How I left my 8–5

And became my own boss

Nathan Adlam
6 min readAug 8, 2020
Image courtesy of Burst on Pexels

Around 2 years ago, for the first time in my adult life, I had no job.

I quit my comfortable job as a mechanical engineer in the automotive industry for something different. To get out of the office. To travel. To contribute something else to the world. Because not doing so would have been the biggest regret of my life.

I knew I wanted the freedom of being my own boss even before starting work. I can vividly remember the feeling I had before starting my engineering job in May of 2014. A bright-eyed, naive, eager-to-prove-himself 23-year-old, I had just graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I had an engineering job in a new city. I had moved into an apartment with my girlfriend. I was growing up fast.

At the time, as a self-development junkie, I thought that could be my ticket out of the corporate world. I had the millennial entrepreneurial dream … start a blog, sell a product/service, become a coach, live the laptop lifestyle, work from wherever I wanted to around the world. Easy, right? At least that’s what the Facebook ads told me I could do… if I just joined someone’s email list and attended their free online webinar.

I remember sitting at my white IKEA kitchen table in my white IKEA dining room chair, typing away on a blog post, freaking out about what the title should be and what font I should use. In my over-active brain, it was almost as if the outcome of this post would seal my fate forever; corporate minion or entrepreneur/baller. I didn’t even have a website yet, so I was eager to get something out there. I pulled it together for my first ever blog post…. How to display confident body language.

After a while, I got a website up-and-running, thanks to one of those drag-and-drop website builders.

website screenshot

The way I looked at it, it was something I was interested in that I could work on on the side, and who knows, it could go somewhere. I bought products, educated myself, read tons of books, went to conferences, and made friends with various people in the self-development community from around the world.

Sitting on an expert panel at the Elite Man Conference 2016 in Boston, MA

I put a lot of work into writing and creating relationships. Guest-blogging. Sharing my work with various outlets. And I saw some successes. I had a few coaching clients.

I even obtained a coaching certification through iPEC- the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching. I took the rigorous 8 month program with the lovely people pictured below and came out with some amazing experiences, new ideas about life, as well as those 3 letters next to my LinkedIn name- CPC. Certified Professional Coach.

Even with all those experiences, I spent most of my time and energy locked in a constant battle with myself. Comparing myself to other brands and always feeling inferior. Comparing my own self-development experiences to where I thought I should be, in order to be qualified to help other people. I was afraid to tell people about my website and that I was interested in developing myself. It felt awkward to share it with someone who I knew would have no interest in the subject.

Eventually, my brand lost steam. I started to hate it. But I had spent so much time, energy, and emotions on it, I couldn’t let it go. Posting every few months is not the way to keep an audience. I also started to resent what I was writing about. I have a strong love/hate relationship with self-help, which is not a can of worms I’d like to open right now.

A lot of self-development material I was consuming in my younger years was around dating and social skills. I was completely helpless in both of those areas. Even after making monumental leaps forward at both, I’ve always had trouble considering myself an authority in either of those areas. I preferred to offer advice anonymously from behind the computer screen.

So, after I realized I couldn’t make money with that at the time… I had to try something else. Corporate life was weighing on me heavily in early 2018. I was living in a hotel due to a flood. I was getting desperate for a change.

I needed another way to work from somewhere else, preferably a region where I wanted to do some traveling. I came across the idea of teaching English… why not? I sold/packed up my shit and moved to Prague. After becoming certified to teach, I was on my own. And what a free feeling it was.

At first, I found work with a language school and a few other small jobs here and there. The work was good, but private students were what I wanted- they offered the pay and flexibility I was looking for. To achieve this I set up an account on the local find-a-teacher website and started sending messages to prospective students right away. Fast forward about 3 months, and I had more private students than I knew what to do with. My schedule was as full as I wanted it to be.

I didn’t really realize it at first, because it happened pretty quickly, but for the first time in my professional life, I was self-sufficient. I could finally tell myself… I am the boss. I didn’t have to work for the language school, but I did- mostly because they have a laminator, and I love laminating things. But really though, they had nice facilities and some of my friends worked there, so I stayed with them.

When you are the boss, it doesn’t mean you don’t have work-related stress, it just means you eliminate the burden of pressure coming from above you. There are no pointless meetings, corporate jargon (let’s think outside the box here, I’m tired of being thrown under the bus, synergy), or annoying coworkers. You work when there is work to do and don’t need to sit in an office from 8–5. You can take vacation when you want.

Teaching income is not engineering income. With this change in income comes a change in mindset. You think twice about what you spend your money on. You invest in what you are passionate about. You invest in relationships.

So why am I telling you this story? The reason I’m writing this… the reason I write anything, for that matter… is to connect. To connect in ways more powerful than how words by themselves can describe. By sharing a story.

Reading about other people’s journeys can be energizing and a great reminder that many of our stories aren’t all that different.

I don’t write this as some sort of conclusion to my personal journey, but a stage on the ever-winding path of life. My hope is that you can relate to one sentence from this story and take it with you as you move forward in your own adventure.



Nathan Adlam

English teacher, engineer, expat… writing about things I am passionate about. Author of Avocado Toast and Other Millennial Insights.