Whip out the kleenex for the update on Jon the 23-year old ballplayer

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I know that it is not really fair to favor one blog reader story over another (it is kind of like favoring a child over another — they are all loved, just different!), but the Jon the Ballplayer series of questions and community response was one of my all-time favorite experiences blogging.


For those of you newer to my blog, you need to know the context of the original post, which started when I got the following email from a young man who started out anonymous:

“I came across your site while trying to decide if its right for me
to leave my job right now to pursue a passion of mine since i was a
kid.  I’m 23 now, and have worked at this job straight out of college
at 21, and recently was given the opportunity to play semi-pro baseball
in Germany.  the catch being the team can only pay my rent, so it is a
great opportunity cost to leave.  I have a nice chunk of money saved
up, so financially I’m ok to do this for a summer, but this is a really
good and high paying job that I’m sure a lot of people would kill to
have right now.  this should be an easy choice, because i hate this job
and cannot see myself in not only this job, but this entire field, ever
again.  baseball has been my love since i can remember, and this would
be the perfect end of an era for me to say goodbye to my playing days
with this trip, as my job allows me to do basically nothing with my
free time.
I noticed you said at one point to quit before your job makes you,
and this has already happened.  I was given an action plan that if my
performance does not improve in 30 days, I will be terminated.
honestly, I’m in this situation because I just haven’t tried.  I know I
can blow them away with performance since now i work at about a 20%
motivation level, and them seeing me at 100% would really change their
perspective.  but still after the 30 days nothing will change and i
will be back to being miserable.
I’d appreciate any advice you could give me!”
He followed this up with:
“Some more detail if needed – I’m looking to go into a creative
field, possibly writing or something with creative advertising.  If not
that, I’ve always also had a passion for business start ups, as I love
troubleshooting the unknown.  I know what I want to do, which is more
than I can say about myself than 2 years ago when i first graduated
college, so I am very thankful that I’ve come to this realization.  I
also definitely know what I don’t want to do, thanks to the job in
traditional finance I am at now.  Part of me is seeing this trip is a
way to break loose.  All of my friends are 100% supportive of me taking
this trip, but its my parents who are on the pessimistic side which is
keeping me from diving straight into it.
As you can see from this 3:30am email, I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this decision.
Thanks so much for your help!”

It inspired this post, where my community went nuts with fantastic advice like this from my favorite Ninja Baker Kathlyn:

Go, but realize that your parents are most likely concerned about your
well-being and you should be too. Not only is your job at risk right
now (no matter what you do because all our jobs are at risk), but
you’re not going to have any kind of financial stability unless you
make it happen for it yourself. I don’t either and I’m much older than
you. So go, definitely go. But plan. Make this not just a “heart” thing
but a “head” thing too. Make this part of your plan for your life, not
just a detour. If you want to write, this is the perfect opportunity
for you to write about an amazing life experience AND see if you have
the discipline to write about it every day while you’re doing it. If
you’re going to go into an occupation like writing, you’re going to
need the discipline (and it’s HARD). This is a chance for you to
experience, plan, and make an unpopular decision that you know is right
for you – because as many have already said, your parents probably
aren’t going to back you up on this one no matter what argument you
give them. I have a good friend who decided to go into a very
competitive creative field who’s parents didn’t support her and now,
guess who’s most impressed with her kick-ass work? Dad. Most parents
are like that – they think they’re protecting you. Go, definitely go,
just be smart about it and realize that this will be work, just like
your job now is work – it’s all work and it’s all hard. But some work
is more rewarding than other work and when you find your thing, you
gotta grab it! Good luck!

Then, as Jon’s Mom got involved in the discussion, it got much juicier and interesting, when we learned that not only was she blown away with the quality of support from my blog readers, but she also completely changed her view of the risk involved with Jon’s decision.  She inspired this follow up post.

Jon’s Update

I just received this update message from Jon in Germany, where he not only shared his experience, but also some wonderful photos.

