Season 1 Episode 4
Benjamin Franklin once said: An investment in learning pays the best interest.
He was a smart guy, so I’ll take his word for it on this one
And to be honest. If I’m not learning new things, facing new challenges and picking up new skills – I can get pretty bored.
One of the main reasons I left my job was because I wanted to get back to a place in life where I was constantly gaining new skills and knowledge. During the first 6 months of my job, I was thrown in at the deep end of the charity sector and learned a great deal, but after that initial crazy period I began to feel like I had plateaued, and got frustrated with the lack of new things I was picking up in my role. Looking ahead, I saw that this wasn’t going to change for the foreseeable future. If I had stayed for an extra year, I would have probably only learned a fraction more compared to what I had gained so far. I wasn’t in it for the money, and it was a job for a charity so let’s face it, there wasn’t much – I was in it for the experiences, the knowledge and the challenge. When that declined, I saw what I needed to do and left because I had to keep learning and growing. I’m not the kind of guy who judges himself on the quantity of the years I spend doing stuff, but by the quality. I’m not going to stay somewhere just so that my CV says that I ‘stuck it out for a few years so therefore I’m a reliable employee’. I’ll ignore the advice of career professionals on that one and say that if I’m not really learning and being challenged – I’m not really living. And you’ll have to pay me a lot of money if you want me to stop living for 37 hours a week…
I thought that making my side projects my full-time occupation would only teach me new things in the areas and fields I chose to enter. And whilst I have developed new skills and gained a lot of knowledge in these areas, I’ve been surprised at how much this whole experience is making me learn about other areas of life: About success, failure and hardship. About Myself. About Life. I’m not quite sure why this is the case, but I think it’s because everything is a bit more extreme and unstable. A bit more high risk, high reward. I suppose it’s a more daring lifestyle, and one that makes you feel more alive. Every bump is a bit rougher, every slope and every hill a bit steeper. The losses are harder to take, and the wins bring more joy. In this more extreme environment, the lessons you learn from your defeats and victories are more pronounced, more lucid and more memorable.
In this bizarre lifestyle that I seem to have stumbled into, hidden behind every failure and every success seems to be some kind of strange life lesson, just waiting to be uncovered. When I was pondering what to talk about this week, thinking about the highs and lows of my experiences over the last 6 months, and to be honest the last 24 years, I came across two constantly occurring themes that have been ever-present throughout my story so far – and I’m sure they play a part in yours too.
Dishonesty, and jealousy.
This is episode 4 of Tim Quit His Job. The show that follows me on my adventures into the wilderness as I quit my job, start a business and try and make it on my own. It’s a show for people who like to do things differently. For people who believe there is more to life than the 9-5. I’m not a guru, not an expert, not a preacher – and I don’t try to be. I’m Just a regular guy with a microphone trying to document my journey, share what I’m learning and be honest about my experiences. The podcast is produced, edited and instrumentalised by the prestigious Henri Victorious. That’s Henry, but the H is silent – a bit Like Django – and there’s an I instead of a Y. Check him out on Spotify. And For extra content and transcripts of these episodes, head over to timquithisjob.com – it’s a work in progress. ******I’d like to thank everyone who has listened so far, you are the front runners, the early adopters, the trail blazers! I really appreciate you giving this show a chance. And for everyone who has reached out to give me feedback, both positive and constructive. I hear you, and we’re trying to improve, bit by bit as we go. I think you can leave comments on the website now, but if you want to drop me some feedback to stroke our egos, you can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d love to hear some thoughts from you guys about what you want me to talk about or address on future episodes. Also, if there’s anyone you think would make a good guest on the show, let me know. I’d like to talk to people who are navigating their early years in the world of work in different and interesting ways – hopefully their stories can be motivating and inspiring, and teach me a thing or two. Enjoy the episode.
Like everyone, to some extent, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with the truth. It can be nasty at times, unrelenting and brutal. In my case, my problem has never been so much with lying to other people, but with lying to myself. This problem started and reached its peak as I went into my late teens, from about 16 onwards. I slipped further and further into illusions about myself, about who I was, what I was capable of, and how much effort I applied to things. I could find a way to talk myself out of doing anything, convincing and tricking myself into believing I had done enough – that I had finished the house chores my Mum had asked me to do, that I had put in enough revision for my exams, that I was too ‘tired’ to go to college. All these lies I told myself took their toll. I didn’t realise it, but every lie I told myself compiled to have a massive impact on the way I dealt with the world. Whereas I saw nothing wrong, as the lies I had told myself were so convincing, the rest of the word saw a teenager who used to have so much potential, slipping at school, growing bitter, becoming reclusive and developing a tendency to be nasty towards close family members – particularly my Mum. In those years I certainly gave her a really hard time.
