Who could have known that quitting my dream job will be the best decision I’ve ever made. Meanwhile, there are plenty of motivational gurus out there who tell everyone to pursue their dreams and to not give up no matter what. “Winners never quit and quitters never win” they say. But too many times these so-called gurus offer advice, which is rarely tested and only sounds good in a lecture, but does not work so well in practice. In this video I will tell you a story of how not only after managing to reach my dream job, I decided to quit it and later realized that it was the best decision I’ve ever made, but also how I even experienced being a self help guru myself until I witnessed the limitations of such a path.

It took me around 8 years of hard work from the moment I conceived of a dream to become a full time martial arts instructor, until the moment I opened my own school when I was 22. At the beginning it was everything I ever wanted, with great financial success included. I was able to make a living from doing what I love and being independant. Of course, running my own school was not easy and there were plenty of challenges on the way, but for the first few years I deeply enjoyed doing this work regardless. Yet little did I know that seven years into it I will make a difficult decision to shut it all down – and not due to financial, but instead – personal reasons.

Why did I decide to quit my dream job?

Aikido - The dream job I've quit

Me and my students when I was still running my Dojo

While there are some technical aspects to why I became disillusioned which are based on martial arts theory, a more relatable reason that led to the decision of quitting my dream job came from a much more human place. In the beginning I was convinced that I was the G.O.A.T. having my extensive Aikido education, while also teaching Yoga and meditation, practices that I learned when I was a full time student living in a martial arts school for three years. Having knowledge in all of these three areas I was led to believe by my instructor that I am ready to teach and not only that, but to also be a sort of a spiritual guru or life coach if you will, even though I was not directly educated in these fields. I always wanted to help people and to be an inspiring figure so the idea that I was ready to serve others was very appealing to me. My intentions and the image of a spiritual teacher that I’ve developed was also approved and celebrated by my students.

I’ve had over a hundred active members simultaneously, led constant workshops and was well known and regarded in my area. Yet without going deep into the details, with time passing I started to witness my limitations and to question whether I was really well enough experienced and educated for such a job. Of course – I had a great education in the martial art of Aikido, which at the time I was practicing for over 15 years, but was I really ready to be a Yoga, meditation and spiritual teacher? The fact that many of my students approved what I was teaching seemed like a sign that everything was going well, but the more I questioned my work, the more I came to realize that too many of my offered solutions were based on passed on beliefs and knowledge, which little of was actually tested and proved in evidence based studies or scientific ways. And the more I looked at it all, the more I realized that I was fooling not only others, but also myself.

Rokas Leo Yoga

Back in the days of spirituality

The case wasn’t entirely bad and not everything that I said was wrong. I did my best to be honest and to teach only what I really believed in myself, but it was still becoming more and more clear to me that having good intentions was not enough. Despite being liked and admired by my students I started to feel a growing conflict within me. After teaching a Friday evening Aikido class, I left my school with everyone happy – besides myself. I felt like an imposter teaching things which I believed less and less in and the negative feeling within me was so strong, I came to realize that I have to have a conversation with myself.

I sat down by a lake and asked myself what could be the solution here. The first answer that came to me was: what if I would decide to quit it all? What if I would close my school and commit to a different path which I believed in? At the moment I had already started training combat sports, a very different practice from Aikido which was much more reliable and I was considering investing more time into it. I also already had a secondary source of income, which was my main YouTube channel. At the time it was much smaller than it is now and I wouldn’t have been able to make a living from it the way it was back then, but I trusted my gut and my work ethic, that if I would put all my energy and focus into it – I would be able to grow my channel to make enough money for a living. It was a risky decision with no guarantees, but I had faith in myself. Yet something was still holding me back.

How I came to the decision

As I continued my internal conversation I thought to myself: this is such a crazy decision – I’ve invested so much time and energy into making my dream a reality. What will my members do without me? But then I asked myself another question: would I continue to run my school because I really wanted to, or instead, because I was afraid that if I will quit – I don’t know what repercussions that will have and how other people will perceive me. That is when I came to understand that the only reason I would have continued to run my school would have been motivated by fear and that was something I was not willing to allow. I realized then and there that no matter how long I would have continued to run my school, with little faith in what I do, I would have had little motivation to really strive to do it well, what would have most likely led to a decrease in quality of teaching and eventually to closing my school out of necessity, or, the internal conflict that I had would have continued to grow and I would have just postponed the inevitable shutting down of my school intentionally.

