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My Independence Day

Philip Werner on Mt Chocorua
Philip Werner on Mt Chocorua

I quit my corporate job six years ago today. Up till then I’d told myself that I could put up with all the bullshit “for the money,” but it was eroding my soul. I needed to hike my own hike and follow own my moral compass instead of killing myself to make the quarterly revenue goal or kissing ass so I’d get a raise. I just up and quit.

What will happen to Philip Werner?

Fast forward six years. I’m a full-time outdoor writer and haven’t had to waste time on a single  conference call or in a meeting since I left corporate life in 2010. I work at home so I don’t have a commute except when I drive to the mountains to hike and fish for a few days each week. I still work hard at what I do, but my job isn’t killing me. If anything, the lack of stress has added 10 or more years to my life, enriched my marriage, and helped me become a happier and kinder person.

When I look around at my friends, most of them are stuck with jobs they hate. While a monthly pay check and benefits are convenient, they don’t provide much security anymore. Working for yourself provides a lot more security actually, since no one is going to lay you off. You can’t say that for any job where someone else is running the show besides you.

The thing I like the most about hiking and backpacking is that it teaches you self-reliance. Sooner or later you’ll encounter a situation where you have to take complete responsibility for yourself to get out of a jam. If it doesn’t kill you, that is. While this can have a transformative effect on your hiking prep, its biggest impact is in other area areas of your life.

There is a reason why so many hikers and backpackers, thru-hikers and mountaineers, climbers and backcountry skiers, shy away from a corporate existence and make their own way in life. They’ve learned how to be self-reliant and taken their own career paths outside the norm.

Imagine what it would be like if you could wake up with a smile on your face every morning and not have to worry about what your commute will be like, or what it would be like to spend time with your kids during the day instead of shipping them off to an after-school program. Controlling your own financial destiny gives you the freedom to spend time on the things you want to do, rather than forcing you to generate more income so you can outsource your life and family demands to others.

If you hate your job or the rat race is killing you, I’d encourage you to think outside the box and get out of the box. Start your own business and make your own destiny, even if it’s just a side business to start. You’d be surprised at how far you can go, once you give yourself a chance.

While I don’t know what the future holds for my family and myself, I do know that we’ll manage to make it work on our own terms. Self reliance.

The day I quit working for someone else is the day I became myself.

 

30 comments

  1. “The day I quit working for someone else is that day I became myself.” That reminds me of the great saying “Be yourself … everybody else is taken.” Thanks for a great post, Philip, and great advice. When I quit my job 30 years ago and became self-employed, I never thought about whether backpacking since the age of 12 had helped me be comfortable operating independently … but you’ve got me [re]thinking. -JJ

  2. Kudos. That is the way life is meant to be lived.

  3. A great piece on hobby turned to work. I tried it in my 20’s, quit my day job and became an outdoor pursuits instructor. Over time I found that on my days off I was loath to climb, canoe or go hiking, the hobby was lost. So I left for a job in the chemical industry working with hazardous materials sometimes in poor conditions, but the pay has been good. Thirty eight years later I only work four days a week then have four off, every seven weeks I have eighteen days holiday, I’ve been lucky so far. Now the kids are all grown up and left the nest I can get outdoors at least once a week and holidays I can get weeks away more than once a year. We never know how life will turn out, better to have tried and failed than never tried at all. Good for you follow your dream.

    • Lance, yours is a good example of getting paid to do something is much different that keeping it a hobby. Even not for profit organizations need to raise money by holding fund raisers and membership drives. A buddy of mine once opened his own sporting goods store. Fun for a few years but he couldn’t come close to matching big box store pricing, finding and keeping good help was a constant challenge, even sharpening hockey skates became a chore. He eventually closed.

      John

  4. Philip – Glad everything worked out for you. Sadly too many people work until their bodies are broken and never really enjoy retirement. I am determined to not be one of those people.

  5. I teared up reading this. I too broke the chains 5 years ago this past February. I never looked back, my life has been amazing since then. Thank you for the encouragement, may God protect every step you take and guard you from harm in every decision you make. #NewLife

  6. Philip – Just last week, I retired from the company that bought your former employer, Endeca. I planned this a year ago, hopefully life and good health will cooperate so I can do more hiking, canoeing, riding my bicycle.

  7. I didn’t so much break the chains as over time they eroded as I retired twice. But this article so inspiring. Time to get even more busy with this great, amazing love I have found over all too many years.
    Thank you so much.

