Conspiracy Theories and Quitting

This is the second in a three part series about why we love quotes but often ignore their advice. Read the first post here.

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

This is a line in The Alchemist, the international best-seller written by Paulo Coelho, about a boy on a quest to Egypt after recurring dreams lead him to believe there is treasure there waiting. Ralph Waldo Emerson had a similar quote: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen”.

My simple interpretation: when you fully commit to a goal, opportunities emerge.

You can find countless quotes that share the same core thought: take risks, have faith, or to be cliche, just do it.

So why aren’t more people taking risks?

The surface level answer is that risk taking requires a great deal of courage and a healthy dose of trust. We can have a list a mile long with solid reasons why we should take a risk, but never take it because of the dialogue of dangers running through our minds:

  • It might not work.

  • You’re going to lose all your money and go broke.

  • You’re not smart enough to make this work.  

  • You don’t have the right skills for this.

  • Everyone is going to judge you when this fails.

Courage is having the ability to see these thoughts are rooted in fear, not reality and faith is trusting that regardless of what happens, you’ll figure it out and land on your feet.

Here’s my confession: I’ve spent the bulk of the past three (or more) months thinking about quitting my job. My comfortable and stable job at a fast-growing company with great team members and awesome benefits—a job that seems silly to leave.

Why? The simple truth is that while the job was an incredible learning experience, it wasn’t the right fit for me and the longer I worked the more apparent it became that I was avoiding doing the work that I truly loved.

I have never worked on a project that made me feel as alive or fulfilled as 52 Cups and I slowly realize that I needed to jump back into the world of conversation and adventure.

But I kept stalling. I told myself that no rational person quits a great job to travel and write about strangers they meet. And continued to tell myself I couldn’t quit, despite my growing unhappiness. It was a running dialogue: it’s irresponsible to quit your job, it won’t work, you will fail and be judged, you’ll go broke, you’ll never find a new job, you’ll ruin your career, etc.

It seems overly dramatic and harsh to write it out, but at a point in time, these irrational thoughts seemed very rational to me (and I’d be surprised if I’m the only one that’s ever had thoughts like these). Fortunately, I have truly wonderful friends that believed in me at a point when I didn’t exactly believe in myself and their encouragement helped me realize the worst case scenario wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I’d led myself to believe.

Someone very close to me sent a link to this fantastic post by the Bonobos founder, Andy Dunn, titled The Risk Not Taken (absolutely worth the read), which eloquently conveys the same realization my friends help me understand:

You’ll never starve, and you’ll always have a place to sleep. Worst comes to worst, you can always stay on our couch.

In the event of utter failure, I am fortunate to have wonderfully supportive family and friends that would love me whether my project succeeded or failed. The type of friends that would let me crash on their couches (which I did several times during my nomadic year). Friends that would happily forward my resume along to hiring managers. 

My worst case scenario is that my big vision doesn’t work out and I have to find a “real job” again. That doesn’t seem half bad and I realize how fortunate I am to be in such a situation. 

What all of these great conversations with close friends taught me is that it’s not failure that I’m afraid of—because deep down I think I believe that I’ll land on my feet—what I’m afraid of is discomfort.

My life is comfortable. I have a steady income that provides security and predictability. Why rock the boat and jump into a world that is unstable and unpredictable? Why leave a nicely paved road for a rocky dirt path? (What other ridiculous metaphors can I insert here? There are so many to chose from.)

But, like Paulo Coelho predicted, as I became more and more consumed with the idea of leaving my job to travel and write, small encouraging things started to happen that made the idea seem more and more appealing. Nothing crazy, a few thoughtful emails from people sharing how 52 Cups had inspired them to start a project, friendly tweets from people finding the project, wonderful encouragement from the people that know me best.

These small things compounded until I reached the tipping point: the excitement of jumping into the project outweighed the fear of discomfort. 

So I gave my notice at work.

And today is my last day.

Monday I jump headfirst back into the world of conversation and adventure, without certainty as to where it will lead but trusting that this is the right move that will lead me where I need to go.

And I hope you’ll be a part of the adventure. 

Stay tuned! 

Thanks to @jeannineyeah (officially my unofficial editor) for reading this.