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How to Break Out of Job Jail and Start Your Own Business – Part I

Crazy Man and Entrepreneur David Mayer with Bill Walton

As seen in Forbes.

Can you imagine?

Sitting behind a desk, day after day, hating your job.

Is this you?  Do you know the feeling?

I call it job jail.

If you’re currently stuck in job jail, don’t despair — there is hope.  You can break free.

Oh but how you ask.

Well, I found someone who can help you.  (Yes, this dude up here in the bottle.)

You see, after posting my last article on Forbes with my 7 Lessons From an Out-Of-Whack Entrepreneur, many of you reached out to me.  (Oh, and if you’re one of them, please bear with me.  I will respond personally to you soon.  A little overwhelmed at the moment…  :-)

But guess what I learned?

So many of you are in the same jail.  Sick of it all.  Having dreams of starting your own business.  But not sure where to begin.  Basically “stuck”.

So it got me thinking…  Who do I know that has smashed their way out of job jail?  A person who can share their story of escape?

Bingo.  A guy named Dave Mayer flashed across my brain…

You see Dave was once like you.  Chained to a desk; punching a clock; working for “the man”.

But Dave wanted more.  He wanted to be “the man”.  He wanted to break free and go after his own dreams of owning a business.

And guess what?  He did it!

Dave is the founder of Clean Bottle; a company that makes this really cool sports bottle.  Dave has appeared on the TV show “The Shark Tank”, been offered cold, hard cash from guru and investor Mark Cuban, been featured on ESPN, and is buddies with guys like ex-NBA star Bill Walton.

In fact, I received the following email Bill wrote talking about Dave:

From: Bill Walton <removed@removed>

Subject: Dave Mayer & Clean Bottle

Dave Mayer embodies all that I believe in and aspire to in life. He gave up everything to chase his dream. He is a great family man. He is a tremendous athlete. He is a passionate visionary. He is a tough, but fair negotiator and businessman. He is brave and bold. He is creative, imaginative and daring.

Dave Mayer is who I want to be!

Wow.  Bill Walton wants to be startup entrepreneur Dave Mayer.

Good stuff right?  Oh but wait a minute, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.  I mean seriously, that’s really great and all for Dave, hanging out with Mark Cuban on TV and stuff, but how in the world did he do it?  How did he get from his boring job to having his own business and being friends with guys like Bill Walton?

And more importantly, how can you do it?

Well, I got Dave on the phone one day and simply asked him.  And boy did he have some good stuff to share.

So without further delay, let’s take a peek at how Dave broke out of job jail to start his own company.  And most importantly, the 5 key steps you can take to do the same…

Key Step #1:  Realize you can escape!

First, you’ve got to get it in your head you deserve better.  That you can do it.  You can break free to more fulfilling work.  You see, it’s a mindset.  Plain and simple.  You’ve got to get it in that thick skull and know in your heart you deserve more.

Think – “mindset”.  Grasp this like you would that twenty dollar bill blowing in the wind along the sidewalk.

Plus, you have to realize you’re not alone.  Millions of guys and gals just like you have already broken free and escaped from job jail to a better life.  And you can be next.  You just have to believe it.

Dave believed it.  He sat in his chair at a business unit of Cisco knowing he wanted more.  Hey, Dave even told me he loved his bosses and co-workers.  Yes, Cisco is a good company.  But, even with all the love flowing, he still wanted more.  He wanted to run his own show:

“I don’t know how to describe it.  I just wanted to be in control of my own destiny.  I didn’t want to have a boss who was telling me to do something; who was told by his boss; who was told by his boss.  I wanted to decide everything and felt like I needed to be in control; making my own decisions. It’s like I could just feel it in my bones.  I didn’t want to wake up at 60 years old and be in a cube-farm somewhere.”

So are you feeling it in your bones?  Kind of like you don’t belong in a job?  You’re not alone my friend.  You want out.  You want your own deal.  And that’s a good thing.
So what next?  Find out in Key Step #2…

Key Step #2:  You must plan your escape.

No, you can’t just read Step #1; run down the hall screaming like a banshee; bust into your bosses’ office; and suddenly declare you quit.  Where will that get you?  Well, probably thinking twice about what you just did.

So what’s your next move then?  Start planning your escape.  Goodness, the guys in those prison movies spend 80% of the movie making plans on how they’re going to escape, and 20% of the time actually escaping.

Do you get the picture?  The point is this:  You have to do some planning before you just up and bust out.

