I was 22 years old. I was earning PHP 40,000 a month and traveling to a different city every weekend. That Sunday, I flew to LA to watch Jack’s Mannequin’s last concert.

Six months later, while preparing to leave for Hawaii, I quit.

Why? Because I was getting too comfortable. In MMG, we alternated between seasons of 16-hour workdays and doing nothing. Either we were sacrificing sleep to build spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations which sole purpose is to please our managers… Or we were watching TV shows (Walking Dead and HIMYM), browsing Facebook, and feeling superior for getting paid to waste time. I quit because getting paid to do bullshit work and waste time is not how I wanted to spend the best years of my life.

It did not matter that we were all latin honors graduates from UP and Ateneo, the top two universities in the Philippines. It was a culture that wasted young people’s potential.

I’ve always believed that we become the five people closest to us. The people I spend the most time with shape my future everyday.

We spend a third of our life at work. I wanted to spend it in a culture where people are:

  • Growth-oriented – Are they working to get better? Or are they doing the least to not get fired?
  • Excited towards work and life – Do they enjoy their work? Is how they are spending their days leading them to the life they want to live? Or are they wishing five-sevenths of it away?

Finally, the culture should stimulate these people to thrive, by promoting a balance of freedom and guidance to do their work.

It turns out this culture, while simple, is difficult to find.

From 2013 to 2016, I hopped from independent consulting to SoHelpful to Coins.ph to where I am now, OnFrontiers. Independent consulting forced me to learn practical skills. But the freedom and responsibility overwhelmed me. SoHelpful was a three-person, remote, startup. I did creative, important work, but I felt lonely. Coins.ph, like MMG, hired the most talented people. It didn’t know what to do with them.

Finally, I’ve found “it” – as imperfect and human as “it” is – in OnFrontiers. In part because, as Director building the Research team in Manila, I am helping creating it. (BTW, we’re hiring – email me.)

It took four years and three jobs to get here. And it’s worth it. If you’re like 22-year old me — smart, hungry to learn, but in a culture that’s wasting your potential — don’t stop at the first job you stumble upon. It’s OK to leave. It’s worth it to leave.

Future you will thank you for it.

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photo credit: job by Hamza Butt