Successful Quitting: Brigette Bardot and I

 

By Barry Maher

I’ve seen a lot of people reach their 40s or 50s, look back at their life to that point, look ahead at that same life stretching on until the end, or at least until retirement, and suddenly decide to make a radical change.

Often the problem is the “suddenly.”  I call it the Gauguin syndrome, after the painter who quit his job, abandoned his family and moved off to the South Seas to paint. It might have worked for Gauguin but for a lot of us it’s probably not going to work. It certainly didn’t work for Mrs. Gauguin and the kids.

Obviously, the lure of the road-not-taken can become stronger as the years go on. And we’ve all been told we need to “follow our bliss.” And while we may not be exactly sure where that bliss lies, it seems quite apparent that it doesn’t lie in whatever it is that’s been dragging us out of bed and monopolizing the better part of our lives for the last twenty years.

The problem with following your bliss is that your particular bliss may not earn you much of a living. It certainly won’t if you don’t approach it with a carefully thought out plan.

Who doesn’t occasionally want to tell the boss to “take this job and shove it,” ideally as immediately and dramatically as possible? With piercing criticism, scathing expletives and slamming doors, But you’re far more likely to succeed on your new path if you’ve thoroughly researched it, looked at the upside and the downside, figured out how long it might take you to become successful at it and how you’re going to meet your financial obligations in the meantime.

A certain amount of fear is healthy. It inspires caution and helps keep your planning realistic. You want your dream to come true? Then examine it with your eyes wide open in the cold light of morning.

Even if it’s just finding a more appealing job, you’re far more hirable while you’re somebody else’s employee. You’re also much more likely to be able to negotiate a better deal.

I’m not saying it’s fair, but nobody wants someone nobody wants, whether in love or employment. Nobody wants somebody else’s discards either. Which also means that no matter how satisfying it might be to tell one or more of “these hypocritical morons” off, you may someday want a reference from those very morons—in the hope that they’ll be hypocritical enough to make it a good one.

If desire was all it took to become successful, when I was twelve I would have been dating Brigette Bardot. No one on this planet has ever wanted anything more.

Surprisingly enough, it never worked out between Brigette and me. A better plan probably wouldn’t have helped. But hopefully your dream is a tad more realistic.

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