When you first decide to quit your job, you will receive a lot of advice. Some of it will be brilliant, some of it will be cautionary (but useful), and some won’t apply to you. But if you are like I was, no matter how great the advice is, you will probably ignore it. Why? Because quitting a job after many (so many) years is overwhelming. Everything will change for you. And you might not be ready to hear the advice in those early days.
That was me. When I quit my job, it was the first time since I was 2 ½ (not kidding) that there wasn’t a plan for my life. I had either been in school or jumping into jobs to pay bills for a very long time. So, when I quit, I didn’t want to hear advice about what to do next. I just wanted to be. I wanted to flit from thing to thing. In short, I had a very romantic idea about what all of this freedom would mean.
And this is when I made my first of many mistakes. I didn’t listen to the one piece of advice that would have made a significant difference, particularly in those early years.
What was the advice? Make a plan for how you are going to spend your days. It came from my former boss who took an early retirement a few years before I quit. He knew what he was talking about, but I wasn’t ready to listen. And I should have.
Why? What’s wrong with trying a lot of new things and having no plan?
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that approach. And I don’t think he would disagree with the notion of trying new things. But months and then years can go by before you know it. There will be days where you do nothing but watch Tiny House Hunters on TV. That might sound like magic right now, but when you find yourself looking back, you might be dismayed at your inactivity. You might also be dismayed at how lost you can feel when you suddenly don’t know what your purpose is.
I should have made a plan. I should have quit toward something. And I should have quit everything that was unproductive. I didn’t. I allowed myself to lose days to the new freedom and to a charity project I should never have been a part of. Lesson learned there, but it was too late. I wasn’t making choices. I didn’t make a plan for the next phase. I didn’t sample new things that would have taken me towards a new goal. I floated. And while I was floating, I was slowly leaking cash.
Why was that a problem? It was a problem because when I finally figured out what I wanted to do, I didn’t have the cash reserves to do it well. By the time I published “My Letter to Fear,” I didn’t have a lot of extra cash for promotion and readings. By the time I realized I wanted to travel, I didn’t have much disposable income to sustain it. By the time I realized that I wanted to produce the web series, I didn’t have enough cash to film the entire thing (or promote what we had filmed). By the time I realized that I needed to sharpen my screenwriting skills, I didn’t have the money to take the classes that would catapult me to the next level.
Yes, there are ways to fix that, and I’m doing them now. But it’s hard not look back on the nearly TWO YEARS of opportunities, time and money that were wasted because I didn’t make a plan.
So, don’t be like me. Make the most of your new opportunity while you can afford to take the steps necessary to move you forward.