"Good News! You Don’t Die."

From Hugh Macleod: Whining is not an exit strategy

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!

Enter Hugh

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.

# # #

Hugh’s latest book, Evil Plans, is available through all major book sellers. You can find more of his writing and artwork at his popular blog, Gaping Void.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

140 Replies to “"Good News! You Don’t Die."”

    1. @ Dave, No one said there is any disgrace in waiting tables. As matter of fact she said she enjoyed it and made good money at it. If ur dream is to be a waiter and thats what ur doing then your a success. If you dream of doing something else but you stay in your waiter job because your afraid to take the steps to move towards your dreams. Then that would be a disgrace.

  1. This article is really inspiring since I sort of had a similar situation.

    I quit a job that I really like two weeks ago because I wasn’t happy anymore with the environment. The environment really wasn’t that conducive for working and it affected my productivity as well as my health. I kept on getting sick and even acquired an allergy. I realized that liking a job is not enough reason to stick to it. Other contributing factors such as environment and career growth must also be considered. That’s why, even if I like the job I just had to quit.

    Now, I’m changing career. I have this different job that I’m not totally familiar with. It’s scary. You have to learn new things. Learn how to work differently. You have to adjust to new environment and people. I’m struggling. But I have a goal now. And having a goal keeps me motivated. If in achieving this goal means I have to move into unfamiliar territory then I just have to struggle and keep moving forward. After all, I’m not gonna die right?

  2. Got to wonder, what happens if all or majority of people stopped doing the mundane jobs and just did whatever they felt like. Scary world.

    From a “normal” persons point of view, these success stories seem selective.

  3. Wow, that’s quite possibly the best book title ever. Now I have to read that book too! If you’re happy waiting tables then hell, do it! Life is too short to be unhappy.

    I don’t want to rule the world; just myself.

    Thanks, Tabz. : )

  4. I want a poster of this for my office.

    Perfect sentiment AND reminder to actually determine a realistic exit strategy.

  5. I’m sick to death of living in a flamming universe where you have to do better, be more, want more, create more, have more, earn more, develop more, find more ways to have more without apparently wanting more…..how about just being bloody still. How about not wanting anything and being completely provided for.How do it get to absolute zero. No movement, nothing, zero!!! How about that model?????

  6. Heres a book to write: THE ZERO HOUR WORK WEEK, ALL EXPENSES PAID, YIPPEE EVERYTHING PROVIDED FOR AN ALL ROUND FANTASTIC 80 YEAR LIFE SPAN, ACCIDENT FREE, NO MORTGAGE ON THE SOUL HAPPY FEST. I wouldn’t need to buy it because it would be handed out free! In fact Tim would read it to me in the Greek Islands drinking ouzo shots while he teaches me Italian in Vibram footware!

    1. Pas de bol d’habiter aux Etats-Unis !

      I paid 500 euros for my whole higher education up to Bachelor’s degree. If I had been among the 33% less wealthy students, it would have been 0€ and I would have received financial support. People, I feel so earnestly sorry for all the inhabitants of United States who have to do their studies in this country. It seems so unfair.

      So cheers for those who need it.

  7. Heres a book to write

    “The no hour work week, all expenses paid life, zero mortgage on the soul, being taught Italian by Tim while sipping ouzo in the Greek islands in Vibram Footware, completely free of annoying quotes designed to motivate us past the quintessential inertia of being born human”

    Now theres a book I’d buy with the cash endowed at birth that never runs out.

  8. So many people seem to get themselves ‘stuck’ in jobs they hate despite other options being available. It seems allot of people are scared of the possibility of being rejected and so stay with a bad gig…

  9. Its crazy to see people doing things they hate now when im doing what i want thanks to this blog but that also forces me to make other people believe in what they really want and going for it..

  10. Welcome First time fashion show dived here on your website, founde on ASK. Thanks a lot. You’ve shared some quite powerful and topical words of advice with me at night. Thank you so a lot when planning on taking time to listen to my own dilemma and for your current assist. Might Our god bless you