The worst thing was that I wasn’t even aware of the extent of my own BS. And to this day, I still get sudden and painful flashbacks of my life, and of my thinking, that were built on delusion and dishonesty. One such example of this, that I first realised at some point last year, shows exactly what I’m talking about.
I scraped through A level maths by the skin of my teeth. It was brutal, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. I did really well at GCSE, managing to get an A*, but in my last couple of exams during that period, the cracks had started to show, and during A level, these cracks became deep, impassable chasms. You’ll probably remember from maths gcse, and A level if you took that too, that the teacher used to give you past papers to help you prepare for upcoming exams. These past papers were copies of exam for the same modules, but from previous years. They were a pretty good indication of what was going to come up in the exam, and hence they were a great way of doing revision. You could attempt a past paper, find out what you needed to work on, then use examples of ‘perfect answers’ and revision time to get better at those particular types of questions.
I used to do them relentlessly and religiously, they were pretty much the only form of revision I did through the end of my GCSEs and all of my A levels. However, I did really badly at all my maths exams during that period. During my A levels, we took lots of small exams every term, rather than one big exam at the end of the year, and we were allowed to retake exams if we didn’t do too well. The rules on this have now changed, for a number of reasons, but ive been told that across the board, the results for exams that have been retaken are not generally higher than the original test – this was certainly true in my case. I retook every single maths exam I could during my A levels, every single bloody one of them. Some I retook twice, I think I took a couple of exams three times. It meant that during every exam period, I was taking a ridiculous amount of exams from a dizzying array of modules from previous semesters, combined with the exams from my current semester. It was a mess, impossible to keep track of, completely overwhelming. What a mistake.
There are many reasons I did so badly at maths during these years, but the main reasons is because of my approach to revising, combined with the lies I told myself. I used to go through the past papers, promising myself that I wouldn’t look at the answers or a textbook until I had finished, to get a good gauge of what I sucked at and needed help with. I’d sit down, set the timer, and do the past paper. However, looking back, there was not a single time when I didn’t somehow trick myself into looking at the answers for a certain question or take a quick look at a textbook to remind me of the correct formulas. When I sneaked a look at the answers I would go ‘ahhh, yes, I actually knew how to do that! Great! Don’t need to study that!’. I would use all manner of internal justification to convince myself that I was still completing the paper correctly, not cheating the process or myself. Sometimes, when I wouldn’t cheat so much, I just wouldn’t count up my marks on the past paper, to avoid coming face to face with reality, and my upcoming doom in the real exam. I was living in a world of delusion, convinced that I knew how to answer all the questions and that I was getting high marks on these mock papers.
It was a recipe for disaster.
When I would go sit the real exams, sure enough, the questions would come up and I would almost instinctively turn to the back of the paper, looking for the answers that were there when I had been doing the practice papers during revision. The answers were of course not there, I had nothing to fall back on, no lie to tell to get me out of the hole I had dug myself. I’d skip the question and leave the paper half finished. Then I would get my results, and tell myself the lie that I would do better next time, on a resit. I’d be smarter by then, better at maths, having moved on to harder modules and automatically becoming better at the previous ones. It was a lie I told myself right up until the resit, when I would sit back down in the exam, open the paper, and fail in all the same ways again. It was a process I completed right the way through both years. My solution to the problem? Beg my Mum to to let me retake a year of A levels, promising that this time would be different. My solution to failing my resits, and the resits of my resits, was to try and resit an entire year! A whole year of my life, as my friends moved on, I’d still be there, failing the same exams I had failed numerous times over the past two years. But no matter how much I begged, pleaded and argued, my mum refused to let me retake that year. She knew I was going to keep making the same mistakes and telling myself the same old lies. She knew that sometimes you’ve just gotta take the defeat and move on, that sometimes the defeat is what you need in order to internalise some of lessons you’re overlooking. That sometimes you’ve just got to move on, so that you’re able look back in hindsight. She didn’t let me spend an extra year at college, and instead I spent that year bartending up and down the East Coast of Australia, having the time of my life and finally getting out of my late adolescent slump.
Not letting me resit that year of college remains, from my memory, the single best ‘intervention’, the single best isolated piece of parenting, that my mum ever did carried out. I dread to think how bad things would have gotten for me If I had continued down that rabbit hole…
You’re probably wondering why I’m telling this convoluted story about a niche aspect of my educational history – at this point, so am I to be honest. But what Im trying to highlight is the ways in which we can lie to ourselves so effectively, for such a long period of time, and to such a large detriment to ourselves and those around us. We are social animals that rely on stories and narratives to makes sense of the world, and as useful as that can be, it can be very, very easy to slip into a dangerous cycle of telling ourselves stories about the world that aren’t true. And when we internalise stories about ourselves that aren’t true – or are just straight-up lies we tell ourselves to make things easier in the shorterm – we really suffer in the long term.