So start here:  Ask yourself (and write down the answers to) these 3 questions:

    • What am I passionate about (what do you love to do)?
    • What am I really good at (where are you naturally gifted)?
    • What do I have experience doing (where have you used the gifts and talents you have)?

Hold on a minute…  Did you stop and do this?  Did you grab a piece of paper and write down your answers?  If not, you’re missing the point.  Seriously.  Getting a handle on who you really are and what you were born to do is critical to long term success in your new business.

Like Bill Walton.  He probably popped out as a baby; grabbed a ball; and tried to dunk it over the edge of the crib on day one.  Just born to do it.  And probably loved every second of it.  (Yes, this was put in just for you Bill…  :-)

You want an awesome formula?  It’s this:

Your Passion + Your Gifts & Talents = Workplace Utopia

Simple huh?  Well, you’d be surprised how many people never sit down to figure this out.  Heck, it took me 30 years of stumbling around from business to business wondering what was wrong with me.  Why it didn’t quite sync.  Only until I asked myself the exact 3 questions did I finally get it:  What I was born to do.

And you know what?  My dear friend Dave did the same thing.  He asked himself these questions, logged the answers in an Excel spreadsheet, and kept a list of his own strengths and weaknesses. Plus, he took it one step further:

“When you think of quitting your job, you don’t just want to run from something.  You want to run to something.  So every month while I was at my job, I would actually interview a different small business owner.  Like, I would interview an exterminator, a garage door company, an ice cream shop owner.  I would ask myself if this fit with my passion and gifts.  Wrote it all down in my Excel file and tried to find the best thing for me.”

So please, start doing the same.

Figure out your true passions, nail down what you’re really good at, and then start researching different businesses, ideas and opportunities.  Write everything down.  I would recommend you even keep a journal.  You know, just grab a couple of those composition notebooks from WalMart or Target.  They’re like two bucks a piece.

The important thing in this step is to figure out and begin planning for what you’re going to do after you bust out of job jail.  As Dave said above, you’ve got to have something to run to after you break free.

Oh, and what did Dave discover during this phase?  I’ll let him explain it:

“Okay, so after spending a lot of time and energy doing research and figuring out my strengths and weaknesses, I got lucky and thought of an idea.  Since I am a cyclist and triathlete (um, Eric here… this is Dave’s passion..  :-), I always knew there was a  problem with regular sports bottles.  You know, having to throw them away because of the gunk and junk in the bottom you can never clean out.  So my idea  was to create a bottle with a cap on the bottom too.  So you can take off both ends and clean the entire bottle.  Anyway, this was very nice because it scratched my own itch by solving a problem I was very familiar with and fit perfectly with the industry I love.”

Okay, so do you see Dave went through the process of figuring out what business he wanted to be in, while still working at his job?  He kept thinking, interviewing, writing and discovering his own passion and gifts.  Then boom.  He got the idea to move forward…

Oops, hold the phone please.

Okay, time out called.  Yes, we could keep trucking through the other 3 Key Steps.  Keep right on cruisin’ down the road.  But then what?  You get to the end, see something else to read, then off you go.

No.  If you are serious about breaking out of job jail to start your own company, you have to take action.  The genie man is not going to show up at your front door with a special wrapped new business for you.  You have to figure this out.

Let’s do this:  First, let’s you and I connect below so I can let you know when Part II is live.  I will shoot you a quick email when it gets published.  (Early next week.)

In the meantime?  Yes, start seriously thinking through the 3 questions and getting the answers.  And, get started writing down some businesses you might be interested in.

So, catch you next week with Part II.  You’ll love how it ends and best of all, you get to discover how you can be next busting out of job jail…  :-)

Okay, do you and I need to hook up?

My name is Eric.

I’m a husband, father & life-long entrepreneur…

My email is: eric at mightywisemedia dot com.

Shoot me yours right here and let’s connect, okay?

You and I can then chat about where you are as an entrepreneur!

Plus, I’ll reach out to you early next week so you can catch the rest of this story on bustin’ out of job jail.  :-)

Look forward to connecting with you! :-)

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About the Author: Eric T. Wagner is a husband, father and life-long entrepreneur. After starting multiple businesses, Eric is now focused on helping other entrepreneurs find the path to success in business and life. You can also catch his gig on Forbes or connect with him on Google+.


  1. Eric,

    That initial realization that escape is possible is so crucial.

    It’s also crazy that you get emails from Bill Walton.


    Ryan H.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Ryan.

      You’re right, most people think they are just “stuck” and that’s the way it is and will always be.

      Of course, this is the furthest thing from the truth.

