Entrepreneur Journey

Most people I know think I am retiring; however, I think of myself as becoming an entrepreneur starting phase 3 of my life. An unlikely thing for an engineer who has long worked for corporations.

June a year ago, I had an idea. Actually, I was praying at the time, something like this, \” God, what do you want me to do with this? What was it for?\” The \”this\” of the prayer was the 4 years spent in a monastery, and the more than 30 years spent in daily study of the great books by philosophers and theologians. Suddenly… Eff! …. That\’s what I could do!

It was an idea for an app, but it was also a way to put in writing the thousands of facets of my relationship with my soul. And this writing project was something I wanted to do above all else.

The idea for an app, and maybe related opportunities, expressed the dream of my life. It was a viable idea because I knew that I could do everything necessary to bring it to life. And what ever I didn\’t know, I could easily find out in order to bring the idea to fruition. I immediately started to work on it and I\’ve done that everyday for a year and a couple of months. The app needed content and I have been writing the content.

After I got that idea, I knew it was just a matter of time before I quit my day job to work full time on my idea. In February of this year, I realized that I had the funding to live simply until I was 65, not even touching my retirement nest egg. After that realization, I began to get up in the morning and the first thought through my head was, \”When am I going to quit?\” Every Morning I was getting up and working for 40 minutes on my writing project. And then my momentum would have to be slammed into a wall as I had to go to work.

So I realized that I needed to pick a date. I couldn\’t go on indefinitely wanting to quit. I picked a date. Now I realized that when I walked out of my company, I would be taking the expertise with me as I was the one in the work group that knew how to do everything (my boss didn\’t). So to be fair, I gave several months notice. March of this year, I submitted my resignation.

Now, I\’ve lived with that decision for several months. I only have 4 more working days until \”retirement.\” I\’ve never thought that my decision was wrong; but there have been many moments of self query. My gut feeling was always in favor of ditching the day job. I created this path; and starting to walk down it, I see it is a pretty easy path and it is filled with miracles (God doing for me what I can\’t do for myself). The ease and good feelings about the initial steps let me know I have chosen the correct spiritual path, the path of my heart\’s desire. It is like paddling down stream.

I am a kick ass engineer and I know for certain that I can produce a kick ass product out of words; and sell it.

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The Importance of Self Importance

Somewhere along the line, I became an expert at what I do. Then I noticed than while what I do is important to the company, it is very boring for me to do. The more expert I became, the more boring and administrative my job became. I began to sit in meetings and listen to people talk about how important and serious and difficult the job was, knowing all along it was stupid and easy. This so called important job was merely checking a box for the company.

My non-expert colleagues continued to need me to answer silly simple questions, write down how to do everything and check their work. And they became annoyed when I explained that this job was basically just filling out an extremely long form and there was really no special concern involved. Just learn the rules and follow them blindly. You\’ll be fine. Unfortunately most people can\’t learn the rules or don\’t understand what they mean.

Upon losing my sense of importance, I also lost my mojo. Then I noticed that there is no reward for expertise in our company. The experts are pigeon holed, and promotions and pay raises end. Time after time I was pushed back into my box.

I began to look at my bank account and ask myself how much money I really needed to live out the rest of my life. I looked seriously at OBama Care to find out how a precious subsidy could be obtained.

I meditated and listened to my inner self, hoping for the answer to my question of what I should do. One day, during my spiritual study session, the answer / idea came: THIS is what I want to do with my life. I immediately began to work on that idea for a little while every day. Nine months later, my bank account somehow tripped across the line. I saw that funding was available to down size my living space and go to work full time on my ideas.

If I was still gaining ego pleasure for my status as expert, and still felt important in my work, I\’d never leave here. My ego would continue to thrive on self importance. But that didn\’t happen. I just can\’t keep up the show. I need to go do something that matters to me which is not just ego dressing. Even if it means spending my savings instead of adding to my savings.

Some people are like that you know. They want to do more with their lives than collect money while bored. We are just too smart for the world.

Life in the Grip of God

I am nearing the end of my career. Just a few more days and I will quit my job, take my savings and fund a life of spirituality and service. The compensation won\’t be monetary, at least at first. The people I work with have not understood why this is happening at all. Why would anyone quit a six figure job at such an early age? Dreams are hard to carry out, why give up the surety of a salary and company health insurance?

I haven\’t been able to explain because my spiritual reality does not really overlap with the corporate reality of which these people are a part.

This is not the first time in my life when I pursued a spiritual life as my only work. At the age of 40, I also quit my job, gave away everything, and went off to live in a monastery.

Walt Whitman does an admirable job of explaining why I do this:

\”Well, every man has a religion; has something in heaven or earth which he will give up everything else for — something which absorbs him — which may be regarded by others as being useless — yet it is his dream, it is his lodestar, it is his master. That, whatever it is, seized upon me, made me its servant, slave — induced me to set aside the other ambitions — a trail of glory in the heavens, which I followed, followed with a full heart….When once I was convinced, I never let go….  \”

How to Retire Early

Retiring early is a journey not an event. There are complicated material, psychological and spiritual aspects. There is a \”going to\” and a \”going away from.\” To successfully retire early, you must address all aspects, not just the money. Money is actually the easiest part.

