Today, I am celebrating my 10th year out of the corporate world. It’s been 10 years since I left my job. There were many questions in my mind at that time. Can I make it? Can I really live without a job? Who are you to think you can do it?
So many emotions; mixed emotions. Happy to venture into a new world; but somehow anxious whether I had what it takes to really make it.
I remember when I filed my resignation, I was asked by my manager why I wanted to resign. After all, I had a relatively successful IT career so far. My work as a contractor for one of the biggest U.S. credit card companies in the world has been great. The pay was good. The people are great. What more can I ask for?
Have you ever found yourself asking “is this all there is to life?” After making money, then what? Are you supposed to live life in quiet desperation? Are you supposed to drown yourself in misery? Just taking all the stress in, day in and day out and say to yourself, “it’s part of the job.”
There were also moments when I felt, I was being bullied (“figuratively”) into working so hard to the detriment of my life outside of work. You have to work on weekends, or early morning shift to support the project. You sacrifice time with your family, even getting calls in the middle of a gathering just to get on the call and resolve a high priority issue. I console myself saying, it is going to be just this one time that I have to do this. But when one project is completed, another one comes along to replace it immediately. The reality sinks in. This is never going to end.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved my job. I loved working on tech problems. They are like puzzles that tickles my brain. It is like watching a mystery or thriller movie where you are the detective who solves the mystery.
It started when I read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad. It’s as if a new world opened up in front of me; an exciting world full of possibilities. I was excited to find out what it was like out there. The book opened up my eyes with lots of possibilities. Is passive income true? Can you really earn while not working? Can you really become an entrepreneur?
Whenever I think about “why” I quit my job, I go back to the restlessness I felt asking those questions. While still working, I have already dipped my hands on several opportunities. I was delighted to see that some of those opportunities are already growing.
So when my manager asked me, why did I resign? I answered, “because I have a business on the side that is growing. At this point in time, I can no longer perform both of my tasks as an employee and as a business owner at the same time. If I fail to give time and effort to my business, it will die. If I focus all of my time and energy on my business, it would not be fair for me to give a mediocre effort on my job. My choice is to give myself a chance to see how far my business can grow.”
I have nothing but gratefulness for my time in the corporate world. It taught me a lot about working on a big team. It taught me about processes and structures and making things happen. As a team leader, I’ve learned to work with people. I also learned to manage a small team of developers, and help them fulfill their potential. It also gave me the confidence to venture out into the world of the unknown, for once upon a time, this world of working in a big corporation, was also unknown to me.
So on this day 10 years ago, I left the corporate world.
Is it possible for an employee to shift to become an entrepreneur?
Yes, it’s possible. I am a living proof that it can be done. Well, at least I can say, it’s possible to survive 10 years without having a job. Of course, there are also many people who were not able to make it to 10 years…and that’s ok. Nobody says you have to make it. We each have our own journey to take and live with the choices we make.
I’ve seen people who went back to their jobs after some time. That’s perfectly ok. There was a time when I thought about (and tried to) go back to work again in a job. I think it was 2 years after I quit when my savings was getting depleted, and my second son was born. I thought about whether it was just pride why I didn’t want to go back to a job. And if it was, I thought is my pride bigger than my willingness to provide for my kids as a father? Obviously, I was willing to do anything to provide for my family.
But when I tried to go back, there were things that happened that made me realize I have been doing my business half-heartedly up until that time. I knew deep in my heart that I wasn’t giving 100% of my effort (at least not like the effort I’ve put in when I was still working in a job.) So I told myself, “if I am not going back anyway, I might as well make this work.”
So starting that day, I took the business seriously and put in 100% of my efforts into it. I wished I could say it was smooth sailing ever since then, but it was not. There were moments when I would give my best, but still would not be able to reach my goals. There were moments when I got so exhausted from everything, with only a few hours of sleep day in and day out. But I didn’t complain. As they say, “success requires no explanation, failure permits no alibis.” Eventually my efforts paid off and my business started to grow.
Be careful who you listen to.
Until someone is paying your bills for you, then their opinion doesn’t matter. Many times people have opinions about how you should live your life. You will get them from well meaning parents, to officemates, to friends and others.
Just remember to live your own life. Make your own choices and live with the consequences. After all, we only have one life to live. Nobody is entitled to live your life in your behalf.
I think this is one of the biggest things you need to overcome if you really want to shift your career to entrepreneurship. Words are cheap. It’s easy to have an opinion. It is harder to do something, and execute it.
Sometimes, the negativities can come from your own thinking. Your mind play tricks on you by your fears. It can come from subtle thoughts like “who am I to do this? what will other people say? what if I fail? will people laugh at me and say to my face, I told you so?”
I feel more people are hindered by their own thoughts than any other obstacle. When you are able to win the battle within, the battle outside takes care of itself.
Financial literacy is important.
One of the biggest reasons people fail when they try to shift to entrepreneurship is the lack of financial literacy. Financial literacy is actually less of the “know how” and more of the “discipline and delaying gratification.” We are emotional beings. More often than not, we already know what to do. But we lack the discipline to handle our emotions. We give in to the short term rewards that are in front of us.
