What’s your why?

If you spend any time with me, you will eventually hear this story.

I was working for a multi-national corporation that just went public. I work in IT, and because of Enron, my job got ten times more complicated for no more money. I was a little stressed because, you’ve probably heard this before, but seriously no one else knew how to manage servers. On my last day (I’ll get there), the other system administrator came to me and asked how to apply file permissions – which is the equivalent of a CPA asking how to use a calculator. And if you don’t believe me, I actually have a witness.

So, more work, more paperwork, same pay, and the CIO was trying to take away our overtime. I felt really loved. So when a new position in Information Security was being created, I applied for it immediately. A few weeks later, the CIO took me into his office and said they would not consider me for the position because I was too valuable in my current position. He tried to lay on compliments and promises of a job that didn’t exist when he uttered the most insane thing I have ever heard a manager tell an employee. “It would cost us too much to replace you.”

Now I don’t know if he thought he was giving me a compliment or if it just slipped out and he immediately regretted it, but I do know that if you say “it would cost us too much to replace you” and don’t immediately follow it up with “and that’s why we are giving you a raise” then what you are really saying is “nobody else is stupid enough to do all the work you do for what we are paying you.”

So I was… upset. As I walked back to the office there was a point where my office was to the right and the exit was to the left, and it was really 50-50 at that point. I stayed until I found a job. When I gave my notice, he was at a conference. Since my direct supervisor’s office was close to mine, I heard about half of the conversation. He seemed a little surprised.

He only spoke to me one time after that. There was a meeting with the entire staff where we would review all of my responsibilities and hand them off to other people. So I had written out all of my responsibilities on a piece of paper. Two columns. Front and back. He just looked at it in shock. And I wanted to giggle a bit when I told him to turn it over.

Now at no point did I ever think I was irreplaceable. I know for a fact, they had a new person in under a month, which is fine. They had a lot of good staff there, and I wish no one ill will.

The replacement job was well… not better. It was actually two small one-person IT companies that merged together. They were brother-in-laws and it was a very weird place to work… for six weeks. Let me explain.

These guys had NO IDEA what to do with me. They knew they needed some higher level help. One of them wanted to take a vacation and the other one was spending a lot of time selling, so they needed a body. They had two other bodies, actually, but there were Level 1 (meaning they had much less knowledge than me or the two owners did). But they needed someone who could do the jobs only they knew how to do.

By the third day, I knew it wasn’t going to work. They would assign me tasks without any explanation. They were never around to ask for clarification. They had ZERO documentation for anything. So when I could figure out what I needed to do, I would end up spending five times as long on it because I needed to find the basic information about their customer to implement the correct fix. I would mention it and they would laugh and say “We just know it.”

After a few more rounds of assigning me tickets with no explanation or anything and then taking them back when I didn’t magically finish them is some random amount of time, they said they were going to assign me to “make the documentation I kept asking for.” I was actually kind of encouraged. A week later, they took me into a meeting (while I was trying to go home sick) and told me I was not meeting their expectations. All I could think was “There were expectations? Wow, those would have been helpful to know.”

So after going through those two rounds of “Horrible Bosses: The Home Game,” I decided I needed something different. I don’t want to be subject to the whims of a boss. I don’t want to be bound to a geographic location either.

After I moved out of Texas, I was living in a tiny apartment (technically it was a motel converted to an apartment) in Branson working remote support for a company in Hartford. How? The boss I had after the two brother-in-laws was the owner of a franchise and in a mastermind with another franchise. He said I was leaving and if anyone needed good system admin support, I was the guy. The owner in Hartford needed help, so I had a job before my other job ended.

Anyway, living in Branson and my brother asked if I was coming down for Christmas. He was taking a vacation the week after and wondered if I could house sit. Well yes I could. I can work from anywhere that has Internet. This was appealing to me. I thought about all the places I might want to visit. More importantly, I could meet online friends in person. That would be very cool.

A year or so ago, I started thinking that my ideal life would be living up North in the Summer and down South in the Winter. But then I thought about all the hassles that would be. I would need two totally complete households in both locations. I have to have people to watch the place when I am not there. I considered that I could possibly rent out the southern home in the Summer, but that creates all kinds of hassles, and if I want to go to the beach for a weekend, then I would be subject to renters schedules.

So after thinking long and hard about the hassles of that, I figured a house here in the Kansas City area would be fine. The summers aren’t to hot and well I can stay inside on the few days there is snow or ice. I looked at houses in the area I am living now and got an estimate for mortgage, taxes, and insurance. Added on a much higher utility bill, my existing bills, a generous fund for food, clothing, and entertainment – plus lawn care and cleaning services, and I came up with around $7000 a month. So counting the money I would need to set aside for taxes, we are talking about $10,000 per month, after business expenses. Which, oddly enough, is the goal I made last year without having gone through working on the actual numbers.

But that doesn’t count travel. I do want to take a few trips a year, some conferences for work, others just to spend time with friends and family. So if I plan for six trips a year, first class airfare, five nights in a four star or better hotel, rental car (or uber the whole way), and food and entertainment, we are looking around $5000 per trip. So divide that by two adjust for taxes, and that’s an extra $3500 per month.

I estimate I need around $13,500 a month to pay for my lifestyle. A nice house here in Olathe, Kansas where I can work and be comfortable. I will have plenty of money to have fun and do things around town. And every other month, I can take a trip somewhere.


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