Career Suicide? More Like Career Liberation! (And Why I’ve Made the Decision to Quit … Yet Again)

Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness. – Shakti Gawain

Can I tell you something? Are you ready for it? …

I’m quitting my day job. Again.

Nearly 2 years ago in November 2008, I left my posh day job working in the Human Resources department for Walgreens corporate headquarters (the major retail pharmacy in the U.S. and Puerto Rico). I gave about 3 years of my life to Walgreens, starting off as a retail management intern while in college and then being hired right out of college into their HR department as a campus recruiter. Sweet deal! Handling the entire Western division of the United States, I traveled across the country, presented at countless colleges, universities, and career fairs, and held the power and esteem associated with working for a Fortune 50 company. Life seemed good.

Then I got promoted to a Diversity Strategy Specialist position handling companywide diversity projects for over 225,000 employees at the time. Wow. Major responsibility for a 23-year-old at the time. I had my own office (not a cube), brand new company laptop, a pseudo-secretary who’d take phone calls for me, and a huge, fat paycheck. I was living it up. One of the many bright faces of the company, literally.

So what made me quit?

I wasn’t happy. I felt empty inside. That all my hard work, life energy and intense dedication was for naught.

I didn’t know what would make me happy until I started to listen to my heart. This all happened this summer. But before I get to some great juicy stuff, some realizations to be had:

WTF?! I Just Brought In Over $1.5 Million In Sales Today And What Do I Get?

“Great job; remember, keep on pushing!”


I get paid $15.62 an hour (take home) so that I can make others rich? Toil away using my life energy so I can ensure you have plenty of money to fool around with? You have got to be kidding me.

But that’s how the way of the corporations work … most employees work to make the big bosses rich. We, the little people, furiously work at a frantic pace just to make nickels and dimes while those who have more power, leverage, and authority get away with taking home $100 per hour or more!

Before you go and say how I’m starting to be negative or focusing on all the wrong points, do understand I believe myself to be a great employee and love to be positive (there’s so much negativity in this world as is, why add to it?). I just find myself to be an even better entrepreneur and artist, hence why I am going to quit my corporate day job.

I am the only one holding myself back. No one else. And I am the only one responsible for my own life, for my own happiness.

I’m quitting very, very soon. As in, by the end of November, this year. (Ironically, exactly 2 years after I quit Walgreens.)

“Whoa there, Nina … why are you posting that up for the world to see, including your bosses and coworkers?”

I am being true to myself and want everyone to see that it can be done and my life will be the example. If, for some reason, my managers get a wind of this prior to my leaving, I will just have to be satisfied that what’s done is done and everything happens for a reason.

How I Reached This Decision To Quit My Corporate Day Job

Realization #1: School has taught us wrong.

The point of school is to not teach us to be better citizens, smarter individuals, productive and creative artists, free thinkers and ambitious go-getters. They taught us to be obedient, to memorize everything by rote, to not “color outside the lines,” to listen and then do as instructed. Basically, school has taught us to become productive zombies for the big wigs at the top.

School oftentimes has nothing to do with how well you will perform at a particular post at a company. Your education won’t determine if you have integrity, are ethical in business dealings, will follow through on project assignments, are friendly to your coworkers and managers, and basically, are competent enough to do a job-well-done. Your education will provide certain foundations but that is all. Everything else is taught outside of school. The willingness to learn, make mistakes, take risks, and to be pro-active are major indicators of whether or not you can do any job successfully.

Realization #2: If I’m not happy with what I’m currently doing, I need to take action to get to where I am happy.

No brainer, right? But you’d be surprised at how many folks look at me with a queer eye or a glazed over look when I proclaim, “I want FREEDOM!!!”

  • They think I’m some foolish kid that’s about to destroy her career.
  • They think I’m making the biggest mistake of my life … again.
  • They may think I have loyalty issues and can’t commit to one company/organization and instead, need to bounce around, like some church-hopper who attends a different sermon at a different church every week.
  • They think I have serious issues.
  • They think I’m throwing all this potential down the drain.
  • They think I’m incredibly stupid.
  • They think I am just letting the stress of the times get to me.
  • They think, they think, they think …

Well, they’re wrong. I know exactly what I am doing. Listen carefully people: I am following my heart and doing what I was made to do. I’ve tried the corporate world a few times, all with the same end result: it doesn’t make me happy, no matter what company I’m in, what position I hold. What does that say? It certainly says I wasn’t meant to be in such an environment!

Also, let me tell you something. I am certainly not hating on those who absolutely love their corporate jobs. For some, that is their dream. Awesome!! If you love what you do, by all means, keep on doing it.

But as I already have mentioned before, nearly 80% of people who have jobs dislike it or nearly hate what they do. If you fall into the vast majority, can you do anything to get out of it? Anything at all? Before you become mummified while you’re still alive?

List 5 ways you can start to take action to get out of something you hate.

I’ll give you a starting point:

1. Research some areas in which you absolutely love to do or wish you could do.

See if you can start doing that on a part-time basis, at nights or on weekends. If you’ve always wanted to host mountain climbing excursions, research the companies or tour groups that are always in need of hosts for such adventures. See if you can talk to someone there and get more information.

