The First Time I Knew I Had To Quit My Job
The gig economy, this freelance world is real. There are podcasts, blogs, businesses being built daily around the notion of the gig economy and leaving your job to be able to do what you really want to do, control your time and control your money. Like we say, live life on your terms. But it’s amazing what the pole of a job and the pole of security can have on people because they’re so afraid to leave something that’s comfortable for something that’s uncomfortable. I want to tell you my story about the first time that I knew that I had to quit my job now.
I talked about it in my book about when I did quit my job and the thing that push me over the edge but there was a story before that that I never told and when I realize even though I don’t have the guts to do it yet but that’s when I realized I was not going to continue doing this. I fully understand that this often comes down to your personality and what you’re comfortable with and I know my personality and what I’m comfortable with, and often they don’t line up the same with other people. If you’ve listened to this podcast long enough, you know that I kind of have to do things my way. For good or bad but that’s freedom for me. So, depending on how your personality lines up with this, mileage may vary.
I want to tell you about the day that I knew that I had to quit and this was at the newspaper. This was when I was a newspaper photographer, a journalist and I took a lot of pride in the work I did for the paper. I was very passionate about the work and the quality that went into the photography and the stories that we told and the integrity that went into finding the stories and knowing the people that we covered. I’ll be honest, this was 2005 and we are now in 2019 and I can’t relate to the media that I see anymore. The world that you’re seeing right now in the media and all this political hype and the sensationalism and the click bait garbage that you see and they are really shallow, biased journalism, that is not what I’m talking about at all.
To give an insight peek, when we did photo story for a small-town newspaper, we usually spent a lot of time with these people. We got to know them very well. We got to know their families. We got to know the good and the bad and we reported on this. We photograph it and it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. For us at least, there was no agenda to it aside to tell a great story and open these people to open up to the community. That being said, the journalist and the photojournalist of press, we spent a lot of time brainstorming great ideas, great stories, getting to know different people and seeing who would work and who would be a great fit. If there was a great story that wasn’t good for us individually, we will pass that along to somebody else that this might be a great story for what you might be working on. It was an incredible collaborative unit. Even though we got paid incredibly poorly there was a pride that went into that work. We went far beyond the money because nobody there works there to get rich.
So, for the first couple of years that Elizabeth and I worked there, it was almost like a photojournalist’s paradise. This oasis in the world of big companies buying up newspapers and shrinking the size, shrinking the budget, we had an editor, the man that ran the newspaper who was a former National Geographic photographer’s name is Bruce Bauman and he’s the one the hired Elizabeth and I. And he was the reason why the photographers got so much respect within the newsroom. He fought for us constantly because he knew the power of the photograph. So, he would go to bat for us for more space and more budget and for a while even though we are broke, it was kind of a dream job. Eventually our photo editor retired and a new photo editor come in.
Even though their former photographer, they didn’t have the same vision and passion that we did. When I say we, I mean the six photographers on staff that constantly crushed it. We were winning every award you could possibly win. Our little newspaper in Evansville was beating the Indianapolis Star. We are winning National and International awards. We are making people in the photographic world say where the heck is Evansville, Indiana and why they’re having so many great photographers. That’s how strong it was getting and that’s how pride for the work that we did came from. But all of a sudden, not overnight but very quickly we realized, our passion and drive wasn’t being held in the same regard. I found it while I was bringing photo stories to my editor and they were being shot down. I will bring up ideas and they were being cut because of budget or they’re being replaced by society type of stories that benefit the bottom line more than they benefited the community.
I found myself getting frustrated to bring these ideas and it would now be shot down consistently. At first I was just frustrated but then I eventually started questioning what I’m doing here. That’s the problem with being an employee atleast for me was what else was I gonna do. I got this thing that used to be great but now it’s good but I’m really going now to look for another job and quit and have my wife look for another job and moved to a different place, we don’t have very much money. We were kind of stuck because I didn’t have any place to go. I didn’t have an outlet for my work and it wasn’t financially viable to make me forget it. In some ways it’s a good thing because I meet way too many people that make $120,000 a year and they don’t like what they do but they allow the money to keep them going and I think that’s worse because you waste more time that way. You make excuses for why you’re still there and you stay there longer than you really should because there’s no pressure really to leave, it’s good enough.
But for me, it wasn’t good enough that I am making $32,000 year and I have no creative input, worlds are probably gonna collide and they are gonna collide soon. And they most certainly collided for me. It happened late one afternoon when I walked into my editor’s office because a photo idea that I had, a story I want to spend some time on again was shot down and up until that moment I truly believed that my skill set and my mindset towards this was appreciated. It was the reason why they wanted me to be working there. So, you might imagine the confusion of the relatively young kid who’s wondering what his purpose is and why he’s here. When the idea was shot down again, I blurted out and I said I’m just not going to bring any more ideas to you is what I said to my editor and I really saw that as a viable threat. I saw that it’s something that he’s really going to pay attention to now. if I say that if I don’t bring my ideas to him, the newspaper might not be as good. The quality might not be as good. As one of only six people on the staff, it should hold some value. So, by saying that, I truly thought I was bringing out the wildcard of you’re gonna lose something if I don’t bring these ideas to you. And when I said to him that I wasn’t to bring more ideas to him, he sat back in his chair, he leaned back, he put his arms behind his head, he kind of smirked and he said good. I said to him “Good? You don’t want to bring more ideas?” He said that’s fine, you don’t need to bring more ideas and it was at that moment that I knew I was done. It was at that moment that I realized I cannot sacrifice my time and my energy and my passion on a person or company that didn’t appreciate it. I left there bewildered. I left there confused and I left there angry. And truth be told, I start to check out because I didn’t know what to do. So even though I didn’t say it, I knew it was over. I just didn’t know how. If you read my book, that led to the moment, couple months later, after getting my best review ever, after winning international sports photographer for the year, I still got a 3% raise and that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back that allowed me to start building a business and eventually get out a job and build this life or freedom but it always predicated on that moment before. It was set in motion from my boss telling me he didn’t want my input.
So, if you are in that moment, if you are in the job or you’re not feeling appreciated, you’re putting your heart and soul to something that doesn’t value what you do, realize there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As Dave Ramsey says it doesn’t have to be an oncoming train. If you have that type of passion, build something for yourself because if you build it for yourself, they can’t take it away from you. Only you can. But when you build it for somebody else, they own it, they control it and if they don’t care, that’s too bad. I am just glad I followed my instincts and I got out before it was too late. So hopefully it’s an inspiration to some of you that are in that spot because I know how difficult it was for me and I know how difficult it might be for you. So, it’s a story about how I first decided that I need to leave my job and I will be back with you tomorrow.