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Quitting: Why I Left My Job to Live a Life of Freedom
Quitting: Why I Left My Job to Live a Life of Freedom
Quitting: Why I Left My Job to Live a Life of Freedom
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Quitting: Why I Left My Job to Live a Life of Freedom

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



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About this ebook

In a society which promises that great things come from hard work, Keith Boykin counters that great things come from quitting. Boykin writes that quitting “is for anyone” — quitting your job, your city, your relationship, and anything else that doesn’t serve you.

At twenty-seven years old, Boykin left behind a lucrative law career to work for the Clinton administration in the White House. But when his skills were underutilized, he quit his prestigious post after two years. Boykin soon went on to write the New York Times best seller Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America, an examination of race and sexual orientation in the Black community.

Since then, Boykin has quit a string of jobs, careers, organizations, and residences in pursuit of the autonomy and purpose that he eventually achieved. To him, nothing is more important than personal freedom: not money, not the veneer of success, and certainly not goals that other people have for his life. Quitting means change. And change is the first step on the path to freedom.

Cut to 2021, and Boykin is cheering on the 47 million Americans who left their jobs — for many a good reason — in what has become known as the Great Resignation. This new wave of “quitters” may not be quitting the White House, as Boykin did. Instead, it’s about quitting jobs that he considers to be eternal “preplanned treadmills” rather than valued ways of life.

In this candid memoir, Keith Boykin takes you on a roller-coaster ride of successes and failures that ultimately leads to a meaningful existence beyond “the identity of your employment.” Quitting: Why I Left My Job to Live a Life of Freedom is the bold encouragement that will push you toward making changes to live life on your terms.

Editor's Note

Choose personal freedom…

Boykin has quit unfulfilling jobs and let go of harmful mentalities long before these concepts became part of what's now referred to as the Great Resignation. And he wants you to know that it's okay if you, too, decide to call it quits on what doesn't suit you. This Scribd Original highlights Boykin's journey in moving away from high-profile, lucrative jobs to put his personal freedom first.

Release dateOct 12, 2022
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Keith Boykin

Keith Boykin is a TV and film producer, national political commentator, New York Times best-selling author, and a former White House aide to President Bill Clinton. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, Keith has taught at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, City College of New York, and American University in Washington, D.C. He is a co-founder and first board president of the National Black Justice Coalition and a Lambda Literary Award-winning author of five books. Keith was a co-host of the BET talk show “My Two Cents,” starred on the Showtime reality television series “American Candidate,” worked as an associate producer of the film “Dirty Laundry,” and has appeared on numerous TV shows. Born in St. Louis, Keith has lived in 12 cities, visited 48 of the 50 United States, and traveled the world. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

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Reviews for Quitting

Rating: 4.125 out of 5 stars

16 ratings5 reviews

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  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    Repetitive and trite. Life story was the only somewhat interesting part
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    This book is so timely and accessible. Keith’s accounts of his dynamic life provides great encouragement to follow your dreams and loose the golden handcuffs that traditional work can be. It’s also so very well-written that I read it in 2 nights. Highly recommend if you’re considering a new pathway and joining “The Great Resignation.”
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    Annoyingly self-promoting with no substance whatsoever!
    What did we get out of this, and what is "inspirational about it"!
    Don't waste your time listening to this nonsense..

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    This book came to me right on time. I like that Keith Boykin doesn't sugar coat the experience of quitting. Far to many books on this subject give the impression the universe will automatically reward you for taking the step towards freedom. Sharing his life experiences you get a real world view that's both comforting and encouraging.

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    I can definitely relate with his triumphant and continuing story in regards to work, changing course and knowing when to quit…something. I enjoyed it especially the later chapters and how it relates with many people and their situations today. Want to be happy, put yourself, not your position first. Good read.

Book preview

Quitting - Keith Boykin

Chapter 1. Quitting

I was twenty-six years old with an Ivy League undergraduate degree, a brand-new JD from Harvard Law School, and a lucrative job as a lawyer for a prominent law firm in San Francisco. Then I got a call that changed my life. I took a leave of absence from my new job on the West Coast, drove halfway across the country, and moved into the Plantation House Apartments in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was the beginning of an unexpected adventure on the staff of Arkansas governor Bill Clinton’s first chaotic presidential campaign. Six months later, I found myself working in the White House.

