It’s Friday and it’s raining and I’m sitting at the cafe next door thinking about Terence Jou.
He’s the account guy who had a revelation on a Friday and quit to travel the world on the Monday.
What’s he doing now?
Then I see it on Facebook. From somewhere in Taipei Terence posts about season 4 of Real Housewives of New Jersey.
What happened and what did it take to just quit and travel?
It might look impulsive to those who found out when he resigned, but his U-Turn didn’t happen over night. Like most great, scary, life-changing thoughts, the idea took time to break through all the excuses. After two years contemplating it:
“I was tired of what I was doing and we hadn’t even reached Blue Monday, the third Monday of January where depression reigns over the population (look it up on Wikipedia). It was a combination of all aspects of my job – tough feedback from some people I work with, the monotonous nature of what account management work is all about and a general sense of “Why am I working so hard? What am I really accomplishing?” resulted in a full stress-related hive breakout on my hands. So I said enough. Stop complaining about it and do something about it.”
After that particularly terrible week, something uncorked the pressure built up after years of not listening to himself and his body rebelled like it was allergic to the business. His hands swelled up like giant Pillsbury mitts. He did some deep soul searching and resigned on the Monday.
I asked what his thoughts were that weekend.
“What was going through my head was answering some really tough questions about what I wanted out of my life including:
- If I get promoted or get a raise this year, would that make me happier (NO)
- If I switch to another job within the company, would that make me happy (NO)
- If I moved to another job within the same industry, would that make me happy (NO)
With that, I had no other excuses.”
Realizing he’d regret it if he didn’t take the risk, the rest seemed relatively easy. The way he looks at it:
“I’ve always been a happy person and I like to laugh a lot, but over the past five years, I’ve realized I’m growing to be an increasingly negative and pessimistic individual. Being in advertising does change you, so I’m turning my bike around and trying to adjust my course back to the happy optimistic Terence that once existed in childhood.”
So he kicked things off in Costa Rica at a wedding, stocked up on socializing, and on the 23rd anniversary of immigrating to Canada, he packed his possessions into a couple bags and went back to Taipei to start his adventure with a visit to his family.
In just a few short weeks, he’s come a long way.
Always the social butterfly, Terence is exploring way out of his comfort zone using his basic Mandarin to get around town and strike up conversations with strangers. I can only imagine him trying his ad agency-honed wit on the locals.
“One thing I have to learn is patience. I cannot possibly build a social network that I enjoyed back home in an instant here on the other side of the world. It’s hard to make friends in a strange city, but again, it’s all about asking, trying, learning and failing.”
It’s his new motto: Ask, Try, Fail, and Learn. You have to suck at something before you’re good at it. It’s uncomfortable with our addiction to instant gratification.
What keeps him going despite all that?
“What guides me is a belief that there is something else out there for me besides being a paper pusher. I am a talented, educated, thoughtful individual – whatever I put my mind to, I can do.”
I love Terence’s story because before he left, his identity was safely hemmed in by being employed, being an account guy, and having his friends around. He’s recognized what was making him unhappy and decided to travel — not to escape, but to grow.
Well, I’m glad to see he’s growing.
Check out his blog, Terence’s Time Out.