  8. I retired from the military after 22 years in 1995. Two years before I retired I started a landscaping business & had it for seven years. It became too difficult to do by myself, so I went back to work for an institution where I’ve been working for 15 years. After shoulder surgery in April, I could be out of work for another nine months. Everyone tells me I should retire, but I had actually wanted to work for another seven years to age 67. I’m trying to be open to consider new options. Although I flew yesterday, it’s so expensive flying airplanes I’ll have to leave it behind. I’ve invested in an array of the best, most lightweight backpacking gear available as well as a host of the best photographic gear. These are two things I’d like to pursue. Downsizing will be necessary, but your article causes me to think it could be worth doing while I’m healthy enough to enjoy it. Thank you for the inspiration Phillip.

  9. Congratulations, Philip, on understanding the right choice for you.

  10. I’m so happy for you Philip! We (my husband and I) are also edging toward our own Independence days :) He retired early from the military so he does have a small retirement income and I am working on starting my own small art-pottery business within the next few years. We have been trying to reduce our debt and have both been able to work only part time over the past year. You are so right, life is short and we only get to do this once!

  11. Thanks for sharing your story, Phillip!

  12. So inspiring (over the years that I’ve known this) that I may be following your footsteps shortly…

  13. My story was corporate sales to small business owner for 8 years, back to sales and now 6 years behind a desk with no stress and no sales. Retirement in 4 years at 67. But the independent bug is taking root again. Thanks for the inspiration Phil. By the way, I spooked a black bear at Dolly Sods, WV over the weekend, probably by being too quiet on the trail by myself. Spoke to the rangers and some hunter friends after the close call and will make more noise and carry bear spray in the future. No harm no foul.

  14. Well said Philip. With you all the way.
    ~ Fozzie

  15. I know the feeling you felt. I changed jobs twice to one that I almost enjoyed going to. A very active friend, who was only 42, had a fatal heart attack which first prompted me to cut my work hours in half, and then left the workforce altogether six months after that. I had enough retirement benefits to which made my life almost totally unstressed. I enjoy reading your exploits, and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to hike with you again.

  16. Thank you for this post. I am working to a version of life similar to yours. My current job is pleasant. But I am still giving some of the most productive time of the day, and my life, to a career that I am not passionate about. Oddlyou enough my outdoor oriented career and my day job career have been progressing almost in tandem! But it is not a sustainable pace as you can imagine. :)

  17. My independence will come when I’m no longer paying child support to my parasitic ex-wife. Its my penance for making a poor choice in a mate. Until then, Im a wage slave

  18. Kudos.

    I quit my last job July 7, 2005. I decided I’d rather die than keep working there. Since then some things have worked and some haven’t.

    Four years ago I woke up one day and was deaf on one side, leaving me relying on what used to be my bad ear. An eye exam a while back indicated that I might have age-related macular degeneration (i.e., that I was going blind). Not quite, but my retinas are not in great shape any more either.

    Things happen. You never know.

    One of my advantages is that I’m good at saving money. One of my failings is that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

    At least I do have two modest retirement income streams now and the money I put away has nearly quintupled and doesn’t need to be touched.

    And it’s always a sunny, bug-free day at 8000 feet in Cuenca, Ecuador, where I am now, though it is a long, long commute back to Washington State for backpacking, where I’ll be next week.

    Still chugging along for now: “You are not beaten until you admit it. Hence don’t.” — George S Patton

  19. This post is truly an inspiration and nearly brought tears to my eye. I’d give anything to escape the 9-5.

  20. A great post Phillip. We fail to realize at any moment we are free to make different choices than those made in the past. Very liberating.

  21. You’re living the dream. Hopefully I’ll be able to join you at some point in the future. It’s good to see that it’s possible. You’re an inspiration.

  22. Wow-was this timely and spot on for me. I work for a lunatic and a bully and have lately been contemplating just quitting without another job, as this is truly killing my soul as well–I feel like an abused spouse and I’m not married! Thanks for this post.

  23. I commend you for the tremendous courage that took. At 37, I am consistently feeling like I need a restart, a different direction. But I believe I get caught thinking too big, feeling overwhelmed and not doing anything. So, your comment on taking small steps was helpful to hear.

    I read this forum fairly regularly and all of your trips, gear advice, and candid opinions based on real experience are terrific. Thank you.

  24. I worked for 20 years in the laboratory testing industry. Grueling work with all the downsides that every job has. But I got great training that I now use as a consultant working for myself. And I brought my son into the business to eventually to take the business over and pay me a stipend in retirement. No idea how it will work – its still a struggle every day to grow and expand – but we love what we do and we have fun doing it. And in two years I hope to take 6 months off to hike the AT and then return 2-3 days a week until they throw me out. Good to have plans – we’ll see where life takes us.

  25. The stress doesn’t go away but it’s something much different. It’s much less artificial. It’s artisanal stress:you make it yourself. More satisfying that way.

  26. Thank you very much for this post! I feel I really need to make a change, but have been at a loss as to what to do. You have encouraged me to keep on keeping on and try to figure something out. Congratulations on your success, and I wish you the very best in the future.

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