This is so important that I feel you shouldn’t go into entrepreneurship if you lack the discipline to handle your own money.
The basics are simple. Pay yourself first. A part of what you earn is yours to keep. You should be able to set aside a part of your earnings and live on the rest. This is called savings. As much as possible, don’t get into consumer debt. These are debts that are taking away money from you in the form of interests and they don’t give you any kind of earnings. Growing your money can only happen if you master the first two. It is not the amount that matters, but the habit and discipline that is important.
Again, I repeat. Don’t go into business, when you can’t handle your own money yet. Practice on your own finances first. Increase your income. Lower your expenses. Save and grow your money. The reason I say this is crucial is because if you are able to manage your own money, you will be able to manage the money of the business as well. They are founded on the same principle.
The reality of having a business is that it takes time for it to grow, especially if you build it for long term. In get-rich-quick schemes, you may earn a lot of money upfront, but you are actually paying it with something bigger – that is your reputation and character. People will stay away from you. They will no longer trust you. You sometimes even lose confidence in yourself. That’s too big a price to pay for a short term gain.
You want to get into entrepreneurship precisely because you want to earn more money, pay off your debt, etc. Unfortunately, more money will not solve your problem. It will only magnify what you already lacked – that is you lack of financial discipline. It is like putting gas into a fire. After a sudden influx of cash, you go and splurge on shopping for unnecessary things. You live the life of luxury in one day. You live like a one-day millionaire. That’s the reason why you sometimes see lotto winners ending up broke and having more debt a few years after winning the lotto than before they won.
Keep your day-time job. Start side hustles. The more the merrier. The reason is that you never know which one will pan out. After some time, evaluate which can give you the best return for your investment in time, money and energy. Then go all in. Focus and put your 100% effort into it.
God is powerful.
In shifting my career, there were countless challenges along the way. It is a lot like riding a roller coaster. One minute you are so happy because you were able to setup a meeting with a client, then the next moment you get depressed because he changed his mind at the last minute when you are already at the meeting place. You console yourself and move on to the next. Somehow you manage to remain upbeat, only to get depressed again because you lost your phone on your way home. These are the moments nobody speak about. It seems all glamorous and easy. It is not. But these are also the moments when keeping on earns for you the rewards of tomorrow.
So how do you keep on when everything is tough?
One of the things that helped me get through hard times was remembering that God is powerful. I am saying this not as a religious fanatic, but as a practical man who has experienced the grace of God in my life.
When my eldest son was born, his heart was supposed to be operated on right away. We were supposed to bring him to the Philippine Heart Center the following day, But by the grace and mercy of God, his condition improved overnight and there was no need for the operation anymore. A miracle happened. After a month, we were able to go home. Now, he is 9 years old. Who would have thought? Only God knows His plans for you and me. God is indeed great! All praise and glory to Him.
That experience made me realize that nothing is impossible with God. Today, when I encounter problems, I would console myself by saying, “if God was able to deliver us from that “impossible” challenge back then, how much more will He be able to deliver us in this moment. This is nothing compared to that. God is powerful.”
My prayer is for you to hold on to that promise in your life. God is with you in all your sorrows and fears. Lift them up to him and watch Him make miracles in your life.
The hardest part of having a business is dealing with people.
One of the things I love about working in IT is that most of the time you are only working with computers. They are only systems with definite and known outcomes. You know what to expect. You know when it is not working. You know that once you figure it out, you will be able to solve it and it will definitely work.
People, on the other hand, are one of the most complicated beings in the face of the planet. One moment you thought you knew how to deal with them; the next moment you are dumbfounded, for you did not expect that reaction from them. How many times have you uttered the words, “I did not expect that he will do something like that”?
You cannot put them into a box. They are people. They are unpredictable. Just like you…and me. We are all imperfect; and that’s what make us beautiful. You never know what surprise you are going to get.
If only I could master working with people, my life would be great. But unfortunately, most of my business “failures”were due to me not being able to handle people the right way. There were times I lost my temper, and that led to a major misunderstanding…a misunderstanding that because of my pride, I failed to resolve in a timely manner…and eventually led to falling out. The business suffered as a result.
Of course, it is easier to see now looking back, but when it is happening it is harder to see. You make the best decision you know based on what you know and how you feel. Sometimes though, how you feel at that moment (i.e. “pride and frustration”) can derail any kind of “knowledge” you thought you learned. These things you can’t read in books. You can only experience it to know how to handle it the right way when it comes.
The people around you will define you.
Be careful who you surround yourself with. As the saying goes, “birds of a feather, flock together.” I remember asking myself, why is it that most people in my team are IT professionals. Then I realized, I attract the people that I am. When I had 2 kids, the people who joined my team were also parents with 2 kids. It’s spooky!
