Sometime in the last month, one of my friends quit his job as an actuary for a large insurance company. He’s single, has a Ph. D. in mathematics, and no debt at all. He quit for one reason and one reason alone. I’ll let him tell it to you:
I got tired of going home every night mentally exhausted and sitting in front of the TV playing Xbox. It’s what I did almost every night, without a weekend. I made a lot of money but I had no life to do anything at all. My job ate all of my energy.
What’s he doing now? He took a night shift at a local factory where he’s driving a forklift. Half of his time, he just sits on the forklift waiting for a new load to pick, and so he’s started reading a lot of the classics. He makes $11 an hour, far, far less than he was making as an actuary, but good enough for him to live on especially considering he banked almost all of his income from his actuarial work.
You know what? I applaud him. I think it was a brilliant move for his life and an excellent response to what I call professional exhaustion.
Here’s why I think it was a good move.
First, before he quit, he became debt free. He paid off his car, all of his student loans, and his townhouse. He funneled almost 60% of his income over his handful of years as an actuary into becoming debt free, so now he owns his residence, his automobile, and his education.
Second, he made an effort to always live far below his income level. The only item I saw him splurge on in the last few years was an XBox 360, which he buys a new game for roughly once a month. With his job switch, he claims he probably won’t buy a new game for a very long while, as now he has the energy and freedom to pursue other things … which leads to the third reason.
Third, his job was killing him. He was constantly stressed out and burnt out on everything. He had some severe stomach issues, looked like death warmed over most of the time, and also looked completely exhausted, too. His job was literally eating him alive – and no matter how much you’re getting paid, no job is worth that.
Finally, he has a lot of energy, intelligence, and value that can be used more productively elsewhere. He has a seemingly unstoppable amount of energy now, and he’s directing it into starting a business that he’s passionate about during the day, using some of his saved money to seed the work. Plus, he’s also looking at running for a few local political offices.
Yes, he may have watched his salary get reduced by (at least) 70% and he may have also lost some benefits, but his life is much happier now and that, my friends, is the key to life.
So what can you do if you find yourself professionally exhausted?
First, start living seriously frugal. Driving a Lexus to the steak house and drowning your sorrows in a fistful of $20 drinks isn’t going to cut it if you want to be free. Start making your own food and stop spending money frivolously. Minimize every bill you have.
Next, pay off all of your debts. Once you get in the routine of living frugally, it will be much easier to pay off your debts as you’ll have a surfeit of money. Channel all of it into debt elimination.
Then, build up an emergency fund. After all your debts are gone, save up a few months’ worth of living expenses in a savings account so that when you quit, it’s not disastrous.
While you’re saving, figure out what you actually want to be doing. What drives your passion? I have a friend who works as an auto mechanic, for example. He also happens to be one of the most intelligent and driven people I’ve ever met, and he’s on the verge of opening up his own shop. He spends almost all of his time at the shop, but he’s crackling with energy and happiness each time I see him. Why? He’s found what he loves. Spend some time finding what you love, then go for it. Even if it means starting off as an auto mechanic at a local car repair shop.
Remember, your life is not your job. Your job is just a way to pay for your life.