You might think being a quitter is easy, but it can actually be one of the most difficult things for some people to do. For me, an accomplished achiever, being able to quit a job that was unfulfilling and change course became possible because of a trifecta of events that diverged.

The trifecta

I was single. This status allowed me to make decisions only considering myself. At this time in my life, I was 32 with no kids and no spouse. It wasn’t that I didn’t want these things. It was that I just hadn’t found my soulmate yet and was still on my own. I did have a mortgage, but it was my townhouse—I could decide to sell if I wanted to get out of it.

My career-dead-ended. I had plateaued as a computer programmer to a point where java script and some of the other languages we started using at work were getting more complex. I had to either get better at them or switch areas. I switched jobs and became more of a report printer.

911 happened. I was at work the day the Twin Towers fell. I was leading a training session in Eagan, Minnesota, when someone said the towers just fell down. They think it’s a terrorist attack. We stopped the training session and watched, mouths agape, as the events unfolded on TVs wheeled into our office area. Life changed after that. My perspective changed, knowing all those people’s lives were upended. Or ended. There was before 911, and after 911. The world changed. And I knew I wanted to do something else with my life besides what I was doing, but I wasn’t sure yet how to change course or what I even wanted to do.

Even though I didn’t personally know anyone who died on September 11, 2001, I was still deeply moved by the events. The tragedy caused me to examine my life: what I was doing with it and what I wanted to do with it. I didn’t want to procrastinate and complain about my situation anymore. I wanted to make a change.

The careful plotting began

I’ve always considered myself a “pantser” when it comes to writing. That is, I do not outline, I write by the seat of my pants. However, the thing that made my major life change possible—what made it possible for me to quit—was plotting. I also referred to myself as a calculated risk-taker. So, I would eventually make the leap, but first I would scrimp and save, and plot and plan.

Here’s actually what this looked like:

  • Sold my townhouse, made $22,000 profit, moved that money to savings.
  • Rented a room in a friend’s townhouse, reducing my monthly rent/expenses to $375.
  • Made saving money my favorite hobby. With every paycheck, I moves money to savings and watched it grow.

What finally pushed me over the edge?

I received a bad annual review at work—my first poor review ever, in nearly ten years of exceeding expectations. Translation: My rating for that year was below average of “does not achieve.” This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but to a consistently high achiever, this label is a slap in the face. My work was my identity. My job was what I spent the majority of my days “working at.”

I looked at my savings account and asked myself: How much is enough before making a change? Before taking a leap of faith? I had $40,000 in savings. I decided forty-grand would do. The next day I gave my two weeks’ notice. I left that job and changed course on March 8, 2002.

What happened after that—all the life experiences—how I figured out what I wanted to do with my career, with my time, with my love life—is a longer story of going against the grain.

But none of it would have been possible if I hadn’t become a quitter.

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