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Why Many Are Leaving Their Desk Jobs To Work With Their Hands

It's all about figuring out what's most important.

Photo by Joesef Key on Unsplash

Viewed from the perspective of many, Evan Lundy was a success. After graduating with a law degree from the University of Mississippi, he landed a prestigious job at a firm handling bankruptcy cases for large banks.

But he was also unhappy.

Like most lawyers, he worked long hours. He also lost sleep due to worrying about deadlines.

“The repetitive practice of anything in the extreme leads to dissatisfaction,” Lundy said, in a past interview with The New York Times. “I think that is the killer for someone who is career minded–doing the same thing over and over, without hope of moving up to something bigger.”

The Times article, written by Sridhar Pappu, details the stories of four successful office workers who left their jobs to pursue work that was more physically laborious.

Lundy, for example, discovered his passion when he built a toy chest, posted a picture of it on Instagram, and quickly sold it. He started building and selling more and more furniture through Etsy.

But Lundy couldn’t justify leaving his day job, especially since he had a wife and two children to support. The solution?

He took a job installing curtains. He now spends half of his time on his day job, and the other half building furniture.

“I hang drapes,” Lundy told the Times. “I make service calls. I go back and I build furniture. In high school, I would have never said that was what I would want to do, down the road. But as you mature, your priorities change.”

The other stories include:

Ben Schickel, who holds a degree in political science and history from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, quit his job working in sales–to begin his own landscaping business.

“I was good at my job,” Schickel said. “I did very well. But it didn’t really excite me. The question was, ‘When I die, do I want to have spent 50 years of my life sitting in an office?’ The answer was no.”

Shawn Kelly studied at the University of Hartford and worked as a graphic designer. Over time, he says the job brought him down, emotionally. At 42 years old, he now works as a stone mason. It’s no easy work, requiring fierce strength to both carve stone and achieve a proper fit. But Kelly finds the work satisfying.

Kevin Tyschper worked in a series of corporate jobs, but he felt unfulfilled. After attending culinary school at night, he opened DeEtta’s Bakery in 2014.

However, he warns against others pursuing work like this without being prepared:

“If you don’t like to work long hours, this is not the business to be in. It’s constant movement. We make everything by hand here, too…There are times at 6 or 7 at night when you finally sit down and you realize you haven’t sat down in 15 hours.

“But there are tangible results. When I developed a fiscal forecast, I didn’t always see those results. When I make a loaf of bread, I see the results. I can firmly taste those results.”

What About You?

If these stories resonate with you, you’re not alone.

It’s not just about the work itself; a number of my friends have left white collar jobs for blue collar work–or to pursue other work that is less glorious or prestigious–to have more time for other things in their lives, like their families or to support a cause they feel strongly about.

Of course, leaving one lifestyle for another doesn’t mean life will be perfect, or there are no bad days.

But it’s about figuring out your own priorities. Ask yourself: What’s most important to me? How will I feel about the way I’ve spent my life in five years? How about in 50 years?

With a little soul-searching, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. You can then use that knowledge to inform your decisions.

And limit your future regrets.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.

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