Assessing What is Important in Your Life


By Curmudgeon

You may have read on Steve’s blog a few weeks ago that I spent time in the hospital for a potentially life-threatening condition.  It was my first time overnight stay in a hospital since I had my tonsils removed, almost forty years ago.

It was a seminal moment in my life; I had never had a health scare before, and as such things go, this one was fairly serious. Among the contributing factors where the stresses of my day job, which at extreme levels can produce damaging enzymes that wreak havoc with internal organs.  My typical work week over the last two years lasted eighty hours, including weekends.  I did too much, drank too much, and kept my stresses inside, until my body cried enough.

Steve has a wonderful post that first attracted me to his site – 8 Steps to a Six-Figure Career. Through my day jobs, freelancing, and independent consulting, I’ve made six figures since 1992.  Last month, I suddenly came to the realization that a six-figure income was a poor goal to strive for if it were killing me to achieve it.

So I quit the day job, which was the source of 80 percent of my income. I am now entirely dependent upon independent project work for my income.  I don’t know how I want to spend the next ten or fifteen years of my working life, but I do know that it’s not going to be as an office slave, working for The Man.  My plan is to spend at least through the middle of next year working on discrete projects no more than forty hours a week, until I figure out what I want my future to look like.

In one way, it is easier for me than most people. I never got into the race to have the most toys (well, I did own a classic Corvette, years ago), and year after year saved around a third of my gross income.  Money is not a problem, although I would prefer keeping the portfolio largely intact until later in life.

However, in other ways it is more difficult. Unlike Steve, I don’t have a discrete and definable set of skills in a single recognized field.  Over the last 20 years, I’ve had a number of different jobs in several very different career fields.  No recruiter would touch me for contract or permanent work.

Also, I am not a sales person. My social skills are probably below average, and while I have to spend a lot of my time interacting with others, it takes a bit of energy and focus on my part.  Yet I have to market my difficult-to-define services, write proposals (I’d always undervalued my independent work when I didn’t have to make a living off it), and close deals.

Well, a month later, it seems to be working out just fine. It turns out that I know more people than I thought, and others are reaching out to me with offers of projects.  I have several thousand dollars worth of short term projects over the next month, and later in January begin a medium term contract that by itself should make up for most of my forsaken income, while working far fewer hours.

Even though it puts me on the road for another possible six-figure income in 2010, it’s not a goal, or even a desire.  In planning the tradeoffs of your life, don’t trade off your health for money.  It’s a bad deal.

photo by Untitled blue