Thankfully, my days of dishonesty were long behind me before I became self-employed. Well, at least it certainly wasn’t as bad as it used to be. But what I’ve realised, or perhaps, what has become even more clear, is just how much we rely on subtle lies or mistruths to avoid having to face the cold hard realities of our lives. In my case, this was done primarily through having a stable job. I felt like I was starting to slip into the realms of dishonesty about myself once again. Although I was held accountable for my work, the reality is that no matter what I did, so long as I wasn’t fired, I was still able to collect a paycheck at the end of the month. On my most productive day and on my least productive day, the organisation kept on ticking and the wheels kept turning. I was able to get away with telling myself lies about how much effort I was putting in, how much I was doing, and how well I was doing it. I feel like, naturally, and im a relatively motivated person, this becomes a dangerous recipe for inaction and malaise, as you start to slide down a slippery slope towards complacency, until you’re doing just enough to satisfy your addiction. Your addiction to the monthly salary.
Now that I’m out here on my own, standing on my own two feet. I can’t afford complacency. Can’t afford inaction and malaise. Can’t afford to tell myself lies, as each one is brutally subject to the realities of my work and my business. If I tell myself that I’ve put enough work in on an application for a client, when I clearly haven’t, then the application will get rejected, and I’ll make absolutely no money. If I don’t put in everything I’ve got to write a great report, then the client will go somewhere else. If I give bad advice, that isn’t based on my true perception of things, then it will negatively affect the start-ups I work with and they’ll eventually go somewhere else. Out here, there is nowhere to hide.
Your lies cost you, your mistruths hurts you, and complete honesty is your only route to success. If I’m not honest, with myself or with the world, then I make no money this month – and rent and bills become a daunting prospect.
I’m worried that this segment sounded a bit preachy, it’s not supposed to be, it’s just my own thoughts on my own experiences. But I think that we all, deep down, know that we have a system of internal lies and mistruths we tell ourselves on a regular basis. Our own maths past papers. Too often, these lies are what keep us stuck in life, stop us from moving forward, taking risks, chasing dreams and pursuing opportunity. Thankfully, because I have a tendency towards internal dishonesty, I’m now in a position where my BS gets called out relentlessly, and often painfully, by the real world – but are you? Are you still able to get away with telling yourself lies? And what are these lies costing you in the long run?
The second vice that I have long been afflicted by is jealousy. I wasn’t born a green-eyed monster. In fact, from memory, I can’t really remember jealousy being a part of my life in any meaningful sense until my mid-to-late teens. Perhaps I’m looking at the years before that through rose-tinted spectacles, but I feel like it’s something that creeped up on me over the years, like a weed I didn’t pull out early enough. Instead letting it overgrow and suffocate the flowers that bloomed nearby. Since then, it’s become a prominent theme running in and out of my life, and there are a few things I’ve noticed about it so far:
Jealousy doesn’t appear to be a zero-sum game. Meaning that when one person has it, another doesn’t it – it’s not like pass the parcel. There’s no finite amount of envy in the world. Any two people can both be jealous of each other. For the same things and for completely different reasons. Out of these two hypothetical people, it’s not like it is clear who should be jealous of who, and yet both are jealous of each other. And so whilst I’m sure that some philosophers and anthropologists have deciphered the enigma of jealousy, and found its function in the human psyche, I have not. The crippling nature of jealousy lies in its pointlessness. Apart from the few lucky souls who are successfully motivated and inspired by jealousy – although we all know how that can end – most of us are held back by it. Finding it a source of pain, rather than inspiration. Therefore I’m on a mission against it, trying to positively channel it, trying to rid all unnecessary jealousy from my life, and for the most part, I’m failing.
I think Jealousy exists inside your head. It’s not tangible. Not real. Not physical. The longer you stay inside your own head, the more likely you are to start cosying up next to the warm green glow of jealousy. Like a radiator on a cold day, you cuddle up to it for warmth, at times when you are feeling bitter and resentful towards the world. It’s like the mind’s way of punishing itself when it feels inferior and belittled by the realities of life. That’s why the difference between jealousy and appreciation is often just a matter of mood. On a bad day, you might see something that conjures a jealous rage inside you. On a good day, that same thing might ignite a warm glow of inspiration, admiration and aspiration.
