Leaving the Day Job

The Office - Season Header

[Spoiler alert…only if you’re 2+ years behind the times as well]

This past weekend, my wife and I finished the last episode of The Office.  Many of the characters changed over the nine years: people joined Dunder Mifflin, people left Dunder Mifflin, others realized that life is much happier than they expected.  Having worked in an ‘office’, I can almost recognize, person to person, an employee in my office to a character on ‘The Office.’  Yes, I admit, I did shed a few tears during the last two episodes.  The show may have been a comedy, but the writers and actors were able to shine a light on real life.

One of the main characters, Jim Halpert, has a monologue in which he says “I sold paper at this company for twelve years.  My job was to speak to clients, on the phone, about quantities and types of copier paper.  Even if I didn’t love every minute of it, everything I have, I owe to this job.  This stupid, boring, amazing job.”

That quote is perfect for me.  My day job hasn’t been ideal 100% of the time, but I owe everything to this “stupid, boring, amazing” job that I have.  Many people would complain about the job, and I have certainly complained.  However, as I look around my house and reflect on the previous nine years of my life, I realize that I do owe just about everything to the amazing job I’ve held.

I have learned a ton of lessons from my job:

– People generally won’t/can’t/don’t change.  Work with them as they are and everything will be smooth.
– Hard work does actually pay off
– Calculated risk pays off
– You don’t actually have to wear a tie to work
– Always give 110% at work
– If you think you’ve got a great system in place, improve it by 100% or you’re toast
– Client communication is key
– Continue to learn at work; when you’re no longer learning, it’s time to leave
– There’s only one person to blame for your unhappiness at work – you.
– An attic in the summer is about 140degF (Fucking hot – pardon the language)

These lessons are quick to type but have been learned over a nine year period.  Some have been easy to learn (I didn’t have to wear a tie) while others have been difficult and thought-provoking (If you think you’ve got a great system, improve it by 100% or you’re toast).  For me, this has been the best first job I could have asked for.  As I have matured, I have learned what I enjoy doing (running businesses) and what I’m not fond of (crawling through fiberglass in attics in the summer).

Probably the most important lesson I have learned is that everyone is on their own path.  Some people have presented at the State Science Fair, earned Eagle Scout, and completed an engineering degree.  Others have not.  Just because someone has not done those things does not mean that I can (or should) compare myself to them and vice versa.

The path I am walking is entirely different from the path my brother is walking.  We are each learning about ourselves, yet we are arriving at our own conclusions.  Our conclusions are right for our own experience.  We each take these disparate pieces of information we call ‘experiences’, and synthesize this information into a road map for how we should live our lives.  The problem is that we can only look at the map after we’ve walked that piece of ground.  I should not project my life experiences onto my brother.  I therefore should not expect my brother to make the same decisions that I have made.  Rather, I should celebrate his successes and discuss his failures.

We are all faced with a choice.  There are easier paths and harder paths.  Everyone just needs to be able to look back at their life and be happy.  Steve Jobs is quoted: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

That is where I am.  I need to change something.  I have done amazing things.  I expect my day job will continue to do amazing things.  I actually think the company will be better off when I have departed, not because I am holding anyone back, but because the company’s focus is too scattered.  Once I have left, I feel the company will be able to focus on the profitable areas of the company, hopefully producing significant gains for the shareholders.

I am scared and excited for the changes in the future.  Where am I going to be in 12 months?  No idea.  I may still be here; I may be on the west coast; I may be in NYC.  London?  Maybe.  Two years from how?  Not even the foggiest idea.

Like Robert Frost says:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
…I’m more excited than scared….

Flip/Life/?? Update

Hey all,  Sorry for the lack of posts for the past month.  It’s been a crazy month since my last post.



Here’s a quick recap:

May 5, Meet with my friend who just graduated from the local MBA program
May 8, PSU re-opens the application process for Fall 2014; open period closes June 1
May 5-15, Consult with my significant other regarding going back to school in 2015
May 15, I learn about the MBA opening
May 15, (After learning of the opening) consult significant other regarding starting school in 2014
May 20, Sign up for GMATs on May 25
May 20 – May 24, Cram for GMATs
May 25, Take GMATs, Receive 660, 10 pts higher than average entering student’s GMATs (Minor party in my head)
May 29, Submit final application
June 1, Wait to hear about my application
June 1 (afternoon), Feel like I’ve come off a two week bender
June 2, Receive an invitation for an interview on June 6th
June 2-5, Panic realizing that I had sent my last white collared shirt to Goodwill.
June 5, Purchase ‘business’ clothes and ask to borrow Brother-in-Law’s shoes and tie (See below)

