I haven’t posted anything in long time because I made the decision to quit my day job back in October and have needed time to orchestrate that feat.
I know… it’s crazy and comes in spite of my own blog entry on the topic of day jobs last year.
Before I write more on that topic, I want to announce that I’m going to start writing shorter, regular Friday posts to this blog because now I can!
So what changed my mind? I guess I determined quitting my job to be the next big risk I needed to take.
I spent the better part of 2014 feeling pretty stuck…
As an individual musician:
I’m not nearly as in-demand as many of my colleagues. I’m rarely asked to do anything outside of my own bands. No one needs another electric guitarist with mediocre reading skills that’s good at playing metal, punk and grunge. That’s not useful in the day to day world of broke musicians playing “money gigs” (that term is laughable in most cases) in restaurants, at weddings and other wall paper gigs.
I also haven’t done a good job of making the arts world aware that I can compose. I’m not on the composers-to-call-list with Graham, Peter or Justin. Most arts people know me as a goofball that heads “that Tchaikovsky Christmas band”.
I began to see that my sense of stagnation was mainly because, in spite of talking a big game about taking risks, I’ve most often favored practicality over big risks. It’s easier to just float in a relative safe zone where I don’t really have to make money playing music (and am therefore free to do what I want) but also have not committed to a full time day job (and therefore have no money to do what I want).
More on my job in a sec.
As a band leader:
Would you rather play a single wedding for $300 or spend a week on the road with The Invincible Czars playing silent movies and rock clubs to possibly empty rooms for the same amount?
Tough sell and a big reason we haven’t had a dedicated drummer since Fall 2012. It’s hard for The Invincible Czars’s gigs to compete with the better offers my band mates get constantly — and yet, we cannot grow when we’re at the mercy of the next “better” gig.
I want to add a special recognition here to Phil and Leila who’ve stuck with me for a long time (ten years for Phil!) in spite of the fact that they both are constantly offered “better” gigs. Thank you, both!
I knew that growing would require more time from everyone. I tried to relieve the others of time consuming responsibilities which ostensibly fell back on me. I felt constant pressure to maximize everyone’s time and yet I started to feel like time was even more scrutinized I felt like it didn’t matter if we sounded good in rehearsal – it only mattered that we ended on time (even though no one arrived on time because they were coming from another gig or session).
This was very, very disheartening.
In my day job: I’d been at the same part-time day job at an Austin property management company 12 years with 3 year break to work at Austin Music Foundation (total of 15 years). I had turned down all offers to move up in the working world because I knew that’d seriously cut into my music and creative time. In my last couple of months, I learned that I was the lowest paid employee at my job in spite of having more seniority than almost all the hourly employees and many of the salaried ones. Everyone else had committed to working full time or taken on some bigger responsibility.
(It was a symbiotic relationship, though. I was pretty much free to take time off for gigs and I’m very grateful to my supervisor, Gina, for always working with me on that!)
However, I was just treading water in the day job pool. My prime time hours were dedicated to the activity I cared about least in my life. The more music I was doing, the less flexible the job seemed. My hours got to be pretty open-ended: The company grew rapidly in 2014 and I was there extra hours if it was busy enough. My time was terribly fractured – I even gave up teaching lessons which would’ve paid me more! Plus, I was spending more and more time in traffic getting to and from the office.
While my music career has never grown quickly, I sensed that if I’d soon be treading water in the music pool, too, if kept this up — and only at the benefit of a job I didn’t really care about.
I started looking at wanted ads but that was dismal. My my best case scenario would essentially be a time-consuming, lateral jump. Why bother? I started feeling indignant and bitter. I dreaded going to work.
I was really angry with myself on all fronts…
Then, last spring, I had a majorly positive breakthrough that changed my perspective on my own life for the better: I accepted what I am and began focusing on my strengths and dropping activities that wouldn’t allow that (like playing wall paper gigs or being a part-time property management lackey.)
This made me aware that years of setting myself up to take a big, risky leap had basically made me totally free to do it whenever I wanted – I’d simply been too scared to try. Doing so would require additional sacrifice but would be totally worth it.
It now seemed necessary and totally possible. I began slowly planning my escape from my old life and saving every penny I could.
Months passed, and while visiting my family in August, I told them that I was thinking of quitting my job and just going for it in with music. They were surprisingly supportive but I was still scared.
Then Bill died.
Big wake up call. The future me on my present path sent a haunting image back in time: I was lying on my death bed regretting my failure to pursue my dreams because other people thought it was foolish or impractical.
I thought, “Now’s the time – while I’m in good health and still relatively young.”
I gave my job about a 4 month notice. My only regret now – I wish I would’ve quit a month earlier! Now in week 6 of being day job free, it’s astounding to me that I held on as long as I possibly could even at the detriment of what I claim is my most important work.
And that’s the the most surprising thing to reveal itself to me through this process — most people won’t make big decisions unless/until they have to… including me.
None of family, friends and even co-workers’ thought this was crazy. The main sentiment I heard: “I wish I was passionate enough about something to even know what to do with myself if I quit my job!”
For most people, the burden and risk of determining the best course and then navigating is far less appealing than latching on to rich people (who can afford the risk) who will pay others to realize their dreams.
Speaking of that, upon hearing I was leaving, the owner of my old company said, “Time to finally grow up.” Many would’ve felt insulted but I think that he accurately summed up where I was. Most – not all – of his employees are done growing professionally. I’m only just really embarking.
In preparing, I saved a bunch of money, read a lot about people quitting their day jobs and found a few very flexible non-music odd jobs I can do to earn money here and there. I figure that it’ll take me several months to figure out what I’m doing but… even if I totally fail, I know it was time for me to stop spending most of my day driving to/from and working an unfulfilling day job.