I used to have an incredibly comfortable job at Google. And then I quit to move to China to pursue a career in the action film industry. A lot of people ask me how I did it, so I’m writing this post to answer that question in a (hopefully) coherent way.
In college, I was a self-help junkie (I’d like to think I’m currently in recovery). The Wayne Dyers and Tony Robbinses always told me I could ‘manifest’ whatever I wanted. So as it was getting close to the time where I needed to find a job, I figured I would manifest a job at the best company to work for in the US. I started plotting how I would pull that off at the beginning of my junior year, had an interview my senior year, and got an offer sometime around November of that year. I was ecstatic – never in my life had I worked so hard and long towards a singular goal and achieved it. It was a huge confidence (and ego) boost.
Sometime during the high of landing my dream job, I thought to myself, “Shit, if I can get a job at Google, what else can I pull off?” I had spent a lot of time in China, and a lot of time watching kung fu movies. I’d seen many random white dudes in those movies, and I asked myself, “Who are all these random white dudes? I bet I could be one of those dudes.” A new dream was born.
I never really took it seriously, and paradoxically I always took it seriously. I was going for it, but it felt more like planning an elaborate prank than a career shift. I spent a lot of time and energy moving towards this goal, but it was mostly fun because I was holding it so lightly.
Before I even started working at Google, I started preparing myself. I started acting in absurd videos with my friends (see above). I signed up for kung fu classes. I saved up money; I never really made a lifestyle change from broke college student to rich yuppie. I lived in a tiny basement apartment and kept the same monthly budget for myself I had maintained all throughout college.
I made a commitment to myself and everyone who asked my post-graduation plans: “I’m going to work at Google after the summer’s over, but just long enough to pay off my loans. Then I’m going to move to China to act in kung fu movies.” I even told my boss and coworkers my plans shortly after starting work at the big G. There was no turning back at that point.
Telling everyone my intentions had two helpful outcomes. First, I felt more obligated to pursue the dream, because if I didn’t I would then be a liar and a phony to all the people I promised. Second, since I had no idea what I was doing, some people were able to point me in the right direction. It came out of the woodwork that one of my friend’s-friend’s-best-friends was an action actress in China. My brother’s-coworker’s-friend was also an actor in China. Through them, I made some new connections that proved very useful when I got to China, which ended up leading to getting my career in film started.
I gave myself a two year deadline to leave Google for China, but ended up shortening that to a year and a half. Since I’d already paid off my loans and saved up enough dough to live off of for about two years with my frugal lifestyle, I figured I better get out of there before the golden handcuffs got too tight.
To be continued next week in Part II.