Looking Back: It’s Been Five Years Since I Left My Job

In the midst of a really busy January and February I sort of forgot that it’s been more than five years since that day that I quit my job back in 2006. You know how people always say “it feels like yesterday”? Well in this case, it feels like a different life to me. It feels like it was much longer than 5 years. In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve always run Pure Adapt.

Anyway, I know there are a lot of people out there who have quit their job recently or are considering doing so. I figured it a worthwhile exercise to sort of step back and look at how life has gone since that day in January of ’06 when I turned in my two-week notice.

I’ve always, out of respect to my former employer, made sure not to mention them by name when blogging or tell any stories that were overly specific. Now that it’s been a while and I’ve seen all of my “secret” projects come to market a long time ago, it seems rather pointless to keep up. I was a Quality Control Engineer in the R&D department at Schick, the razor company. As my friends always liked to say, I was the guy working on whether or not we could tack on a sixth blade safely πŸ™‚

While I had only been a full-time engineer there for one year, I had been there for nine months as a co-op back in 2003 and had continued some of my projects once back in college. So in reality I had really been there for almost exactly three years when I left. They had been very good to me, so in a lot of ways it was hard to leave. There were a lot of good people there. However, I’ve never ever regretted leaving, or even really thought about it, so there is no doubt in my mind that it was the right decision and that the timing was right.

I think in almost every way I’m better off than I would have been had I continued on at Schick. I feel like I have more “job security” than I would working for a large corporation that could be suspect to sweeping layoffs. I have a flexible schedule that allows me to make sure that I never miss out on something I really want to do. I feel like I’m a healthier person because I’ve been able to use that flexibility to ensure that most of the time I’m sleeping well, eating right, and exercising. Maybe most importantly, I get to wake up every day and work with great people on something I believe in and really enjoy. Not that it’s always easy or that every little task is always fun, but on most days it’s pretty easy for me to see how good I have it and how lucky I am.

I’m also glad that I’ve moved back to NY. It took me a while to fully be content with that part of it, but I’ve been able to spend far more time with my close friends and family than I ever would have. My little sister is a junior in high school and I’ve been able to watch her grow up and hang out with her a few times a week. That just wouldn’t have been possible if I was living in another state, even if it was only a 3 hour drive away.

I *may* have been better off financially had I continued on the corporate career path. Schick was going to pay for me to go back to school. I was contemplating getting a MBA from Yale, NYU, or Columbia. Had I done that while continuing to work I most definitely would have made more money than I have these past five years. Then again, I wouldn’t have been building a growing company that I had equity in, which I hope will end up paying off in the long term. And even if I somehow end up making less than I would have on that career track, it doesn’t really matter to me. I wouldn’t have had the quality of life that I have now.

I also feel like I’ve learned more about myself and money, and how little it matters to me by having to scrape by on next to nothing for a while. I used to spend pretty freely on stuff, just because I thought it was cool, only to not use it or to resell it a few months later. I was a big time collector of stuff I didn’t use or need (I guess being into sports collectibles makes you that way by default). Now, I live in what I consider to be the nicest place I’ve ever lived, and it’s very simple, clean, and neat, which is what I like. When I buy something, it’s something that I really think I’ll use and benefit from. I can’t remember the last purchase of over $100 that I’ve regretted a few months later. I used to do that all the time in college.

I’ve written before about how excited I am for what we’re doing in 2011 so I’m not going to rehash that, other than to say that we’re off to a great start, February was a killer month for us. This business, as it stands, wasn’t exactly what I envisioned when I left – in a lot of ways I didn’t know what to expect – but it’s been an incredible five years that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I used to think that I was busting ass to “trade” my twenties for a “better” life down the road. In the midst of that I’ve learned to really just enjoy the journey, to enjoy putting in a good solid days worth of work.

16 comments on Looking Back: It’s Been Five Years Since I Left My Job

  1. Tim says:

    Awesome post Adam! As you know the last few years have been a roller coaster of sorts for me, but looking back I think I would be hard pressed to change even the poor decisions I’ve made because they led me in a direction I otherwise would never have found. Much like yourself I don’t really believe working any place offers job security, I trust my ability to produce more than anyone else’s. It’s been a painful and sometimes expensive lesson but as my Grandmother always tells me: if life were meant to be easy it would be.

    Another saying that I previously thought was BS is: the opposite of war is not peace, it’s creation. Humans, as a whole, are happiest when they are building something. I know that’s always been the case with me and the older and more sage like I’ve become the more truth I see in this. Building something that you believe in is the foundation of a happy life. The concept of “retail therapy” is laughable, buying “stuff” to obtain short bursts of happiness is no different from being on illegal drugs… maybe that’s not true, it is legal and probably won’t end your life early, but the short bursts of happiness with huge crashes is a very real parallel.

    Lastly, one of the most important things I’ve learned from you is balance. Without a realistic work/life balance you’ll never be happy, I may love what I’m currently doing, but I also like turning off my computer at night and living a real life. I have no doubt that I could book 10-12 hour days for myself and make more money than I could spend, but I don’t want to go past a 8 hour day unless it’s an emergency. Gaining an extra 2-4 hours per day has been enormously rewarding to my personal life which has previously always suffered in exchange for my professional life.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Well put Tim.

      I like “the opposite of war is not peace, it’s creation”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before πŸ™‚

      As I’ve sort of documented on this blog, I learned the hard way about the work-life balance. Even now, when everyone is working their tail off, no one is working 24 x 7 x 365, no one is forsaking sleep or food, and no one is missing out on important stuff in their social life. You have to give yourself that time to relax and your brain to focus on something different for a while. I believe I’m more productive that way, and I’m definitely more happy.