It was a wonderful opportunity for a young person interested in politics. I was in the prime of my life at the top of my career, working in a dream job as a special assistant to the president. Then, I gave it all up. I quit. And I decided to do something else with my life instead. It was not the first nor the last time I would make such a decision.

In the years since I left that job, I’ve published five books, taught at several colleges, cofounded a national civil rights organization, starred on a reality TV show, cohosted my own television show, and served as a TV commentator. I could have always returned to the law, as my grandmother never failed to remind me during my most difficult days of struggle, but I committed myself to a different path instead.

Like more and more Americans these days, I chose freedom.

In the past few years, through the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, many others chose a similar path. A record 47 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021, seeking a new way to earn a living. The majority of the quitters wanted better pay and more opportunities for advancement, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center poll. Many told the pollsters that they felt disrespected at work, and a significant number expressed concerns about childcare issues, lack of benefits, and inflexible work schedules. Others wanted to work for themselves, work at home, move to new cities, or change to more rewarding careers. The bottom line is that millions of people were not happy with their jobs.

We’ve been moving in this direction for many years in America. The music I listened to in the late 1970s and early ’80s warned me about the drudgery of work, just as I was becoming old enough to start my first job flipping burgers at McDonald’s. In 1977, recording artist Johnny Paycheck hit number one on the country music charts with his song Take This Job and Shove It. In 1980, Dolly Parton released her hit song 9 to 5 for a film about the struggles of underpaid working women toiling for an ungrateful boss. And in 1983, disco star Donna Summer recorded She Works Hard for the Money, about a woman in a thankless job.

Nearly four decades later, when a record number of Americans finally quit their jobs in 2020, I was not at all surprised. It became known as the Great Resignation. As many Americans grappled with poor working conditions, inadequate compensation, physical and mental health issues, and changes in technology, they went searching for something new. Businesses and industries that lost employees were forced to catch up as workers gained increased bargaining power to set new terms for their labor. Some observers described the move as the Great Reshuffle, the Great Renegotiation, or the Great Rethink. Others responded by rebranding the shift as the Great Recognition and sought to create a new culture of appreciation in the workplace. Whatever you want to call it, people across the country started waking up to the reality that they did not have to continue living their lives on the country’s preplanned treadmills, running in place at dead-end jobs for years. More importantly, many people realized that they could redesign their lives — their careers, their schedules, their location, their commute, their travel, their family, their relationships — in new ways that work for them. They quit things they didn’t like and started doing new things that they do like.

I would know. I’ve done it several times. I’ve left many prestigious spaces and places over the years to pursue more meaningful objectives in my life. I quit a law-review journal at Harvard to give myself time to explore my identity. I quit my high-paying law firm job to work on a low-wage presidential campaign. I quit the White House to write a book. I quit publishing a popular blog to get back to my life. I quit the civil rights organization I had cofounded to change my career focus. I quit living in New York in the winter to buy a condo in Miami. Then I quit Miami to return to New York. And in 2022, I quit New York again to move to Los Angeles. As I discovered, there is no single path on this adventure. It’s all about finding what works for each of us and being flexible and free enough to change along the way.

Quitting, at least for me, has been a journey. When I first started writing this book, I thought I could dig into my past and find some magical moment in time when it all clicked. But as I began to reflect on my life, I realized there was no one single moment of revelation. Instead, I remembered a series of fits and starts at various stages in time when I decided to quit the unhealthy aspects of my work life and then returned on some level to the same place where I began. Some of these stories are embarrassing to share and difficult to retell, but I found the experience of reconsidering the past to be cathartic.

I think it’s healthy for those of us who are long-term self-employed to be honest and reflective about the difficulties we faced along the way. To do otherwise is to mislead the public about the very real challenges of living a life of freedom.

One of the unexpected lessons I learned while writing this book is that quitting is not just for the privileged or the adventurous. Yes, relinquishing your full-time job to be self-employed is not a course of action I recommend for everyone

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