A little over a year ago, I left the nine-to-five world. I was over it… the pointless meetings, living for the weekends, and spending 40 hours of my week unfulfilled.
I knew there had to be more out there instead of just watching life go by year after year.
While I was making money at a cool, young, tech company I was absolutely miserable and unfulfilled. This post isn’t a bash of the corporate world, it’s the story of me not wanting to end up with regrets later in life.
It’s been the craziest, most eventful, exciting, and terrifying year ever. I’ve experienced more personal growth and development in the past 12 months than the past 29 years combined.
Here are the 12 lessons I learned:
1. Success is NEVER overnight
As Mark Cuban said, “It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. You only have to be right one time and then people can call you an overnight success.”
I used to think entrepreneurship was like every Instagram ad I saw on my feed— laptop, beach, a briefcase of money, and a lavish life.
Sure, all that is possible, but it’s far from happening overnight.
Making money from nothing is 100 times more difficult than a nine-to-five job. But, it’s also 100 times more rewarding than working on someone else’s dreams.
2. Freedom is better than money
I used to base my success on my annual income. Now, I base my success on my freedom, daily happiness, and how much I’m learning on a regular basis.
The short-term money sacrifice is WELL worth the freedom of being able to do whatever, whenever, with whoever I choose. I never want to go back to cubicles, meetings, and a repetitive daily schedule.
When I was in the nine-to-five, I had great money habits and started my entrepreneurial journey as a financial blogger. I practiced what I preached, saving 15-20%, investing, buying a home, being debt-free, etc.
But anytime I had money left over I spent it on Amazon, going out, and other pointless things to fill the void in my life that my job brought.
When I went from making $8–10K per month to making $0 I quickly realized I was wasting money. Even though I am made less money in the last year, I am so much happier.
It’s true, money doesn’t equal happiness.
4. People probably won’t get your choices
When I left my job, friends and family just didn’t understand why I was taking such a risk. They didn’t understand how I would actually make money online.
Even if they do understand, they always say, “That seems like a lot of work.” I shake my head, laugh, and reply with “It’s no harder than sitting at a job I hated.”
Not everyone will get understand my choices and that’s okay as long as I’m living a life true to myself.
5. Busy doesn’t equal work
Busy used to be my barometer for success and this turned out to be a huge hurdle to overcome. As Socrates said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
I used to base morning success by clearing my inbox by 9 A.M. Now, I don’t even look at my inbox until after 2 P.M, maybe once or twice per week.
The problem is that I went from employee to entrepreneur overnight. But the mindset shift took months to understand I shouldn’t focus on being busy but instead focus on being productive and efficient with my time.
Switching from employee to owner made me realize that doing two to three important tasks is way better than 15 meaningless tasks. Here is a lesson from entrepreneur Tim Ferris: “Focus on being productive instead of busy.”
6. The dots won’t always connect
Steve Jobs said in his epic Stanford commencement speech, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, only looking backward.”
And he was right.
I took a leap of faith by betting on myself. I saved money, studied how to make money online, and quit having zero money coming in.
While I tried to connect the dots in the future before I quit, nothing is perfect. No plan works 100 percent perfectly when you start an entrepreneurial journey. But, that’s part of the fun.
I realized sometimes you have to take the first step, like quitting my job, to understand there are endless opportunities outside a traditional path.
7. Social media is a drug
I used to waste SO much time on social media while sitting at my desk. Now, I can barely get myself to log on for my business accounts. I began to understand that social media is dangerously addictive.
Most millennials anxiously check their phones 150 times per day! It’s the modern-day version of what smoking was to our parent’s generations. But social media also robs humans of personal interactions.
Finally, I understand that social media is a colossal waste of time. I now limit myself to 10 minutes a day max. As cliche as it is, the less I use social media, the happier I am.
8. Happiness is a choice
As I mentioned, my success and happiness used to be tied to my income. Each year was considered a success if I made more money, even if I hated my job.
After six months of only making a few thousand dollars (or less) each month, I was bummed.
I felt stuck. I had no idea what I was doing. I was working harder than ever and making less than ever.
Then I listened to a podcast from Quest co-founder Tom Bilyeu about how each person should define happiness. This idea clicked.
Instantly, I started choosing to be happy because I associated learning with happiness, not income.
Unsurprisingly, I’m learning and earning more than ever.
The corporate life crushed my health.
My posture became hunched, I ate all the carb-loaded, free food in the kitchen, and blamed work for my lack of exercise. Since leaving, I’ve made health a top priority.
After studying the habits of successful people religiously, I figured there is no point working to make tons of money only to feel terrible all the time.
Health truly is wealth.
10. Investing in yourself is still the best investment
As Warren Buffett said, “The greatest investment you can make is an investment in yourself.” Well, I’ve found out that the 88-year-old billionaire isn’t wrong.
Prior to leaving the nine-to-five life, I had only invested in myself once for a one-day seminar that included the top motivational speaker and coach, Tony Robbins. Since then I’ve poured money into myself. Seminars, masterminds, online courses, and coaching has proven to be invaluable in my growth and development.
If I could go back, I would have saved less money and used it to invest in myself. Because the more I learn, the more I earn and the more it compounds over time.
In the corporate world, I was constantly stressed. I would overreact to client emails, curse at people on the road, and get flustered over nothing.
On my one-year journey of entrepreneurship and personal development, I started practicing meditation. The effects have been profound. Less stress, anxiety, worry, and being more present are just a few of the benefits I’ve experienced.
I think every person can benefit from a daily mindfulness or meditation practice to calm themselves and stay focused in the frantic world of emails, calls, social, and texts.
12. Discipline equals freedom
While I’ve always been disciplined, I’ve never been this dedicated to daily planning. Before I go to bed each night, I map out the next day minute by minute. From what time I’m waking up, how long my workouts will take, and how long each task will take for work.
While it sounds too structured for many, this discipline creates the freedom in my life. This freedom could mean taking off on a Wednesday to play in a golf tournament or hang out with family when they are in town.
I’ve found the more disciplined I become, the more goals I reach and the more productive I am. Remember, as Larry Winget said, “No one ever made a plan to be lazy, fat or stupid. That’s what happens when you don’t have a plan.”
This post isn’t meant to tell you to quit your job. It’s meant to help you become aware of the choices you make in life.
Don’t be afraid of being different than your friends and co-workers. Get off social media, invest in yourself, your health, and stay patient in the process of your own success.
Remember, success isn’t about achieving results but who you can become in the process of pursuing your goals.