You make the big bucks working a corporate 9-5 job at a Fortune 500 company. You have a beautiful house in the suburb with a shiny blue beamer in the driveway. You post pics of your BMW on social media to signal your overseas cousins that you have made it in life. The job benefits are great but you have to work a lot on the weekends.
Just like a laborer, you clock in at 9 am and clock out at 6 pm. You realize a month into your job that the "unlimited PTO days" which the recruiter sold you on is subject to your manager's approval. Sadly, your manager doesn't like you taking any time off. Frustrated, you try leaving the office early at 4 pm only to get a text from your manager questioning your motivation levels.
You don't own the IP for the design you created but will have to settle for a 'good job' email from management. So while you toil away on the air-conditioned floors, the company shareholders are enjoying a family trip to Disney World. The truth is that you are replaceable. You are just a glorified laborer in this giant corporate wheel. But you still tolerate it cause you need the job to support your fancy lifestyle. You are addicted to the corporate cocaine called monthly salary!
Quitting a 6 Figure Corporate Job
I grew up in Gujarat, India. A state where working for yourself runs deep in the soil. When I was a kid, a wealthy Gujarati businessman told me, "શેઠિયા બનજો મજુર નહી". I have since inscribed that advice in my mind:
Be an Owner, not a Laborer
So on June 20, 2020, I quit my 6 figure corporate job as a senior product designer. Coworkers were scrambling to hang on to their jobs amidst COVID while I was signing termination paperwork. I remember walking out of the FedEx store with a smile after returning my work laptop and badge. Friends, family, and haters thought I had gone mad. Why quit a stable 6 figure design job to pursue a side hustle of podcasting? What if the side hustle doesn't work out? Dad reminded me that I still had mortgage payments to make. Mom reminded me that working at a Fortune 500 company was the only way to get a good girl in an arranged marriage.
I quit the 6 figure job to escape the monthly salary addiction. An addiction I had been suffering since working in corporate America for the past eight years.
Addiction to Six Figure UX Designer Salary
I started making YouTube videos on open source software (mostly Linux) in 2012. I continued doing it until 2013 and then stopped because I got a job. I could have been a YouTube star if I hadn't gotten addicted to the monthly paycheck–maybe not but I'll never find out for sure. The orgasmic feeling you get when you unlock your phone and see the salary deposit notification from your bank app. I would go to work on Monday and think about the next billion-dollar idea during lunch break. By Thursday, I had a business plan ready. Come Saturday, I would be chilling and watching Netflix. Occasionally bragging to myself that I was making 6 figures. (What is this obsession with 6 figures? Why not just reveal the actual number?) There was never fire under my ass to really go and pursue any ideas because I would get my next paycheck high pretty soon.
Even if I wanted to pursue an idea, how could I? By the time I got back from work at 7 pm, I was mentally exhausted. Waking up at 4 am sounds good only in a Gary Vee hustle porn video. Weekends were spent unplugging from work. But what about the downtime in a corporate job at a Fortune 500 company when there is no work?
Ineffective Meetings in Corporate America
When you work at a Fortune 500 company, your calendar is like an Airbnb owned and operated by the company. Most of your time will be spent accepting calendar invites for bullshit meetings to talk about bullshit stuff. You can't say no, so you go. There goes that one hour you had decided to spend working on your idea.
Do you want to meet a genius startup founder or investor to talk about your idea? Well, you have to check your corporate calendar first. 2-5 pm looks pretty open. So you excitedly schedule a meeting for 4 pm to be safe. As you are about to head out, the Vice President at the company calls you to jump on an urgent meeting. (Everything is urgent at a Fortune 500 company except hiring, promotion and progress.) Dejected, you cancel the meet with the genius startup founder and ask to reschedule. But deep down, you know this shit will happen again. If only you could make something small and have it generate passive income to leave this corporate 9-5 hell.
It's 2 pm on a Friday as I write this essay from a cafe. No fucking meetings to worry about. No annoying email check-ins from a boss asking, What is the status update on the project or Are the wireframes ready–I fucking own my calendar! I decide when, where and what I want to work on.
The Power of Focus
It's been 6 months since I quit my 9-5 corporate job. Within that time, I have accomplished a lot:
- Conducted 45 interviews for Design MBA podcast.
- Launched this blog and wrote 10 essays (to be released soon)
- Launched my YouTube channel
It's not common for a podcaster to have a year's worth of content backlog. Because I own my calendar, I can schedule 3 interviews a week. I can think uninterrupted for hours on end on podcasting. During our interview, Craig Mod revealed that he was able to angel invest in Figma because of the cultural presence he had built via his blog. That was the inspiration for me to start this blog. Perhaps I get to angel invest in design startups someday.
Execute ruthlessly on your idea everyday. Your progress compounds up over time. Until one day, you realize you have enough podcast content to last all of 2021 and beyond. This is the true power of focus!
Escaping the 9 to 5
Podcasting is what helped me escape the 9 to 5 job. It's not making any money right now. I don't care because I hustle for access. I'm building a personal brand independent of employers. As a designer, I feel it's important to have a side project or side hustle to separate your personal identity from your work identity. When the work becomes less exciting, your side hustle will give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
My 9-5 exit strategy
I permitted myself to focus solely on my side hustle of podcasting for a year. Worst case, if things don't work out, I'll go back to a corporate job but continue the side hustle. This was my simple 9-5 exit strategy plan.
Advice from three hustler friends that helped me take the leap of faith and follow through on my 9-5 exist strategy:
"You can always get a corporate job again dude. Hell I'll hook you up!" - Brian Sullivan
"Dude it only gets harder to pursue your side hustle once you have a wife and kids. Right now you don't have to worry about any of that. Go fucking all in on your side hustle!" - Tony Daussat
There is nothing wrong with being a glorified laborer if that's what you want out of life.
But if you desire to own your time and live your dreams, you must set aside time to explore side hustles.
What is your 9-5 exist strategy? Email me and tell me. I read every email :)