In light of the ‘Great Resignation’ currently underway in the United States, I’m resurrecting the “How to Quit Your Job and” interview series I started on Forbes in 2016. The pandemic has given people the desire, opportunity, or both, to quit unsatisfying work and start over. Stories of people who have done this successfully—or not—are both informative and inspirational.
Past interviews included a couple who quit the insurance and retail industries to build an off-grid B&B, a NASDAQ trader who became a boutique winemaker, a former business consultant who sources and roasts small lot coffees, and an investment portfolio manager who left to grow geisha coffee beans on a volcano. Each has done what many, exhausted by the hamster wheel of city life, wish they had the nerve and resources to do.
In other words, visionaries who made the jump to travel, hospitality, food, and beverage from unrelated careers. Today, such pivots seem even riskier given these industries were some of the hardest hit during the pandemic.
However, that also means tourism and restaurants, already ripe for a reckoning, can be led from the ashes by a new group of thinkers who prioritize concerns like employee rights and the environmental and ecological impact of doing business.
Find a refreshed version of the column’s 2016 mission statement, below.
Traveling the globe in search of fine wine, exceptional coffee, and hidden beaches inevitably connects me to a vast network of dreamers. There’s the cellar rat chasing grape harvests across hemispheres, the barista traveling through Australia to perfect her latte art, and the scuba instructor deferring life milestones from the end of a tropical pier.
But for me, the people whose stories resonate are the ones who seemingly “had it all” or maybe had too little, then left their jobs to bet on a risky business founded on a lifelong or newfound passion.
In Western culture, success too often is defined as the securing of a lucrative career. From generous income springs material benefits (how else can you afford to drink La Tâche) along with the intangibles of status and influence. Risks, when taken, occur from behind a desk, often with other people’s money. But the deleterious effects of this path are well-documented.
Jamison Savage, the founder of coffee farm Finca Deborah in Panama, was surprised he lasted in the financial sector as long as he did, given the “extreme hours, rents, and expenses; pressure to perform; lack of access to the outdoors; and a requirement to always be behind a screen or phone.”
Not all who strive for the corporate life find themselves dismally unhappy. As a former lawyer, however, I can relate to those who do.
The paths these entrepreneurs have chosen aren’t any easier because they’ve swapped suits for shorts, or because a picturesque vineyard or sloth-filled jungle now fills the frame of their office window. They’ve traded financial forecasts for the meteorological version, and Mother Nature is not so easily manipulated. But they’ve gained a deeper satisfaction from their labor by investing in a vision that they own.
To quote Jamie Kutch, producer of fine Pinot Noir for eponymous label Kutch Wines,“ working simply to create money has no reward for me. I wanted to create a tangible product. Something that can be shared and enjoyed. ”
If you’ve ever contemplated ditching the fluorescent lights for a one-way ticket to Sonoma, read on to see how these brave actors pulled the proverbial escape hatch.
Each week, I’ll post a new interview in this column, so check back for the following titles:
If you would like to nominate someone for this column, please email me at email@example.com.