfer during the last 10 days of August. Easily doable.
Now the odds of remaining are 90%, if we want to be pessimists.
The No Deal Hooleave is getting cornered.
I met again the two candidate teams once back from Italian vacation, and finally picked one. I picked the most structured one: a team working on the reliability of a core piece of Hooli infrastructure. A lot to learn!
I’ll begin this new adventure on Monday September 30th 🙂
End of August, I met the doctor again. Told him “I have a team“, and I’m going to start the new adventure in October. He still gave me 50% medical leave for September “try going back to work part time in the old team and see how you feel… if it doesn’t work, take vacation“. Nope, I’m taking the other 50% of time off consuming vacation days. I planned to take vacation anyway, it doesn’t hurt to consume less paid vacation. I’d still have ~10 vacation days available for the remainder of the year, i.e. for Christmas. Amazing outcome!
Before you ask: I don’t think it’s unethical to go on vacation while on medical leave. My medical condition, call it mental health issue if you want, actually does encourage you to take some real time away from home. In the end it really worked: I’m still a Hooli employee and happy to try this new adventure. Win-win.
I’m writing this while in Portugal, probably going to hit the publish button a few days before the end of my medical leave and the beginning of the new adventure. The September vacation has been incredibly good for my health, my family, my mood, my blog – I’m writing like crazy.
Yes, I sometimes second thoughts my decision, but it’s normal I guess. It’s been 6 months without “working”, I have no idea how it will feel to come back to a standard working schedule, let alone the on call weeks where I should be available within 5 minutes from being paged, 12 hours a day for 7 days, twice per quarter. It would be tough, but I’m here to not leave this unattempted.
I know for sure that I want to keep my passions alive. Blog, write, read, study, spend time with my family, keep my health under control. Because I know this is temporary, and in a few years (at most) I’ll be moving to the next chapter of my life, again. Because I know I have very low tolerance for bullshit, and enough financial safety to cut this thin cord on a whim.
In the meantime we’re going to relax a little bit our financial situation, allowing ourselves to raise our standard of living. While the new Hooli setup works, we’d try to live more comfortably. It would probably mean that as soon as I raise the quit flag we’d have to face few financial downshifts: either leave Switzerland within 3-6 months, or find a new well paying job, or switch back to a more modest lifestyle, or have much more financial security, or start my own business… Ok, not today.
How to “raise our standard of living”?
Just 2 steps for now:
- sending our daughter to child care 2 days per week (920 CHF/Mo) starting from November 2019.
- maybe looking for a bigger apartment (expected extra 1000-1500 CHF/Mo), probably not in the immediate future but in early 2020, if the new Hooli setup passes the December/January checkpoint.
These actions would raise our monthly expenses from the current 5k CHF/Mo on average to 7.5k. Saving rate would drop from 70-75% to 50% and FI in Switzerland would move toward infinity. It’s ok for now.
Mrs RIP employment situation is also to be defined. She wants to try her own projects in the world of child and pregnancy care, and maybe reapplying for unemployment after the summer break. We’ll see.
These are the facts.
I am, a bit.
“I’m not, I already knew. I told you, you will never quit your comfortable job. You’ll increase your standard of living, spend more, need more… like everybody else.”
Time will tell my friend.
I’m just the orchestra director of my crazy brain and all the players who move levers and react to signals within it. I’m doing my best to be who I think I am, to do what I think I like doing, and to take care of the people I love.
Is my midlife crisis over?
Of course not.
I’m procrastinating on it. I still plan to jump on my projects one day not far in the future. But I want to quit Hooli without regrets, peacefully. Not as a quitter. I’m buying myself more time to think about next steps, and more time to grow my nest egg. Our lifestyle inflation actions are well thought: our daughter child care won’t last forever and a bigger apartment is something I deeply value anyway.
I still think I’m getting closer to what I want to become.
Well… What do I really want? Who am I? What’s the meaning of life? What is Happiness? How much do I know myself? Is this a question one can really answer? The more I grow and learn, the more I know that I know nothing. Like Socrates, and John Snow.
But I still think I’m getting closer to what I think I want to become.
From the outside, everything seems chaotic, random, deeply inefficient. I think it’s not.
Mr DIP is laughing at me, but I feel I’m moving in the right direction.
I wanted to quit in March, but I decided to resist and I got 6 months of time to recover, during which our net worth grew by 120k EUR. Win-win.
I’m going to stay at Hooli, get stronger, triple check if I’m still a Software Engineer, leaving nothing unattempted in my old career, and get another 120k EUR in the next 4 months. Win-win-win.
I’m going to be listening to my body signals during this new adventure, and I’m not willing to let myself slip into misery again.
I’m shaping myself and getting ready for my next life.
Another TED talk I watched yesterday is this one by Robert Greene, one of the best writers of our time, about “how to transform yourself”:
16:48 he unwinds his reasoning and says “the way to transform yourself is through your work… through our work we can actually connect to ho we are, instead of running away. By entering that slow, organic process we can change ourselves from the inside out in a way that is very real, and very lasting. This process involves a journey of self discovery.”
His working history before becoming a bestseller author is studded with 50s minor jobs that shaped his character and contributed to his first huge success: The 48 Laws of Power.
I think there’s still a piece of Mr RIP that needs to be shaped in the Hooli forgery. I’ll know when it’s time to say goodbye 🙂
On the other hand we have the awareness that time is not infinite, and I might discover there’s no time left to act on my personal projects, on my dreams, my ikigai, my top of Maslow pyramid.
After the Greene’s TED talk I checked his wikipedia page and discovered that Robert had a stroke last year and his left arm and leg are paralyzed. And he’s 60 years old. I might have my dreams killed at anytime. The opportunity cost of time spent living an unhappy life is very high, I don’t get to know how much I’ve left in good conditions. According to the regret minimization framework, the last thing I want is to not have tried living my ideal life.
A lot of material for a lifelong midlife crisis, which I think it consists in the realization that your time is limited and everything you do, every day you waste, every small talk you have, every useless relationship you keep alive… everything has an opportunity cost associated.
So… it’s still Hooli!
Winter is coming, forever.
I hope I haven’t disappointed you too much.
“RIP, hope is not a strategy!”
Haha, good and timely observation!
Ok, I know I disappointed you 🙂
But the blog is still alive, and I’d do my best to keep it as such while transitioning into this new – and probably temporary – phase of my life.
“So? What’s up? Did you send the email?”
“Hi DIP… Well… You won’t believe what happened to me last Friday! I woke up at 5am with a single thought in my mind: I want to try this new path within Hooli! I’m not joking, I’ll start in the new team on September 30th and I’m kind of excit… DIP? Hey DIP? Are you listening to me? DIP?? I think the connection failed…”