I say this boldly now, and as I read it I believe it fully, but the journey to this decision has been long and windy. I have wanted to develop commercial web apps for the last couple of years, but something has held me back from making the jump, giving up my job and following my passions and dreams.
After returning to work from a couple of weeks of christmas holidays I started pondering my career. The new year is said to be a time when people reflect on their lives. I was definitely thinking hard about mine. Career progression advice would say I should move on and find a higher paid job. I rewrote my CV and setup notifications for companies looking for a ‘PHP developer’ or ‘Sysadmin’ on the popular job sites.
Over the following weeks, jobs started trickling into my inbox. There was a lot out there. Companies of all shapes and sizes doing a multitude of interesting and not so interesting things. I set aside time on a couple of consecutive weekends to write and send some cover letters, but I just couldn’t make myself do it. I got annoyed at my laziness. Seriously I couldn’t be bothered to write a few cover letters, a task no longer than a few hours, to further myself professionally? What was wrong with me?
After another weekend passed I came to the realization that I wasn’t being lazy, I just didn’t want to work for any of these companies. I in fact didn’t want to work for anyone anymore. A new job would take me from being a web monkey at one company to a higher paid web monkey at another!
I wanted to start something myself, scratch my own itch rather than my clients, and see something I planted grow. I envisaged a life one day where I could work and travel the world on my own terms and pursue my passion for rock climbing and mountaineering. None of these things seemed like they would ever be possible as a full time employee on 25 days annual leave per year. I realised I needed to start my own company to get what I wanted out of life.
So I pondered the numerous options for putting the wheels into motion. Maybe I should work all hours outside of work to get a web app built before quitting my day job? Maybe I should freelance first? Maybe I should live in the cheapest country with a decent internet connection to buy myself extra burn time? Maybe I should use my holiday time to work flat out on a project? On and on with options and questions. I bored my patient house-mates to tears as I used them as my sounding board.
There were also problems; mostly financial. I didn’t have any money saved. I needed to buy new kit as my only computer was owned by my current employer. I didn’t know how to do accounts. The timing was not right.
I stirred for a month. Every time I put the idea to rest it would come back. I imagined the excitement of actually running my own business, selling a useful web service to people. But I couldn’t force myself to make the jump and hand in a resignation letter.
Something was holding me back. That something was fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of not being able to pay rent.
In one of the early chapters Timothy Ferris writes about his fear of taking an extended break from his company to travel around Europe. He was able to cut through his “vague unease and ambiguous anxiety” by defining his nightmare, the worse-case scenario.
I realized that on a scale of 1-10, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4. I believe this is true of most people and most wold-be “holy sh*t, my life is over” disasters. Keep in mind that this is the one-in-a-million disaster nightmare. On the other hand, if I realized my best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario, it would easy have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect.
In other words, I was ricking an unlikely and temporary 3 or 4 for a probable and permanent 9 or 10…. This all equated to a signification realization: There was practically no risk, only huge life-changing upside potential, and I could resume my previous course without any more effort than I was already putting forth.
I applied his thinking to my own situation.
I labour for 9 months and my software doesn’t sell. Being young and free of commitments, such as a mortgage, and responsibilites, such as children, my living costs are tiny. After 9 months of frugal minimalist living I would be in debt to the tune of around £6,000, assuming I could pick up the odd bit of freelance work along the way, from a loan I would take to cover my living expenses. During this period I would of learnt a lot about business, myself and software. I would then apply for that web monkey job and fingers crossed get a pay rise over my job at my current company. I would pay back the loan from my salaried income.
Surprisingly my worse-case scenario scored a 6 perhaps even a 7 out of 10.
The best-case scenario
My business works! I develop and start selling a web app. I create a passive income which gives me freedom to live anywhere in the world, and frees up time for me to pursue my passion for rock climbing and mountaineering, and pursue interests such as learning Spanish.
My best-case scenario scored a 10 out of 10.
When I defined the situation in these terms the choice became a no brainer. My swings were a temporary low of 6 or 7 and a high of 10. The thought experiment allowed me to conquer my fear. I handed in my notice the next day.
Many thanks to Timothy Ferris for setting me off down a new life path. Watch this space to see where it takes me.