My last week of good enough

 

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I’m posting this on Monday night. Friday will be my last day of 9-to-5. I expect to never be an employee again.

But you know, I actually like my day job for the most part. The pay is decent, I get on well with my colleagues, I’m part of a great team, and I’m left to my own devices as long as I’m hitting my deadlines. As 9-to-5 jobs go, it’s a nice gig.

But therein lies the danger

Fortunately, I’ve realized that “nice” isn’t good enough for me. Career is a massive part of one’s life, a massive part of the legacy we leave behind. I don’t want to spend 2,000 hours every year doing “nice” work. When I’m lying on my deathbed, many years from now, I don’t want my great grandson Jimmy asking what my work life was like, only to respond, “Eh, it was alright. Now run along, Johnny. I want to watch a Seinfeld rerun one last time.”

I see and hear from many people who are doing “nice” work. Work that’s good enough. Work that pays the bills. Work that passes the time.

Last week I met a girl. She’s a bartender here in New Orleans. She wore expensive clothes and was decorated in gold jewelry. When asked what she liked most about her job, her answer was “the money.” When asked what she disliked most about her job, her answer was “the work.” She’ll likely be a bartender for the rest of her working life. She doesn’t see anything wrong with that.

I have a friend here in New Orleans who works 60+ hours per week for a big oil company, has done for 5 years. Most days he gets into the office at 7, responds to various emergencies all day, leaves at about 6 (often later), and usually spends what’s left of his evening eating out and grabbing a few drinks. I asked my friend if he likes his job. His response: “I must do if I’ve been at it this long.” He has no plans to make any significant changes in his work life.

These people, much like myself a year or so ago, are in the dangerous position of settling for “good enough.”

Why good enough isn’t good enough

Actually, oftentimes good enough is good enough. I bought some avocados the other day. They weren’t fully ripe, but they were good enough. I went ahead and made the guacamole.

But good enough isn’t good enough when it comes to the big things, like your health, your love life, your career. Shrugging and settling in those areas simply isn’t good enough. Please don’t do that to yourself. You only get one crack at this life thing.

My way out

Before I get into this, let me be clear that I have no tangible way of knowing that quitting my job is the right thing to do. Remember, I’m still a ninetofiver as I’m writing this. I haven’t made it out yet. Maybe check back in a few months to make sure the guy giving you this advice isn’t living in a cardboard box and eating dog food.

Thing is, I thought I’d be terrified right now. My lone income stream gets cut off at the end of the week. I have no side-business built up. My blog has generated a grand total of $38.57 in the past year. Sure, I have enough savings to cover at least three months of living expenses, but beyond that I’ll have to make my own money or learn to love K-9 Chicken Krunch.

And yet I have this overwhelming sense that I’m doing the right thing, that everything will be okay. In fact, I’m extremely excited about what lies ahead.

A year ago I wouldn’t have felt this way. I wouldn’t have felt ready. But I do now. I now have faith in my ability to knuckle down and do meaningful work. I know I can block out distractions and focus on what’s important. I know I can surround myself with people who will help me succeed (and vice versa). I’ve studied lots of successful online entrepreneurs, and I know I can be one of them. They’ve got nothing I haven’t got, or at least nothing I can’t learn.

Two other things I know: My fears and insecurities don’t have to have the last word, and failure ain’t so bad.

Knowing all these things, I know I’m ready.

But let’s get back to you

I have another friend who doesn’t seem to like her job much. Recently she told me she loved my blog and that she “can’t wait to see what I’ll do next.” At the time I was flattered and said, “Thank you,” but having thought about it, I wish I had replied, “Screw that. What are you going to do next?”

Seriously. What are you going to do next? What’s your way out of the “good enough” situation you’ve settled for? What are you going to tell little Jimmy/Johnny on your deathbed?

If you’re deep in that “good enough” place right now, don’t freak out. You don’t have to escape today. You may not be ready. I know I wasn’t.

But what you can do today, is start setting yourself up for your eventual escape. Right now, you can make the decision not to settle.

