It’s what many of us are looking for, but few of us get. Shane Melaugh, the founder of Thrive Themes, shares about how we look for 3 freedoms.
- Time – you want to be in control of your time, rather than having to report to someone, or to take leave whenever you want to do something that’s ‘not’ work.
- Money – you want enough money that you don’t have to work for it. You want to work because you want to, and not because you need to.
- Location – you want the freedom to live anywhere, rather than be tethered to a certain place
I’m guessing that’s why you’re here. You hate your job. You want to leave.
But. There’s a big but.
You have no money to leave your job. You might not even have a viable way to earn money outside your job.
You’ve thought of having a business, and working for yourself, but you may be still thinking about what’s the best business plan. Or however hard you iterate, try, you’re still failing.
And that sucks.
I may not understand where you are completely, but I want you to know that you’re not alone in your journey. I’m there too. I may be a few steps ahead, but I’m still figuring things out. I don’t have all the answers. This article doesn’t propose all the answers, but it shares some helpful principles and actions that you can take.
Before that, my story. I left my job on 6 October 2021. It was a salaried job that gave me a few thousand dollars a month.
I left for many reasons. The culture was bad. I didn’t feel like I was growing. I didn’t think the bosses had any idea where they were going.
I was looking for a job for 7 months, since Mar 2021. Despite applying for 52 jobs, and having 13 interviews, I never had a job offer.
I left without a plan. I had no job offer to go to.
But I still left.
I admit. It was scary. There were two core reasons for leaving.
Firstly, I realised that if I continued to stay, I would continue being stuck. Security would keep me stuck.
Secondly, I did it for myself. I realised that what was being whispered about me behind my back, in the formal Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) I had, had destroyed the confidence I had in myself. Behind my back, colleagues were complaining about my misdeeds to my supervisors. They were saying that I was careless. They said that I was quiet and didn’t contribute.
If I didn’t leave, I wouldn’t have the headspace to regroup and reflect on where I wanted to go to. I knew that staying in the job, whilst giving me the security of a salary, would prevent me from permanently distancing myself from the constant criticism.
You may wonder
How did I survive over the past 2 months?
I’ve been freelancing as a writer, a facilitator, and a trainer. It hasn’t given me millions of dollars, but it’s been an income I could survive on.
I’ll be honest. For the month of November, the first month without a salaried job, I earned $1100.
It wasn’t a huge sum, but it was a liveable sum.
Ask yourself: what do you want?
Personally, it’s been a great experience for me. But it’s my experience. What’s the experience you want?
Why has it been great to quit?
You may wonder why it may be great for me to quit my job.
I provide no guarantees that this is the experience you will have, but these are the three key lessons that I’ve learnt. It’s my hope that you will draw encouragement from it, so that whatever your decision is, you will find hope from this sharing.
Lesson 1: I learnt to fight again.
As a salaried employee, I forgot to fight. Having to submit to the organisation’s requirement for me to conform to keep my job, I lost my individuality. I was issued with a performance improvement plan in Feb 2021, due to a disagreement with a manager.
For the rest of the six months, I learnt to shut up. Do you know Hermonie Granger? Yes, I was that person in meetings who would be volunteering ideas, sharing opinions, and answering questions. But I learnt that the organisation didn’t like that very much.
So I shut up. I stopped fighting for what I wanted. I swung to the other end. From someone who would fight incessantly for what he wanted, I stopped fighting.
After all, just doing my job would still get me the same salary. There was no point in doing a great job.
“Just do the job. ” was enough. And that’s what I saw many of my colleagues do.
In fact, I saw a colleague who reminded me,
John, you treat this as more than a job. But many treat this as just a job.
You deserve better.
When I left, I saw how I needed to fight for my pay. It’s scary. You know that if you don’t work hard, you won’t get paid. You won’t get repeat business. If you keep making mistakes, people won’t bother hiring you again. If you’re not doing your best, everytime, you’re not getting more business.
You have to fight, and keep fighting. There’s no relaxing. There’s no way you’re going to give a half-assed job and expect to be paid.
There’s a fear, but there’s also a beauty to learning to fight. As kids, we are taught to play nice. Fighting is seen as a bad thing.
But quitting has shown me the value of hustling, tussling, and always fighting.
Jordan Peterson, the author of the bestseller 12 Rules To Live, writes in his sequel ‘Beyond Order – 12 More Rules For Life’ that today,
It is for this reason, … that the increasingly reflexive identification of the striving of boys and men for victory with the ‘patriarchal tyranny’ that hypothetically characterises our modern, productive and comparatively free societies is so stunningly counterproductive (and it must be said, cruel…)
We tell boys that they shouldn’t fight. They should be ‘Mr Nice Guy’, when in fact, Mr Nice Guy gets nowhere. He doesn’t get what he needs or wants because he’s too busy trying to please someone else.
If you want to get nowhere in life, keep staying in a job you want to quit.