Yes, I didn't recognize myself

Yes, I didn’t recognize myself either

June 6, Interview; Told to expect to hear something “Definitely by June 30, maybe within two weeks.  First contact will be by email.”
June 7, Send a ‘Thank-you’ note for the interview, admitting I was nervous.
June  8, Wonder what I said wrong during the interview, remind myself that I could wait until June 30, so continue the nose-to-the-grindstone routine
June 10, Decide to go for a run in my favorite place in PA (Rothrock).  Upon returning to my car, see that I missed a phone call…call was from a University extension number.  I listened to the message.  It was from my interviewer advising that I “check my email as early as possible.”
June 10, 30 minutes past last entry, Check email using Sheetz free internet connection.  I received an invitation to attend school in the fall


June 10, 1 minute past previous entry, Hoot and holler (to no one as my car windows are closed).  Decide to splurge and get two milkshakes (one for myself, one for my wife).  Drive home to deliver good news to her.
June 11, Inform day-job that I’ve been accepted; promptly told that my entire division would be shut down
June 12, Informed that my division wouldn’t be shut down but rather put on 12-months notice: Generate significant revenue or else…
June 13, Received an email from my investors to schedule a visit to the site (mild panic); Scheduled for June 21
June 14 – June 20, Try to pack as many hours at the flip as possible
June 21, Investors arrive to view the flip.

This takes us up to the present.  I was incredibly concerned/nervous/scared about the investor visit today.  I have done my best to pack my days with as many hours at the flip as possible.  We started the day with lunch.  We discussed business, my daughter, business, and more business.

I had scheduled a tour of some area homes that may fit a profile for the investors.  After touring five homes, none really stoked the investor’s interests, so we headed to the flip.

To prolong my agony, the investors asked that we look at some additional potential flip-able homes.  I obliged.  We came up with a list of five properties to pursue and see what kind of business we can drum up.  I did my best to prolong this period of time before heading to the flip.

After driving through town for as long as possible, I had to head to the flip.  We’re behind schedule (original schedule had us relisting on May 1), we’re over budget (but not too bad…I think????), and I’m hoping to keep the investors happy.  We showed up at the flip, turned off the car, and headed for the door.  Once inside, I immediately began to point out the flaws in the house.  I figured that I should show what’s wrong with it and let them jump on me.  We walked through the entire home, tested the new bathrooms, discussed paint colors (apparently I have a California sense of style as the entire house isn’t beige) and I laid out the schedule until the house would be back on market.

We discussed my successes (good purchase price, locating good contractors), and my failures (timing to get back on market, insistence to handle as much of the project as I’ve decided to handle (too much), the hiring of my first contractor).  I was expecting to be told that my investors were finished with this experiment, that they had bigger fish to fry and that I was small fry (pun intended).

As I expected, we discussed my failures to quickly turn this flip.  My labor savings have eliminated the return of a quick sale.  My investors did admit that they’re not happy with the length of time the flip has taken.  I was OK with that assessment.

I was unprepared for the next statement from the investors:

“We’re really happy with how you’ve handled this investment and we’re happy that you’ve learned from your mistakes.  We expected mistakes and it seems that you’re aware of the mistakes you’ve made.  We want to move forward with additional investments with you.  We’ve got $X to move forward with you.”

[I had to pick up my jaw from the floor; both for the size of the investment as well as the fact that they didn’t immediately end our agreement because of the timing if the flip.]

Needless to say, it’s been a crazy month: I’m getting ready to leave my day job to head back to school; I’m in the middle of a house flip; my investors aren’t angry, they want to do more work with me; probably the craziest thing is that I feel good about all the changes, I’m not fearful of the future at all.  I’m not even six full months into 2014 and I’ve blown all of my goals out of the water.  Yet I’m OK with that.  I sincerely feel that I’ll come out in a better place now than when I originally set those goals.

This past month has shown me that these next two years will be incredibly crazy, but will be worth it.  I know I can design, frame, wire, plumb, insulate and paint homes.  Even if I fall flat on my face after these next two years, I can still fall back on these hard skills that I have.  Even if the ‘business’ world doesn’t see my abilities, I know I can attract investors, I can deliver on my promises (maybe a few days late..), and I have the drive to see the craziest ideas through to their culmination.  However, I plan to use the next two years to learn the hard ‘business’ skills to allow me to skillfully lead any company in the future.

Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Ashish Thakkar, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson…here I come.  Who’s along for the ride?