Be Deliberate About How You Pressure Test Yourself

I was at work the other day mulling over titles and content for a blog. We all have unique experiences and perspective in our lives that can inspire piles of books, an endless stream of blog content, and hours of coffee shop conversation. But what could I write about regularly that would inspire readers to think about their lives differently? To escape from a job they hate? To pursue a passion they’ve thought about for years but feared the uncertainty and risk? I’m not a motivational speaker. I’m not a personal finance pundit. I’m probably a lot more like you. See if any of this sounds familiar…

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I wake up in the morning everyday around 6, and juggle parenting duties with my wife while we both get ready for work at our “glorious” tech jobs with free food, foosball, Xbox, wet bars, and [insert more window dressing here]. I hop on my overly crowded commute in a transportation system built decades before and embarrassingly unprepared for the influx of bodies trying to snag a piece of the digital revolution, or the second San Francisco gold rush, or whatever the hell this is. I attend meetings, some of them marginally valuable, most of them a political chess match. Then I take the same commute home, get about an hour with my toddler before her bed time, and my wife and I both (almost habitually) prop our laptops back open and crank on more work until we go to bed, simply because if we don’t we’ll feel a crippling lack of control over our work and our lives. Is this normal? I consider myself and my wife both to be hardworking successful people, but this can’t possibly be what success looks like, can it? Sadly, if you live in a high priced area like San Francisco or New York, unless you’ve cashed out from a startup or were formerly an investment banker working 90 hours a week, this is about the best lifestyle you can hope for unless you make a seismic change to SOMETHING.

“A man running with a briefcase at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport” by Andy Beales on Unsplash

If that’s my typical day, I’d be pretty hypocritical to preach anything without pushing for a change myself. So I want to share my plan, and update any readers with progress along the way to make it real. To share my successes and to share my failures. Way, way, way too often I see bloggers talking about their transition to a more independent lifestyle AFTER the fact. AFTER all the heavy lifting was done and they’ve more than replaced the income of their day jobs via entrepreneurship, selling you on how you can do the same. Then we’re left trying to mentally reverse engineer the steps they’ve taken to try and replicate the outcomes ourselves (or just daydream about replicating it ourselves during some weekly status meeting). The obvious flaw with this is that we are reverse engineering a solution that likely has thousands of examples of failure for every example of success — we just never hear of them. I’m still in my day job at 50–70 hours a week and I want to share my journey as it occurs. This will include the moments of inspiration, the moments of doubt, and hopefully the milestones that inch me closer and closer to where I want to be.

As a typical tech worker of just over a decade, I make a good salary and have accumulated some healthy savings. We live in a condo in Oakland, which we bought 4 years ago, but are looking to move somewhere a bit more suburban to support a couple of kids. So here’s the plan. In the next 5 years, we plan to leave the Bay Area and move to the Sacramento suburbs, fully sustaining our living expenses with income outside of a corporate salary. We have a close community of friends there already, all with kids, and love the idea of spending more of our time connecting with them. It’s substantially cheaper out there, to the point where the proceeds of our Oakland condo could nearly cover the cost of buying a 4 bedroom house in a Sacramento suburb with all cash. At that point, my wife may take some time off (or freelance, or whatever she wants to do) and I would look to devote my full-time work to continued content creation on various writing outlets, supplemented by independent consulting work given my decade of digital marketing experience. Maybe it will work out, or maybe the plan will change. It’s a big risk to give up a corporate job and that brings about its own brand of chaos, but I’ll be completely transparent in my path and any course corrections or strategy shifts that happen along the way.

This brings me back to where I started. What can I write about that both relates to you and helps you move toward something better than your “now”, whatever your “now” may be? As I get my blog up and running I almost called it “ditchthevalley.com”, as somewhat of a manifesto for leaving the tech industry (or wall street, or anything else that can drive folks to perpetual burnout) for greater ownership of your time. But I realized that simply escaping stress isn’t a solution because stress in and of itself is not bad (more on that in a later post I’m sure). If you want to escape your “now”, what’s your “next”? As important as it may feel to escape from something that doesn’t make you happy, it’s more important to have something to escape TO. Whatever my blog title ends up being, that’s the concept I want it to embrace.

Sitting on the beach with drink in hand is a beautiful fantasy, and it would be great for a few days, or a week, or a month, maybe even a year…but not for the rest of your life. Something else has to keep you going, making you sharp, making you care, making you engaged, and giving you a sense of purpose and flow. If that includes prolonged periods of sitting on the porch with a couple of beers, fine, we’re not all hyperactive workaholics going to the gym at 4 in the morning. That said, find something that challenges you to the point where the associated stress energizes you instead of causing you to question why you do it in the first place. Strain drives us. It helps us grow and gives us something positive to anticipate. There is, however, a BIG difference between getting stressed because you hate doing something and being stressed because you want something. The former is what you get from living your entire life according to other people’s agendas. The latter is when you live with purpose and intention. Be intentional with how you spend your time and how you pressure test your limits. Choose your chaos. I’m choosing mine, and want to thank you for letting me share it with you.

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