How To Find What Makes You Happy And My Reflections On Life After Quitting My Job

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It’s been a solid 4 months since I resigned from my day job so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my experiences with unemployment.

Here’s the thing.

Most people have this rosy vision of quitting their job and being their own boss but personally, my transition has not been entirely smooth.

How To Figure Out What Makes You Happy And My Reflections On Life After Quitting My Job

And for those of you who think financial freedom is the answer to all of your problems, you may want to think again:) In fact, at one point I considered taking on another day job at a startup because I felt a void in my life.

Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, here’s the reason why I finally quit my job after working happily at the same company for 17 years.

But one major positive about quitting is that it has had a profound effect on my business success. Because I have a lot more time to work, I’ve been able to make numerous improvements to my ecommerce store.

For example in the last 4 months

For my blog I’ve been putting out longer, more comprehensive posts which have done exceptionally well. Here are a few examples.

Even though I’ve been cranking on the business front, I’ve also been struggling with a few things that I’ll talk about below.

Happiness, Success And Stress

wreckingball

Recently, I spoke at 2 back to back conferences and a lot of people were amazed at how lean I run my businesses. I don’t have a staff nor do I have any desire to build a large team.

For my blog, I basically have one assistant who helps me edit podcasts but that’s pretty much it. I handle my online store course all by myself. I answer my own emails.

I write all of my own posts for my blog and I produce all of the content for my podcasts.

In fact after my Fincon speech on how to make 60K in 90 minutes with an online webinar, my buddy Noah Kagan asked me,

“Steve, why don’t you up your game?”.

“Why aren’t you scaling your businesses to maximize profit?”

“Why don’t you hire more people to handle all of your stuff?”

My simple answer? I don’t want the added stress.

This year, both of my businesses should each exceed 7 figures. If you look at my lifestyle, I barely spend any money at all and I have tons of free time.

Outside of the kids, I have very few expenses. In short, my businesses generate way more money than I need to live.

So would scaling my businesses generate me more money? Hell yeah.

But would it make me any happier? I’m not so sure.

Great Success Comes At A Sacrifice

decision

Ever since I started my podcast, I’ve met and hung out with many successful entrepreneurs and I consistently get this feeling that the more successful you are, the lonelier and unhappier you get.

In fact, most of my uber successful friends have been forced to sacrifice their social and family lives to grow their businesses.

Believe me, I’ve thought about pressing down hard on the gas pedal in the past.

As an undergrad at Stanford, I was a member of a special group called the Mayfield Fellows.

Only 12 students are selected per year and you are provided with special resources and access to venture capitalist mentors to start your own company.

Over the years, many of my Mayfield Fellows have had 8, 9 and 10 figure exits. Kevin Systrom of Instagram is perhaps the most successful Mayfield alumni.

And another Mayfield Fellow friend of mine Steph Hannon is now the CTO for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

When you put a bunch of driven people together, the pressure to succeed is intense!

Anyway whenever we have our annual retreats, I often feel inferior because while I’m out there selling hankies and digital courses, everyone else is creating life and world changing companies:)

I know it’s probably not the right way to think about it, but my ego wants to start and scale to a much larger company. And I often have to remind myself of the costs.

Is the prestige worth it? Are the sacrifices justified? Will creating a large company make me happy?

Achieving Balance

balance

For me, I know that there are 4 aspects of my life that I must maintain in order to feel fulfilled.

  • My basic needs must be met – Can I afford to buy whatever I need to buy and can I support my family? Do I have enough money to kick back and do what I want?
  • My mind needs to be stimulated – Do I find what I’m working on interesting and fulfilling? Am I using my brain to its full capacity and potential?
  • I must feel close to my family – Am I spending enough time with my wife and kids? Am I involved enough to be an integral part of their lives?
  • I require social stimulation – Am I interacting with interesting people who share my goals and ideals? Do I have peers that are constantly challenging me to do better?

Over the years, I’ve discovered that once a minimum threshold has been met for a given category, further gains have diminishing returns.

For example if I go out with my friends 2 or 3 times a week, that’s generally good enough to satisfy my social needs.

Going out any more often than that isn’t going to improve my social satisfaction and the same goes for the other categories mentioned above.

The secret to happiness lies in achieving the appropriate balance that matches your personality.

But how do you figure out your need thresholds for each category? Here’s what my current situation looks like.

