This past February, I decided to walk away from a lucrative advertising career. I contemplated it for an entire year beforehand. My initial plan was to save some money, take off for a few months, and work on my art projects. While I was excited about expressing the artistic side of me that had been dormant for five plus years, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave the safety net of a steady paycheck and benefits. I also had some pretty nifty industry swag that flowed like milk and honey. I loved it. I grew weary of working 12-hour days and could no longer feign excitement about products that I did not consume or believe in. After reaching my breaking point, I decided it was time to leave, but not before I asked myself some serious questions.
I started this list over five years ago, after I moved to Los Angeles. Invention was born out of necessity when I needed help deciding whether it was time for me to move into a new apartment. I liked where I lived, but my new job was a bit further away. As I was still relatively new to the city, I didn’t have a lot of close friends to ask for advice. I weighed the pros and cons, then made a pretty solid decision that I was pleased with. Not only did I move to a cheaper, more aesthetically pleasing apartment, it was only a few miles from my new job and I only took one street to get there. That’s unheard of in L.A.
Many growing pains, life changes, self-reflection, conversations with friends and clients, helped me to fine-tune this list over the last five years. It’s been a fantastic tool to help me assess any situation. How you customize your list is completely up to you and your specific needs, but I hope the questions below will be a good start and help you put anything that may no longer be serving you in a better perspective.
1. How does this affect my outlook?
When I got up to go to work, the first thing I would say to myself was “Damn. Damn. DAMN!” That’s how I would start my day. Can you imagine? Some people start their days with a balanced breakfast. I started my days with damns. That’s how I, through no realization of my own, would create my day. Words have power and words become your reality. The situation I was in was so toxic, it caused me to curse the rest of the day. If you find yourself doing this in any given situation, it’s time to exit to the left.
2. How does this make me feel?
When you contemplate facing that job, selfish friend, no-good man, or whatever, do you feel shitty, drained or exhausted? If you do, then it’s time to give it up, booski. It sounds so elementary but think about the number of times you went somewhere you didn’t want to be knowing full well you’d be feeling bad afterwards. Those bad feelings aren’t your imagination. Trust them. They won’t go away.
3. Is this situation bringing the best out of me?
At my old job, I would call in at least twice a month. I was never sick. Sick and tired maybe, but not ill. The stress and pressure was so severe that I didn’t have time to be proactive and innovative. I just did enough not to get fired. I didn’t feel compelled to give my all and put my whole heart into what I was doing. If any situation makes you dumb yourself down just to get through it, leave it alone. It’s time to do something else. It’s not worth it to be less than you are.
4. What are the pros?
One of the best tools for decision making that I’ve used is a pro/con list. I draw a line on a piece of paper with my “pros” on the left and “cons” on the right. If the “con” side is a longer list, you know what to do. I like this list because it forces me to look at the harsh realities of what I’m facing. There have been times when I looked at that “con” side and said, “Got-damn! Why am I putting up with all THAT shit??!!” I felt stupid as hell, but I had to release it and let that shit go.
5. Does this enhance, complement, or support my needs and or goals?
I’ll take the work scenario out of this completely. I have some friends whom I love very much. They are like part of my family. I noticed after a few years that every time I had a new venture I wanted to explore, they’d kind of dismiss it. The dismissal was subtle, but it was what we like to call “lightweight hating.” I knew they didn’t approve. I also knew that given the opportunity, they would throw shade at me behind my back. I knew this because when I’d hang with them, they did the same thing to mutual friends of ours every chance they got. Who was I to think that I was immune to this down low backbiting? I was no different. The people they spoke so badly of behind their backs would get the highest praises when they were face to face. That’s why I don’t fuck with them anymore. I love them like Bette Midler: from a distance.
As you continue to grow and sow the seeds of success, you will need a stable support system surrounding you. Everything you do must complement and enhance who you are and where you’re trying to go. You will get there with grace and ease once you get rid of the excess baggage. As my girl Erykah Badu once said, “You gon’ hurt your back, draggin’ all them bags like that.”
Pack light my friends, and keep it moving.