There’s a decision that everyone has to make at a certain point in their lives. After toiling for years searching for the modern myth of job security, you wake up to the reality that is.
The decision we make is simple:
Give up and settle for a life of mediocrity at a job that doesn’t care about you and won’t pay you enough to survive.
Strike out on your own in search of the opportunity to make great work in new places. To boldly go where your heart is taking you.
Ignore the people who say it’s “hard” and you “can’t make it.” They’ve already made the other choice.
This is the last post in my extended series on using minimalism to free yourself from the mediocrity of your day job. The other three posts are:
Fair warning: this article is 3,000 words long. It’s incredibly in-depth and I hope that it helps you become successful after leaving your day job. Definitely read the other articles first.
Also: this guide assumes that you’ve saved up at least enough money to survive for three months after quitting your day job, as discussed in the previous articles. As I noted in my e-book, The Art of Being Minimalist, $3000 should be plenty of money if you’re living with less than 100 things and you don’t buy anything except food (which is all you really need) and pay for cheap housing.
Portland, OR and anywhere in South America is probably an ideal place to move for your first three months, while you’re getting established. If you’ve figured out how to make money in your sleep before you quit your day job, all the better!
Set aside some time and bookmark this page in order to study this and the other articles thoroughly.
There are two things you have to do before you strike out on your own.
1. Decision day.
Before you can be free you have to make the decision to go there, this is decision day. This is the moment I described above, when mediocrity just becomes too much to handle. This is the breaking point when change is inevitable.
Decision day can come as either a silent revelation. Sometimes it can take much longer than one day — I spent an entire year contemplating the decision to strike out on my own. I’d suggest not taking a whole year, that was a lot of time to spend on one decision.
Decision day might be a loud exclamation to the world, when you update your blog and you say: “I’ve had enough, it’s time to go.” Then you might call your mom, who will think you’re crazy and tell you to think about your (non-existent) career options in mediocrity-ville. Just smile and tell her you’ve made up your mind and that you’re a grownup now.
2. Quitting day.
This day is harder. It’s the moment when you walk in and make the change known to your manager.
Here are a few things to think about for quitting day.
- Prepare a price point for which you’ll stay. If you’re valuable enough the company might just want keep you. I suggest a 50% pay raise, a ROWE work environment, and more decision making power than you currently have. If they only want to give you $1000, it’s not worth it.
- Don’t burn bridges by being very clear about your goals. Even bosses love the idea of freedom, don’t underestimate their willingness to embrace the idea that you simply want to pursue a life that doesn’t require you to be in the office every day.
Prepare a written statement if you’re unsure of being able to articulate exactly what you mean to say. Rehearse in the mirror before you go into work.
Here’s a script, if necessary.
I’m quitting this job to pursue a freer life by working for myself. This has been a huge opportunity working with you for the last X years. That you for your guidance and leadership. I’m really sad to go, but I feel that I need to pursue a freer lifestyle at this moment. I hope you understand.
Your name here.
3. Give two weeks notice.
I know, you’re valuable and your company can’t survive without you. It doesn’t matter if the company is going to explode at the seams after you leave, the moment you give notice everyone will look at you like your an alien life form.
Save yourself the three months of weirdness by not telling everyone that you’re quitting three months in advance.
4. Plan for the fact that you might not have two weeks.
I’ve known people who gave their two weeks notice only to be fired immediately. This is rare, but if you’re counting on pay from those last two weeks it might complicate things if you’re let go on the spot. Save more just in case!
Two weeks later, and you’re free!
THE MINIMALIST FREEDOM SURVIVAL GUIDE TO MONTH 1.
The first month is the hardest. You’ve been in captivity for awhile, so the freedom of your new life will be quite a shock. You’ll wake up on Monday morning and frantically get dressed only to realize that you have nowhere to go.
First things first: take a mini-retirement.
After X years of corporate slavery, with only two weeks of vacation, I can guarantee that you will be burned out. Don’t expect yourself to recover after a weekend and start working for yourself.