Note: My life is not entirely balanced yet, but I’m working on it.

Aspect #1: Wealth (4.5 out of 5)

nba finals

First off, I don’t consider myself rich but I have more than enough money to do whatever I want.

If I feel like going out to eat at a nice restaurant, I don’t blink an eye.

If I want to take an extended vacation on a cruise ship in a two story suite? No problem.

If I want to attend a few NBA finals games, no sweat.

As long as I don’t do anything stupid or spend my money recklessly, I can easily generate enough income to cover my basic expenses and anything that I want to do.

When Noah asked me why I haven’t tried to blow up my businesses, two immediate thoughts popped into my head.

One, scaling any business requires hiring a team. And managing team members always makes things more complicated

At Bumblebee Linens, we currently have 4 employees. And while they have generally been great, dealing with different personalities and keeping everyone motivated has caused a good amount of stress.

Two, life is much simpler when your business is small. Right now, I can take care of almost everything by myself.

In the worst case, I could keep everything running on my own and not have to worry about juggling a bunch of moving parts.

And finally, there are diminishing returns in the money department.

Would I welcome more money in my life? Of course.

Would more money make me happier? Probably not.

Would starting a large company stroke my ego? Absolutely.

Is boosting my ego worth the sacrifice? Probably not.

Right now, I think I’m good in the wealth department and I will continue to grow my businesses at a steady pace.

Aspect #2: Mental Stimulation (4 out of 5)

brain

I’ve mentioned this many times in the past, but my mind requires constant stimulation.

One of the main reasons that I worked as a hardware engineering director for so long is because designing microprocessors requires a decent amount of brain power.

And at my day job, I had the pleasure of working with brilliant people from MIT, Stanford and Cal (Ok…maybe not Cal).

In fact, there was one point early on in the company where 80% of the employees had advanced degrees from the top 5 colleges in the nation and it made me appreciate working with people much smarter than myself.

Unfortunately for me, selling hankies, blogging, podcasting and teaching my class isn’t enough to satisfy my intellectual needs.

And now that I’ve quit my job, I’m hoping to fill the void with a few software projects that I’m silently working on in the background.

But in the meantime, I’m adequately covered in this department.

Aspect #3: Family (5 out of 5)

family

Family is the main reason why I decided to quit my job. My kids are at an age right now where they totally adore me and actually want to hang out.

So instead of sitting behind a computer in an office all day working for the man, I made the decision to sacrifice a little mental stimulation for an active role in their lives.

Here’s the thing about my kids. While I love them to death, I’m not the type of Dad that can spend every minute with them because they would drive me crazy:)

So instead, my goal has been to simply be present.

For example…

I make sure I’m around to help them with their homework.

I make sure I’m around to play with them if they want to play.

I make sure I’m around to attend their soccer and basketball games.

I might not be hanging out with them every single minute of the day but I’m there if they need me.

Aspect #4: Social Stimulation (3.5 out of 5)

speakers

The one aspect of my life that I’m currently struggling with is the lack of social stimulation. When I was working at my day job, I was in constant contact with brilliant people every single day.

And these people would challenge me to do better because I knew that they were smarter than me.

But once I quit, the interaction abruptly stopped. After quitting my job, I found myself sitting in front of my computer alone.

In fact, the lack of interaction with smart and driven people is one of the main reasons why I considered joining another startup company shortly after quitting:)

But deep down, I knew that going back to work wasn’t the right choice.

And going forward, I may try to rent a co-working space or make an active effort to meet up with other like minded entrepreneurs in my area. But as of right now, this aspect of my life needs the most work.

Overall

owlturd

Overall, I think that I’m in a pretty good place. And meeting 3 out of 4 of my happiness attributes isn’t bad:)

Currently, my biggest struggle is keeping my ego in check. I know that I could achieve much greater things in life and business if I were to go nuts.

And part of me wants to be wildly successful and to be known for accomplishing amazing and impactful things.

But at this point, I have a decent handle on what makes me happy and it’s a matter of executing on that plan.

What are your minimum requirements for happiness? I would love to hear your thoughts.

photo credit: Rhys A. Philadelphia Spectrum demolition: Glass House new decisions The Fishermen of Inle Lake Clever Cogs!

