Exactly four and a half months have passed since I escaped from the rat race. I had a game plan that required me to meet certain criteria before quitting my corporate job.
I ended up quitting before I met all of those criteria. There was a combination of things that resulted in a “perfect storm” scenario that I felt comfortable – and scared – with my decision to leave earlier than I expected.
Now that I am out I keep asking myself one very simple question. Was it a mistake or should I have waited until all of my criteria had been met before leaving?
To be honest with you the logical, unemotional answer to that question should have been to have waited.
Now that I have been self-employed for four months I do not regret my decision because I could not have stayed in my old job with all the recent changes in management.
I would have been totally miserable.
My Criteria for Quitting My Day Job
I have always been a numbers person so I had carefully planned out my escape route and the requirements that must be met before I escaped. The requirements focused on having the income needed to replace my day job.
My requirements to escape from the rat race:
- Earning 110% of my day job income from my online business
- Have 6 months of income in saving
The worst thing you can do in anything is to make it too difficult. I wanted to make my escape from the rat race to be as easy as possible which is why I only had 2 criteria that I needed to meet.
When I finally gave my notice I only had 4 1/2 months of income in savings and I was earning just slightly more than my day job but not 110% more.
Why I Decided To Go Against Common Advice and Direction
Since I was a kid I was always told that I needed to study hard and get good grades in high school. Then I would go to a good college.
At college I would study hard and get grades. When I graduated I would get a good job with a major company.
I would work hard for that company and slowly work my way up the corporate ladder. After 60 years I would retire with a small pension and a gold watch and be able to finally enjoy my life.
How many of you have been told the same thing by your parents, friends, teachers and society in general?
I have always been a big reader of business magazines like Money, Forbes, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Inc, Success and Entrepreneur since I was in high school.
There were two events that happened that opened up my eyes to an alternative to what everybody was telling me to do. The first was I read the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki.
I learned that government loves to tax income but not wealth. Having earned income (i.e. a job) is the highest taxed source of income. I live in Georgia and was in the 28% Federal tax bracket plus the 6% for state. In other words I was paying 34% of my income in taxes.
The second event was purchasing my very first rental property. After my first year of owning the property I learned that this property provided so many benefits and tax write-offs The biggest thing I learned was that the income generated from this property was taxed at 10%.
You did not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that paying a 10% tax rate is much better than paying a 34% tax rate.
That is when I decided to go against all the advice I had been taught and do things differently.
Three Things That I Have Learned
My coach taught me to evaluate my plans every quarter. Now that I have one quarter of a year of self-employment under my belt I am evaluating what I have learned.
Lesson 1 – You Can’t Do Everything Yourself
In my day job I worked in the training department at Aaron’s. There were only 10 of us in the department. It was unbelievable what just 10 people could create.
We created 110 self-paced training courses. We averaged 2,100 training courses completed daily in our Learning Management System (LMS). At one point we were producing 90 live training courses each week.
Everyone had their own area of expertise but we always chipped in to help out and get the job done.
Now that I am self-employed, I no longer have a great graphics guy that can handle my marketing and the images for all my blog posts. I don’t have a video guy with 22 years of experience to handle the making of my videos. I no longer have a studio with professional level lights, multiple set arrangements, professional grade video cameras, wireless microphones and two sound boards. I no longer have three talented trainers that could be the face of my videos or handle the voice over.
Now I am responsible for doing everything myself. Life is much tougher when you are having to do everything yourself. I completely underestimated what impact this would have since I was so comfortable with having resources available to help me out when I was working.
When you become self-employed either make sure you can handle everything yourself or know how you are going to outsource it.
Lesson #2 – Distractions, Distractions, Distractions
When you are home it is extremely easy to get distracted. At least it is for me.
One of the things I have been working on is changing my eating habits and as a result I have dropped from 172 to 155 pounds. I am eating more grain free/gluten free recipes.
One day I realized it was 2 o’clock in the morning and I had just watched every video on the Gordon Ramsey cooking channel on YouTube. I wanted to learn some new recipes but I completely wasted 12 hours of my time.
This past couple of days I found myself glued to the GoRuck page on Facebook with updates on their GoRuck Selection class. There have been many other days where I have found myself spending hours surfing the Internet or just reading Facebook posts.
