MM: Exit Strategy (How to Leave the Job You Hate to Pursue What You Love) + Exciting News!

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon Category: Minimalist

I guess this is"the end" — the final chapter (parttrois!) in my Minimalist Monday mini series. I hadn't set out to create this three-part series about career change but it happened organically and I love that. 

First I wrote:

MM: How to Get What You Want (and My Battle with Depression)

Which Led to: 

MM: How to Figure Out What You Want (+ My Big Confession. Light Does Come Out of Darkness)

After that post aired, I received a few more emails and comments asking for tips for actually making that next step. When you figure out what you want, then what? 

How to start the transition to a new career, better life, etc. 

Here's an example: 

"Your post today stuck out to me... I have been struggling with wanting to leave my career to pursue my passions (lucky for me, I know what they are). My problem is money.I'm so scared I won't make enough money to do the things we like to do: travel, eat out, etc. I make 6 figures right now and it's hard to walk away from that. 

I didn't know you were a lawyer... you must have had the same thoughts? Do you have any advice on the fear of becoming broke because of your career change? Can you share your experience? Any words of wisdom?"



I was broke after the switch.... 

....and yet so much happier. 


It was a hard lesson for me (and my husband) to realize that money really truly — doesn't buy you happiness. Toys don't either. 

I was making about $70,000 as a lawyer and then I made less than one-third the following year freelancing (>$30,000) *and* I was living in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the United States. 

Our lives completely changed. 

We moved into a small studio apartment from a huge, spacious 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with balconies.

Our new apartment easily fit into our old kitchen and dining room. 

We sold our cars and most of our belongings (we didn't have the space). We cancelled Netflix and cable TV. We even sold our flatscreen and stereo system. 

We downgraded to the lowest family cellphone plan and stopped eating out. 

Instead of going to bars or restaurants with friends, we invited them over for dinner or drinks, or they returned the favor and invited us. (Many of our friends were also trying to save money so this worked well for everyone — great food, great company, and no pricey dinner bill!)

We didn't go on vacation. We put a moratorium on gift giving to each other and gave a lot of homemade gifts to friends and family (which turns out everyone loved way more than anything we'd ever bought). 

I immediately stopped getting my weekly mani-pedi. Scott stopped drinking beer (he has a taste for pricey craft beers). 

Whenever possible, we tried to walk wherever we were going — and if we couldn't walk we took public transit instead of a cab.

We found things to do that were free. (You'd be surprised how many free events go on in a community — it's a treasure trove!) 

We didn't "go shopping" unless we really, truly needed something. 

We created and stuck to a budget. I developed and followed a meal plan so I never bought anything more than what we needed. We didn't stockpile food anymore or dare shop without a list, intention and purpose. 

I also started clipping coupons and looking for sales. I priced the three different farmers' markets near my apartment to get the best deal on produce.

We were strapped. We were broke. Our lifestyle was "meager" compared to what we'd had before. 

We were forced into "minimalism" and amazingly, it was the happiest time in our lives. 

I realized all those things before — all those fancy things — were simply "getting me through it." I didn't need them anymore. 

I didn't need the short bursts of happiness they gave me to combat the unhappiness I felt all the time. 

I was simply, always happy. Or darn close. 

Recently, a friend of mine was struggling to decide if she should take a job that paid $15,000 less (a quarter of her current salary). The new job would give her a better commute, creating more "free time," she didn't care for her current boss, and the new job was also more in tune with the kind of work she was interested in.

Yet $15,000 isn't chump change.  

Ultimately, my pal took the lesser paying job and she couldn't be happier. That $15,000 just wasn't worth her continued misery. She's learned to get buy with less. Less is more sometimes. (A recurring theme on Minimalist Monday!)

Meanwhile, a friend of Scott's was laid off last year and he's been looking for work for months. A job offer finally came his way a few weeks ago and he called us up conflicted over whether or not to take it. This surprised me... he's unemployed... he has a job offer... and it's a job he's interested in... what is there to think about?

The friend explained that he was going to have to take a substantial pay cut with this job. He was wondering if he should hold out and look a little longer for something else? Something that paid better? The job market seemed to be picking up in his city...

I pointed out that the new job, while it paid substantially less than his last job, paid a whole lot more than "unemployment" and yet he was doing alright. He was already getting by with less. 

"That's because I readjusted my lifestyle" he explained, "I learned how to work within my means. I changed my priorities when I went on unemployment." 

Exactly. That's EXACTLY it. 

If it came down to it, if your job was taken away from you tomorrow, you would find a way to make it work.

You would figure out how to cut corners. You would learn to live with less. 

