He had a signal that reminded him the worst day was coming. The clock ticked.
Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
It was Sunday night and “60 Minutes” was about to air. The dread began to sink in.
“That meant disaster for me,” Robert Kurson said.
It meant monday morning was just around the corner.
“I dreaded going to work everyday,” he said.
He was actually in hell.
After graduating Harvard Law School, he took a job working for a big corporation. He was doing these real estate transactional deals for needy clients.
“I just could not give a damn about corporation A’s interest versus corporation B’s interest,” Robert said, “It just didn’t matter to me.”
But it was the religion you had to believe. You didn’t have a choice. He had a boss and a client (lots of clients). And they needed him to perform.
“Every ‘I’ had to be dotted, every ‘T’ crossed,” he said, “And of course that’s who you want as your lawyer, someone who is obsessed with detail, but I wasn’t. My brain didn’t work that way.”
“So clients would yell at you?” I asked.
“Not just clients, but my bosses too,” Robert said, “I gave one guy a memo and he wrote in giant red letters, I told you to write about California law, not like a Californian!”
He was writing creatively rather than in a rigid, corporate style. He was attempting to hold on to himself. Be somewhat free in a shackled environment. But it didn’t work. And he knew he was breaking.
He told me he was in hell.
“I was going to be suffering the worst life a person could have if I stayed there,” Robert said. But he was 25 and was already making 6 figures. Robert was making more money than he could’ve ever imagined. And he was on his way to making millions.
“Months earlier I was debating whether I could get pepperoni on my pizza or not,” he said. The money was new for him.
But he wasn’t the only one contemplating leaving. Robert told me about all the people who talked about “getting out,” but never made it.
They trap you. You get a mortgage. And then you’re stuck in the corporate prison.
“You make a pledge to the death. And you’re there till the death. And that’s how it works for a lot of people,” he said.
Even the senior partners had a plan to leave. They were very wealthy. And very miserable.
“How do you know they were miserable?” I asked.
“They told me,” he said, “and even if they didn’t tell you, you could see it. The way they treated other people. And how they walked around. They weren’t thrilled with life. They were distracted with their salaries, but not thrilled with life.”
So many had confessed they were trying to get out. And because some of them were the most successful…That’s what convinced him.
He told me how he left. How he became one of the only people to unlock the cage and walk out.
“I took this leap of faith into the abyss and quit my law job,” he said.
What the hell was he thinking?
“There was nothing really to think about because I was so miserable on the job, it was profoundly depressing for me,” he said.
But what gave him the courage to leave such a high paying job? Especially when NO ONE else would.
“Why didn’t you try writing on the side at night?”
“That’s actually how it started,” he said “One night after I came home from the law job, I was so unhappy. And I just started to write stories about my childhood. There were 3 or 4 stories I wrote in a row that all had this exuberance in them, memories of times that I was free. And as I wrote I thought ‘God this is the first time I’ve felt happy in a long time, writing.’”
Four hours had gone by and it’d only felt like 20 minutes. And at work it was the opposite.
Eventually, he took a job doing data entry at the Chicago Sun Times. For $23,000 a year (that’s 1/10th of what he was making as a lawyer.)
And he realized… his lifestyle didn’t change that much. He still had an apartment. He still had a car. He still had a bed. He still had a stereo. He was doing what he loved doing without a huge lifestyle change.
“And I didn’t wake up at 3 in the morning in a cold sweat. That was a huge bonus,” he said.
I think we’re all allowed to deserve more or want more in our lives. And Robert’s story is an example of that. The more example I can find in life, the more capable I feel of being free.
That’s why I was so lucky to interview Robert Kurson on my podcast (besides being a fan of his writing, too).
He said, “In a way taking this leap was sort of easy for me because I was suffering so badly. I just couldn’t contemplate any future in that world.”
Robert is now a bestselling author. He found this by taking a huge leap of faith.
Now when the clock ticks and “60 Minutes” is starting, Robert can relax.
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