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What Will Happen to Philip Werner?

Blogging Naked
Blogging Naked

On July 5, 2010, I walked into my manager’s office and quit. He never saw it coming.

I’d just come back from a 3 week backpacking trip hiking coast-to-coast across Scotland.

Going for a long walk helped me realize how unhappy I was at work and how good it was to get away from it. Working for other people had lost its allure and I felt the time was right to break out on my own and blaze my own trail.

When I got back to the states, I talked to my wife about quitting my job and we decided I’d drop my bombshell the day after the 4th of July. She was understandably nervous about our future, but has always supported me, and knew how miserable I was at work.

My employers did everything they could to get me to rescind my resignation but I was determined to go.

I still remember one discussion I had with the head of HR, who asked me “What will happen to Philip Werner?,” as if my identity depended on my job at Endeca.

My life had changed course well before that conversation. I was already hiking and writing five days a week for SectionHiker.com and building an online audience. Having spent the previous 20 years in the software and Internet technology space, I knew how to make money online and set about building my own adventure writing and content marketing business to make a living.

The End of Employment (as we knew it)

The nature of work and employment has changed over the past ten years and any kind of loyalty or relationship between companies and their employees seems to have vanished. The only thing that seems to matter anymore is making the quarterly sales quota. Managers don’t take the time to nurture less experienced employees. Companies lay off people for seemingly arbitrary reasons, and the only way to get promoted or get a raise is to jump jobs to another company.

Employment, careers, retirement, pensions – it’s all flown out the window and disappeared. If you want to survive in this world and make a living, you need to take matters into your own hands. If you have a full-time job, you should hedge your bets and develop a little business on the side that you can depend on if your employer decides to let you go. Get out of debt. Eliminate your excess expenses and get frugal. These are the keys to financial independence in today’s world.

Get Happy, Not Rich

The past four years after I quit my job have been the happiest of my life. While I’ve been busy, I love what I do, I get to spend more time with my wife and soulmate, and I’m much less stressed out than I ever was when I was working for an employer.

Life is good. I usually work four days a week. I can go hiking for a few hours every day and on most weekends. I have a great relationship with my clients, who treat me like family, and I feel real good about the value that I provide them. Plus I get to interact daily with the hikers who read SectionHiker.com.

I’m as hard-charging as I ever was in the high-tech world, but I value the quality of my time more than making a lot of money. Unlike many ultralight thru-hikers who want to live on the trail all the time and eschew personal posessions, my wife and I are not minimalists. We have financial needs (and we have health insurance), but we value our self-sufficiency, independence, and happiness more than making a lot of money.

What happened to Philip Werner? He’s a happy hiker.

53 comments

  1. I love this post! I remember you starting out and quitting your job, and am so pleased to see you enjoying a life doing what you love. Kudos!

  2. Great post and good for you! You’re a lucky man. So much of what you’ve said rings true. Just wish I had the balls and the wherewithal to do something similar. To actually get to do what you enjoy doing for a living…!

  3. Nice post. I envy you and hope the best for your future. It’s good to see that to date things a sailing smoothly for you.

  4. Thats wonderful. I have done something similiar and i couldnt b happier. Good luck and prosperity in your future endeavors.

  5. The two people I know who have merged their passion and their livelihood, you and Mike Cherim (NH Tramper), are both hikers. Coincidence?

    • Mike has a good deal going. I have to meet up with him in person sometime. I’m sure our paths will cross.

    • Yes, coincidence. You’re a hiker, so presumably many of your friends are hikers. So those are the folks whose personal developments you’re going to hear about. With a large portion of my friendships also hiking-related I’ve got the same bias. Were our circles more balanced, I’m sure we’d be hearing similar stories from endless other quarters. After all, personal passions come in all shapes and sizes.

  6. Im also a true blood hiker from Maine.90 mi.south of Katadhin. Big hiking.

  7. Congrats, Philip. I enjoy reading your articles every day and watching you grow as a wilderness guide and mentor. It’s a much more enduring and healthy model than an IT manager!

  8. Congratulations, and I’m glad it’s working out so well for you. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m in a similar place, since 2000. I didn’t have the guts to quit; I waited until they fired me…

  9. Have been following Sectionhiker for a long time now and remember when you made the decision to go out on your own. Looks like it was a great move for you and yours. Did not know what to expect today when I saw the lead in photo. Hard to believe your not a minimalist based on the photo. Good luck and keep up the great post.

  10. Here’s a verse I saw the other day:

    Let other folk make money faster;
    In the air of dark-room’d towns;
    I don’t dread a peevish master,
    Though no man may heed my frowns.
    I be free to go abroad,
    Or take again my homeward road
    To where, for me, the apple tree
    Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

    Says it all, really! Glad you’re enjoying “going it alone”.