That’s what many do. They complain about their jobs, but they use the money from the job as a salve for their disappointments and regrets that life could be more than this.
You’re not happy working your job, you’re not living a life that you want, but you take the money, and slap your employer’s face with it when he’s not looking. Isn’t that what we all do when we complain about our jobs behind our boss’ back?
Lesson 2: I’ll take care of myself.
This may sound harsh. I said just now that:
If you want to get nowhere in life, keep staying in a job you want to quit.
Because staying in a job you want to quit ensures that you’re pleasing everyone else, except yourself. In ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, by Robert Glover, Glover writes,
If a Nice Guy believes he isn’t worth much, his actions toward himself will reflect this belief.
In March 2021, I was offered a great job. It was a job with greater responsibilities, played to my strengths, under a better boss, and I decided…
Not to leave.
I did not leave because I believed that I needed to improve.
I believed that I deserved less. Can you believe it?
Now that I write that, I realise how far I had come in reducing myself to trash.
When a recovering Nice Guy begins to consciously do good things for himself, these actions imply that he must be worth something.
Dr Glover, No More Mr Nice Guy
You’re looking at this because deep down, you know you deserve better. You know you deserve better than this horrid job.
There’s just one obstacle. The money issue.
Here’s what I learnt.
Singapore has no unemployment benefits if you’re healthy and fit to work. If you quit, you have to earn your own keep. No one owes you a living.
That’s why when I read Ury’s ‘Getting to Yes With Yourself’, I identified strongly with it.
He shared how beyond having an outer BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement), which we bring to our negotiations to others, we need an inner BATNA. Where we tell ourselves,
No matter what happens, I’m going to take care of myself.
Job or no job, I will do something to keep myself alive.
Taking care of yourself becomes the fundamental baseline that you’ll never yield from.
Lesson 3: I can live on less
It’s liberating to live on $800 a month. You realise that you no longer have to buy things you don’t need, to please people you don’t like, to work in a job you don’t want.
I’m not against money. But I’m against using money to solve your emotional problems. I realised after leaving my job that I was using money as a salve for the frustrations in my life – like the colleague that I didn’t like, or the project that didn’t succeed.
When you say “I have no money,” is it true? Or is it because of your lifestyle?
That’s why the first step to quitting your job, if you still want to, is to know…
Establish your baseline
There are 5 areas I recommend that you look back at in the past 6 months. Look at your spending for the necessities.
- Personal items (soap, face wash, etc.)
- Fun (movie tickets etc.)
It would be better if you went over your bank statement and looked at the debits from your account. Where are the places where you’ve spent because you’ve needed the items? Where are the places where you’ve spent because you wanted the items?
What I suggest is that you write an ‘L’ (for luxury) for the items you bought because you wanted to treat yourself, rather than something you needed.
When you establish the baseline of needs that allow you to survive, you start to realise that you may not need that big a salary to survive for the first few months. Rather, having the security to earn just enough, whilst capping your expenditures, allows you to find freedom from your job much sooner.
Get yourself a client base
What I didn’t realise at that time was that approaching people to share my articles slowly built up a base of clients that could help me to grow. I want to be clear.
When I started, I had no idea I could be paid for my articles. I only wrote to share insights. I didn’t ask to be paid.
But when they suggested a fee, I immediately accepted. This has been very helpful.
Wherever you are now, look at where you can earn some money from the work you do as a freelancer. You’re bound to have some skills.
See if you can establish a steady client base that is willing to pay for it.
Don’t keep yourself in the cage
Having a salary is tempting, but you may not notice that it’s simply a noose around your neck, with a very long leash. You may not see the cage around you.
This analogy was pointed out to me by Shane, who spoke about how we today live in a very free society. But if we take a step back and look closely, we might notice that it’s in fact filled with iron bars. It’s a big cage.
But it’s still a cage. You don’t have the freedom you want.
Because the salary keeps you tethered to the idea that time equates to money. If you want money, you have to spend time. You’re constantly trading a resource you will never get back for a resource that is infinite.
A finite resource (time) for an infinite resource (money). You can always print more money. You can’t print more time.
Does that trade make sense?
If you want freedom, you must reverse the trade. Such that an infinite resource produces more finite resources. For example, that’s what investors do. They trade money through stocks on the stock exchange, to get more money, and to eventually be in a place where they do not need to work anymore. Their time is theirs.
If you look at businessmen, they have broken this equation. They earn as they sleep, whether or not they work.
The other concept that keeps up stuck is that hard work equates to money. The harder we work, the more money we get.
This keeps us stuck for longer.
Therefore the two equations that we need to break are:
- Time = money
- Diligence = money
Walking out of the cage starts step by step.
For me, it started with quitting my job, whether or not I had the next plan. It gave me the freedom to pursue a freelance career, to start getting greater freedom over my time.
And with the freedom over my time, I could start building the wider business that would eventually give me financial freedom.
What are you waiting for?