Note – this article comes from a place of privilege and may not sit well with those with scarce resources and opportunities. I fully understand not everyone can choose to leave their jobs to “experiment” with life.
On April 7, I officially quit my job as a software developer with no other jobs lined up and no intentions of ever returning to a software developer job ever again. It was something I’d always planned to do for a number of reasons:
Stepping off the default path
The default path, coined by Paul Millerd in his book The Pathless Path, is a series of decisions and accomplishments needed to be seen as a successful adult. For most, this means getting good grades in school followed by a job at a reputable company then buying your own house and having a family.
It’s a script. And not one that made me happy. Frankly, I saw people further up the path than me and didn’t want that for myself. I saw “bald, fat men in red BMWs“; far too comfortable and docile. And if you’re on the wrong train, every stop is the wrong stop.
In the same (aptly named) book, Paul advocates for the pathless path instead; experimenting to find how you truly want to live/work and choosing excitement over trying to check a bunch of boxes on a script.
Quitting my job allows me to start experimenting and choose my own life.
Designing life around liking work
I don’t want to stop working; I want to enjoy it. Work is powerful; it can give you purpose, growth and adventure or it can make you nihilistic, miserable and lifeless. While most of us can’t stop working entirely, we’re likely able to experiment and choose what work we do. And by doing so, we can design a life around liking work rather than tolerating it.
That’s where I found myself at my job; tolerating work as a means to pay the bills. But the most expensive way to make money is to work at a job you hate. You pay a misery tax; you become materialistic, vain and envious and chase external validation like money, fame, respect. Not unlike a sports car driving only between petrol stations instead of where it actually wants to go.
Finding work that’s compatible with your innate personality, skills and preferences eliminates this tax and gives you emotional rewards (fulfillment, growth, purpose). I want that and just enough money to live my defined dreams (not work for work’s sake).
Time, energy and autonomy to pursue my goals
In my first pathless experiment after quitting my job, I’m choosing to build 12 side projects in 12 months this year.
In an ideal world, I’d take the barbell approach; work a low-stress job to pay the bills that allows you to work on your projects with the ample free time and energy you have left. But a high-stress job takes up too much of your energy and waking hours. Eventually, you have to choose between your job and your projects (with few exceptions).
This experiment is my first unhindered attempt at aligning my actions with my true goals and finding my infinite game. That’s important enough for me to quit my job and risk not being able to pay the bills.
In a way, my software development career can be seen as the first life experiment I’ve done. Unfortunately, the experiment took too long (6 years of university and 2 years of working) for me to see that it wasn’t the right fit for me. On to the next one.