I Left My Dream Job to Join the “New Rich”

My name is Cameron Ungar and I took the leap. I am now a member of the “New Rich,” as Tim Ferriss calls us in the book, The 4- Hour Workweek. I am among those who have “abandon[ed] the deferred- life plan [to] create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of… time and mobility.”

Only… I’m not there yet. I’ve just begun. This blog is an opportunity to share my story. More importantly though, it is a personal accountability tool and a progress tracker. I have been self- employed for just under three months. It is exciting and terrifying. As Ferriss explains, “most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.” I get it. This is an internal struggle I face everyday. The stability of a regular job calls often and confidence waivers every now and again.

About Me

I am a father of three… a 9 year old son, a 5 year daughter and a 2 year son. I am married to my high school girlfriend… the only girlfriend I have ever had. My wife is a special education teacher at a public elementary school and we currently live in San Diego, California. I am by trade, an event and venue manager. I worked in college athletics for more than 10 years, managing operations for the universities’ sports facilities. My job was pretty awesome and I was/ am passionate about my work. The thing is, college athletics and event venue management is a highly competitive industry. As such, it can turn people into commodities. Salaries are relatively low, workload is high and frequent relocation is often necessary. There are some cool perks, but long term success requires serious internal motivation and stamina. After this much time in a public university environment, I grew fearful of becoming institutionalized. Too many people on college campuses are there because they are “in too deep” and can’t leave without hitting their retirement thresholds. I was getting close to a perceived threshold like that and couldn’t imagine resigning myself to a career out of obligation. My line of work is too hard and benefits too little for this sort of concession. I also didn’t trust that a retirement benefit would actually be meaningful for me when I finally got there. I was a public employee during the recession… I lived through furloughs, pay cuts and constricted salaries and know how impactful these situations were on my life and how little control I had over it. I also have concerns about the future of higher education. With the new economy will my kids still want to go to college and gain benefit from it? If they do go to college, will it be at a brick and mortar campus or will all learning be digital and experiential? In that context, the stable, public job I thought I had, felt… shaky. I began to see risk as relative.

That’s me. Selfie.

I left the university to work for a startup. Much more stable. I joined a new, private venue management company that was taking on their first property. An elite athlete training center that was previously operated by a quasi- government agency that subsidized the center’s annual operating expense. The training center was gifted to the city and privately managed by our company. It was an incredibly unique opportunity and really challenging in many, many ways. The training center was about 60 miles from my house but the opportunity seemed worth the commute. My new work time commitments were roughly 15 hours per week of commute time, 50 hrs per week in the office, another 15 hours per week in the evening of remote work and evening and weekend event work as necessary. I was also teaching a graduate course at an Orange County university; a once per week commitment in the Spring that had me driving an extra 100 miles on those days. Optimism quickly gave way to exhaustion and frustration as repeated organizational missteps, political conflict and diminished growth potential clouded the opportunity I once saw there. I initially became introduced to the training center because I was doing some freelance event management work and it was my freelance business that began to consume more and more of my energies. In March, 2018 I left the training center to focus all of my professional attention on my company, Stylehawk Event Services.

“I realized that on a scale of 1- 10, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life- changing, my so- called worst- case scenario might have a temporary impact of a 3 or 4… On the other hand, if I realized my best case scenario or even a probable- case scenario, it would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life- changing effect.” — Tim Ferriss

Stylehawk Event Services

When I started Stylehawk Event Services in 2014 I was still working on a university campus. One of my primary work responsibilities was to generate revenue for the athletic department by renting our athletic facilities out to third party events. The department needed this revenue to support our operating budget and so I was very aggressive in securing these bookings. With creativity, persistence, good communication and a lot of hard work, we were able to generate very significant revenue that was consistent year over year. I realized that the work I was doing was very valuable to our third party event clients and that my personal contributions were key to delivering this revenue to the department. In seeing this, I believed that I could continue to deliver value to third party event promoters and drive revenue to other event venues in the same way. Specifically, I was interested in working with smaller venues that had a lot of event opportunity but constrained resources which translated into a hesitancy or inability to book those events. This is still essentially what Stylehawk is. I tell people we are an event management firm, but really we are a virtual venue management company. We establish referral relationships with event venues and maintain a venue directory to centralize the venue search. We function similar to a real estate office. Our venue partners are our listings and our Stylehawk Concierge staff are agents who both manage their own book of business and support each other in operational roles. Our goal is to simplify event venue booking to a one- click process that will create efficiencies that result in cost savings, safer and better executed events and higher yields on event revenue streams. I believe that the Stylehawk Venue Directory is inherently valuable and know that my skills and expertise are in demand.

My Motivation

“The new rich can be separated from the crowd based on their goals, which reflect very distinctive priorities and life philosophies.” — Tim Ferriss

My salary had nearly doubled in the last four years. We were making more money than we ever had, but were still living hand to mouth like we always had. We had no quality time together as a family and were fighting constantly. It was obvious that my family was not happy. I worked really hard to build my career with the hope and expectation that my dedication would push my name up the organizational chart. A dozen years into my dream career, I had climbed that org chart and realized it didn’t mean anything. I was trapped. My relationship with my wife was disintegrating and though I am an attentive father, I was missing too much time with my kids. I was feeling like a passenger in my own life. Work was getting the best parts of me and I was building no equity for my efforts.

“Life Doesn’t have to be so damn hard. It really doesn’t.” — Tim Ferriss

One benefit of my epic commute was that it afforded me lots of time to read audiobooks. I was going through 4 or 5 books a month. It was here that I first read, The 4- Hour Workweek and it was illuminating. A light switch. In the book, Tim Ferriss asks:

  1. How has being “realistic” or “responsible” kept you from the life you want?
  2. How has doing what you “should” resulted in subpar experiences or regret for having not done something else?
  3. Look at what you are currently doing and ask yourself, “what would happen if I did the opposite of the people around me? What will I sacrifice if I continue on this track for 5, 10 or 20 years?

For me, I had dedicated myself to a career I was passionate about but was committed to a plan that was otherwise out of my control. Circumstance could mitigate my hard work. In this respect, the career choice I thought was responsible, now seemed risky. To make matters worse, we were running in place with no escape from the hamster wheel. We had no disposable income and no time to build quality into our lives. With Tim’s questions in my head, I asked, for this, I should give up my best years with my family? All of a sudden things started to come into focus. I could see that most of what I did at work, was of no consequence and though I received a generous salary, I would not bear any real benefit of my efforts. This life didn’t make sense. I didn’t want to miss another minute of time with my family and didn’t want to regret never giving my business a chance to develop. I took the leap.

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