  11. Good for you! Makes me glad that at least one other person in the universe is satisfied. The norm seem to be the opposite, at least here in my part of the world. Even though I apparently live in the “happiest” country in the world. Keep up the good “work”.

  12. I’m close enough to retirement, I hope, that I can hang on. This is a terrific post, an inspiration. Your transition took a lot of strength, self confidence, and a supportive partner. More of us should take lessons! Keep up the amazing work.

  13. I have no doubt that my wife would disown me if I posted such a picture, but in all other regards she supports me 100%. Congratulations on the success you have achieved with a high quality life and “blogging naked.” Of course, there’s blogging and then there is Sectionhiker. You set the bar.

  14. “The past four years after I quit my job have been the happiest of my life.”

    This is awesome.

    I had an epiphany about six years ago and fled the IT industry for nursing and though my income dropped dramatically, I had done my research and was ready for it.

    I count myself very fortunate to have the luxury to do work that I love – that I would do for free (but don’t tell anyone that). I am glad that I had the courage/desperation to escape a career that was just not right for me.

    Previous to leaving software, I read a lot about men who tried to make transitions to different (read: lower paying) careers and had failed. It’s good to hear the story of another fellow who escaped, who made it.

  15. Nicely done sir! A great story about following your passion in life. And a great photo to accompany it :-)

  16. Sir, the entire hiking community has reaped the benefit of your decision through the information, equipment reviews, recommendations, and entertainment provided on sectionhiker.com

    Thanks very much and I wish you continued success

  17. Hey Philip,
    I just did the same over here in Germany and it feels good! I like to spend my time how I want it to spend. Mostly I work in the evenings, when my family goes to sleep. I work 4 days a week an get the same money like in my 9 to 5 Job.
    If I want to go out for hike, I just go and do my work later. Sure, my customers want me to get the job done, but nobody can say me how to do it ;-)

  18. Great post, Phillip. That photo though…where’s my eye bleach??

  19. This is probably your best posting. My hat is off to you for taking the big step and going off on your on. All your points were spot on especially how employer/employee relationships have changed. You are a lucky man!

  20. Hey Phillip,
    Great story, I’m pretty much at the very same place in my life! Ready to quit my day job and focus on my website/blog full time! Thank you for this great post as it has given me hope that I can follow suit someday and quit my 8-5 m-f bs of a miserable job and be happy writing and on/off the trail living as well as spending more time with my wife and children.
    Take care Phillip and all the best to you and your family

  21. Congrats on making the leap! You have one of the best written, informational blogs about backpacking and hiking. The content is well researched and succinctly presented, with just the right amount of humor and antidotes. My blog contains many links to your articles. I have 145 days until my next chapter . . . counting the days when I can spend more time on the trails. Thanks again for all your contributions!

    Now go put some clothes on!!!!!!!!

  22. Good for you for doing what makes you happy and what you are passionate about. I wish more people would do that!!!! :)

  23. I wish I had a skill set that I could have worked on my own, but I didn’t or I didn’t have the courage to pursue one where I could. I am now at retirement age and hope to pursue some of the things that I should have done years ago. I hope my good health sticks around a while longer so I can actually do some these things.

  24. Every time I read something like this I get angry. Not at you, but at myself because I haven’t been able to muster the courage to walk away from my job and find something I really love.

    Don’t know how much longer I can keep going like this. My personality has changed drastically for the worse over the last 3 years that I’ve been in the position I’m in. Depression has set in and my only solace is getting outdoors every chance that comes up.

    I guess ultimately I need to accept the risk of losing everything in order to save myself. The question is when do I finally realize my own needs are greater than the sum of paying bills and keeping up appearances?

    • Sorry for your troubles Jon. This might not be helpful advice but here goes anyway. When I turned 50 I realized that I probably had about 20 years of life left to live and anything beyond that would be a gift. Knowing that I now have less than 20 years has motivated me to use that time and not squander it on things that don’t bring me happiness. If you wait to long to make a move, you won’t have a chance to enjoy yourself when you still have your youth. Who really care about appearances? Paying the bills is important but you will be amazed at how much crap you can cut out of your life without giving up on essentials. The rest is free.

      • 50 must be one of those magic numbers. I was about 45 when I realized I wouldn’t be able to maintain my professional career much longer. It was taking my health away and more importantly my life balance was out of whack. I set the goal of changing things by the time I hit 50, well it didn’t quite happen, but about 3 years ago, the tides shifted and by the time I hit 55, I’ll be able to enjoy and really live those 10-15 years I have left to be active. I’m glad I live a life of simplicity so that I’m able to make this life change.

