“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain
"I have always heard that you need to give yourself a long time to unplug when you do a sabbatical. I unplugged so fast I was a little concerned that I was losing brain capacity." - John Ortberg
In November of 2019, after 5 unbelievably stressful years “back” in corporate software sales replete with tons of vomit inducing panicked “fire drills AND a trip to the emergency room for a “heart attack scare”, I was “finally” able to take a loooong overdue sabbatical from Corporate America.
Quick back story. In 2015, my wife and I very reluctantly decided that I would reenter what we not so affectionately referred to as “the soulless corporate grind” in order for us to accomplish some very specific financial goals we were aiming at.
In today’s video, I want to lay out the “why” and the “how” I was able to take a much needed sabbatical from Corporate America. I want to unpack for you exactly what I did AND… spoiler alert, how I actually never wound up going back.
Let’s get into it...
Hey friend, it’s Brad Long here with ZeroDebtCoach where we help 5 and 6 figure corporate burnouts escape their nightmare by teaching them how to effectively: 1) organize and optimize their financial lives, 2) eliminate debt and 3) accelerate toward financial independence by starting and growing an online business.
Before I talk about the why and how I took a sabbatical from Corporate America, let’s define what one is by heading over to workable.com:
The sabbatical definition is “a break from work” during which employees can pursue their interests, like traveling, writing, research, volunteering or other activities (or even rest). During that time, the employee is still employed at their organization, but they don’t need to perform their normal job duties or report to work.
Rest is something we’re severely lacking in our “productivity and data obsessed” culture. And my situation was certainly no exception.’
So, to unpack the “why” of my sabbatical, I need to outline some history.
My wife and I had been debt-free for about 8 years and had built up about a $75k net worth, but we weren’t really gaining traction toward our goal of financial independence, which we THOUGHT was going to be $1M in net worth.
I’ll unpack more about our FI number as we move through the story, but we had just decided that we really needed to turn up the heat on this income generation process and we knew that going back into corporate software sales was going to be the (short term) ticket for that.
During that time, I had been reading Jacob Lund Fisker’s “Early Retirement Extreme” and Vicki Robin’s “Your Money Or Your Life” and I was very much getting into the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement.
So, Corporate America was never ever going to be a long-term solution, just a way for us to accelerate toward our goal of a $1M in net worth, so I could exit corporate for good and pour myself into being a financial coach, teaching people what my wife and I had been doing for years so that they too could free themselves.
In 2015, entered back into the publicly traded software as a service realm with high stress, high expectations, high quotas and unfortunately, a more than slightly psychopathic leadership structure.
Now, I pretty much knew what I was getting myself into when I reentered after being out of it for more than 7 years, but this go-round was REALLY going to stretch my already frail nerves.
One mid-fall 2am trip to the emergency room with all the classic signs of an oncoming heart attack was the beginning of the end and we knew we needed to amp up our “exit plan” efforts, whether we got to our $1M in net worth or not.
So, stress, bad fit, tons of nonsense and micromanagement and weariness of working for sociopaths and psychopaths was my immediate “why”. My longing to pursue financial coaching as a vocation was our longer-term “why”.
Now I want to share some of the “how” I was able to take a sabbatical with 3 insights:
I always loved Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Put first things first” is one of those habits and I’m constantly trying to keep that in mind, particularly in the planning and execution stage of a project or endeavor.
In this case, “first things first” meant that I had already successfully eliminated all $43,000 of my loathsome consumer debt about 7 years before I went back to corporate.
I actually accomplished this part before I met my wife back in 2009, and it had allowed us incredible life and career agility and flexibility up to that point.
Like Dave Ramsey often says, life is just more flexible when you don’t have payments.
Back in 2004, it took me 2.5 years to obliterate that $43k worth of consumer debt, but the thought patterns, behaviors and habits I developed during that process, deeply informed my wife’s and my process of amassing a $75k net worth on a very small income.
If this is where you are, let me offer you our FREE “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide” and 30 day YouTube Course. This free resource will have ALL the tools, forms and printables you’ll need while moving through the 30 day YouTube challenge.
It’s almost a cliche’ that when you earn more, you spend more. My wife and I knew that and, because I hated corporate so much, we knew that we had to look at the windfall of income VERY carefully.
So, we REALLY buttoned up our planning, budgeting and expense tracking during this time. I look back and am amazed that we successfully increased our savings rate to between 70%-80%+ over the course of that 5 years.
That’ right, we literally lived on between 20%-30% of our income during that time. We were incredibly focused, incredibly disciplined and incredibly blessed to even have the opportunity to increase our income like that.
And we DID NOT want to waste that opportunity!
We knew that we had to double down on our budgeting and expense tracking efforts and THOSE were the tactics that helped us save and invest over $500k during those 5 years.
If this is where you are, let me offer you our FREE “Budgeting 101” guide. This will give you everything you need to get started solidly with financial organization, budgeting and expense tracking.
Budgeting doesn't have to be the "b-word". If you follow this simple, granular, no-overwhelm, step-by-step guide, you'll very quickly be on your way to becoming a solid, regular and even expert budgeter.
So, I just mentioned that we had reached $500k+ in net worth, which was awesome, BUT it wasn’t the $1M we were planning and hoping for.
The reason we had slated the number at $1M was of a concept called the “4% Rule” I had learned about in all my FI research.
Now, I won’t get into that here, but suffice it to say we began to recognize that we weren’t going to “get there” (meaning, to our $1M target) any time soon and probably NOT without me having some sort of heart failure.
You see, I was beyond burned out and sick and tired of having my every move, every decision, every deal cycle scrutinized and micromanaged to death, despite the fact that I never exceeded my sales quota by less than 109% during my entire sales career.
PLUS, even though I was massively over-producing, I was being given “lip service” from leadership about them leaning on the “people who are underproducing” for more results. But, the truth was, they were ACTUALLY putting more pressure on me to pick up the slackers slack and I was just beyond burned out by it all.
By November of 2019, I was at a breaking point and both my wife AND I agreed it was time for to press pause
So we sat down, looked at the numbers, looked at our budget and our spending patterns over the past 5 years and decided that I would indeed take a break.
At first, we intended it to be a sabbatical, a year off and then… back to the grind.
Turns out, I never went back and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made both for my career and even more importantly for my life, my nerves and my relationships.
As the first few weeks of freedom washed over me and I was able to pour myself into this platform, it became evident that there was “no going back”.
We decided that, given our financial discipline and the ultimate growth of this business and some other side hustles, that $1M wasn’t really all that important to reach RIGHT NOW.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re still aiming for it, it’s just a slower, more manageable and MUCH more enjoyable ride now that I jettisoned the corporate cult.
We’re all about taking immediate action around here.
So, let me ask you, where are you in this story?
Are you just getting started with financial organization, budgeting and expense tracking?
Are you addressing and sacking your debt?
Are you in an investment posture and looking to start some sort of side hustle or online business so that you can escape the rat race?
Let me offer you some free resources to help you out...
Now, if this decision process is something you struggle with and you constantly feel isolated about, I’ve got some great news for you and it’s free.
Our private Facebook group, ZeroDebtTribe. It’s a group of like minded people that are all somewhere along this P2P/debt-elimination/on their way to FI continuum. So click the image above and apply to join us. :)
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All that said, let's keep on building your financial acumen and make this your best year yet!
Thanks so much for reading and we’ll see you in the next video post!