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42 thoughts on “How To Find What Makes You Happy And My Reflections On Life After Quitting My Job”

  1. Sidney says:

    It looks like you have a good handle on your priorities. It is definitely an adjustment to go from an environment where you are surrounded by brilliant people tossing ideas around to finding yourself in company with yourself (I was doing a PhD in Biology at an international institute in Germany) One way I have filled the void over the years is taking classes at a local college or studio. It doesn’t need to be geared towards a degree, but it might be. You are surrounded by others who are knowledgeable or curious. You learn something new that doesn’t need to take up all your time unless you want it to. I ended up with an architecture degree, found I have a talent for ceramics, and am currently contemplating getting a sailing certification for a mad plan to sail around the world. Why not? Your life is your adventure to share with friends and family however you see fit.

    1. Thanks for sharing Sidney. I have a few things up my sleeve:)

  2. Jake Cain says:

    Hey Steve,

    It was great meeting you at Content & Commerce a few weeks ago! I really enjoyed the read here and totally agree with you on finding the right balance as far as scaling your business but still maintaining the stress level, family time, etc. that you’re comfortable with.

    I’m in the same boat as far as my kids go – I always remind myself that they won’t be this age forever. So if I kill myself now trying to make more and more, by the time I get there they’ll probably be teenagers who won’t want to be seen with me in public. So I try to remind myself when I feel like “hustling” in the evening that my family isn’t an opportunity cost, it’s the priority – so I have to be more thoughtful about when I take the time to work on side projects.

    Happy to see you’re doing well.

    1. Hey Jake! Yeah, it was great to meet up. Spence tells me that you’re cranking!

  3. Earl says:

    Wow, love the honestly and insight Steve. Respect.

  4. Sve says:

    Steve, great post! More success, fame and money doesn’t equate to more happiness. Time is the most valuable commodity, and it sounds like your spending it right. You’ve achieved the dream of financial freedom which most of us strive for everyday. Now you can focus on your highest hierarchy of need: self-actualization and self- transcendence… and that’s a life-long journey :)

    All the best,

    Sve

  5. Johnny says:

    Steve… This post has been an eye opener for me. me. It made me stop and think what priorities are mandated in each other’s lifes. Like minds think alike and my ultimate goal once I get my store running is to balance my life in a way that brings happiness not only by making tons of money but to be happy with yourself. My dream has always been to have the freedom to do the same things you mentioned in this post. Thank you very much for this posting.

    1. What’s funny is that I just read Ryan Holiday’s latest book “Ego is the Enemy” and it really made me think:)

  6. Sky says:

    Super relevant to my life atm. Thank you for opening up your life to us during your huge transition. Somewhat similarly, my wife and I moved from Los Angeles to New Jersey for multiple reasons and now my social life is completely destroyed and it’s really taking a toll, however seeing our baby boy (#1 reason to move) with his grandparents and being in the supportive community that we are… well the balance isn’t quite there yet but potentially it will be soon, I, er well, we hope!

    1. Wait! You moved to NJ? Isn’t your entire industry in LA?

  7. Swetha says:

    Lovely post Steve. I agree with your observations. While it is easy to get influenced by observing peers, it is harder to step back and evaluate life as a whole. Kudos on your zen like thinking and wishing you more happiness in the future.

  8. Kim says:

    With being self employed can I ask how do you afford benefits for yourself and your family. Someone gets sick and you’re paying big out of pocket? That’s the one thing I would have a difficult time handling is covering the benefits when you work for a large corporation who offers those benefits at a good price. It seems or would seem difficult to afford such a thing being self employed?

    1. Sam says:

      I. too, am curious – Steve, how much are you throwing down to cover a family of four?

    2. Hey Kim. Right now I’m on Cobra which is costing me roughly 2K per month.

      1. Kim says:

        Ouch, 24,000 on health insurance a year! That digs into your bottom line big time! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Kyle says:

    Great post Steve as always. Just wanted to throw my two cents in and say that maybe you should think about signing for martial arts classes like Muay Thai, BJJ, MMA, Krav Maga, etc… to help out with your social aspect. If you choose the right gym everybody encourages each other to do better. And what do you got to lose you work out for an hour and get in shape surrounded by people who want to learn a martial art. You will be surprised at how many people from different backgrounds you get from driven and motivated people trying to establish themselves to people already established. Plus it will also help out reducing stress.

