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What It Takes to Walk Away from a Soul-Sucking Job

What It Takes to Walk Away from a Soul-Sucking Job

As many of you know, I used to work at Lehman Brothers. You’re also likely aware that Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, but the broker dealer operation of Lehman Brothers, which is sales and trading and investment banking, was bought out of bankruptcy by British bank Barclays.

I was offered quite a bit of money to stay at Barclays—to do the same job I was doing but get paid a lot more. I tell people how much money I walked away from, and they are just dumbfounded. They’re amazed.

I thought I would never do it. I worked my whole life to make that amount of money, and I walked away. Sometimes people get mad when I tell them that.

Why I Walked Away

So, two reasons I walked away…

First, the stress was unbearable. I could not work another day.

It’s kind of hard to describe if you don’t know what a trader does at a bank, particularly an ETF trader in the 2000s. Basically, I was getting bombs dropped on my head daily, and I had a bunch of smart and fast customers who were continually trying to pick me off.

It made me paranoid and angry. Like, there were moments in the day when I would be so furious that I would be shaking. That job took years off my life. I have a bunch of gray hair, and it’s because of that job.

Beyond the market stress of getting bombs dropped on your head daily, there’s so much regulation and compliance. You’re so paranoid that you think if you press the wrong button on your keyboard, you could go to jail. And yes, people go to jail on Wall Street for pushing the wrong button on their keyboard. I am not making this up. It happens.

The second reason I walked away was because I was starting my newsletter business at the time, and I thought that was a better opportunity. That turned out to be true.

What It Takes to Walk Away

Now, the question is: What does it take for you to walk away from your job?

I had some money saved up. It’s tough to walk away if you don’t, which is why you should have money saved up. That’s the whole purpose. They call it “F— you” money. If you have that, you can say the words and walk away. Wasn’t there a movie called Take This Job and Shove It? Wouldn’t it be nice to actually say that?

The most powerful thing in the world is liquid net worth. If you don’t have a big pile of cash, then you are not in the position to walk away from a terrible job. Cash represents options. It’s things you can do in the future. You can buy this, you can buy that, you can invest it, but you can also take a year off while you look for another job.

If you don’t have cash, you don't have that kind of flexibility.

Pursuing Your Dreams

Let’s talk about pursuing your dreams…

What do you want to do, and why are you not doing it? Is it because you don’t have the money? Well, save the money. Is it because you have kids? Well, that one’s tougher—it reduces a lot of your flexibility because now you have to provide for your family, and it’s more difficult to say “F— you” and walk away from a job. That’s not to say it’s impossible, though.

There are not too many dreams out there that are completely unrealistic. Maybe you want to be Taylor Swift; that’s unrealistic. I would like to be a professional DJ. I suppose if I had enough time and energy, I could do it, but I wouldn’t make enough money.

But yeah, if I dropped everything and pursued it, I could probably do it. I could learn how to produce tracks. I have Logic on my computer at home. I could spend hours watching YouTube videos, figuring out how to do it.

Anyway, this is the main reason you save money—so you can tell somebody to get lost and pursue your dreams. Not so you can buy a Porsche SUV… so you can do whatever the hell you want. It’s about freedom, not stuff.

Jared Dillian
Jared Dillian, MFA

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