Would you quit a lucrative job you hate for a lesser paying gig you might like?
Answer by James Liu, founder at BoxCat
I left a six-figure, ex-pat, management position with daily per-diem, paid for apartment, an entire office, and several employees I was in charge of. I would rather be close to family. While growing up, life gave me the impression that I had to be sky-high successful. As if it were the ultimate attainment for life and the universe. So I went for it, worked hard for it, and did whatever it took to succeed.
At 27, I was sitting alone on the 22nd floor of a residential complex right above the Hong Kong convention center. My housing was paid for by the company. I had international per-diem, which could cover any food I might desire.
I had an office in the Samsung building on the 21st floor that had a view of Victoria Harbor. I had three other people I could boss around, ask them to fetch me coffee (if I wanted too), or completely delegate all my tasks to them. We had an interesting company culture and structure. I had several titles at that time: branch manager, project manager, technical lead, principle engineer and systems architect.
But what’s the point of making a ton of money if you have no one to share it with? I had salary and bonus. I had no need to spend my own money on shelter, food or travel. Any equipment or technology needed was just a few emails away from acquiring them.
During my “long road to success,” I had neglected my friends, my family, and even lost girlfriends. I had very few people I could talk to.
Talking to a team member was strange because of the power hierarchy.
“You won’t listen to my personal problems?! You’re fired!”
Just kidding of course, but it highlights the awkwardness. I imagine I would just get the “yes-man” approach of what I wanted to hear, not what I needed to hear. Hitting up a bar or nightclub also felt superficial and gave an even greater sense of loneliness.
“What? You won’t listen either? You’re fired too!”
But it highlights how being in power can mess with your head. It’s a dangerous trip and some become drunk with power. I am no exception. Everywhere I turned, I’d find only a superficial replacement. So, money, power, success, respect, and even prestige, why am I not happy?
This is when I realized that money, success and power isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But it was also a perspective I would not have understood unless I had sat there. Alone. Mute. Lonely. With a pile of money I could cry in, but never get a response.
Later on, a few months after these deep unnerving feelings, I got a phone call from my little brother. It was 4 AM in Hong Kong.
“Hey, it’s about dad. We’re taking him to the hospital.”
Here I sat. Over 5,000 miles away from my home in Los Angeles. My family is having a crisis, I am nowhere near them. My loneliness stretched itself across the pacific.
The earliest I could get there was a 16-hour flight.
“He says it’s his heart and he can’t move. I’ll call you later.”
I could feel the silence in the room, as if the walls were coated in it. Surrounding and canceling, any-and-all audio that might have made me feel the reality of the world never reached my ears. Madness took me over. I attempted to walk and pace to clear my head but my knees met with the coffee table, the chair, and a few other things I can’t even recall. Of all the money and all the success I could obtain, none of it could help me. My ailing father was thousands of miles away. What I truly had was nothing. Did he arrive? Was he seen by a doctor? What is the problem? Can it be fixed? What if he didn’t make it?
I was updated five or six hours later. Dad’s fine. He’s home resting already. Doctor gave medication and instructions if there’s another heart attack.
I gave up my position, went back to work closer to home. The company still attempted to send me out to various international places. I would go on some of them, but I didn’t enjoy my work anymore. My work kept me away from what was truly important in my life. Family.
I eventually gave up my job and started a different career. One that would allow me to see my family at minimum, once a week.
Now, every Saturday, I hug my father, hug my mother, hug my brother, and pet our dog.
Answer by Margaret Weiss, financier in training
The answer would be yes if the current job is slowly crushing your soul. So between being tormented each and every day and a chance of survival, I would choose life.
The answer would be no if the current job is tolerable; the new position has no guarantees of being any different, and I have obligations toward my dependents/my family. So between a chance of professional happiness and my responsibility, I choose being responsible.
I think there are many jobs that can be taken at a pay cut, so continue searching – this is certainly not the last job available in your location.
Answer by KP Wee, writer
I had a similar experience several years back, although the salary figures involved weren’t as high as the ones posted in the question.
I left a stable position, which I started to lose interest in gradually to pursue a job that I thought was perfect for me, even though it paid much less. I figured it was a good opportunity to get into that growing industry, though there were no guarantees.
Alas, two years later, I found that the opportunities weren’t there. I had fun, and I enjoyed doing something completely different. However, the difference in salaries was huge, and the opportunities that I gambled on didn’t truly pan out.
If you are a person who has lots of financial obligations (ie. mortgage, kids’ education, etc.), then it makes more sense to stick with the higher-paying job. It depends on what you value more, and whether or not you are tied down to anything, such as family and debts, etc. Going from $120,000 a year down to $50,000 a year is a big difference.
This question originally appeared on Quora: Would you quit a $120k/year job you clearly hate to accept a $50k/year job you might possibly like with no guarantees?