Take a few weeks and don’t do anything. Practice yoga. Slow down. Watch the trees move. Read good books. Do the minimum of things during this time.
Go somewhere new. The best way to start a new life is to get out of town. Book a flight to that place that you’ve always wanted to live but were scared to move and go with all of your stuff on your back.
Starting a new career is a lot easier in a place where you don’t know anyone. If you don’t go somewhere new, you have the danger of getting sucked into hanging out with friends who still remember the corporate drone you. Your life is different now, you don’t want to spend the first couple of weeks in a social drama with everyone asking you questions like “how will you possibly survivvvveeeee?”
Do yourself a favor, distance yourself from your friends during this period of time. You can come back home after everything is settled and reconnect with people once you have an answer to the “how will you…?” question.
Budgeting the first month.
The first month after you leave your job needs to be the least costly. This is the time when you slow down and reconnect with yourself. Here are some ways to make this month the cheapest.
- Cook all of your own food.
- Don’t buy anything at all.
- Move to a cheaper house. When your rent is $450 you can survive longer than when your rent is $2500.
- Live with less.
If the idea of getting your finances under control scares the crap out of you, I suggest reading a copy of Adam Baker of Man Vs Debt’s amazingly useful e-book Unautomate Your Finances. Adam used his financial techniques to sell his ‘crap’, dig himself out of debt, and travel the world with his wife and daughter. His signature Unautomation technique is very similar to the way that I saved money before and after I quit my job in order to be free, it’s definitely worth studying.
If you’re already a financial master, you should be good already though.
Just don’t buy stuff and save your money, because who knows when your next paycheck is coming. It’s a recession, money isn’t growing on avocado trees.
Don’t have any expectations for yourself (for the first month).
One of the biggest mistakes that I made when I jumped onto a plane to Portland in September ’09 was that I would be doing the same thing that I did in New York once I got there. I eagerly got off the plane telling everyone who greeted me that I intended to be Portland’s greatest photographer.
Well, that didn’t happen for a number of reasons that don’t really matter now. Eventually I had to acknowledge that my planned assumptions about my career weren’t going to pan out.
When you have no expectations, you can be free to see the best options.
The most important element of the first month of freedom is to not put boundaries on what you can become. Take the mini-retirement. Sit in the grass at the park and just be open to the universe of options that are available to you.
You aren’t who you used to be anymore. You are a blank slate, free of expectations and freed from confinement. Don’t ask yourself what you’ll do with that freedom until…
THE MINIMALIST FREEDOM SURVIVAL GUIDE TO MONTH 2.
After a long mini-retirement, there’s a moment that happens to everyone, when you realize that it’s time to get back into the game.
You want to create things. You want to work hard. You want to make a difference.
Once you get to that moment, it’s time to harness that new-found creativity explosion and begin to craft your ideal life.
What to do when you want to work again.
How this moment happened for me: after a month or so wandering Portland’s drippy-wet streets in silent meditation for a few weeks, I suddenly found that I had a huge hunger for knowledge. One day I wandered into Portland’s Powell’s book store, grabbed a handful of books from the business section and started reading in their coffee shop.
Over the course of the next week, I’d read two books business books a day. I liked to read one leadership book combined with one marketing book.
The first book I picked up was Tribes by Seth Godin, which promptly blew my mind and completely changed the way I thought about creating movements and generating income online.
Tribes literally opened the door to the successful blog that you’re reading now.
Here are some business books to get you started: The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz (sounds cheesy, but this book is a brilliant classic. Seth Godin and Timothy Ferriss both cite it as one of the books that completely changed their lives.) The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. Purple Cow and Linchpin by Seth Godin. Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod. Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pam Slim. Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself.
For other awesome books I’ve read this year, see my newly updated list of the books that I’ve read so far this year.
I read probably 20-30 business books in two weeks. This experience completely reconfigured the way that I thought about self-employment, how work can be done, and how money can be made.
Everyone actually likes to work when they’re intrinsically motivated.
