For any serious fighter, having the chance to train and fight full-time is a dream come true. But how do you get to that point?
Like many fighters, I trained hard while holding down a full-time job. But deep down my true desire was to make my passion (Muaythai and fighting) a full-time occupation.
Although this wasn’t an impossible goal, the road to getting there posed some risks. There’s financial risk – how was I going to afford fighting and training full time when the returns were low? There’s risk of injury – what would happen if I sustained a serious injury and could no longer fight?
With any big commitment, there are many things to consider, but actually fulfilling one’s dream is an unreal and rewarding experience, making the risks and sacrifices worth it.
In this post, I’m going to talk about my experience of quitting my job to train full-time, why I did it, and what others can take into consideration if they want to follow their own dream.
What I did for a living
For about six years I worked in the marketing and communications industry. I had a stable, steady income and I was doing okay in my job. Outside of work, I kept up with training, squeezing Muaythai in whenever I could.
I was in a good career that could have taken me places, but it wasn’t really me. So many prospective fighters find themselves in the same situation. We need jobs because we need money to live, but I couldn’t help but feel a strong urge to follow my gut.
What I really wanted to be was a full-time fighter. As ‘unrealistic’ as that may have sounded to some people, that was my dream. It was a dream I had ever since I first stepped into a Muaythai gym, and it soon became my passion and my soul purpose.
I knew it was what I was meant to do with my life. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there, but one thing was for sure – I wasn’t going to stop until my goal of being a full-time fighter was fulfilled.
My reasons for quitting my job
There were a lot of reasons that lead me to finally quitting my job, but when I look back at it there were three key reasons that contributed to my decision.
Reason #1: Committing fully to the dream
The number one reason why I quit my job was because I knew I could get more out of myself if I dedicated every waking minute to my sport.
A friend of mine, who is highly regarded in New Zealand’s high performance sporting circle, said to me, “If you want to reach your end goal, you have to live and breath it. Ask yourself ‘is how I’m living reflective of my end goal?’”.
It wasn’t. How I was living was not reflective of my end goal – not even close. I wanted to be a world champion, but I had so many distractions, so many things on my plate, that I was putting time and energy into everything else except my dream.
It’s not to say, however, that one could not achieve a dream, such as being a world champion, while holding down a full-time career and other things. I know lots of people who can do that, and more.
For me, it was a conscious decision to make a full commitment because I wanted to eat, live, and breath my sport. I wanted to meld with it because I felt that I could do more and be more if I was committed fully to my dream.
Reason #2: Being true to myself
Being myself and sticking to my core values are really important. I think it’s important for anyone to be true to themselves and who they are, otherwise you end up living a lie and being someone you’re not.
While I was working, I felt I was compromising my core values a lot of the time in the sense I couldn’t be my true self. My work persona was different from my fight persona, or my core persona. This isn’t anything new – we all have different personas that we draw on depending on the social context we’re in.
Obviously in a professional setting, I had to operate a certain way as I was representing the organisation I worked for, and I had to maintain customer and stakeholder relationships.
However, I just felt conflicted because I couldn’t always be my true self. I guess anyone who works in a professional setting has to be that way. But as someone who never had the ambition to climb the corporate ladder, and instead, wanted so badly to just train and fight full-time, the corporate bubble seemed like a trap I couldn’t escape from.
My real self was trapped inside, clawing at the walls, eager to escape. I felt a deep desire to be free, and I felt the only way to secure that freedom was to be true to myself and fulfill my real purpose in life.
Reason #3: High pressure and stress meant a dying dream
Anyone who works in marketing knows it’s a high pressure job. You have very tight deadlines, work with difficult people and work late hours. Having Muaythai in my life meant I could unleash some of that tension in training, but the more I worked the more time I spent away from doing what I loved.
It got to a point where work was having such a negative impact on my health and well-being that I started questioning whether all the stress and late nights spent working, which would usually lead to eventual illnesses, were worth it.
After what felt like the hundredth time coming home looking like a shadow of my former self, my partner said to me, “Why are you even in that job if it’s doing this to you?”. Then I thought, “Why does anyone purposely put themselves in jobs or situations where they’re so unhappy? It’s just a job. Is it even worth sacrificing your happiness and quality of life?”. This put things in perspective.
From that point on, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life doing something that made me miserable just because it gave me money. Money wasn’t the most important thing – living was!
By ‘living’, I don’t just mean waking up and going through the motions. I’m talking about taking risks, doing things that are scary, and achieving things you’ve always wanted to do. I wanted to follow my dreams and live with no regrets and the only way I was going to do that was to do something about it.
I knew my partner and I were close to making a decision for me to quit. We had been talking about it for months. We would sit down and devise a plan on how it would all work, and shuffle our finances around so we wouldn’t end up homeless.
We came up with different sets of plans and backup plans. Then one day, after much talking and planning, the moment finally came. We decided I would quit in three months, and I would hand in an early resignation. This would give us enough time to get our affairs in order.