“So I’ve been in Hamburg, Germany for 3 months now, and I can officially call my choice to leave work for baseball a complete success.  Even when struggling with the decision early on, I always knew I would forever regret not going, and would always wonder what things would be like if I had gone… so just clearing my conscience of this burden alone has been satisfying.  If i have any regrets about my life up to the point of my decision in March, it was that I didn’t pursue baseball after high school when I had the chance to play at multiple colleges, and that I never studied abroad in college when many of my friends had the times of their lives doing this.  In reality, my decision to skip baseball to go to a school that I actually wanted to go to, rather than had a scholarship to play at was a great choice, and my major had no option to study abroad, but I still had a lot of “what if” moments regarding both situations.  Coming here was the perfect blend, as I took care of both scenarios in one unique shot, and letting go of these regrets alone was worth the trip in itself… and the most satisfying thing for me so far is that not one have I ever doubted this choice, or even thought about any “what ifs” regarding staying at my job.
As for the trip itself, living in Germany has been an unreal experience, and Hamburg is a beautiful city.  There’s something totally different about actually living in a foreign country rather than just visiting, that I have really enjoyed.  Everything here is new to me, so even simple tasks like buying groceries is a cultural experience.  I try my best to fit in (language permitting) and soak in the culture, although constantly holding baseball equipment usually makes me stand out immediately.  Thankfully, everyone here is really friendly to Americans which I had not anticipated, and even strangers always want to hear about New York and ask about stereotypes.  Also, about 80% of the population speaks English, and everyone on the team communicates solely in English… so although I have missed out on the experience of having to learn the language, its nice being able to communicate with anyone I need to.  I much prefer the style and pace of life here in Germany than what I have grown accustomed to in the US, and it seems to further reassure that I was not crazy by thinking i was too young to dedicate my life to the office.  Success isn’t really determined by monetary status here as much as it is in the US.  Sure, people here would love to be rich, but there is not much pressure to do so, and most of the people I have encountered simply chose a field of their interest, and are fine with whatever pay they receive from this.  Whether is working as an architect, salesman or even employees at places like McDonald’s, people seem to genuinely care about their work (and are friendly to you as a result), whereas in the US it seems that most people work for money alone.
I have been completely busy with baseball thus far, as we have practice 3 days a week, I work with youth teams 2 days a week, and we usually play 4 games over the weekend, so this has been a bit draining, but doing something you love makes it all worth it.  Whenever I feel burdened by it, I imagine the alternative of me sitting at my desk in a new city that I did not want to live in, and the feeling immediately fades away.  Because of this schedule, I have not yet had the time to see all of Europe as I would like since I never have more than one free day off in a row, but this time will come once the season is over.  In my rare days off, I try to take in as much as I can, usually via the bike my team gave me.  Whether its checking out local attractions, going to events, or even just cruising the city or the countryside, I can honestly say that I’ve taken advantage of every minute of my time here.  Members of the team have noticed this as well, and are always complimenting my commitment to the trip (as players in previous years usually just hung around the house and went to bars) which has been reassuring, but for me, if I am leaving a salary to do this, I want to make sure that I do it right and don’t waste a minute.  The last thing I want is to have gone through this experience and produce more regrets about not taking full advantage of my time.
As for baseball, I’ve only played in a few summer leagues since high school, so this is the first time in almost 5 years I have been really serious about the sport.  Baseball was always my life when I was younger, and its been great capping it all off by playing at this level.  I wont get too much into it, it didn’t take me long to get back into the swing of things, and for any baseball buff, you can check out my progress here http://stats.baseball-softball.de/2bln/?y=9&f=gl1039 .  in addition to the season, we also took first in a local tournament, and will be traveling to Holland to play in another week long tournament come August.  Being on the team I’m on here has made me sort of a pseudo celebrity in Hamburg, which has been an amazing experience.  The team is in the paper every week, and a couple of times they have done features on me including pictures, which makes for a cool keepsake.  We’ve been interviewed on tv a few times, in some magazines, and I’ve even been recognized in the streets.  One of the events on my life accomplishment checklist was to sign an autograph for someone who actually wanted it, and I’m proud to say that I’ve done this hundreds of times here, for both kids and adults.  Not bad for a financial analyst.

One of the highlights of the trip so far was a few weeks ago when my parents came into town to visit.  Neither of my parents have ever traveled to Europe before, and I was able to take my mom to the city she was born in (she was born in Germany, and moved to the us before she was old enough to remember) so it was cool for me to be personally responsible for such a unique moment of their lives.  Them visiting was a nice, “I told you so” moment too, as visiting me and taking in this beautiful city shattered any doubts they may have had previously about me quitting my job to come here, and any worries they might have had for my future here.