Why did I suddenly want to devour business books during every waking hour of the day? Because after you get past being a burned out corporate corpse you start to regain your humanity.
You discover that there is still blood flowing through your veins and you want to make great work.
This is why I’ve designed the first month of your release from the cubicle chains as complete recovery time. Yoga, meditation, walking in the park, sitting on the beach. All of these things enable you for what comes next: the will to work again.
Intrinsic motivation is very different from being forced to work at the threat of losing your health insurance. It comes naturally, and it’s spontaneously brilliant. Learn to harness it, and use the skill for life, because it’s remarkable.
For more on intrinsic motivating, see Daniel H. Pink’s amazing bookDrive.
Create a home base online.
Month two is all about establishing a beachhead on the web.
I really mean this: everyone should have a base on the web. If you restrict yourself to the real world the only way you will find work is through 1 to 1 communications, which means it very hard to land jobs because you can only talk to two-three people a day.
The internet allows 1 to infinite communications. This means you can reach out to many more people. Focus your attention on the web and you cannot fail.
Learn the tools to establish yourself online as a reputable person who people can trust in your field. When you do this successfully you will be able to rocket yourself above 80% of your competition.
- Register a domain name for yourself.
- Install a blog.
- Become active on Twitter.
- Get a decent template, then stop messing with it.
- Set a blog schedule and start creating helpful* work at least three times a week.
*Helping people is a huge theme here for a reason. Very few people are truly unconditionally helpful, and that’s why I’m so into teaching you how to be helpful.
“If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s a dated mentality from when we were forced to work in factories pre-2000. Do not expect compensation in return for your services on the internet. Give away everything for free and be unconditionally helpful to an outrageous extent.
Helping people is the best way to make outrageous amounts of money. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom, but it’s the way the world works.
The top-secret non-scientific method of determining helpfulness.
How do you know when you’re being helpful? I find a good judge is your Twitter follow count. For a quick “helpfulness points count”, divide your follow count by the number of people you follow. If the number is larger than 1, you’re being helpful. If the number is .002, that means you’re not.
Leo Babauta‘s helpfulness under this non-scientific method is: 775 helpfulness points.
Tim Ferriss‘s: 443 helpfulness points.
Mine: 13.6 helpfulness points.
Random dude who followed me just a second ago: 0.001 helpfulness points.
Why you shouldn’t send out resumes.
Resumes are so 1985 and don’t get people jobs anymore.
Hiring managers receive untold numbers of bad resumes from people who aren’t qualified for their jobs.
It’s impossible to sort through this many resumes to find qualified people.
Because the barriers in the cost of communication have broken down, now any old unqualified individual can send their resume to 5,000 people a day. This has destroyed that system of hiring, and thus it should be avoided by intelligent people like you.
This means that the people with the cutest resume get hired instead of people who are qualified for jobs.
You don’t want to work for a company who hires people via Career Builder, because they’re backwards — there are much better ways to find people than to sort through a stack 10,000 sheets of paper, not to mention that a tree just died. The chances of getting a job at a company that hires people via submitted resumes is like trying to win the lottery.
Unless you work in one of the rare fields where you need 15 years of higher education in order to be qualified to do what you do. Then you’re truly in a limited pool of talent.
The secret to avoiding this situation is actually fairly easy to master. Gatejump the competition by establishing yourself as an authority in your area of expertise on your home base online.
When you do this, potential companies will seek you out, because you’re an expert in your field.
Once you’ve established yourself as an authority, you can contact whoever you want and offer to help them out personally (for free.) Prove your awesomeness and they can’t help but hire you when they see how much you need you.
This is how you get hired at a new job — if you wanted a job in the first place.
THE MINIMALIST FREEDOM SURVIVAL GUIDE TO MONTH 3.
Month three is all about elimination. If you haven’t been overwhelmingly successful, or built income streams independent of the job you already quit, you’re going to start to see the income dipping into the low-zone.