2. Write down where you see yourself a year from now. Now, write down where you want to be a year from now.

Hopefully, these two scenarios will be very different from one another. For instance, where you seeing yourself a year from now could be: “I got another raise and another promotion. I’m now leading a small team of 3 employees.” Versus where you want to be a year from now: “I am leading a small group of mountain climbers up the Himalayans and getting ready for the ascent!” See the difference? It can be a big one if you dream it to be.

Earlier this summer in June, I wrote down my goals. I had two concrete ones at the time:

  1. By 12/31/2010, to have self-published and sell my first ebook through Castles in the Air. (Is this foreshadowing for a new ebook to come? Yes, why yes it is!)
  2. By 06/2011, to have freed myself from the corporate chains of living death. Or, if you like a farm animals analogy better, to be free from The Trough Effect.

By admission of the power of writing things down, by holding yourself accountable to your own goals (as realistic or unrealistic as possible is left up to you), and keeping your eyes, ears, heart, mind and soul open to opportunities all around us, these two above goals will indeed get done, and with a much more advanced ship date than estimated. Not everyone who writes things down will have it come true. But I’m just letting you know that it has worked for me more times than not. It’s powerful. Quite powerful.

3. Speak with someone that has done exactly what you want to do and see what you can learn from this person.

For instance, if you really want to be a Yoga instructor teaching in the studios of China (I know someone who does exactly this – and is living her dreams!), then try and see if you can talk to someone who has done that! See what that person has done that led them up to that point. What mistakes did they make that you could possibly avoid? What tips and tools of the trade do they have that will make your process a little bit easier? Ask questions.

4. Read valuable books that will change your mindset of an employee to that of an entrepreneur (or whatever it is you want to be).

I cannot stress this enough. What you read will truly change your thought-process and way of thinking over time. It won’t be an overnight change, rather, it’ll be a gradual one. Better to start the process now.

A year ago, I was working at Starbucks part-time making minimum wage. Once I started reading more books on positivity, getting started in the direction of your dreams (but first realizing what those dreams were), true stories of people who have been exactly where I was at and who have failed time and time again in order to finally succeed, etc., my mindset started to change. I realized I could do it. In fact, I needed to do it. I had to for my own good and sanity. And once I made the decision to, I feel much more liberated knowing that I will finally be free.

5. Just up and quit.

This option is not for everyone. My friend Steven did that with his engineering job last year. He had worked at his company for 3 years, and one day he was stuck in morning rush hour and felt he needed to quit. So he walked into his manager’s office and put in his 2-weeks notice, right then and there. All his coworkers were giving him a hard time and saying, “WTF, Steven?!” but he knew he had to do it for his own good and sanity.

Now I’m not advocating foolishness and an immature approach to leaving one’s day job. So don’t say I told you to go give your boss the middle finger (unless that’s what you really, really want to do)! Or to trash your cube on your way out the door as you’re escorted out after giving your boss the middle finger. Okay? Don’t do that. It’s not very nice.

Realization #3: Life’s too short to remain miserable.

Being comfortable does not equate to being happy. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the same thing.

So often you hear people sigh and mutter, “Same old boring routine …” about their day jobs or their lives or both. Yet what are they doing about it? Grumbling, complaining, whining, and spreading negativity like a virus doesn’t help them one bit, let alone make others want to be around them.

They’re staying where they’re at because they’re comfortable. Changing one’s life involves a great deal of risk taking. Of jumping. Of doing things. Of being looked at and ridiculed for leaving the masses (because secretly, the masses are jealous and wish they could do the same thing, too).

To opt for the entrepreneurial lifestyle means you have to do a lot of things yourself. “Aw, man, so now I have to figure out how to actually make a business run? Or how to earn money doing what I love? What about health insurance (if you’re in the U.S.)? What about my 401(k)? What about my profit-sharing plan? I’m almost 100% vested! I can’t leave now! What about jean days on Fridays? Or free breakfast on Tuesdays? Those are some pretty sweet perks!”

EXCUSES, PEOPLE. Say it like it is. These are just freakin’ excuses.

I could easily say, “Oh gosh, I’m so Asian. I can’t possibly do that.”

Does that make any sense whatsoever? Didn’t think so. If it doesn’t make sense to you, think about what you’re saying to yourself. You’re just hindering your own potential for true happiness and freedom. Don’t be your own slave driver.

Whoa, cool! What Now?

So with these 3 realizations (and many others as I grow, change, and learn), I made the decision last week to not wait until next summer to quit but instead, do it soon, do it now.

I’ll be leaving for Taiwan next January 2011 for an extended period of time, with a one-way ticket in hand, the clothes on my back, a small backpack with just the essentials, and my dreams, aspirations, and lofty ambitions within. As I haven’t been back in a decade, this will be awesome to go back to my roots.

The future looks promising, bright and will be what I make of it. Thank you for joining me, watching me and supporting me as I conquer the status quo to be the Nina I was meant to be! I hope you do the same for yourself in your life. You deserve happiness and freedom. We all do.

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