I’d like to say I’ve learned a lot about myself here… but to be honest, I think I don’t think any perspective about myself has changed.  I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do with my life, but once I landed a good job out of college, I felt pressured to do what others around me thought was the right thing.  This trip just proved to myself that I was capable of taking a stand, and not simply floating through life with dreams of change that are never acted upon.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to use my experiences here to continue to take an alternative path through life, and be able to take more chances on life decisions that may not be considered a safe bet.  I think my entire learning experience thus far can be summed up by one statement a teammate of mine made to me.  This teammate is an American citizen, who has been working (as a model) and playing baseball in Germany for the past 7 years.  He lives a life that most would envy, that was brought upon himself through a dedication to his field (as he does not know when his next job may come up), and mainly the risks he took to not conform to the normal, “cubicle” lifestyle.

Over breakfast one day, he asked me a lot about life back home and the differences between the European outlook on life and the fast paced American style of existence.  One thing that really stuck with me was when he said to me “Every time I go back home and talk to my friends and family, they always have something they’re stressing over.  I always wonder, what is everyone so worried about?”  It seems to be typical of us to worry about every little decision, and I too find myself thinking one small event will ruin the outcome of my entire life.  I think it is drilled into us when we are young with school, with guidance councilors, and that feeling every test grade will determine your entire future, but I feel that most of us at this point can step away from that perspective on life.  This doesn’t have to be as drastic as my decision to come here that I shared with you all, but I’ve noticed that about 90% of the things that I and my friends stress over are seemingly meaningless, and most of these things we will not remember and will bear no significance in our lives come a month or two.  It’s easy to worry, but once you let go of sweating the small stuff, and learn to take control of your big decisions, you can really start enjoying every day of your life for what its worth.


I’ll be here until mid September, as the season ends in August and I will travel Europe for a few weeks when I’m done.  I finally have dedicated internet access here, so I will try to re-start up the blog, which will probably be more interesting anyway now that I’ll be doing a lot more traveling.  I hope if nothing else that my story inspires some people to take some risks and start enjoying every minute of their lives.  If you’re on Pamela’s blog, you’re on the right track!”

The Kleenex Moment
I was giddy reading Jon’s account, and looking at his pictures. What got me in the gut was seeing the picture of him with his proud parents in Germany.
He obviously made the decision to pursue his passion on his own, but I am totally convinced that it was your support that tipped him over the edge and helped him make the leap.
I think that learning to trust his gut and not settle for a boring career at 23 will radically alter the course of his life, and give him confidence in other decisions down the road.
Thank you my dear readers for being so generous and supportive, and thank you Jon for making my week.
Life is short. Play hardball! 🙂
Update: after this post, Jon’s Mom sent me her own update. It is amazing how Jon’s choice to follow his passion impacted his entire family! Jon’s Mom Valerie Update
Filed Under: Uncategorized

33 Responses to “Whip out the kleenex for the update on Jon the 23-year old ballplayer”

  1. […] Whip out the kleenex for the update on Jon the ballplayer […]

  2. Edward Domain says:

    I just want to add my 2 cents and comment on how much I really loved this story. Incredible!

  3. […] Whip out the kleenex for the update on Jon the 23-year old ball player on Escape from Cubicle Nation […]

  4. […] old financial analyst did just that and moved to Germany to play semi-pro baseball. Now he’s living his dreams with no […]

  5. Thanks for this, Pam!!! Way to go! I am so glad you went, Jon!

    I sent this to my son…he is but 20 and serving aboard an air craft carrier with the United States Navy. He has had many adventures in just 20 years, but, he feels he should be doing more…when he told me he was going to be a damage controlman (fireman at sea) I said, “Wait, you want to run toward the fire?” He said, “Mom, someone has to save the ship.”

    He has this similar spirit of adventure and never met a stranger…he wants to see Europe…this story will help him make that dream come true!

    Well done! I think there is a feel good movie here!

  6. Sally says:

    AWESOME!!! What a fabulous story! I was like Jon at that age, except that I was scared and took the “safe” choice and didn’t rebel against my parents and do what I really wanted to do. My life has turned out fine, but I still have those “what if” moments about having done what was expected of me rather than what I really wanted to do. I encourage everyone to follow their heart, especially when they’re young. The thing is, life turns out fine anyway, so you might as well do what inspires you. But that’s something I didn’t know back at that age. So great to hear Jon’s success story!

  7. Chris Huff says:

    Good for you, Jon! Your on-base percentage and batting average through 14 games is pretty darn impressive too. That’s very cool. Keep up the good work whatever you end up doing with life…

  8. Anne says:

    Definitely inspiring!! What a huge victory to walk away from what our society says we all should do and pursue that passion.

    I am currently working on my exit strategy from the cubicle and hope that my future pursuits will allow for the freedom to enjoy much more time with my husband and family as well as the creative outlet and helpful service that I long for.