    1. Hey Kyle, I have indeed thought about BJJ just for self defense reasons. But I’m not 100% positive that my aging body can handle it:)

  10. Troy Corp says:

    Steve,

    Thanks for simply putting your genuine self out there and sharing. It’s an obvious contributor to your success. Congrats on joining your wife and family :-)
    Here’s the story to illustrate why you’re exactly in tune with what is natural destiny…

    Here is the parable:

    An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

    The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

    The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

    The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

    The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, señor.”

    The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

    Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

    The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”

    To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

    “But what then?” asked the Mexican.

    The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

    “Millions, señor? Then what?”

    To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

    1. Love this analogy Troy! See you office hours:)

  11. Great Post Steve!

    I too am quitting my 23yr old job, now that I have a decent business setup on the side running a 10000sft lifestyle store, and a full time 10m Air gun Shooting Academy. While the opportunities are there to expand further and achieve greater riches, I and my wife have taken the conscious decision to hold on for a couple of years at least till our son moves to college. This time will never return!

    As for the money, it’s where you decide to draw the line. Earning enough to satisfy your basic needs and then some, and thereafter you need to sit back and take it easy! There’s just no end chasing the green bucks!

    1. I’m glad that there are others out there making similar decisions. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Great post, Steve, and I agree with you. The kids really need your time when they are younger, and it’s wonderful you have the flexibility in your job to be able to give that to them. And well done on figuring out your priorities and the secret of your happiness at such a young age. It seems to me a lot of folks don’t figure it out until they’re in their 60s and have a fair bit of regret. Enjoy, and good luck with further honing your balance.

    1. Yes, I’m hoping to take advantage of this time. I understand that I have roughly 4 years left of childhood bliss:)

  13. Hey Steve, great article and insights to what makes you happy and what could potentially just become added stress.

    I am curious, now that you no longer have a day job, how do you plan your day? I struggle with a decent business-building schedule and it is the oddest thing because I am very disciplined when it comes to working for others but not for me. (I am working from home already!)

    You seem like a very practical yet productive fellow so I am interested in how you plan your day and see if I can steal some tricks!

    Cheers,
    Sue

    1. Hey Sue,

      Right now, I’m working in the mornings up until lunch, eating with my wife and then working out in the afternoons. I generally try to accomplish at most 1 or 2 things per day. That’s it.

      1. Fantastic, sounds simple and obviously effective. Thanks Steve!

  14. Judy says:

    Hey Steve, great article! I think success is when you realize what makes you happy and what doesn’t; what you’re willing to sacrifice and not sacrifice. And anyone making family their priority is big in my book. You totally got this down!

  15. Steve,

    I am so grateful that you shared your experience and thoughts on happiness and success. I’ve written a lot about this and our tendency to misunderstand our worthiness/value (It’s a big part of my email challenge & ecourse.). I think there are so many people who believe they have more value if they expand their businesses to a certain point and that life is inherently better when they are more financially successful. However, the thoughtful person understands life is more than money and success is more nuanced than finances. Life is so much better when our needs are met and we make choices that honor who we are.

    So thank you again for sharing this on your blog!

  16. Amy says:

    Steve,

    This is a great post. I have thought of each of these points many times, especially as an Army wife. I appreciate your perspective and your willingness to share so much of yourself and your life with your readers.

    Amy

  17. Hey Steve, I’ve been following you since I heard you on Pat Flynn’s podcast some time back and this post is pure gold.

    I am a “side hustler” mainly because I live in San Diego where everything is quite pricey and I would not be able to afford my monthly expenses if I did not have a side hustle of some kind.

    I am sad to say I have missed a few moments with my son because I was busy at my computer at night after my full-time job as a biomed researcher. I cannot get that time back. So what am I going to do ? Well, recently I have decided to slow down on the side hustling a bit and shift things toward a more passive income model – courses, affiliates, ads – so I can be truly present even if it means there are certain things we can’t afford right now.

    Your cartoon about Type A and Type B people says it all ! Thanks for the post !