Feelings of jealousy come and go. I can think of periods over the last 7 years or so, where I’ve been so absorbed by living in the present and in what I’ve been doing, that I can’t recall jealousy playing a big part in my thinking. For almost the entire time I was travelling and working my way round Australia and South East Asia before uni – particularly towards the end of the trip – I was so at ease with myself, I had embraced life so fully and I was enjoying such a wide range of experiences and challenges, that I didn’t spend much time stuck in my own head at all. I was living in the glory days, and luckily enough, I knew it. I was able to take the momentum from that experience, and the growth I got from it, and apply that directly to university in the years that followed. In that time, too, jealousy was kept mostly at bay. My experiences since then have been quite different, however. Since university finished, it began to creep back into my life more and more. It wasn’t just the odd pangs of envy you get when you see something on Instagram, but a deeper sense that I wasn’t making the most of life compared to other people I was seeing. And I never stood a chance! These days we are so exposed to the cherry-picked achievements of others it can be daunting. Seeing celebrities and other hugely successful people my own age, no matter what field they were in, began to make me feel like I had just wasted this whole first section of my life. I had been telling myself such a positive story about how I had spent the last 5 years, one of academic achievement, global adventure and personal development. And suddenly, I began thinking that I should’ve spent that time uploading freestyles to soundcloud, trying to become an influencer, starting a social media marketing business, creating a clothing brand, training to become a professional athlete! All these things that I either had no interest or skill in, I started to regret having not done – purely because I was comparing to myself to others in a way that not only lead me to doubt my present and my future, but my past. This led to me second guessing all the positive memories and experiences I had. That shit will wear you down.
I’m not sure exactly why this post-uni period led to me adopting such a negative and envious view of myself and the world, but I think it’s because deep down I realised that I wasn’t really following the path I knew I wanted to, I wasn’t really being honest with myself about what I wanted to do with my time and where I wanted to take my work. The end of university is a pretty tumultuous and intimidating time. You have been progressively institutionalised for the last three years, then you are just spat out into the open world, penniless, and in desperate need of stable employment. Even though getting a quote: ‘Good Job’, after uni saved me during that period. It ultimately made me a bit too comfortable, and a bit too dependent on the monthly salary. As I slipped into a routine, and that routine became increasingly predictable, I began to spend too much time stuck in my own head. More time scrolling through other people’s posts, more time questioning myself, more time wondering ‘what if’ and more time consumed by jealousy. You may be in a situation where your work offers you just the right amount of difficult challenges, new experiences and excitement, so you avoid getting stuck in this cycle – and perhaps you can’t relate to what I’m saying at all.
Or maybe, you’re in the same position as I was, and the routine is wearing you down, robbing you of your ambition, making you second guess yourself and making you jealous of others.
I heard a quote when I was about 16 that has stuck with me since:
“Only be jealous of who you could become”
Ever since I heard it, I have been trying to internalise it, to practice it instead of preach it, and I have always failed. No matter how much I tried to conjure up this bright mental image about a positive future for myself, I always came up short. Every year I would repeat this quote to myself at some point, determined to live out its principles – but to no avail. Instead, directing my jealousy towards others.
However, fast forward 8 years, I’m 24 years old and have somehow come up with the reckless, feckless and careless plan to quit my job.
The CEO calls me into their office on my final day of working there for an ‘exit interview’.
They go through a template of questions they ask every departing employee.
I get asked the question: ‘Why are you leaving?’ Simple enough.
But my mind genuinely goes blank?? Why the hell am I Leaving? Surely I should have an answer for this by now, come on Tim, say something interesting…
Then I think of something.
“Because my heroes had to quit something in order to follow their dreams”
Bit of a cringey answer, but I’m feeling a little proud of it, perhaps a smug smile even creeped onto my face as I nodded to myself in satisfaction
“And who are you heroes?” The CEO responds…
A perfectly reasonable response. But I am left speechless… Who the hell are my herous?! I don’t know! I didn’t this far ahead goddammit!
I stumble out the most useless response known to man
“Errrm, well, ya know… Err, I Don’t really know, really”
They respond with the same look you make when you hear somewhere tell a really long-winded joke that ends in a terrible punchline. A mix of confusion and disappointment.
“Right, next question then” – and the interview moves on past that awkward moment.
For a few months after that interview, I remembered that moment as one of embarrassment and stupidity – how could I not articulate why I was quitting my job, and who my heroes are??
Then it occurred to me. In that moment, I wasn’t thinking about some other person in whose footsteps I was following by quitting my job. I had read no fictional tales of some heroic adventurer doing the same, seen no films where the brave protagonist quits for pastures anew.
I was doing it because I had finally internalised an image of who I could become, if I made the most of my potential. If I took the right risks at the right time. If I made the bold moves that I would back on with pride. If I honestly assessed my situation and decided anyway to take a brave leap forward. If I took back control of my own destiny.
In this moment, I wasn’t jealous of anyone on Instagram. No professional athletes, musicians or entrepreneurs. I wasn’t stuck in my own head. Not crippled by comparisons to others – I was jealous of my own future… the person I am becoming.