After deciding what the end date would be, I went into work the very next day and started writing my resignation letter. It felt liberating, scary and nerve-wracking all at once. I finished typing the letter, printed it out and handed it in. After this, I knew there was no turning back.
It takes courage
I know it may seem easy to talk about quitting one’s job to follow a dream, but the process is far from easy. It takes courage, and lots of it. Courage to get out of your comfort zone, courage to say goodbye to a steady income, and courage to accept probable failure.
But the good thing about courage is it’s ability to carry you through something regardless of the fear that’s present. Quitting something for a better version of your life, or to follow a dream, means you’re willing to take a leap and try. I know that sounds cheesy, but I always think it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all.
Not only does it take courage to take action, but it takes courage to be honest with yourself. Sometimes we fall into a lull where the feeling of security takes precedence over actually living. We start telling ourselves that earning lots of money, having nice things and living comfortably are more important than living life itself.
Yes, you do need money to survive. Yes, it’s nice to have nice things. But after accomplishing the task of building a comfortable world for yourself, I can guarantee that at some point down the road you’re gonna look back and wonder what you did with your life. That thought scares me more than anything else.
If there’s one thing I know about really living life, it’s that it’s not a comfortable experience. You make decisions that scare you, and they should scare you because that’s usually when great things happen. Trust me!
Life after quitting
It’s been just over a year since I quit my job, and a lot has happened since then. There have been ups and downs, highs and lows, but one thing is for certain – it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
The first thing I noticed after quitting my job was how weird it was not going to work everyday. The second thing I noticed was how profoundly happy and grateful I was to be doing the one thing I wanted to do.
Later down the track, I noticed changes in myself. I felt more relaxed than I had felt in years. I didn’t feel anxious all the time. My outlook on things became more positive because I was in a much more positive space. These changes were a tremendous benefit when it came to my first fight since quitting. I had more time to tend to other important training factors, like adequate recovery and injury maintenance.
I was free to travel, and was lucky enough to train in Thailand twice in one year. My partner and I also started a gym, and having more free time meant I could not only train, but make a living out of something that aligned with my passion.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but big decisions like this don’t come easy. It takes work and sacrifice to make something a success. What’s important is having a goal or a dream in mind, and committing to it. Once you get to live it, there’s really no other feeling like it.
Things you should consider if you’re looking to quit your job for fighting
Have a plan
It may not be wise to put all your eggs in one basket, only to be left with nowhere to live and in debt. However, those who are most driven to succeed wouldn’t care if they lived on a dirt floor so long as they got to live and breathe their dream.
Speaking for myself and my partner, we made sure we were in a good position financially to make this move. Given our household circumstance (renting, two cars, kids, cat, dog, insurances, bills, etc) we didn’t really have a choice.
Earning extra money
Just because you quit your job doesn’t meant you have to stop earning anything. There are ways you can make money through it all, and my advice would be to look at how you can turn your passion into something lucrative. We all need money to live, so why not earn income doing what you love.
Towards the end of last year, we needed extra income so we started a gym. If you’re in the same boat, you can also do private one-on-one sessions or teach classes at local gyms that are looking for kickboxing or Muaythai instructors. That way you’ve aligning your passion with an income, and it’s flexible enough so that you can fit in your own training within your daily schedule.
Surround yourself with the right people
It’s so important to be among people who share an interest and deep commitment to your dream. Surrounding yourself with people who are supportive is a key step towards achieving your goals.
I’m fortunate to have a partner who is as passionate about my dream as I am. Without his support, encouragement and advice, getting to where I am now would have been very difficult so I’m forever grateful to him.
On the other hand, don’t be discouraged if you’re faced with people who put you and your dream down. More often than not, these people are unhappy with their own lives, so bringing others down makes them feel better. Just accept that they are unhappy people, and move on. Don’t let their negativity affect where you want to be in your life.
My final piece(s) of advice
Understand that once you quit, fighting will be your full-time job. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Look at the extra time as an opportunity to become better.
A couple of other things to consider would be to:
- Accept that it’s not all smooth sailing. You will have ups and downs.
- Know that sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned, and that’s ok.
- Embrace failure, and don’t be afraid of it. Failure is part of the pathway to success, and it helps you learn.
- Have courage! This is the most important thing. Without having the courage to take a leap of faith, you may as well go back to living comfortably and always thinking ‘what if’.
I wouldn’t recommend looking at this post as a ‘how to’, but rather an insight into what it’s like quitting your job for a dream. Personally, my job conflicted with who I was, who I wanted to be and what I really wanted to do with my life. I know that most people are in that situation right now, and choose to continue on that path. At the end of the day, it’s your choice to do what you want with your life.
Every individual’s experience is different, and of course other factors come into play like where you live in the world and what your circumstance are. With all that said, I understand that quitting one’s job isn’t a realistic plan for some. However, that’s not to say that living your dream is not an unrealistic option, or even impossible. Scary, yes – but not impossible.
Overall, I didn’t just quit my job to train full-time. I quit my job to follow a dream, to dedicate my heart and soul to that dream, to be true to myself and who I was, and to show that, with a little courage, others can follow suit.