Four years ago, if you’d told me I’d one day live in paradise and run a business I loved, I’d have probably have said you were nuts.
Because four years ago, I was climbing the corporate ladder. I was making six figures. I had the car, the house in the Canadian suburbs, and by most people’s reckoning I was successful.
But I was miserable, tired, overworked, and disconnected from the work I was doing. So I did what most people would do in that situation: I hired a therapist, who concluded there was nothing wrong with me.
There was nothing wrong with me. But there was something wrong with my life: my job. It was exhausting, soulless and creatively stifling.
At that time, I felt my life was a million miles from paradise. I was verging on burnout. I’d bagged a six figure job in Canada that involved international travel and a guaranteed regular paycheck and by most people’s reckoning, I was doing well. But it just didn’t feel right. And after having that emotional breakdown during a business trip in Russia, I decided enough was enough.
We spend more time at work and less time with our families. We work harder, not smarter. Work creeps out of the office and into our social lives, homes, and weekends. And after all this progress, how many of us are honestly leading a life we can be proud of?
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who cared for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, recorded the regrets of those on their deathbed in her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. The most cited regret of her patients—they wished they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.
I wanted to be courageous and to finally make conscious choices on how I could create a life experience I can be proud to lead.
Not long after my breakdown, I quit.
To escape the cubicle, I started a transition business, creating a boutique agency in the same industry I was in (international education), re-using the network and knowledge I already had.
I will always be grateful to my transition business. It made me enough income to allow me to quit, but within six months, I felt completely dissatisfied with my career yet again. How could I be miserable again if I’m out of the cubicle? I felt a big disconnection to a bigger meaning with my work and didn’t feel as fulfilled as I had hoped.
So I started Screw the Cubicle as a personal blog to keep friends and family abreast of this transition from a high-paced corporate life to budding entrepreneurship. It was also a place for me to talk about the identity crisis I was feeling in my transition, and a place to talk about the fears and things that happen when you take the leap after corporate life.
People came asking for advice on the practical answers to escaping corporate life and making meaningful work. I started with advising people on practical things like how to save money, how to get a second job, how to negotiate your job with your boss.
Soon, it felt natural to take it to the next level. I took on eight test clients for free, coaching them through their own transitions, while testing out my own teaching methodology.
The switch to Screw the Cubicle really helped me understand my own seeking of meaning. I asked myself, can I make money and also do something meaningful? That was the missing gap for me. It was so much more fun and easier because it was something I was naturally good at and I was passionate about.
I’m now based in Bali with my business that goes wherever I go. All I need is my laptop, a good wifi connection, and I can work from anywhere.
Being in Ubud as my base was a big game changer for me personally and professionally, where startup founders, remote workers, and entrepreneurs come together to work, play, and collaborate. It was quite an important factor for me to have community. You can get inspired by different types of businesses and ways of working.
One of my most favourite thing about my work these days? The ability to have variety, space to explore different interests, and the simple but powerful gift of being able to make choices on how I spend my time on daily.
We live in an age with more information and more ways to work than ever before. More of us can work for ourselves. There’s been an unparalleled growth in flexible working practices. And many of us are able to work in a way that allows us to combine work and adventure.
We can design careers and businesses that allow us to indulge our love of travel, or even our hobbies, for example. Today, ordinary people can build sustainable careers and businesses without needing to clock in and out of a 9-5.