  18. Irina says:

    Reading this post I feel so connected to you, I don’t do 9-5 job also and tho having all this free time on my hands and being able to pay my bills I also feel bored and socially not stimulated. Only recently I met a driven and inspiring group that offered me mentorship and amazing opportunity to make $ on my own schedule( all that for free), way better option that a job. It offers a lot of face to face interruction with people, connecting with driven ones and changing people’s lifes. By what I read here you might be a great fit if you are looking for fulfillment and expanding your group of associate s:) let me know if you d like to learn about opportunity. P.S. I luv what you do, and totally getting the membership soon. Had a failure of online store in the past so need to get aducated before putting up a new one. Looking forward to be guided by you!xoxo

  19. Bridget says:

    Hi Steve,
    What a great post !
    thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and perspective on work, family and life in general.
    I signed up for your online course because I thought you were uber smart, clearly successful and that you cared about your students.
    I should have also realized you were a really good all around guy.
    This post really spoke to me and inspired me.
    Thanks again!
    Bridget

  20. Ally says:

    This is a wonderful post Steve! As another SF/Bay Area resident I’m constantly surrounded by friends who are entrepreneurs or wanting to do the ‘next big thing’ and this post confirmed my own priorities that what I want is balance, freedom, and time to pursue my own interests. I really resonate with your entire journey and look forward to reading about this new chapter in your life. I would love to meet you in person one day as well if you have the time!

  21. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job of finding balance. Especially with being out of work for six months. It sounds like you are still feeling your way through everything but with the goals that you have set I’m sure you’ll hit your groove in no time at all. I look forward to following your financial journey as you continue to progress!!!

  22. I quit my job last month though its very rewarding to be a stay at home mom of 2 beautiful children I still feel empty during moments when my babies are asleep or in school. Having worked for almost 8 years this is the first time I stayed at home just babysitting. I won’t deny that I missed the financial liberty of having my own income but as the days passed I begun to accept things and live normally without regrets. Now I am looking into more things about financial investments that I can manage while I stay at home with my kids. I bear this in mind, something that was said by Rick Kimball, Don’t let the momentum of a certain situation carry you into a bad decision. Be prepared to make midcourse corrections even if that is disruptive and unpopular.”

  23. Hey Steve,

    I liked how you did a breakdown of the things that matter to you the most.
    I applaud you for being a devoted family man and ranking that as your top priority.

    I read an amazing book called “How To Get Rich” By Felix Denis and it’s one of my personal favorites. The biggest takeaway from the book that I received from it was, making more money will not make you any happier.

    He also talks about the loneliness of being super successful but having no social life or people he can trust. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend you check it out. Amazing book!

    With the extra time, you could always watch more Warrrior’s games lol. I hate to say this, but Lebron is hungry and might come back for the back to back. Thoughts?

  24. A recurring theme I see again and again on finance blogs is the idea that money can’t solve personal problems and can’t unlock happiness. Money is just a tool that gives you freedom to find those things in life that matter. I think it is also important to remember that while high concept, world changing ideas are flying around with big money sums and high performance players, it is the people who do the dry cleaning that ultimately end up ahead.

  25. Linda White says:

    I have been reading a few of your posts for the last couple hours. This one probably hit home most for me. I have been trying and yearning to work from home for more years than I can count now. I have lost more years than that “working for the man”. I also invested money in an online business, but I have come to believe that was most likely an unwise decision. (A sort of pyramid schemes of sorts.) However, all is not lost as I can at least apply things I learned investing in the affiliate portion of it. My boyfriend and I have been talking a lot lately on taking the leap and working for ourselves. Thanks for the post and for others posts as well. It has given me renewed hope and motivation!

  26. Shelly says:

    Love this post. This is exactly what I try to tell my workaholic friends. Spend more time with family and money is not everything. I found the detachment with money five years ago after working three jobs even though my one job provided me plenty to spend. I had a daughter and wanted to spend more time with her. People thought I was odd to work part time hours and leave early on time and a half days. I was happier than ever not making more and spending time with family. I needed to be mentally stimulated too and my day job was just getting repetitive and so starting an online business and taking up photography filled the void. I love ecommerce and just love the endless amount of skills I’m learning. With my enthusiasm with business, my coworkers are seeing how I’m not just relying on my day job for income and more are expressing an interest in side income like me. So some wonder if money is not as important, why am I working so hard on my online business? I find the amount of money I can generate online is like a challenge, more like a measure/grade of my success in mastering ecommerce. It’s like learning a new skill and applying it. The income generated gives me an idea how well I’m applying it. Will I be quitting my day job one day? Not likely. I’m in the medical field and it’s still challenging mentally which I still love. Thanks for this post.

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