When you are self-employed there is no manager standing over your shoulder to make sure you have completed your work by the deadline. There is no co-worker asking for your work to be complete so they can get their job done.
The accountability that you had in a day job just does not exist when you are self-employed.
Lesson #3 – Lifestyle is the New Wealth
As I mentioned above the small training department at Aaron’s created training courses that in most companies would have taken a department 10x larger.
There was a strong sense of pride by those that worked in the department for what we accomplished.
In the last 6 months of my job there was a major shift in my department where upper management hired a new Director of Training. The sense of pride that we had in our job was completely dissolved by the attitude of our new Director.
During a meeting comments like “our training courses were completely ineffective because they were not interactive” and “Aaron’s doesn’t have training courses” completely diminished – actually destroyed – the work that we had accomplished.
I worked in that training department for 2 years and I was the contact point for any person in the company that had problems with a training course, asking for changes to an existing course or requesting the creation of a new course.
When you consider 2,100 training courses completed daily x 302 working days per year x 2 years = 1.26 MILLION courses completed. Never once did I ever hear anyone complain about the effectiveness of our training courses.
Yet when you would ask the new management for proof that our courses were not effective and that interactive courses would be more effective, no proof would be provided.
The only feedback I got was that her manager, the VP of HR, said he had heard complaints from the field. Just think for a moment on the logic here on that answer. Somebody not involved in training suddenly has first hand knowledge of complaints about training that was never voiced to anyone in the training department. Seriously?
Lifestyle is the new wealth. I am now my own boss and I control my own destiny. I am no longer subjected to the whims of management who will back stab another manager just because they do not like them.
In my job I was the top ranked employee in our annual reviews in the training department. But because the President and CEO of the company had poor leadership resulting in a 37% decrease in annual income, it was decided that my annual raise would be less than it should be because the company limited pay raises due to the decrease in company annual income.
I did a really great job, but at the end of the day, the failure of the CEO left me not feeling appreciated anymore. The change in leadership in the department did absolutely nothing to restore appreciation.
I would ask more questions that anyone in the department about direction and strategy and the new leadership was very condescending toward me. This left me with the impression that things would be done their way and they would not tolerate anyone that thought of asking questions or making suggestions.
You can either wait for someone to give you a raise and potentially take it away, or you can take control. Everybody has to decide for themselves what is right for themselves.
The ability to control my own destiny and create my own lifestyle is the new wealth and now that I have tasted it I will never go back to corporate America.
Some solid lessons there. We absolutely cannot do everything ourselves, and outsourcing some of the workload is important. Something I had to accept was that since I don’t have the time to do it all myself, I’d have to employ others who even if they did the work well, they wouldn’t do it exactly as I would have done it. Point is, good enough is better than perfect – because if we take the time to do it all perfectly ourselves, our productivity slows to the point where we don’t get a whole lot done.
The third thing you learnt is huge too… we can always earn more money, but our time is finite, which means that having a lifestyle you are happy with is more important than most things.
Thanks for the pleasant read 🙂
Yes you cannot do everything yourself. This is why I have hired my first employee to help in my business. Looking forward to reporting how well that works out. Having freedom in my life is worth more than being paid the big bucks.
Jennifer — I rarely comment but I totally appreciate all your posts and I especially value how candid you are. Add really insightful to that and you’ve got a real winner.This is a truly superb post — and I just wanted to say thanks.
I’m also interested in knowing — does the rental property cause you much grief??
Thanks for the kind words about my blog. I love sharing what works as well as what does not work. The rental property had its ups and downs just like any other business.
You might have left work earlier than planned – but good for you. You were already in the right mindset to go so hanging on a couple months longer would have just caused unneccessary annoyance on your part.
Also – am loving the new picture in the sidebar – you look sooooo happy. Congrats 🙂
My new manager at work is an off the chart visual person. I am a very strong kinesthetic learner so as you can imagine these two extremes do not interact well at all. Thanks about the picture. I have been working out and changing my eating habits and I am now down from 172 pounds to 155 pounds.
Thanks for sharing your story, Jennifer! I admire your courage to make the necessary change in your life in order to find peace, happiness and contentment.
Just curious– are you still maintaining this blog? Really enjoying what I’ve read so far.