You Should Probably Quit Your Job
Life is short. It’s “go to bed worrying about your English final, wake up with grey hair and three kids” short. And shorter yet are the “productive years;” that period in your life when you can make a difference, when your knowledge, experience, and influence add up to something.
Those productive years are fabled. They represent the promised land where, one day, we’ll start doing something important and meaningful. I know an investment banker. “One day” he tells me, “I’m going to get out and do something worthwhile, make a difference.” A friend told me yesterday “One day, I’d like to move to Montreal.” Even my five year old daughter is craning her neck towards this promised land. She tells me “I’ll be a vet one day.” But the banker won’t change jobs, my friend will not move to Montreal, and I doubt my daughter will be a vet. One day never arrives.
It never arrives because our short lives move so fast, and we have so much to do. So many phone calls to be answered, emails to be read, payments to be made. They pile up in front of us, a small mountain of immediate problems, blocking our view, preventing us from seeing beyond the next few months.
One day never arrives, and those meaningful dreams are gradually forgotten, hidden behind the pile of today’s tasks.
But occasionally someone remembers that our lives are so short, the time is so precious, and they push aside the pile to look again on the “promised land.” And then they do something important. They quit their job.
This happened to Kai Nagata this week. Kai was a Canadian TV reporter who suddenly resigned because he realized he could be doing more if he was doing something else. In his words:
I quit my job because the idea burrowed into my mind that, on the long list of things I could be doing, television news is not the best use of my short life.
The reaction was visceral. His essay went viral, hundreds of people commented on his blog, Roger Ebert tweeted about it, and it made news across the country. People didn’t care about a reporter in Quebec, but they saw themselves in Kai and they realized they will never be brave enough to do the same thing.
Another example of this is John Wood. Working at Microsoft, he was locked in to a solid management career. But one day he realized he could do more, that his productive years could be better spent on something more meaningful to himself and to others. So he quit, and launched Room to Read, a charity that increases literacy in some of the world’s poorest nations. (I recommend his book.)
Take an honest minute and think about your job. Is it making a difference? Is it making the world a better place? Is it as valuable to you as the few short years you have on this planet? Some of you can say yes. Most of us, if we are truthful, cannot.
Most of us, if we are honest, know our jobs are simply a means towards a prosaic end.
It pays the bills.
What else am I qualified to do?
The economy is terrible, where else could I work?
We are so focused on the pile of immediate problems that we fail to see what Kai and John saw, which is life is too short to be wasted on meaningless work. We all should be doing something important for ourselves, our community, our children, the environment, poverty, or politics. Remember how you, too, wanted to be a vet? It’s not too late.
You should quit your job. (But sadly, you probably won’t)
DISCLAIMER: If any PDT employees are reading this, please disregard all of the above and get back to work.