Don’t get depressed! But this is make or break time. The most important element of this month is focusing on the important by eliminating everything that isn’t necessary to your success.
What can you stop doing to leverage your abilities to make a living?
Create a not-to-do list.
Not to do lists are one of the most powerful ways to focus on the important. Take a sheet of paper and write down everything that you started in doing in month 2 that isn’t working now.
Be brutally honest with yourself. You probably reached out into many potential areas of possible income during month 2. Many of these aren’t panning out, so it’s time to eliminate them and focus on what you’re truly passionate about.
Pick one profession.
I see so many people who are all of these things: marketer, blogger, writer, social media guru, photographer, and also designers. Don’t label yourself as all of these things at once. In fact, the harder you look at most of the careers I’ve mentioned above, you start to realize how nonspecific they are.
It’s okay to have these skills, and everyone does to a certain extent. That doesn’t mean you should make them all your primary focus all at once. Eliminate every job title from your thinking until you only have one.
For instance: if you’re a photographer, writer, marketer, copywriter, social media guru who is only making money from writing. You are now a writer. The rest of those professions get axed in month 3.
Some people pursue dozens of careers at once for their whole lives. You can’t be successful at dozens of things all at once. Pick one path that you will take to success in month 3.
You can also reconsider later if it ends up to not be a path that leads to income.
Then focus on a niche within one profession.
If you’re a photographer, I want you to start to focus on one element of photography which you can really blow people away with. I want you to become the best nose-hair photographer, tail-less kitty photographer, or the only photographer who got permission to tour with a famous band.
You can’t just label yourself as a generic example of a profession and then hope to succeed.
I’m not a blogger, in fact, blogging isn’t a profession. Blogging is a communications platform which enables people to bring their ideas to the world. I am a writer who writes about being minimalist in order to live and work from anywhere.
In order to be the best writer who writes about being minimalist in order to live and work from anywhere, I had to eliminate writing about other things.
You can’t work on anything that suits your fancy and build a solid body of work.
You have to focus on one being the best at element of one specific profession.
Take your profession and find a specific area if it that you can dominate. Eliminate your work that enters into other areas.
Once you start working on something specific, you catapult yourself above all of the competition who are labeling themselves as writer, photographer, marketer, social media experts all at the same time. Then you can make money.
The foolproof way to figure out what to focus on.
I’m reading Good to Great right now, a business book on how to make a great business. One of the most key chapters is about a theory called The Hedgehog Concept.
Every great company was able to outdo the competition by focusing on the one element of their business that they could be better than everyone else at.
The hedgehog concept revolves around three overlapping circles. You can view the hedgehog diagram here (don’t want to embed it, because of the big copyright notice.)
Circle 1: What are you passionate about?
Circle 2: What can you be the best in the world at?
Circle 3: What drives your economic engine?
Every person and business needs to do this in order to succeed. Refine your aspirations until you find something that fits into the overlapping area of these three circles.
What can you be the best at the world at, that you’re also passionate about, that will also pay you?
The best in the world concept is key here. Take a look at how many generic ‘photographers’ there are out there in the world. Insert name of your career for photographer. Every individual with a camera phone is a photographer. Just like every person who can spell is a writer.
Focus on a niche, one that you can work to be the best in the world at, and by the end of month 3 you will be rocking the economic engine.
Eliminate any activity that you’re doing outside these circles until you only spend time on what is important to your success.
Go now and be free.
By now you should have the skills that you need to quit your 9-5 and survive in the wild. Congratulations!
Obviously there will be lots of things that come up that I haven’t addressed here. I give you the right to improvise and create systems up as you go. Make a difference in your own life by making your own key decisions.
Ultimately, your own success is up to you. You make your choices. Good luck!
Check out the other articles in this series:
If this helped you, I’d love if you’d share it with someone who could use the information. The best way to spread the word is to use the retweet button below, if you’re on Twitter.
Thank you — and please let me know if you have any questions about this article in the comments. I’d love to help you out if I have the answers.