Knowing When It’s Time to Just Quit

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Quitting my job was one of the best decisions of my life.

I had wanted to leave my previous company for a long time, but I wasn’t confident I would be able to find something better. I didn’t understand what useful skills I had, and I didn’t know what kind of job I would be good at.

I felt comfortable in my role and knew I was valued at my company even though I wasn’t always given opportunities to expand my horizons.

Then last year, work began to get worse.

I had always cared deeply about the project I was working on and the people I worked with directly. Then senior management basically disabled open communication with the people I had worked with for years. They didn’t seem to care about the distrust that was developing as long as we were under budget.

Additionally, the company I worked at was very risk averse. Individuals were not really allowed to make their own decisions. It was frustrating how little I could accomplish on my own.

Work sucked.

I felt stifled from the lack of communication and empowerment. I had low-self confidence in my ability to find another job, since I wasn’t a software engineer; and it seemed like that’s what most companies wanted.

I felt like I was getting lazier at my job and it was completely unnoticeable. And mostly I felt hopeless about ever finding a new job. I came to work feeling like Peter Gibbins from Office Space explaining to his therapist that “every single day of my life has been worse than the day before.”

Then, my relationship of over 10 years began falling apart, and I couldn’t take the misery in both my personal and professional life.


0_-RZ-bxg07p2u6iX9.jpgThis pretty much sums it up

Something had to change.

Around that time, I also read Think Like A Freak by Levitt and Dubner, which had a chapter on how failure can provide valuable feedback and how quitting can be beneficial to your life.

That chapter pushed me over the edge, and I decided I was done. It made no difference that I didn’t have a job lined up. I was going to quit. And as soon as I made that decision, I felt strong and liberated. I agreed with Levitt and Dubner that it was ok if I failed. Regardless of what happened next, I had made this decision. It was mine. I owned that choice.

Looking back, I feel like I had been sleep-walking through the last 5 years of my life. Most of my days were spent at a job that sucked the life out of me, and then I would be too drained and tired to do anything but watch television when I came home.

Once I made my decision, I had time to think about what I actually wanted in my life. What was I actually good at? How could I meet people who would enable my success? What did I think success meant for me?

What could I do about living my life, instead of just plodding through each day?

One of the best parts about being unemployed was that I could reflect on what I actually wanted in my life. I realized that what I needed in order to be happy was a good working environment.

I needed an environment where the people around me were also self-reflective, where people tried their best to communicate openly and honestly, where there was a lot of positivity and encouragement for both work and personal goals, where people were valued as individuals, where all learning was encouraged regardless of whether it directly related to your job title, and where people actually cared and were invested in the company’s success.

I began attending networking events and conferences, and talking to friends about what kind of jobs they had and what a typical day was like. I saw a career counselor who encouraged me to do informational interviewing. I took the Gallup StrengthsFinder test, which made me feel more confident that I did have useful strengths. I started seeing that there were many different jobs I was qualified for.

And then I got lucky.

I think that luck is always out there for everyone, but sometimes you don’t see it. I saw it in the form of a company called Keen IO. And yes, I got the job through networking. I made connections with people who then decided to take a chance on me. So yes, I was lucky, but I would never have seen that opportunity had I not decided to just quit. I needed to understand what I wanted, and I needed to do something that empowered me instead of staying down on myself for remaining in an environment that was harmful to my well-being.

The kind of environment at Keen IO is right for me. It isn’t right for everyone. There are many different work environments, and I think that when you don’t know what you want and you have some financial security, you need to allow yourself the ability to take time and figure it out.

You also need to allow yourself to fail.

You need to be the one making the decisions, not the people around you. If you don’t, then you can remain stuck forever in an environment that can leave you unfulfilled and miserable. I am happy that I didn’t fail, and that I am in a place that makes me feel happier.

I wish I hadn’t needed the end of a relationship to be the catalyst that enabled me to quit. I wish I could have had the courage to quit years ago.

But that doesn’t matter. I did quit, and I am much happier today because of it.

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