    Now that I’ve got my ideal life written down, I need to go on to the next steps and see this through. Thanks, Pam and Jon, for the continued encouragement!
    .-= Anne´s last blog ..Parental Rights (and wrongs) =-.

  9. Stephen says:

    In 8 weeks time, myself and my girlfriend will be leaving the UK and moving to Toronto. Whilst we’re fully committed to the move, there are still days when the I hear the voice in the back of my head a little louder – “are we doing the right thing?” However, reading stories like Jon’s make me remember all the reasons why we’re going – right now all I can think is – I can’t wait for the adventure to start!

  10. Pouli says:

    I often advise my college students to fight the pressure to “get a good job” and “keep their options open with a secure career path.” College graduates often lack the perspective of time to realize their career path is wrong for them. They don’t realize how free they are to do something they love. They often take the “safe” job and they feel good about it because they have financial stability, parental approval and independence. That “safe” job is often the wrong fit but it can sometimes take decades to realize that.

    Unfortunately, it takes too many of us a very long time to get to the point where we’ve had enough with the status quo and we need to find something far more satisfying.

    That’s what makes Jon’s story all the more special. He came to his epiphany at a very young age and that will truly allow him to “keep his options open.”

  11. Susan says:

    Wow — so inspiring. I was struck by recalling my own youth as I read and was inspired for my “second” youth now in midlife. And, with a son soon to leave academia for “real life,” I quickly emailed this to him! Walking through fear for one’s passions — priceless.

    And, as usual, that Pam provides the perfect venue for all of this sharing — fantastic!

  12. Briana says:

    Thanks so much to Pam & Jon both ~ I am so happy you two connected in a way that allowed the rest of us to share in the experience! I absolutely love stories like this, and I have a lot to learn about daring & risk & courage from both of you – thanks again for the inspiration =)
    .-= Briana´s last blog ..The right thing =-.

  13. Ken Marable says:

    That is wonderful news!

    I got a little choked up myself reading his posts where he mentions having the same routine as his 40-something co-worker and realizing that he’s 23 and that’s the time he needs to do crazy adventurous things. Well, I wasn’t exactly living a adventurous life playing baseball in Germany, but I was 24 when I gave up on my somewhat dreamy plans for a life in academia and summer writing to get a “real job” on advice of my future in-laws. (Translation: “You can’t marry our daughter unless you get a job and can support her.”)

    Now, I am incredibly happy with my family life, and I’ve been working “just for now until I can go back and finish my Ph.D.” for 12 years. Reading Jon’s post made me realize that at about the same age he is now, I gave up on the career I wanted and choose the path he walked away from – a path of supposed security. Of course, I also realized with just a bit of irony that although I got a “real job” in order to have a steady paycheck when we got married, I’ve also been flatline salaried due to working at some dying companies here in Michigan and am making much less than I would have made if I stayed on to finish the Ph.D. and become a professor (I work at a university and have seen the salaries of the profs in my former department). Only took 12 years to realize that the short term stability took a huge bite out of long term success.

    Thankfully, even though I have far more in common with Jon’s 40-something former co-worker sitting in a cubicle thinking about what might have been, I decided a couple months ago to go back and finish the degree while staying at the job. Not this fall (need a bit more lead time both for applying and preparing finances), but next year I am going back. The “real job”, for me at least, has been a myth and I’m ready to transition to the career I want. Thankfully, I’m in a good position to get much of it paid for by my employer while still working full time (as long as I don’t get laid off again, there’s another “real job having more security” myth). So it’ll be a transition rather than a dramatic leap like Jon. It’s still incredibly inspiring to see a story of someone so happy with that choice and this awesomely supportive (yet wise) community! Thanks!

  14. MC Prisco says:

    This story is for the books! Jon, you are amazing, and if I was still a high school teacher, your story would be required reading.

  15. Jon "The Ballplayer" says:

    Thanks a lot for all the support guys! If anyone wants to contact me with any questions or comments, my email address is adamecje @ gmail.com. I hope I inspired some people out there…

    After writing this and evaluating my experience, I have re-inspired myself to take another (albeit smaller) step, this time into into entrepreneurship, my second passion after baseball. Over the past week, I have finally (re)started an online art gallery, as I have planned to do for about 3 years now, for talented urban artists whom I have been in contact with for quite some time (www.allcitygallery.com it should be running in a day or two). It’s just another reminder to myself and hopefully you guys, how easy it is to take control of your dreams and not just wish for things would happen. So no more excuses! Pursue your passions!