Understanding the sunk cost fallacy

Understanding the sunk cost fallacy

The latter consideration also reminded me of the “sunk cost fallacy”, a term used in economics, business and decision-making. The term “Sunk cost” itself refers to the cost, be it financial, time or even energy that has already been invested and that cannot be recovered. The “fallacy” aspect of it points to the bias we have toward things we’ve already invested in (aka. status quo bias) even when it may work against our favor and to the theory of “loss aversion”, which argues that people are more willing to take risks to avoid a loss than to make a gain, since the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. In other words, even when part of us sees and understands that something is going nowhere, or even if things are getting worse, psychologically we feel drawn to continue despite it, since we don’t want dramatic change or the painful feeling of loss, created by quitting or stopping something we’ve invested in already. Put together, basically sunk cost fallacy refers to how much time, money, energy or any other currency we lose, since the moment we realize that things will end one way or another, but we continue nonetheless.

Keeping all of this in mind I realized that as difficult as it all was, I had to be brave and to cut it all now, instead of waiting any longer. While I closed down my school in a process which lasted about a couple of months, I made the decision to do it then and there and the next day I already announced the decision to my members. The surprise of people around me was much greater than I expected. People couldn’t believe that something that I worked to make into reality for many years, what was also the main source of my livelihood, I decided to entirely drop it. And not only the school, but Aikido, Yoga and meditation too – something that I had been doing for over fifteen years. But while making that decision was not easy, I did not flinch even once after I’ve made it.

At the very moment of the decision I honestly didn’t know what and how I will do exactly, but yet again I trusted my work ethics and commitment to whatever I will decide to work on next. Without any delay I started putting all of my focus on my YouTube channel as planned, making sure that it will continue to grow to a point from which I could sustain myself financially and since now I had all the time on my hands – in a matter of months I’ve managed to reach that point. Also, after about a couple of weeks of closing my school, I’ve noticed a full time program of training combat sports that was organized by a person I knew in the United States. I realized that it was the perfect opportunity for me to commit to learning what I wanted to learn at the time and it was also complementary to the themes of my YouTube channel, which made the decision even more reliable. With the help of the organizer of the program within a few months I’ve moved to the States where I fulfilled yet another of my dreams – I trained full time for six months and eventually had an MMA fight, which was an item on my bucket list. My journey eventually became followed by more than a 100k people across the whole globe and led me to many other amazing places and individuals that I would have never met if I would have continued to stay in my safe, self created bubble.

Why quitting my dream job was the best decision

Why quitting my dream job was the best decision I made

Me – post spirituality version

The decision to quit my dream job and to ditch something I learned was actually superficial – was not easy, but looking back now I realize that was the best decision I’ve made in my life, without which, so many incredible things wouldn’t have happened. But I also want to point out that quitting on its own would have not sufficed. The fact that I already had a sizeable following on YouTube and was already making some money, the fact that I invested all of my free time, that I’ve suddenly had, into my other projects, the fact that I looked for new opportunities and jumped on them and that I relied on a very intense work ethic – all of it made my decision of quitting a success. But aside from the importance of hard work and proactivity, with this video I wanted to touch upon the point of quitting itself too.

As mentioned before, quitting is not embraced by our society and more often than not people do not recognize the difference between quitting and losing. Losing is the event of undesirable results, which happens To us, but conscious quitting is not the same. Conscious, strategic quitting is a decision that we make by ourselves, even if at times it is a painful one, recognizing that continuing to be on a road which is not favorable for you, would end up only wasting time and energy in the long run, which potentially can be invested into a better and more productive place. Too many people find themselves at work places which they despise, toxic relationships that they should have quit a long time ago or business projects that they continue to run only on pride. Quitting should not be done carelessly, nor at the peak of an emotional panic. It should be considered and done wisely, especially if you find yourself experiencing the sunk cost fallacy effect. Yet once again I will repeat myself and say: quitting and losing is not the same. …

If you are interested in the art of quality quitting, I’ve wrote another article looking at why winners quit all the time and also shared a story of Thomas – who pursued his passion and eventually decided to quit it – a decision he did not regret.

If you prefer to watch the video version

You will find more of my videos here: www.youtube.com/rokasleo