Courtesy of Hugh MacLeod
The following piece is an exclusive excerpt from ‘Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination‘ by Hugh MacLeod. Enjoy!
People love to imagine a worst-case scenario. Especially when it comes time to quit doing what they hate and start doing what they love instead…
Cindi is a very bright young friend of mine with a great career in front of her. She’s about twenty-six, and she’s been working her tail off in New York in the graphic design industry since she graduated from college a few years ago.
Cindi grew up in a single-parent household, so there was never a lot of money around. That’s OK; her mom was one smart, fun, tough cookie, and Cindi and her siblings always got good grades at school, so it all worked out rather well.
While she was getting her degree, Cindi had to pay her way through college. Happily she found this job (a) she really liked (b) was really good at, and (c) paid really good money: waiting tables at this fancy restaurant in Manhattan. She held down that job for years.
When I met her, Cindi was working for this small but kinda-sorta successful design agency, call it Acme Design (not its real name). It was founded by a pretty smart entrepreneur type, call him Joe Acme (not his real name, either).
When I met her, she was working all hours, doing a really good job. Busting ass, to put it plainly.
A few months ago, the phone rings. It’s Cindi.
“I’m thinking of quitting Acme,” she says.
“But I thought you really liked your job?”
“I did at first,” she says. “But I don’t think the company’s growing anymore. Plus, I think Joe’s gotten more interested in his new, far-too-young girlfriend than he is in growing the company. The same week he told us we weren’t getting any new pay raises this year, he bought the chick a brand-new Audi coupe.”
“Besides,” she continues, “I think I might want to start my own thing. I’m starting to get nibbles from potential clients wanting to work with me.”
“I just want to pick your brain,” she says. “What do you think I ought to do?”
“Sounds like a good time to move on,” I say.
“Yeah, but I’m kinda nervous about it.”
“Sure, but that’s normal. . . .”
So I gave her my two cents:
1. Her mother is very supportive of her idea to move on.
Besides, they get on very well. So she can always move back home to the suburbs if she needs to save money.
2. Acme Design is going nowhere, I can already tell. When a man starts trying to shtup his way out of a midlife crisis, you know there’s trouble afoot.
3. Cindi tells me she has no worries about going back and working for the restaurant. Not only was the money insanely great and she liked her job, she only quit her job at the restaurant because Joe Acme told her to.
4. The money at Acme stinks. Pretty much everybody who works there is broke by month’s end. Which makes it hard to stand up to Joe Acme when he’s having a bad day or having a bad idea. She was making plenty of money and still doing her job at Acme before Joe made her quit the restaurant. And since she had to give up that job, she feels a lot more powerless than she used to—without any increase in revenue. Just the opposite, in fact.
5. Cindi doesn’t mind the idea of going back to the restaurant. I tell her to do it. At the very least, she can save some money that way. A young woman with an extra ten or twenty thousand in her pocket has a lot more room to maneuver than a girl who’s broke at the end of every month.
So a simple game plan emerges: She goes and gets her old restaurant job back, she moves back in with mom to save money, she quits her job at Acme, and then she works in the mornings and afternoons for her new design clients, since her restaurant shift begins at five p.m.
When she gets off work she goes straight back home—she doesn’t bother with the after-hours thing with the guys and the gals at the restaurant. No late-night booze, drugs, and club sessions for this girl. No, she’s on a mission. Her colleagues at the restaurant, sadly, are not. They’re too busy being young, fun, and too coked-up to tie their shoelaces, let alone do something interesting in the long-term.
She’s still young. A couple more years of waiting tables won’t kill her—not if she’s saving money and using her off-time wisely to build her design business slowly and surely. I’d bet after a year or two, a girl with that talent and drive would easily be able to leave her waitressing job and start looking after her design clients for much better money, easily. And she’d still be well under thirty. What’s the worst that can happen?
Some of Cindi’s twentysomething peers raised their eyebrows a little bit, though. “Going back to waitressing? Isn’t that a backwards career move?” they said.
No, it isn’t, actually. She’s still young and what she’s doing is consistent with what she wants to do long-term. There’s no disgrace in waiting tables if it’s part of a long-term strategy. If she were just doing it because she had no earthly clue what else to do with her life, that would be different. But she’s not.
“The good news is,” I say to her, when she was just beginning to hatch this Evil Plan of hers, “you won’t die.”
So she went through with her Evil Plan. I was so proud. And the really good news is, she didn’t have to waitress or live with her mom for very long. Three months and she was gone. Three months and she managed to bag half a dozen high-paying clients for her business. Last time I saw her, she was wearing very expensive shoes and had moved into this very hip apartment in Brooklyn. Like I said, I was so proud.
And her colleagues back at the restaurant? They’re still there. Choices were made.
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