      • Phillip, if you are a mere 55 now, and are so active, you probably have more than 20 years left, unless…. Hope you are well and will continue to be for at least three decades hence. Wonderful that you took that risk when you did.

      • My dad lived into his 90’s so I have my fingers crossed!

  25. Congratulations on taking control of your life. I did the same15 years ago ( with a toddler, an infant and a pregnant wife) and have never looked back. While my life has not simplified, I at least get to choose how complicated I want it to be.

    I always enjoy your posts – they are among the best on the web. However, I think you have taken the notion of “ultralight” a bit too far.

    Keep up the great work.

  26. I certainly didn’t pay my dues to The Man as much as you did before going independent, but I agree with every word of this, Philip.

    After working so many dead-end jobs after college, the idea of giving my life to a company that made me feel like a cog in some giant machine was pretty distasteful. I did have some good jobs over the years (mostly for the AMC and GMC), but they weren’t the kind that were sustainable over the long run. I have to wonder what percentage of my generation has made an honest effort to be self-employed or working for a small business made by close friends, but anecdotal evidence makes it seem pretty high. I like that.

  27. My hero! Glad you have been able to make it work.

  28. Excellent! Your decision has become one of my favorite daily web stops!

  29. I echo everything that people have said here. I admire your decision, and benefit from your decision. At 45, I feel my stressful IT job is damaging my health. The only thing I’ve found that helps with the stress is HIKING!

  30. This is a WONDERFUL post, sir (as so many have already stated)! You discovered what is most important, and you did something about it. Now and then, I’ll read or hear about someone who had a high-paying, high-stress career and decided that it just wasn’t worth it, so they quit the job and did something that suited them better. I’ve never had a really high-paying job, but I could have if I’d stayed with the career path I started out in. I wasn’t happy, so I decided long ago that being happy and less stressed is MUCH more important than a lot of money. I’ve never regretted that decision. Life is just too short to be unhappy doing something you don’t have to do. I applaud your courage.

  31. Glad for ya buddy! We’re all trying to get their!

  32. Very cool post, Phillip! I can certainly relate to the feelings you describe. At the start of this winter hiking season, and after six years at my workplace, I realized there was no way I could continue in that position, Mon-Fri digging myself deeper in unhappiness and stress. Even the weekends, when I was on the trail, I still had to stop and deal with phone calls. In the midst of my hiking goal this winter, I put my two weeks notice in. So when I set off for my North Brother attempt this winter, and for my last peak, Isolation, I was finally free of that hectic mess. However, all winter long, I had the burden of pondering what I was going to do, and whether I could continue in the line of work. I was stuck. I’m still working full-time with my brother’s business, but things are different and much better. If others feel the same sense of being trapped, the best advice I can say is if you’re thinking about the change, and you want to do it, then do it, and don’t wait!

  33. Loved almost everything about this post. Maybe at least leave your boxerjox on next time?

    Congrats. It must be very satisfying to look back knowing that the risk you took paid off.

  34. I am trying to strike a balance at paying the bills and pursuing my outdoor passions. My ultimate goal is to get into contract work within a year or two. A buddy of mine does that and works 8 or so months out of the year. Almost at the point in my career (IT) where I feel pretty comfortable hanging out my shingle. But not quite yet. My other plan of marrying rich did not pan out, so consulting seems like a good alternative. :)

  35. I’m just jealous you get to blog naked.
    Thanks for the inspirational post.

  36. Awesome! Hiking your own hike is what it’s all about. Glad you found your trail. I too left the business world to become a high school teacher. My decision was grounded in “time is more valuable than money.” I’ve never looked back and enjoy time with my wife and two daughters and my summer’s are spent traveling, backpacking, and doing photography. This summer the family heads for two weeks in Rocky Mountain National Park and then I’ll spend a month photographing Guadalupe Mountains National Park as part of their artist-in-residence program. Next summer the girls and I will hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim. That never would have been possible if I’d stayed in the corporate world. So cheers to you Philip Werner!

  37. Had the same feeling. Had a great career then decided it wasn’t so great after all. Walked out at 49 and never looked back. Now I am free as bird and decide where and what I will do next when I wake up on the right side of the grass.

  38. I, and a lot of others, I’m sure, are very jealous of the life you live and the balls that you had to make such a big decision. Thank you for sharing your new life with those of us who just keep getting in the hamster wheel every day, and maybe just someday one of us, maybe even me, will follow your advice. But, in the meantime, now that YOU have added 10+ years to your new life and are doing something you really enjoy, here’s our wish to you to “Live long and prosper”.

  39. For similar reasons I’m retiring in another six weeks. I have lots of mountains to climb and trails to walk and want the time to do it all while I can. It’s a little scary knowing I won’t be going to a job every day as I have for 40 years, but also an exciting prospect!

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