If you'd have asked me two weeks before I lost my last lawyer job if I lived a "lavish lifestyle" I would have told you no. I would have told you I lived modestly and humbly, and truthfully I wasn't living large, but when I started living with less, a lot less, I looked back in awe. 

My point is, that the line between "want" and "need" and my perspective of it, totally changed with my circumstances.

Two weeks before I lost my job, I would have said that we had little, if any, unnecessary spending. That pretty much everything we had and spent money on, was something we needed. I could have even given you a long list of reasons "why," but less than a month later, I was suddenly living without my stuff and all those expenses. Clearly they weren't so "necessary" as I once thought.

(I talk a lot about this in my post MM: Stop Chasing the Promotion (More Money, More Problems)

Anyway, I've gotten a little of track now but I hope these stories and experiences help get you out from under the fear. 

I still have a lot of fear and anxiety about money. I was so broke for so long that I can get fanatical about every cent I make. I work through it now with my therapist. My "treatment" was creating a nest egg — a rainy day fund. Something that could float me a few months if I lost my job again tomorrow and Scott lost his too. Basically, I have my flotation device if 6 years ago happens all over again. It won't be as painful this time. I will have some breathing room.

**Knock on wood** 

Which brings me to theExit Strategy. 

All businesses take time to grow. Most businesses don't turn a big profit in the first year, so be prepared for that. 

If you look back over my history, here's the timeline:

I started my business part-time while being employed full-time. Eventually, after it was modestly successful and gaining footing, I worked part-time while focusing near full-time on the business. As my business continued to grow, I kept chipping away at the part-time work until eventually my business was successful enough that it was my full-time job — no part-time work necessary.

Other timelines are possible, however.A couple we know saved for years. Eventually they'd saved up enough money to live on for a year (a modest living, but enough). They both dove into their business head first and worked like mad knowing the had a year to "make it happen." It was a sink-or-swim situation. The cash would eventually run out and they'd have to go get jobs if the business didn't take off. (Thankfully, it did). 

It's different for every person and situation — one option might sound more appealing to you. I'm the kind of person who can't sit and wait. I have to get started on it immediately so "my way" made sense for me. My friends, meanwhile, are the patient type. They'd rather wait and do it right. And they did. 

Nevertheless, here are some exit strategy tipsthat are applicable to everyone.

1. Make an exit plan — mine or my friends' or something else. 

2. Start downsizing now. Cut corners. 

3. Get out of debt. Set away a nest egg if you can. 

4. Figure out how much you really need to get buy each month — just the essentials! Rent/mortgage, gas, car insurance, debt, utilities, food, tiny bit for spending. Then take $100 off that. At least! That's how much you need each month to pursue your dreams. Keep this figure in your head at all times.

5. Figure out how much you need to sell to make that figure. If you need $2500/month to get by and you want to sell pies, how many pies will you need to sell? If you want to teach yoga, how many classes will you need to teach?

6. Think of alternative ways to make money doing what you love. 

For example, if you love baking pies, but selling them at the Sunday Farmer's Market isn't cutting it, see if you can get some restaurants to buy your pies and sell them to their customers as part of their dessert menu. Get your goodies into the local health stores and/or cafes. If the pies will ship, look into mail-order online. Offer pie classes and workshops. Offer special orders and custom orders. Offer special deals for offices so they have a birthday pie for their workers instead of a birthday cake. Pies for Secretary Appreciation Day. Sell your pie fillings as artisan jams... these are just ideas popping into my head on the fly... 

For the yoga example, if teaching 50 classes a week is too crazy, start offering private lessons and private classes. Students could pay a premium to have you come do yoga with them at their home or office in a smaller group (girls' yoga party sounds awesome!) or one-on-one intensive to work on form, meditation, etc. Giving free classes in the park to generate leads. Work out referral systems with other professionals like personal trainers and massage therapists. Sell packages with them. Look into Groupon. 

Another example: If you love knitting but can't move merch fast enough on Etsy, start selling tutorials and patterns. Create an eBook on how to shop for yarn. Sell videos and workshops online. Give private lessons in person or over Skype. Brainstorm!

...which brings me to:


Helping people get healthy and eat better has always been the fire in my heart, though I'm now realizing it's part of my overall passion for helping people live better.

I want others to find the same happiness and success that I have. 

I want to help others seize their passions and chase their dreams. I want the pie baker to be a pie baker, not an insurance adjuster who bakes pies on the weekend.

I want the yoga instructor to be a full-time yogi, not an administrative assistant who teaches yoga twice a week. 

And so on. 

I want you to be who you were born to be. 

I want you to be happy. I want you to be fulfilled. I want you to be successful. I want you to have the life you deserve!



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