Why I left

“…it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

I’m not presumptuous enough to actually compare myself to Steve Jobs.  I can, though, relate to some of the emotion involved in this change in his life.  On January first I chose to leave my job of the last five years and it has been one of the most liberating and empowering experiences of my life.  I have no intention of disparaging Apple Retail.  I truly believe in the values and vision that were created by Ron Johnson, the mastermind of the Apple Stores’ unparalleled success over the last ten years.  I have the upmost respect for my peers and all of those who have the courage to be the face of Apple and offer customers a level of service that does justice to the products Apple designs.  I miss the opportunity to work closely with friends I’ve made and the chance to meet customers, to care about their problems, and to share my love for technology and Apple’s products.  Working as an Apple Store employee has been a defining part of my life, but the time had come for me to move on.  Three things have brought me to this.  Coincidentally enough, they can each be summed up by a quote from my boss of these years, Steve Jobs.

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

The first reason I’m moving on is really quite simple.  I’m passionate about the products Apple produces, but I’m not passionate about sales transactions, processing returns, answering phones, and various other made-up roles.  Again, I have always enjoyed my job; I love the people and the products.  Nonetheless, my job as a Specialist was not giving me the types of experiences I would hope to have on “the last day of my life.”  Apple Retail was always meant to be a temporary solution, a fun way to make a little money—and it has been, but at this point I feel it has been “too many days in a row.”

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

I can’t say that my potential can compare in any way to the genius of Steve, but I do believe in the ability of those who are committed enough to really design and create great things.  I can relate particularly well to this idea, because this is my passion.  Nothing is more satisfying to me than to imagine, design, and create. (As an aside, I don’t include maintain on that list, as anyone who has lived with me or seen my bedroom can understand.)  The last three weeks I have found purpose to getting out of bed.  I have been able to fill my days with interesting, motivating, and productive activities.  It’s certainly not easy; The significant amount of extra responsibility to manage myself and my own success is quite intimidating and at times overwhelming, but I must say it’s worth it.  This might be a good time to point out that I am fully aware that my efforts and projects may or may not eventually pay the bills.  I hope they do. We will see.  I may at some point have to come back to “reality” and return to a “real job,” but the most important thing for me at this time—win or loose—is to have these experiences, to feel like I can do more than be part of system that is someone else’s vision and design.  I can have my own vision.  “[I] can build [my] own things that other people can use.”

The last concept that I can relate to and is attributed to Jobs is the idea that being a pirate is better than joining the Navy.  Shortly after I quit, I used some variation of this as my Facebook status and the responses were quite revealing.  Some of the comments that were made include, “Navy has better health care,” “In the Navy you get better weapons, better food, and a good retirement,” “Pirates make more,” and “Pirates all the way! ;)”

How important are better weapons, better food, and a good retirement?  Time will tell.

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