Tasting the Acorn

My new plan

October 29, 2009

Three months ago I quit my job, but I'm still here. Here's why...

When I started at my current job I was really excited. It was my second startup in a row and I was addicted to that style of working. The fast-paced, fluid environment with ever-changing requirements and the blank sheet of paper feel appeal to my strengths so it was natural for me to find a similar role when I decided to leave my last job.

I threw myself into the job, as I do with every new thing I get involved in but about six months later I was offered the opportunity to join another startup as their Development Manager, which was a big step up from Application Developer. I jumped at it and resigned. I won't go into the details but I was offered the position of Head of Technology and the offer was more than enough to get me to stay both financially and in terms of the role, so I did.

I know it was really disappointing to the owner of the startup who made me the offer, but I explained my reasons and he accepted them. That was then.

Fast forward to just over three months ago and I'm feeling like I'm stagnating in my current role. I didn't feel stimulated at all; I felt like I was treading water and I hate that. I knew I needed something, but rather than sitting down and working out exactly what I wanted I went for the simple option.

I knew that startup had been having trouble finding someone to fill that role, so I contacted him again and asked if he was interested in making me another offer. He did, and I accepted it. And I resigned, again.

This time it was accepted because I was pretty firm that this decision was final, because it was. Or so I thought...

My notice period was three months and my primary task during that time was to find a replacement for myself which is apparently not as easy as I thought. After more interviews than I care to mention it was looking hopeless. The combination of skills the role needed seemed to be a lot less common than I had thought.

Around this time I'd been going through some revelations. I won't go into the details but I was having my eyes opened as to how wrong my life was. I was being driven by corporate success and the acquisition of wealth. While neither are necessarily wrong it's the fact that they were my sole drivers that caused me to stop and think. Almost overnight my priorities shifted.

I realised that corporate success was essentially meaningless. I was placing my worth in the opinion of others, which is typical of my life so far but I now understand that it's the wrong way to measure my value as a person. If I don't see myself as a valuable person without someone else telling me that, it puts me at their mercy. I become controllable because that attitude will cause me to take actions in pursuit of that validation, and that's not good!

I also realised that theacquisitionof wealth is not as important as I thought it was. I like having money, I really do. I like knowing I don't need to worry about whether I can pay my rent next month, and I like knowing I can go out for dinner if I want to without worrying about what it costs. I know I've been incredibly lucky in my career to be in the position I'm in right now, which is debt free and earning well, and it has given me options I'd never considered before.

It was at this time that I made changes to my diet, my attitude towards exercise flipped and I took major steps to conquer my fear response. The same events that caused me to do those things made me take a close look at every part of my life. The biggest topic in my head was the new job I was working towards, and when I thought about how it made me feel it wasn't what I was expecting.

I wasn't excited. I wasn't overly enthusiastic. I didn't seem very invested in it, it just seemed like the thing to do. It was the default option, and I hadn't bothered to think about alternatives. So I did.

I literally sat down and thought about what I wanted to be doing with my life. I thought about what the new job was going to be like. I thought about what I'd be leaving behind. And I thought about the reasons why I was doing it at all. And I reached a surprising conclusion.

The new job was essentially the same as my current job. Same road, different vehicle. It was a sideways career move in almost every way, and that concerned me. I'd never made a sideways move, which made me wonder why I was actually doing so now.

I was certainly going to miss my current job. Not the actual work so much as the people and the atmosphere in the office. I'm sure it's not unique but as a place to work it beats every other job I've ever had, and that's difficult to give up. I would miss the people most of all. At this point I'd done a few days here and there contracting for the new company, and the people there were also a great bunch, but whether it would be anywhere near as good was unclear in my head. But that has nothing to do with the reason I decided against it.

It didn't take long for the real reason to dawn on me, and it was really simple... I simply wanted a change.What sort of change didn't seem to matter, I just knew I didn't want to stay doing what I was doing long term, and my limited brain had simply gone for the easiest change I could make but ultimately it didn't get me anywhere.

I decided what I really needed to do at this point was find some space. Space to consider options, to explore possibilities and to continue to expand my reality. Space could have meant any number of things from taking a holiday to quitting and never looking back. A holiday didn't particularly appeal and I wasn't convinced a couple of weeks off was what I needed. Quitting completely left the problem of earning enough money to live so that wasn't really an option either, so I needed something somewhere in the middle.

The plan I decided on was basically to find a way to reduce the hours I was working. As I said I've been incredibly lucky in my career so far and that affords me the luxury of being able to reduce down to three days a week without any major sacrifice in my standard of living. With that goal in mind I started looking at the options.

At the new job I was essentially being brought in to run the team so the CEO could focus on business development. I didn't have to think for very long to realise that he was very unlikely to be interested in a part time development manager. Maybe I should have asked but at the end of the day I was pretty certain I already knew the answer.

That left two options; I either quit and went contracting or I asked my current employer if they'd be open to me reducing down to three days a week. Neither particularly appealed more than the other so it came down to trying the easiest from a logistic point of view. I talked to my current employer.

They were very supportive of everything from my new outlook on life to this wish to get some space. While this didn't really surprise me I was grateful that they were open to this possibility and I thank them for that.

When I told the CEO of the new company he was understandably less than supportive. I explained the reasons behind my decision, the most relevant being that I didn't feel I could commit to the role when I was feeling this way, but it didn't seem to matter. I haven't seen or spoken to him since, but I'm sure we'll run into each other at some point in the future and I hope he'll have taken what I said on board to the point where we can remain friends.

Alongside all this I had been planning to move to a new city, I had already put a holding deposit down on a flat which I knew I'd lose. I had also been talking to what would have been my team about what we would do when I started, the changes I'd make, what I was expecting of them and what they were expecting of me. It seemed they were greatly looking forward to me starting so I really felt like I had let them down, but at the end of the day I needed to do what was best for me.

So this is what's happening... from January I go down to three days a week giving me two days to do... what?

The short answer is that I really don't know yet. I know I want to do more photography, and I know I want to explore potential consultancy with internet-based startups. I know I have a lot of experience and skills to offer that type of company so I'm on the lookout for opportunities in that area.

I also have some project ideas that I think could be interesting, a couple of which have some decent earning power if I do them right so I plan to execute some of those to find out if they have legs.

But ultimately I want more time to think about where I'm going, what I'm trying to achieve and the best way to get there, and this is the first step on that journey.

So that's my new plan.

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