Saturday, July 16, 2016

Quitting Your Job

A friend shared a post yesterday entitled 'Whatever you do, don't quit your job to pursue your passion', and highlighted a section, 'Quitting your job to pursue your passion is bullshit. This messaging is only beneficial for privileged people and very dangerous for working class people. The statement alone reeks of privilege. It confirms you had a full-time job to begin with. It confirms you had time to develop a passion (that you can capitalise off of, enough to meet your cost of living).'

Almost two years ago, this is exactly what I did. Yes, the reason I was able to do this is because I am very privileged. I have a deep pool of social support I treasure. I got a great education surrounded by incredible mentors. The truth is, I know most people can't just quit their job and do what I do. I didn't just quit, there is stuff I did first. Most people can't do what I did. I don't have a secret to share. David Gatebe, who recently won the 89km Comrades Marathon in a record time of 5 hours 18 minutes, didn't have a secret. He may have natural talent, but he also runs about 250km a week in training.

Gatebe doing push-ups after breaking the Comrades Record.
Sorry, you probably can't do that

What I did, was save very aggressively for a long period of time and learn to invest that money. I built a pool of capital that now works for me so that I can work for my friends. The thing I love most in the world is connections to people I care about. Sitting and having a conversation about what is going on in someone's life. In order to get to do that full time, I had to do other stuff first. 

There was one 6 months stage where I was studying 8 hours on Saturday, 8 hours on Sunday, and an hour before and after work each day. I once left a party in October at 10pm. When asked why I was going early, I said I had an exam coming up. I didn't have the guts to tell them that exam was in April. I don't think I should get a hell of a lot of credit for this capacity to work hard. Lots of people work just as long hours in kitchens, or mines, or cleaning houses. Work they do because they have to. I chose to work hard. I chose to work hard at something I enjoyed working hard at. Something that happened, not by coincidence, to also pay well. I have always had a capacity to work hard. It is part of my privilege. I come from a family of hard workers. I have lots of hard working friends. I come from a set of other privileges that means my hard work is rewarded (White, English speaking, Male). My story isn't unique.

I have always loved conversation

My biggest 'secret' in being able to finally pull the trigger and move to a 'post work' world was in deciding that I had enough. One side of the equation is saving, the other side is spending. The less you spend, the less you need. Fortunately conversation, the thing I love most, is free. I would argue that working class people actually are significantly closer to being able to declare independence than many of the working wealthy. 

If you are earning £180,000 a year, and spending £200,000 a year, and you don't have a lot of savings, you are likely going to struggle to cut back. Each year, you are getting into a further hole of £20,000. A 'lifestyle to which you have become accustomed' is as much a curse as it is a blessing. The truth is most privileged people have a lot of control in deciding what enough is. While all of us sleep in one bed, in one room, and have fairly basic requirements to live, some of us manage to spend a hell of a lot more on survival than others. If you earn £20,000 a year, and spend £10,000... you could be 15 years away from freedom.

I believe in a Universal Basic Income. I think the world is wealthy enough to start thinking of the practicalities of how to fund and pay for everyone to be able to afford a sustainable basic lifestyle. I think society would benefit from more people being able to choose work they are passionate about rather than work they have to do. If your passions are expensive, I feel less sorry for you. Lots of people would still choose to work for money in order to buy the finer stories in life. I believe many people would choose to work for other reasons. To build a stronger community. To develop skills that can't be monetised. 

The ability to work for passion is a privilege. It is a privilege I dream of more people having.

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