Then, over the next few weeks and months, get busy figuring out what your passion is. Surround yourself with the type of people you want to be like and ditch anyone who holds you back. Develop good work habits. Conquer your fears, one at a time. Slay those small demons before taking on the dragons.

Before you know it, you’ll be living your last week of good enough, and feeling pretty damn good about it.

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15 Comments

  1. I have been reading/viewing your articles for so long on Google Reader I forgot to take part in discussions etc that happen on here. I would like to say good luck with your endeavour but it seems you do not need luck – you will put in the required work to succeed.

    I hope that you continue to strive and once you have achieved one goal, pursue another; as this is what seems to bring you happiness.

  2. whats uuuup Niall? good for you!
    You certainly have the passion to make this work, with passion on your side theres nothing that you cant overcome.

    As for me, I have a job that I love and have more freedom than most. I own my my personal training biz, so dont do the 9 – 5 or work for the man. Theres only one problem with what im doing currently – its location dependant, I have to stay in the same town.

    Thats why I blog – Im createing an online biz so I can work and travel at the same time.

    Blaze Your Trail

  3. This is a very brave, bold step. Congrats man. Since you’re giving up steady income before December, I’m just glad I’m not on your Christmas shopping list ;-)

  4. Ryan: Nice. I didn’t realize you ran your own business. Are you planning to put that business online, or are you going in a different direction with your blog?

    Bug: Thanks! As for becoming an NBA player, that’s easy: Keep surrounding yourself with other players who are better than you. (Okay, maybe that’s not all you have to do, but it would definitely help ;-)

    Tony: Haha. Actually, you are on my list. I was just going to send out pictures of me doing shadow puppets this year.

  5. Hi Niall,

    I’m your cousin Brian’s girlfriend (and very lucky to be! it has to be said he’s a top guy) and I just wanted to say thanks. Brian sent me your blog a number of months ago when I was made redundant from my last job and all the inspirational stuff that usually washes over me for some reason this time made a dent! I love your blog and I put some of your advice in to practice and it helped!! I can’t remember which blog it was but you wrote about knocking the alert noise and notification off your email as it distracts and frazzles a person… well I am that person…my heart would jump every time I heard that ‘bing’ thinking…’oh crap…what’s happened now’. So I turned off the ‘bing’ and even thou its only a little thing it helped… so thanks!

    All the best with your next adventure and maybe we’ll see you over in the Emerald Isle soon (even if it’s more of a murky green at the moment!)

    Take care.

    Edell

  6. I’m going through the exact same process man! Left my 9-5 in November, and exactly, want to find out my passions, hang with the right people (proving quite taxing but getting there) and am actually living in Spain, where you are bound. I’m going to become an english teacher, give something back and make a difference, hopefully with a few laughs along the way

    Funny ethe coincidences

    Inspiring stuff Niall, going to take a leaf from your book there about conquering fears. Public speaking is one of mine and teaching will hopefully conquer that.

    Rock on

  7. It sounds like your heart is in the right place. As long as you maintain this kind of passion and enthusiasm for what you do doors will open whereever you go.

  8. Niall,

    I’m just wat ching this video for the first time and am not sure what you’ve been up to since, although I signed up for your twitter posts and should be getting updates soon. I just want to echo your sentiments about being certain you are making the right choice even if you don’t know what lies ahead. The way “the giant” (my name for the social corporate structure) works is to create the solid, secure vision of economic comfort while playing up on the fears of life outside the giant. So we are taught from an early age to be afraid of not finding a place within the giant. We are taught to ignore our intution, which is, as Albert Einstein reminds us, a far more sacred gift than “reason.” You trusted your intution, your gut feeling fo what your life should be. That took courage. And it was, without question, the right decision, no matter what the challenges you have faced and are facing now. Kudos to you! Inspiring story. –Jonathan

    • Thanks, Jonathan. It’s almost exactly a year now since I quit my job, and while it hasn’t been quite as smooth sailing as I would have liked, I definitely still feel like it was the right decision. Life is good :-)