People around you can lift you up, or bring you down. That’s why you need to be careful who you spend your most time with. There’s this exercise I ask whenever I give personal finance seminars. You list the names of the 5 people you spend your most time with. For example, if you’re working, who do you hangout with in the office? Your boss. Your peers. Your friends. Your enemies. Then try to average out their earnings. Most likely the number you will get is around the same number as your own salary.
What’s the point? People like to hang out with people who are similar to them. You rarely see a big boss or CEO hanging out with the new hires, mid-level managers, etc. Who does he hang out with? Other CEOs or his VPs or other friends.
So if you want to upgrade your income, you need to learn to spend your time with people who have higher income than you. I am not telling you be a “sipsip” or be close to them for the sake of being friends with them. I am just telling you, allow yourself to be around people who are better than you. I am telling you it is going to be uncomfortable. I think that’s why there’s a thing called imposter syndrome. That feeling you get whenever you feel “unqualified” or overachieving something, is going to manifest its ugly face when you start something new. Just keep on. Soon, when you are able to adjust into your new reality, it will be gone.
Enjoy the journey.
Tomorrow is not promised. I think that’s also the same thing that the Pandemic has taught us. While you are here, spend time with your loved ones. Tell them how much you love them. Use those plates that are gathering dusts in your cabinet.
The 10 years has passed by quickly. When I was in the middle of it, I thought it was going to last forever…or at least for a very long time. But I think the life of something is not up to us. We can push, we can crawl, we can fight all we want. But when life teaches us, the best thing to do is embrace it and enjoy. For that’s what we are here for. To learn and enjoy. To live life and love it. Never forgetting the fact, that some of our best laid plans pales in comparison to the plans of the God up above who is looking out for us.
I think somewhere in the bible says “look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” They don’t have to worry about what to eat. How much more precious are you than them?
Even imperfect you are as a father, you know how to give bread instead of a stone. How much more is your father in heaven going to give you something when you ask for it in prayer.
You may be going through a lot these days. Pray and take heart for God is with you. This too shall pass.
Share your stories.
We are more alike than we think we are. We all want to earn enough income to provide a comfortable living for our family. We want to spend time with our family. We want to payoff our debts to remove the stress of calling creditors.
That’s why I think, sharing our stories is important. By sharing my stories, my hope is that you will know that you are not alone. And if good things happened to me, then it can also happen to you.
When you look back to all the things you’ve gone through, you will remember fondly the good times. One of the funniest moments I’ve had in the last 10 years was when me and my friends went through the “walking dead theme park” together…even though you’re scared to death, you go along with your friends. Only to find out they are scared too just like you. You end up shouting and pushing the zombies out of your way, scrambling your way straight out to the exit bursting with laughter. You know the saying “HAGALPAK na tawa”? I wish you experience something like that in your life. We all need that. Especially during these times.
You will remember the days when you thought it was impossible, but through working together, days and nights of hard work and sleepless nights, finally success was achieved.
But the sweetest success I’ve had are the victories I’ve shared with other people. When people say celebrate with you and shout “Gold na kami!” That is one of the best feelings in the world. To have people with you celebrating the victory like it is their own. I must admit, I like that better than just me enjoying by myself, because, nothing is done alone. There are countless selfless souls working with you, cheering you on, and helping you one way or another in the road to victory.
There is more to life than earning money, having a job, or building a business.
At the end of the day, we are more than our jobs. We are more than our businesses. We are more than how we earn money. We are fathers. We are brothers. We are sisters. We are friends, foes, family.
The minute you realize that you brought nothing into this world and you will bring nothing of it when you die, it makes you wonder, what is all the point? Why put money in a pedestal at the expense of losing your family, or friends? Why get so frustrated by the outcome of a lost business or a job?
Life goes through cycles. Up and down and up again. and down again. and up. Sometimes, you seem to have a midas touch, every thing you touch becomes successful with little effort. Other times, it seems like you are going against the flowing river. All your hardwork and efforts are going nowhere.
In my life, I have encountered both. I have experienced having plenty, or at least enough to provide and have a little more to enjoy. I have also experienced financial struggles and being in debt where banks keep on calling me to pay them up. But through it all God has been merciful and gracious that He has delivered me time and time again.
My encouragement to you is that, if you are going through rough times, know that it will end. Good times will come. And if you are having a great time right now, enjoy the moment and always remember to be kind to the people who may need help. Know that challenges will also come and now is the perfect time to prepare. Challenges and calamities expose our weaknesses and areas for improvement. It is not meant to defeat us, but to sculpt our character to what God wants us to be. So take heart. Everything happens for you, not against you.
Look into the future with hope. The past 10 years has passed for all of us. They say you should save time. The reality is that time will pass anyway whether you decide to spend it or not. The only choice you have is how you will spend it.
Will you spend it regretting about the past? Or being grateful for the lessons you learned along the way.
Will you focus on the negativity and despair? Or will you spend it on getting better?
The choice is up to you.
As for me, I choose to see the brighter side of life. I want to enjoy each moment. In the future, I wish to do more travelling. I wish to have more colorful experiences; stories to tell; adventures to go to.
How about you? What’s your choice? What are you most excited about for the next 10 years of your life?