CBS recently reported that 84% of workers want to leave their jobs in 2012. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that record numbers of people quit their jobs last summer. And as the author of a book called Quitter, you might think I was all for that. But, if you’re thinking about quitting your job right now, I have to warn you about something.
There is a land mine looming that you’ve probably not considered: remaining dangerous.
I learned about this threat when my first book came out. It turns out there were some people who did not like Stuff Christians Like.
This is understandable. It’s a Christian satire book of which there have been seven written since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press. The “Christian Satire” shelf does not exist at bookstores because it is not a category people aim for.
And, despite being a Christian myself and never mocking faith, the book took some risks. The first line was, “If you buy this book, God will make you rich.” The first chapter was about how we Christians sometimes rank honeymoon sex slightly higher than the second coming of Christ.
It was a little edgy, but family and friends were willing to laugh at this. My 70ish aunt told me she read the book from the back to the front as soon as she saw that first chapter. She apologized for not being able to give it to any of her Bible study friends. That kind of pushback was funny.
When a radio station canceled my interview after receiving the book, it wasn’t so funny.
They didn’t like the content, and that made me nervous. Publishers don’t like it when radio stations cancel on their authors. I didn’t like hearing about bookstores trying to talk people out of buying it. One reader told me that, when she brought it to the register the cashier said, “That book isn’t edifying.” Ouch.
The reason was that the content was dangerous. It was outside the norm of what is discussed within typical Christian circles. The book made people nervous, even though it was by no means controversial. Why? Because dreams always make people nervous.
Dreams tend to challenge the status quo. They ask questions like, “Why do we do things this way?” and then assert, “Here is a better way.” No one ever says, “I have an amazing dream that I am going to dedicate my life to. If it works, the status quo will be solidified forever!”
At the heart of a dream is change. Few like this. People get comfortable, and often see dreamers as threats. We might be a culture that wants to quit our day job but, deep down, change still scares a lot of us, especially when it threatens the norms we’ve come to embrace. But if you’re going to chase your dream job, guess what? You will be dangerous. You’re going to threaten the status quo, and that’s not for the faint-hearted.
There will be a long list of people who ask you to play it safe. At every corner, with every new opportunity, will come a temptation to soften or dilute your dream. Other people will try to smooth out the edges for you. Outsiders will lob bricks. Decisions will force you to consider compromising your core idea and belief. Friends will tell you to change something, to remove part of whatever it is you’re doing that’s threatening, because it’s just not comfortable. Be careful, they’ll say.
And if you don’t have your day job, guess what? You will have to pacify them most of the time. You will have to choose the safer but less rewarding route.
Remember that list of new bosses you got when you quit your job? Your bills and your financial commitments and your spouse’s expectations? Well, in addition to those Dons being demanding, they’re also incredibly tight and inflexible. Even if you push them back with your savings and buy yourself a few months of risky but rewarding decisions, they will eventually show their stodgy side.
You might be surprised, but your monthly food budget isn’t that open-minded. It’s not great at embracing your vision.
Try as you might to explain the huge reward a particular risk offers, your electric bill isn’t going to offer you creative deferment.
The only thing your new bosses will tell you over and over again is, “Be careful. Be careful.”
You’ll start to worry about your future: “What if the people who pay for my dream don’t like this idea? What if they’re offended and cease being fans? Is this idea worth risking our savings account for? Is this idea worth sending our kids back to school in pants that don’t fit?”
I was able to avoid a lot of these conversations by staying at my last day job years after I wanted to quit. I was able to skate past lots of temptations because I held on to that job. I was able to write for CNN because I had a day job.
They contacted me about writing for their website. If I didn’t have a day job, I might have considered the danger in talking to CNN and played it safe. As a Christian, I was well aware CNN was considered the devil’s news. What if my Christian fans were super-conservative and hated my association with CNN? What if churches that booked me to speak found out and canceled my engagements? I tend to be pretty conservative and saw it simply as a great platform to share my ideas. But what if other people didn’t see it that way?
The threat to my dream’s momentum loomed large, until I remembered I still had a day job. Even if I lost every speaking gig I had booked for the next year, my wife and kids would be taken care of. My mortgage and food were not tied to my ability to sustain the status quo with a dream that was, at its heart, trying to break status quo.
Instead of compromising, I got to stay true to my dream. I got to write an honest, up-front article about why Christians like me can be jerks online. Hundreds of people didn’t like it. Lots of people commented on it and said some pretty hateful things. But through it all, I got to stay dangerous. I got to stay focused on doing what I had set out to do.
I know it sounds crazy, but people with jobs tend to have more creative freedom than people without jobs.
Want to stay dangerous with your dream? Want to make some real progress?
Don’t quit your day job. Not yet.