  2. Rob says:

    Wow, 5 years? Really? You should celebrate. I’m just trying to work out how long I’ve been reading your blog – it was just about the time you moved over to this platform – sometime in 2007 I think.

    I think although you put yourself at a disadvantage when you were starting out (in terms of security, pay, benefits etc.) now it’s paid off you’re probably close to being on a par with where you would have been if you were still at Shick and you’ve got a ton of positives on your side that you probably would never have got in employment. By the end of your working life I’m confident you’ll be way ahead of your peers in terms of earning power too – again, not to mention the other stuff.

    As for security – in the current climate what is that? Our government has cancelled big defence contracts, resulting in tens of thousands losing their jobs and what were supposed to be ultra secure jobs for life. Big telecoms, manufacturing and even education establishments have laid people off. I think our generation is going to have a hard time EVER trusting job security again. At least if you’re self employed and things are going bad you can probably see it coming a little way off.

    You could always work more, or work harder. What’s to gain from it though? If you can be happy without a billion dollars then great, save yourself the effort!

    What’s your address? I want to send you a Birthday card – 5 years since your eyes opened πŸ˜€

    • Adam McFarland says:

      “If you can be happy without a billion dollars then great, save yourself the effort! ” I like that line πŸ™‚

      You’re totally right about security. Our parents generation was in such a different position than we are that they all seem to have a totally different perspective. Even when I was starting to look for colleges in the late ’90s (I started in Fall 2000) it seemed like that was still the prevailing wisdom. Find a good job with a good company and stay there for life. That was “security” to them, and to some extent you can’t blame them because since WWII that’s how it had been.

      Now though, I know people who work for the government and who are teachers who have absolutely no “security” and are constantly scared of losing their jobs. Personally it’s such a relief not having to even think about that stuff. It’s hard to envision a scenario where every single DI customer stops buying from us all at once, which to me is the equivalent of getting laid off.

      • Rob says:

        Yeah, definitely hard to picture a situation where that would happen. Even if some competitor magicked themselves up out of nowhere it’s unlikely they’d take your entire client base overnight…. that said, I do occasionally have nightmares that there’s a tiny chance all customers could randomly decide to go with someone else at the last minute. I wonder what the chances are of everyone thinking “Hey, y’know what, I’m going to leave comcast/*insert other large company here* today”?

  3. Neville says:

    This post probably made at least 10 people cry in their cubicles.

  4. Neville says:

    On another note, I immediately thought of this when you mentioned you worked for a razor company!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Haha yes, I remember that one quite well. In general, no other job could be less interesting to people. If it wasn’t for jokes about the number of blades we’d have nothing πŸ™‚ I can’t tell you how many times I’d say I’m an engineer, the other person would ask for who, like thinking maybe I worked on some cool technology. Then I’d say “Schick”, and then I’d just get a blank look. “Um, razors need engineers?” or “Oh, OK” with a quizzical smile were the two potential responses.

      • Rob says:

        Here’s the biggie – now you’re just a consumer, what brand do you use?

        • Adam McFarland says:

          I still use Schick products, the Xtreme 3 actually http://www.schick.com/us/xtreme3.shtml It’s an older product, but it’s one that I worked on quite a bit and has some pretty interesting/unique engineering behind it. I like supporting the company and the people I know work hard to make them. It’s also one of the few products that, as of the time I left, was completely designed, developed, and manufactured in the US at the location where I worked.

          That said, Gillette products, at least when I was working there, were always a step ahead in terms of comfort. I’ve heard that some of the newer Schick products like the Hydro have caught them or even surpassed them (based on a few blog reviews I’ve read…yes, there are razor review blogs!), but I haven’t had a chance to give it a shot yet. I have way too much useless razor knowledge up in my brain πŸ™‚

      • Neville says:

        Hahaha, I can just imagine Adam talking to a girl in a bar using bad razor-reference puns:

        “That was funny, you’re quite SHARP!”

        “You just caught me in the NICK of time.”

        “I shave my head with a Shick, wanna touch it?”

        “What has two thumbs and a no 5-o’clock shadow? THIS guy!”

        • Adam McFarland says:

          There was one time that my friend (another Schick engineer) and I were at a party. It was at his apartment complex. The girls who just moved in a few doors down invited us earlier in the day when they saw us walking in to his place.

          One of the girls asked us what we did. She was totally not sober. She was like “I use Schick!” and then ran upstairs and grabbed a Gillette razor to show us. We pointed that out to her, and the conversation sort of stalled. I turned my attention to the TV where a college football game was on.

          A minute later another guy walks in and joins our conversation. She asks him what he does and he says he is a grad student at Yale, doing research on curing cancer. She goes “my grandmother died of cancer, you could have totally saved her!” (again, not exactly sober here). She walks away with this guy never to talk to us again. She then spends the rest of the night hanging all over this guy she just met, telling him how amazing he was for doing such important work.

          Now THAT is a profession that girls dig. Razor engineer? Not so much.

  5. Dale says:

    Hey Adam,

    As one of the people who recently quit his job that you mention in the second paragraph, thanks for this post! I did a little secret telling myself at the Corporatepreneur. It’s great to see how far you’ve come. I re-read your post for 2006, and it’s amazing the parallels I can draw (right down to the competing consumer products companies!). I sure hope to continue that parallel to get to the successful point where you are now.

  6. […] answer was “mostly yes.” Yes because I successfully left my career 5+ years ago and have never since needed any other source of income beyond my own business. By my standards, […]

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