My mouth still waters when I think about the Google cafeteria. The catering team was five-stars – our chef was in charge of meals for the US Olympic Team one year. And we didn’t just have free lunch – it was hot breakfast too, and ‘microkitchens’ everywhere you turned, with unlimited snacks, of the stupidly expensive variety. I never had to pay a cent for medical costs. And I was making enough money to pay off $20,000 in student loans and save up another $20,000 in a year and a half. I could write a love song about the benefits that came from working with Google, and the incredible people I worked with.
Why in God’s name would I leave all that behind?
In a previous post I wrote about How I quit Google. Now I’d like to write about Why.
Meaning vs. Comfort
My life during Google was incredibly comfortable. Too comfortable. There’s a concept called the ‘golden handcuffs’ – it refers to the incentives a company gives out to ensure employees don’t leave. I was terrified of those handcuffs – I saw them as chaining me to comfort and away from meaning. I knew the longer I stayed, the tighter those handcuffs would grip me.
I quit because the I found the majority of my work there unfulfilling. Working as a stuntman and now as a coach has been incredibly uncomfortable. In China, I once lived in a place with no toilet to save on rent. But the meaning I derived from that work made it clearly worth it.
Freedom vs. Security
I generally don’t like the idea of working for the man. Admittedly it’s a bit silly or even infantile, but I’d much rather be doing my own thing. Even if that means not knowing how I’m going to pay my rent for the next year or what my retirement plans are.
Ever since leaving I’ve felt much more freedom – I choose my own schedule, I leave the country for a month and work remotely, and I can always be there for a friend in need (even if all they need is to party). I take days off whenever I want. But there’s no paid time off. And I don’t get a fat paycheck every two weeks. This can be incredibly stressful.
Courage vs. Certainty
“I’d much rather regret something I’d done rather than something I was too afraid to do.” – Some shitty Jason Statham movie
I was afraid of leaving. Staying at Google, my future was certain. But I was surrounded by coworkers who had been there longer than me, and I wasn’t attracted to their lifestyles. I wanted more adventure, more fun, more absurdity. It was terrifying to quit, but it was more important to me to buck up and take a risk than it was to be certain of my future.
I want to be courageous. And staying at Google did not feel courageous enough for me. I’m able to face my fears much more often since leaving, and am learning to be OK with uncertainty. It hasn’t gotten much easier.
I don’t want to glamorize the life I live now. It has its challenges too. But they are challenges I’m more willing to overcome.
- Working at Google was pretty tight
- I quit because:
- I value meaning over comfort
- I value freedom over security
- I value courage over certainty
PS – I’ve got nothing but love for the big G. I still believe in Google’s vision, and I did a lot of work there that was meaningful for me. I do not mean to imply that you can’t find meaning, freedom, and courage with a job at Google or any corporate job. I simply was not finding enough of those things during my time there – which is more of a reflection of me than the company. If you work at Google, please invite me back for lunch. I really miss that cafeteria.
PPS – Do you share similar values and want help breaking your own golden handcuffs? I would love to help you with that. Click here to learn more.