The “quit your corporate job and follow your bliss” mantra is complete horseshit and you should call it out as such when you hear it.
97% of the writers, speakers, consultants, entrepreneurs, freelancers, facilitators, artists, life coaches, career coaches, yoga teachers, mindfulness teachers, kombucha makers, what-have-yous, I know who actually make a living have figured out symbiotic relationships with companies, organizations, and institutions which allow them to pay their rent and have a greater impact with their work, on their terms.
The story goes like this:
- People mentioned above (including me) quit their oppressive job and say, “I quit my oppressive 9-to-5 to do something I’m more passionate about!” It feels fantastic. You travel for a bit, explore a few things, maybe start a blog or do something that looks dope on Instagram.
- Six months later, you get your shit together and make a website, maybe even land a few clients and start to build your business.
- Eventually, maybe it’s one or two or three or five years later, you finally realize that if you actually want make it work and not be broke, you have to plug into the systems that provide financial resources. This means you either take what you enjoy doing and are good at, and make it happen full-time within a company or institution. Or, you figure out how to be your own boss, but work with multiple companies and organizations and individuals as clients. Even if you’re an entrepreneur, you still figure out how to leverage relationships with companies and institutions to raise capital, gain customers, hire people, and build your business.
So it’s not, “day jobs are evil, work for yourself, follow your bliss!”
It’s “Sure, quit your day job if you’re miserable, but after a few months, get to thinking about how you can find a full-time, part-time, freelance, consultancy, entrepreneurial, or whatever situation, that allows you to be in more control of your relationship with the companies/institutions/nonprofits/clients that pay you.”
I did quit my job, I do work for myself, and my life is pretty blissed-out, but the only reason I make a decent living is because I partner with companies and organizations that pay for my services. I don’t make money from sitting on a beach “working for myself”— no one makes money from chilling on a beach alone — I make money from working my ass off with friends, partners, companies, and communities who support me. You make money when you build alliances with others who share similar values and goals as you.
If everyone were to work for themselves, nothing would ever get done. Products wouldn’t have designers. Books wouldn’t have covers. Websites wouldn’t have coders. Social problems wouldn’t have innovators.
So the question is not: How can you quit your job and work for yourself?
The true questions are:
- How can you find more purpose, mastery, and autonomy (see Daniel Pink’s Drive) in the relationships you have with companies/institutions?
- How can you be spending more of your time doing things you enjoy?
- How can your current job (even if you are going to quit soon) prepare you for what you want to do next?
- How can you partner with others to create a greater impact with your work?
- How can you be spending more time learning skills you want to develop and learning from mentors and masters in areas you are interested in growing in?
- How can you have more ownership over WHAT you’re working on, WHERE you work, HOW you work, WHEN you work, WHO you work with, HOW MUCH you work, and WHAT your day-to-day life looks like and feels like?
This is a subtle but crucial distinction for anyone looking for meaningful work, who actually has bills to pay. In my experience, the people who are always telling you to “quit your job and follow your bliss” are either broke, unemployed, or living off a trust fund — don’t pay attention to their glossy photos on Instagram.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky is a millennial workplace expert, keynote speaker, and author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters. He speaks to companies about how to attract, retain, and empower millennial talent, and foster inter-generational collaboration in the workplace. This piece was originally published in Medium and is re-published with permission from the author.