Should I quit my job to pursue my passion?

Many of us dream of quitting our jobs and chasing our dreams - but when it comes down to it, how do you make that decision? We help you take off those rose-coloured glasses and add up the true costs of your choice.

When you’re working away at a job you don’t love, watching the years go by and dreaming of the day you begin to pursue your true passion, it’s easy to think of how much better life would be if you were in a job you absolutely loved. When you look around at people living their best lives, the decision begins to eat away at you. “Why am I spending so much of my life working toward a goal that’s not mine?” or “I would be so much happier if I truly cared about what I was doing”.

In our experience, we know that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Below we share the story of Dana, the engineer who decided to reduce her hours at work to chase her dream of starting a food truck. At altruWisdom, we know that wisdom comes to us through the experience of others. In this article, we use Dana’s example to help you learn to think through all of the implications of the decision to leave your job.

Dana worked for an engineering firm and her job had her travelling to Northern Alberta every week. Dana noticed for the past year that she really didn’t feel connected to the purpose of her work and she felt stressed out from the increasing demands of her workplace. She longed for a job where she could work with people and help them directly. More importantly, she felt she was losing out on time with her children. Dana and her husband had a passion for food and had always dreamed of running a food truck. They imagined a life where they would travel around with their kids, cooking and connecting with people every day.

Step 1: What are your goals?

What is your actual reason for wanting to quit or shift careers? Are you upset that you aren’t making enough money or do you feel handcuffed to a job that pays too well? Is your current job boring or is it a truly negative work environment? Finally, is there a specific purpose that you are aiming to fulfill in the world? Or are you seeking alignment between your own values and your employer’s values?

Answering these questions will help you carve out a plan with the appropriate direction and urgency. It will also help you ease those feelings of frustration. In other words, having the right plan will stop you from impulsively quitting and forcing your hand in another direction you hadn’t thought through.

In Dana’s case, she dreamed of quitting for three primary reasons. The first was her lack of connection to the purpose behind her work. The second, was the increasing demand and stress from her specific role at the company. The third was her desire to spend more time with her family. Based on these goals, it’s clear why Dana dreamed of the food truck business. It would satisfy all of her goals and it was something she was so passionate about.

Keep in mind that Dana’s goals allowed her to have a longer term vision. She wasn’t in a truly negative position, nor did she need to take urgent steps for financial reasons. Those are two goals that would generally lead to more prompt action being required.

Step 2: What are your true costs?

Think this one through carefully. While a side hustle can be a great way to channel your energy and bring in extra cash, making the transition to a full time change of employment - specifically self-employment, can be volatile. Similarly, the change in lifestyle will result in some cost increases and decreases. If you are spending more time working, you may need additional child care, you will likely be cooking less and spending more on eating out. The business itself may also have growing costs, like rent, materials, inventory, marketing and more, depending on the scale.

It is critical in this scenario to constantly be calculating out the costs and revenues of your venture. Without access to the real data and numbers, you will not be able to make the right financial decisions.

Let’s continue with Dana’s story. Dana and her husband decided to take the leap and start the food truck. Dana’s first step was to ask her employer for an arrangement where she could take a 25% reduction in pay for a 25% reduction in hours worked, specifically travel related. Fortunately, her employer was very flexible and was able to accommodate her request. Within a month, Dana noticed her stress levels reduce and was pleased to be able to spend more time with her kids. She also began to spend more and more time starting the food truck business. Finding the right truck, creating a menu, sourcing ingredients and creating a full business and marketing plan are not easy tasks. They take a lot of time, and a lot of late nights. The work paid off. Within a few months, Dana and her husband had their opening night on the food truck.

As the months went on, the business grew and Dana couldn’t believe their success. Within the year, they were making 30% more in sales than they had expected. Everything was coming together beautifully.

By this point, Dana’s husband had quit his restaurant jobs as his evenings were spent running the food truck. While the kids were able to join occasionally on weekends, Dana and her husband found that they needed to keep them in after school care and with sitters more often than not. There was never any time to cook or prepare meals, so they were relying on buying the kids fast food and snacks between shuttling them to their after school activities. In fact, Dana realized she couldn’t even remember the last time the family of four had been able to have dinner together.

Dana began to feel guilty - her intention was to spend more time with her family, but she realized that the food truck had taken over. To compensate, she wanted to provide her kids with the best experiences. She tried to make every week special by planning exciting days filled with activities, buying great toys to keep them happy and giving into their material demands more often than usual.

After two years, Dana realized the family had fallen into a debt of over $150,000. The business was losing money despite it’s popularity. More importantly, the family was outspending the money they were bringing in. The cash flow coming in from the business was unpredictable, and they continued to put their additional family expenses on credit cards to help.

When Dana finally sat down to evaluate her financial position, she was shocked. After all of the hard work, she felt discouraged that she was in the same position as before - with no time for her family. Even worse, she now had a growing debt problem. She thought to herself: “I would have been happier taking on a job as a server - and I probably would have made more money too”. Dana realized that the joy of pursuing her passion was great, but without a solid financial plan, even a business that seems very successful can bleed a lot of money. The stress from the debt is far worse than the stress she had when working her full time engineering job.

Step 3: How is your time best spent?

Most people begin by taking a hobby or a passion and working on it as a “side hustle”. This means working on a small business in addition to your day job. Pursuing your passion also, often, takes the form of starting your own business. Society will generally praise this, viewing it as a sign of ambition. That encouragement can become false hope, as the stories we hear rarely count out the hidden costs. It is critical to identify the pockets of time you can genuinely devote to your new enterprise, and how you will compensate for that time. Are you prepared for the toll it may take on your family? What is the timeline for this period of transition? What steps are you taking to manage these additional risks?

In Dana’s case, she never realized that a more busy lifestyle would result in so much additional financial cost. Ultimately, these should have been included in the costs of starting the business.

Remember that with every big decision, it is important to cover all your bases, allowing you the greatest chance of success. The goal is not to avoid taking risks. The goal is to know which risks are worth taking.

altruWisdom encourages all of our platform members to examine their decisions through our four facets: Financial, Relationships, Emotional Wellness and Housing/Care.

To see how we can guide you to manage these risks from all angles, learn more about our member platform and how to start a free trial!