I have been exploring various aspects of: I have a mission I want to accomplish which I need to quit my day job to get the time. I have enough money to support myself at a middle class level for life. I am quitting a very secure six figure engineering job where I am skilled and respected.

I have for my entire career thought that I would quit as soon as I got the money. Now, at the age of 59, I have the money. But I am the child of a man who never quit. He had a heart attack at the age of 76, was alive in the hospital calling clients and working, and then coded out while in the hospital. I am the child of a mother who retired at 55 and enjoyed the life provided by her husband. That is a conflict between 2 very different personalities. I am struggling on the inside with my early cultural editing.

I work with people who have mostly worked for the same company for their careers. My boss has been there 42 years! I am a person who has been laid off several times; and I even took a 4 year leave from my career to live in a monastery. Upon leaving the monastery, I had to work at 3 small jobs for a year before I got a job back in engineering. My view of my life is that it can be re-started after a discontinuity. Quitting my job now and thinking I can have a successful phase 3 of my life is thinking beyond that of the people around me. The people around me don\’t understand. They logically think that nothing could be better than slouching around the company collecting the huge salary. Taking it easy is their choice; not daring to try something completely new.

Once I took my dog out of the race at work, and became extremely good at what I do, I also became extremely bored as well as realizing how largely useless and administrative my job is. Actually personal growth is important enough to me that I\’m willing to quit a lucrative salary in order to find something new.

And yes, there are personnel issues at work which I don\’t like dealing with.

I am going to something. I have for 33 years been doing daily spiritual studies. I have a collection of books written by wise people. Last June, nearly a year ago, I had an ah-ha moment. I realized what I could do with my 4 years in a contemplative monastery plus all these years of spiritual studies. I immediately started working on it and have continued daily to work on it. I also know that I live in the internet age. No one can stop me from creating a web page, an app and publishing a book. Many other people have been successful at those tasks. I can learn how and have fun learning.

For now, my quit date is not until September. So I struggle at work with less and less interest in the pettiness.

More on this journey as I go along.

Resignation Stories

I am planning on resigning my job in September and moving on to phase 3 of my life. But quitting a good corporate job, even if you have the money, is a surprising challenge. That is giving up a secure salary in favor of spending your savings and doing something different defies belief systems and causes angst.

This angst has to be worked through in order to be happy. So my resignation is an emotional process. I have to face all my conditioning and resentments in order to obtain a free and happy soul.

So, 3 stories have become important ways of framing what I am going through.

First was Plato\’s Cave. It is a story about people sitting in chairs in a cave. They are facing the rock wall and watching shadows on the wall. Watching these shadows is their reality. Then one day, one of them stands ups and look around and sees the sun shining through the mouth of the cave. There are other people walking past the cave and these other form the shadows on the wall of the cave which are watched by the people in the chairs. My take on this: I have stood up and seen the sun, but still too afraid to walk out of the cave. The cave is the only reality I have known. Can I make it if I leave the cave?

Second is about training flies. If you put some flies in a jar  with a top, and then some time later remove the top, the flies will not leave the jar. They just won\’t. My take on this: As a corporate employee, I have a hard time leaving my corporate jar. The way to freedom is there for me, but I still just look at it.

Third is about catching monkeys. It is said that the way to catch a monkey is to get a large jar with a mouth just large enough for the monkey\’s hand. Put rocks in the jar to make it heavy. Scatter treats around and in the jar. The monkey will come for the treats and eventually reach into the jar to get those treats. But the monkey can\’t get its hand out of the jar with the treats balled up in it. So you have caught the monkey. My take on this: The treats are the corporate safety and salary. My hand has long been in the jar. To get out of the jar, I have to open my hand, let go of the corporate salary. There are other sources of treats but first, I have to let go.

So these stories illustrate and help me understand the angst I experience in my transition from corporate slave to free creative entrepreneur. I don\’t even need to make money as entrepreneur, just go be one, leaving aside the corporation. The white middle class cultural template of \”go to college and get a good corporate job and eventually retire\” is the conditioning I have been living. But now, I want to be free. I think I can be \”more\” by being free.

Understand this is an emotional journey not a logical one. Logically, I am fine. Emotionally, I am breaking my conditioning and parts of my brain don\’t agree. The tension is the emotion. Most of us don\’t like being emotional. But what is human life without emotion? Beliefs about emotion itself are a form of conditioning.

The emotional journey will continue.

Pain

I know I am human today because I felt a common pain. The thing hadn\’t happened to me but I understood how it felt.

There is a thing happening to many people in our corporation. We are the competent experts who keep the company running; but not given promotional opportunity since clearly our careers are ending. It is like a death to realize you are at the end. Your career has stopped. This is pain.

I talked today to a colleague who just now experienced this problem. I also talked to her about what I am doing in my life. I realized that I am happiest when I discuss having a phase 3 of my life and a new career.