One year ago I was stuck in a job that I hated.


The money wasn’t enough to support even the modest lifestyle I was living. The commute was an hour of rush-hour traffic each way. The work bored me. The office politics that I couldn’t care less about were enthusiastically practiced on a grand scale. And one of the four managers I reported to was an old hag who made my life miserable.


Eventually I realized that any way I looked at it, the whole situation just didn’t pass a simple cost-benefit analysis. It wasn’t sustainable even from a financial perspective. Rather than work hard at my job, my efforts were better spent working hard to look for a better job.


But I didn’t want to just quit and have my salary go to zero. The meager pay was better than no pay at all. So I was stuck until I could find something better.


My motivation to thrive was dead


And people at work noticed.


I was put on a “30-day performance improvement plan”. It was presented to me as an opportunity to “turn it around”. I was to have discussions with the managers I worked under about where I could improve, and then give my best effort to get my job performance back up to par.


But I knew better. The decision to fire me had already been made. This was just a ruse that companies put together so they’ll have documentation and proof that their firings are performance-based and therefore not at risk for any kind of lawsuit.


I made marginal improvements to my performance over the month and was praised by 3 out of the 4 managers I worked under who liked me. But 1 out of the 4 (the old hag) despised me and was doing everything she could to get me the axe. And she was going to succeed.


The 30 days were up and was time for my review


I was to meet with one of my managers that morning to go over my 30 day performance plan. I sat down in his office and before he started speaking, I gave him my two weeks notice. I’ll never know if he was planning on firing me right there in the meeting or not. But if he was, I guess I got myself two more weeks of pay by beating him to the punch.


I didn’t have another job lined up and I didn’t really know what I was going to do. But I didn’t want to go through the humiliation of being fired and escorted out of the office like some kind of criminal. I’d already seen plenty of my peers in that company get the axe so I knew the process.


They send out a mass email to the hundred or so people in the office. Everyone gossips. And by the time the weekend arrives you’re completely forgotten, soon to be replaced by a new warm body holding its $30,000 piece of paper.


At least I was able to defy the hag


She wanted so badly to see me go through the firing process. But I took a leap into the unknown and quit on my own terms. Sort of.


The writing was on the wall. Like a relationship gone to hell, I had dumped them just before they had a chance to dump me.


My regret is that I did not leave sooner. I should have worked harder to get out of there and find something better before my motivation spiraled downward.


But I had a little money saved up. And all the time in the world. A couple months later I found a better job, with better people, that paid me $20,000 more than what I was making at the last place. I just had to be a Machiavellian to land it. 


The lesson I learned was all too clear


Do not rely on an employer as your main source of income.



Don’t rely on them even if you’re okay with only 10 days of PTO that prevents you from seeing the world. Don’t rely on them even if you’ve got a great career path ahead of you to grow into. Don’t rely on them even if you love everything about the job.


Because all it takes is one new person hired above you to make your life miserable. All it takes is one round of layoffs orchestrated by some middle-manager in HR who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know your family, doesn’t know the hardship a layoff will bring because they only see you as a number in a spreadsheet. All it takes is one bad joke or inappropriate comment to end a career that lasted decades.


Even if you somehow manage to “love your job” like so many people have tricked themselves into believing (because life is nicer when you believe lies), it still isn’t safe to keep it as your only source of income.


Do not rely on an employer as your main source of income.


The 21st century has brought it’s share of positives and negatives into the world. Earning a living online is one of the biggest breakthroughs in human history. It’s time we all start taking advantage of that.



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