Life is short. That’s what I figured out when I hit my 30s. Before that, I never gave much thought to the impermanency of things. I guess I’ve been lucky and I didn’t lose too many friends and family when I was young. As I got older, I became much more conscious of friends, family, coworkers, and even celebrities who passed away. Micheal Jackson, Christopher Reeve, Patrick Swayze, Steve Irvin, John Ritter are all people I grew up with and they all died pretty young. They made me realized that I have to find happiness now and not put it off for too long.
Anyway, I just gotten news that Dan, one of my coworkers from Intel, passed away. Dan was probably about 15 years older than me, but I’m not really sure. He never took the management route and he still enjoyed the technical aspects of engineering. He didn’t like the corporate environment, though, and he always had something to complain about. He just seemed to be unhappy most of the time and I thought he was going to retire soon, but I guess he didn’t make the jump.
My last few years at Intel were extremely unhappy years and my physical and mental well being were deteriorating fast. I knew that the situation was untenable and I began planning my exit strategy. The money was good, but life isn’t just about money. In 2012, I left my engineering career behind and I’m much closer to living the life I want. We have less income, but we’re much happier overall. If you’re unhappy about your life (job in particular), then maybe these steps can help you figure out a way to move on to the next phase.
Why are you unhappy?
The first step is to figure out why you’re unhappy. Is it the particular job you’re doing? Is it the work environment and the company you’re working for? Or is it the whole career that’s you’re unhappy with? Actually, I started not liking my engineering job quite a while before I quit. In 2004, I moved from being a design engineer to a hardware validation engineer for a change of scenery. I stayed with the same company, but I changed offices, coworkers, job functions, and many other things. It provided some relief, but eventually I realized that it’s not a particular job that I was unhappy with, but the whole corporate culture and engineering career. It took many years for me, but eventually I realized that I had to find a way out.
Don’t listen to the critics
Recently, I received quite a few emails from readers who are aiming for early retirement. Many of them encounter stiff resistance from friends and family when they shared this goal. The American culture values hard work and quitting your job is a big no-no. My friends and family (and some readers) also didn’t understand why I wanted to quit my engineering career. Why spend all that time going to school and building a career, then quit at the beginning of your prime earning years? It’s downright anti-American.
Well, actually I did listen to one critic – Mrs. RB40. She was pregnant when I started Retire By 40 and she didn’t like it one bit. She value financial security (something that was ingrained from her childhood) and quitting my job would put that into jeopardy. I spent two years keeping track of all our income and expenses to show her that we can make it work. We cut out frivolous purchases and saved all my income for two years so we saw that early retirement was financially sustainable. She’s still working so we’re not quite financially independent, but we’re on the way there. You just have to tune out the critics who don’t know your whole situation and focus on showing the important ones that you can make it work.
Find what matters to you
For me, the focus was on getting out of the difficult situation that I was in, but you also have to figure out what to do next. You don’t want to quit your job and sit around all day. That’s an express ticket to Depressionville. At least, you need to have a short term plan and figure out what you’ll do for a few years after pulling the cord. Some people take a trip around the world. Some people volunteer. Some go back to school to find a different career. The possibilities are endless. Everyone has different callings and you just need to find yours.
For me, I became a stay at home dad and it has been great. It’s really a privilege to be able to spend this much time with my kid. I know it’s not for every dad or mom, but it has been the 2 best years of my adult life. In a couple of years, RB40 Jr. will go off to school and I’ll have a lot more time on my hands, but for now I’m quite busy with being a dad. Blogging also takes up a lot of time, but it’s still fun for me. I haven’t had time to get bored and that’s a good thing. We’ll see how things are in 2 years and I’m sure I’ll figure something out.
Start Now and keep pushing.
I started blogging in 2010 and left my career in 2012. Is it really that easy? No, it didn’t just take 2 years to achieve my goal. I saved and invested since I started working in 1996. My goal wasn’t early retirement then, but I’m extremely glad I started investing so early in life. Early saving and investing gave me more choices. I really think you should save as much as you can when you’re young so you will have more choices when you’re older. You might love your job now, but who knows how you’ll feel in 10 or 20 years.
If you want to change your life, then you need to start now. Read a lot, meet some people who are living the life you want, and write up an exit strategy. It may take years, but you just need to start now and keep pushing.
Life is a journey
It took me a long time to realize that life is a journey and the journey is what you make of it. You don’t have to let others dictate the way you live. You can try different things and if it doesn’t work out, try something else. Right now, being a stay at home dad takes up a huge amount of time, but I know it will change. I used to be much more rigid and thought I had to stick with my career. People passing on around me really opened my eyes and showed me that life is short. My worst nightmare is to work at a job I don’t like and die at 55. I would have spent a huge chunk of my life doing something I didn’t enjoy. I would have missed out on these 2 awesome years with my son and I wouldn’t even realize it. That’s just me, though.
What about you? Are you living the life you want? If not, what are you doing to change it?