Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Naïve Quitting

My first real job was as the librarian at Warner/Chappell Music.

I loved it. I was 20 years old, just graduated college, just moved to New York City. I took it really seriously and learned a lot.

After 2½ years, though, I decided to quit to be a full-time musician. (Partially because I was too happy there! If I didn't force myself to quit, I was scared I'd never leave. Too comfortable.)

Since I had never quit a job before, and didn't know how, I did what seemed to be the respectful and considerate thing to do: find and train my replacement.

(It wasn't my boss's fault I wanted to quit, so why should I make it his problem? If I want to quit, it's my problem.)

I called on my old friend Nikki, who I knew would be perfect, and offered her my job at my current salary.

She came with me to the office for a week while I trained her in every aspect of the job.

Once she had it mastered, I went into my boss's office on a Friday afternoon and said, “I need to quit now, but I've already trained my replacement. She's great. She'll take over for me starting Monday.”

My boss just looked a little stunned, then said, “Uh. Well. OK. We'll miss you. Tell her to see HR about the paperwork.” And that was that.


10 years later, I'm running my own company, and for the first time, an employee tells me he needs to quit.

I said, “Drag. Well. OK. I wish you the best! Who's your replacement?”

He looked confused.

I said, “Have you found and trained a replacement yet?”

He looked a little stunned, then said, “No.... I think that's your job.”

Now I was stunned. I asked a few friends, and found out he was right. People can just quit a job without finding and training their replacement. I had no idea. All these years, I just assumed what I did was normal.


There's a benefit to being naïve to the norms of the world.

Deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do.

Positive anomie.

Splash