    Thanks again for the support and don’t hesitate to contact me!

  16. Pace says:

    Wow, this is an amazing and inspiring true story. Way to go, Jon!
    .-= Pace´s last blog ..I can teach connection without connecting to everyone. =-.

  17. Thanks a lot for all the support guys! If anyone want to contact me with any questions or comments, my email address is adamecje @ gmail.com. I hope I inspired some people out there.

  18. Kimmoy says:

    This is an awesome update! I read every single word so I’m looking forward to his blog.

    How uncanny it is for his mom to see her birthplace with new eyes through her son?!? That is so profound. This post was truly inspiring and the kick in the pants we all need every now and again to live life to the fullest and create our own paths no matter how unconventional it seems. We always need that support to boost us in the direction we see, so kudos for Pamela’s community as well.

  19. Richard says:

    Congratulations! Great to hear the success story.

  20. Stefani says:

    I don’t get to this site as often as I’d like so I just now caught up on Jon’s whole story. Excellent! I found myself most moved by Jon’s mom’s posts – especially when his father was so moved by all the comments in support of Jon’s decision.

    And yeah, I had to whip out the Kleenex when I saw the photo of Jon standing with his parents in Germany.

    Thanks for the follow-up. Great story, Pam – and congratulations, Jon. You’re a winner!
    .-= Stefani´s last blog ..Good News, Bad News =-.

  21. Sandra says:

    Pam, I totally understand why you love this story the most. We forgive you ; )

    I have been following this story since Jon wrote in. I, of course, was one of the folks who was screaming at the top of my lungs – GO! I live with regrets and it is a terrible feeling. I am so glad Jon went is truly experiencing what his essential self needs.

    GO JON!
    .-= Sandra´s last blog ..Bagology – the Psychology of Handbags Circa 1945 =-.

  22. Lisa Chu says:

    What a STORY! I remember reading your original post about Jon, and wondering what happened. WOW! I agree that the course of his life will be altered forever, now that he’s done the courageous thing once.
    .-= Lisa Chu´s last blog ..Keep listening =-.

  23. Marilyn says:

    High five! This is the best! Jon, as my dad always said, “Take the shot.”

  24. Sarah Bray says:

    How encouraging! I took the leap a while back to go out on my own, and my husband just turned in his two week’s notice *today*. And of course, today is when all sorts of random things started happening right after he quit to make us think…”Oh gosh. What did we do here?”

    Worry is practically my middle name (not proud of it, but true), and I am so thankful for this story. It actually made my shoulders un-tense. I didn’t even realize they were tensed up until that happened. Thank you, Jon. Super proud of you!
    .-= Sarah Bray´s last blog ..John Bray: The man behind the curtain =-.

  25. Dale says:

    […join a baseball league in Germany on the Escape From Cubicle Nation blog. One thing that hit home with me was how his parents didn’t exactly agree with his decision…]
    .-= Dale´s last blog ..Countdown to the sabbatical! =-.

  26. Rosie says:

    This is great! I’m so glad to hear he DID IT! When I’m ready to jump over the fence, I am going to think of this story and jump with a smile! 🙂
    .-= Rosie´s last blog ..Tour de Fleece Day 17 =-.

  27. Denise Mironti says:

    What a great story! Good for him to follow his passion and be at peace with his decision to do so. I love it! Thanks for sharing this. It definitely gives many of us food for thought.

  28. Dale says:

    Great to hear! I’m starting a 3 month leave of absence from my corporate job, and part of the inspiration for it was this story. I hope my experience is as great as his!
    .-= Dale´s last blog ..The stem cell fallacy =-.

  29. Wow – how exciting to hear that his trip has been such a success!

    Thanks for sharing – there’s something very satisfying about hearing these updates after being among the throngs of your readers who encouraged him to go.
    .-= Victoria Brouhard´s last blog ..On Quitting and Wrecking – WTJ Week 7 =-.

  30. Pam, thanks for the update.

    Jon, you’re an inspiration and I’m happy to hear you made the decision to go for it.
    .-= Allen Eskelin´s last blog ..Create a Culture of Decision-Makers =-.

  31. Hiro Boga says:

    Pam, thank you for sharing the follow-up to Jon’s wonderfully inspiring story. Not only has he opened up his own horizons, he took his mom to the place where she was born! Brilliant.
    .-= Hiro Boga´s last blog ..Heart and Head: A Duet =-.

  32. Nate says:

    Truly inspirational. Thanks for following up with him. I LOVE this.
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..The 80/20 rule =-.