This post originally appeared here.
I stomped on the gas pedal as the light turned green. Clutch out. Tires peeled. The throaty roar of the Mustang took over the cockpit. Clutch in. Second gear. 45 mph. As I exited the corner and turned on to my office street the back end snapped around. I jabbed the throttle harder and flicked the wheel back to the right to correct the slide. Clutch in, third gear. 60 mph. Fourth gear. 75. 85. 90. Office coming up. Fast. Right foot to the brake, still hard. Clutch in. Rotate right foot heel to the gas. Tap the throttle. Grab third gear. Another flick of the heel. Second gear.
I brought the car to a near stop as I pushed the clutch in and grabbed first. I rolled lightly over the curb so as not to scratch the body of my beautiful, sleek, grey Mustang. I pulled into my parking spot. Clutch in. Motor off. Just like that the best part of my day was over.
On paper, I had everything. A brand new Ford Mustang, Pony Package edition. A hotshot job as an up-and-coming engineer at one of the top Japanese companies in the world. A nice apartment in one of the most desired cities and neighborhoods in the world—La Jolla, California. More money than I knew what to do with.
And best of all, I was only 21 years old. You’d think this would be cause to celebrate and enjoy life. Instead, I found myself becoming increasingly more unhappy by the day.
Eastern Europe, 2017
Fast forward three years later. I walked up to the table and shook hands with my buddy. He introduced me to the rest of his (former) programming team. They were out at dinner, celebrating his departure from the company. A few minutes after getting acquainted, one of them asked what I do. I responded with my usual, “I’m self-employed.” I tend not to go into too much detail unless people really prompt and push me.
He said, “No wonder you’re so happy.” I chuckled, because it’s so true.
The funniest part of the story? My friend had already shown that guy my blog, so an hour later he realized who I was, and said, “OH, YOU’RE THAT GUY!”, and had a bunch of questions for me. Anyways…
Let’s Recap That
In San Diego, I had the following:
- Nice, modern apartment in the middle of one of the best neighborhoods, but had to commute ~25 minutes to work that I paid $1,500 a month for
- Brand-new, sexy car that I paid $700 a month for (payment, insurance, gas)
- An up-to-date television and other gadgets
- Highly regarded job at a highly regarded company
- My pick of the best
warthogsfemales the United States had to offer, most of whom had extra pounds and an extra large mouth—and spent 5 hours a day on Instagram
In Eastern Europe, I have the following:
- Apartment in the center that I pay $800 a month for. It’s not modern, at all. My commute is walking from the bedroom to the office.
- No car, but I do have an unlimited city transit pass that I paid $150 for the year
- No television
- A job where I do whatever I want and genuinely try to downplay to avoid the onslaught of questions and disbelief that always follows
- Thin girls everywhere (read this International Cupid review) who know how to cook and be a genuine pleasure, though it’s not all roses
Now, which one do you think society told me was the better pick for me?
The Shock Factor
I used to be an engineer, so I remember the after-work happy hours when we’d all get together and nerd out about stuff, whilst simultaneously complaining about how incompetent management was. It was the twice-monthly escape where you could bitch and complain to your heart’s content to other people who actually understood you.
That goodbye dinner with my friend reminded me of that, and it just shocked me. It was like getting into a time machine and being stuck on loop during one of the most unhappy periods in my life. Pointless meetings with retarded project managers, incompetent bosses, and a general office culture that encouraged doing just enough to not get the can (so I could pay the bills on all of those expensive things I mentioned before).
That same friend, who quit his job on Wednesday said he got more programming work done on his own projects on Thursday and Friday (2 days) than he had in the last two months at work. He said he worked way harder but it was infinitely more exciting, stimulating, and feel-good than his old gig.
I continue to find it difficult to explain to people how it really feels to work for yourself. Nothing really feels like work anymore. You work hard, you feel drained, but there is no “grind” to it like it was EVERY day in the corporate world.
Now, I don’t subscribe to the one size fits all model. Entrepreneurship is most certainly not for everyone. You are certainly right to be skeptical of any and all offers that come your way promising you riches for just an hour of work a day.
I actually believe the corporate job is reasonably right for plenty of men—especially those with families and in need of consistency in their life. I also believe there is a right and a wrong way to go about it—if you are so enslaved by debts of consumer products that you are forced to be there every day with a gun to your head—that’s going to make most quite unhappy.
If you don’t have the cushion or fallback to be able to walk out and still control your own destiny, the worse I think it is. The last two months of my corporate life, when I knew I was walking out the door, were far more tolerable because I knew I didn’t need it.
The point I’m trying to make is that if you have the foundation either in savings, or a side hustle, you have leverage. You are likely going to be able to tolerate a corporate job with a miserable boss better if you have that freedom to lose the job and not work for a few months behind you. If you’re paying off thousands of dollars in credit card every debt, that’s impossible.
But, if it is for you—you owe it to yourself to try. Or else the coolest Mustang in the world won’t make you happy.