      Oh, and Bill Walton? Wait ’til you see some of his stuff in Part II. He’s a funny guy… :-)

      Thanks Ryan…

      • I agree with Ryan, and the Bill Walton reference is totally cool :) I think my friends Dave + Audley of The Breakdown Show may have interviewed him too ;)

        I whole-heartedly encourage your awesome call to action to people who want to break out of job-jail. (great term).

        I definitely resonate with what you’re about Eric. Keep rockin’ it. (Also, I’m curious… how did you get the Forbes gig? I read their article about their new digital curated content strategy, but there were no details…)

        Anyway, I teach a similar thing and even offer an exercise to do this:


        • Eric T. Wagner says:

          Hi Jason. Thanks my friend. Appreciate the kind remarks.

          Yes, “job jail” stinks (if you don’t belong there.)

          Oh, and on the Forbes thing? Get that question a lot. Maybe I’ll write a post about it? Definitely a strategic move for me my friend… :-)


  2. Eric,

    Great post and very motivational. I at first thought the picture of the guy in the bottle would be the job someone was running away from!

    I agree with you about running to something versus running from something. I talk to quite a few people who are running from their jobs but that makes their next step pretty unfocused. Better to channel that into one or limited number of more targeted directions (using your process).

    Looking forward to the Bill Walton part as well!

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Tom. Yes, Dave ran right out of his office and into a bottle boy suit. Funny, huh?

      But seriously: Probably way more exciting prancing around in a bottle boy suit than stuck in an office somewhere? :-)

      In part II I’ve got a video showing him running all over the hills of France in that thing.

      Thanks for sharing Tom… :-)

  3. I think many out there shun from the idea of starting their own business or venture for many (self-defeating and limiting) reasons. They may want to break out of job-jail but never gather the know-how and courage to do so – which is why there are articles like this!

    Then on the other hand there are people out there who are perfectly fine with the organizational structure, office-work and The Cube-Life. Which is perfectly OK, it’s certainly needed, and just the order of the way things are.

    If you’re part of the former, there is so much great wisdom to be learned here. Just the idea of knowing (and more importantly believing) that you deserve more and better is such a HUGE leap in the right direction. Eric, my friend, you’ve got a classic in the making here.

    Definitely looking forward to Part Deux :)

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Howdy Jason. Thanks for your input.

      And totally agree with you. Not a knock on folks who really are a better fit for working for others. Goodness, it really takes all of us together to make the world work (or kind-of work).

      But, as you also stated, I believe a lot of people want to start their own business, but fear keeps them down.

      Fear = Bondage = Job Jail

      Hopefully we can help some people break out? I know you do the same Jason, and that’s a good thing… :-)


  4. Great post Eric! I can’t wait for part 2.

    I loved the second point you made about being prepared. It struck home for me the most because I think a lot of people think that if you’re gonna start your own business you just up & leave your job & get going which is totally not the case… or shouldn’t be I should say. Fear of the unknown & fear of failure holds a lot of people back from stepping out & taking a risk, but if you prepare & you have a vision then it makes it less scary. You know exactly where you need to go & what you need to do next. Of course the path may change a bit as you go, but the act of planning can help ease fear so much.

    Good stuff! Thanks again!

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Meagan.

      You’re right about how huge planning is.

      And Dave makes an incredible point in Part II which takes it a step even further: You can and should START your new business while in job jail. (Oops, I’m giving some of it away… :-)

      Insider secret here from Dave: It does not have to be binary. You can (and should) do both at once, at least until you build up enough steam for break-out day! :-)

      Thanks for sharing your feedback Meagan and I’ll let you know when part II is live… :-)

  5. Love the analogy of horrible work = job jail Eric. It’s the worst place to be, and yet…there are no wardens, locks in doors, keepers (except the ones that are conditioned into us)…we can walk out that place at anytime.

    Many people stand on the threshold their entire lives.

    (IMO) Our great work comes when we have the courage and freedom to express. Employed or self employed. For me though, like you, only ever found it working for myself. Look forward to part 2.

    Live Moxie!


    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Good stuff Dawn.

      We are chained to things; but yet not really chained at all. Just imaginary chains I guess. Bondage.

      Like Henry David Thoreau said: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”


      Like you said, time to bust out and Live Moxie!

      Thanks for sharing Dawn. Appreciate it… :-)

  6. I actually saw Dave’s episode on “Shark Tank” (I’m a big fan of the show, it’s on my DVR). It was a great moment when it was revealed that Bill Walton was in that bottle suit. Classic!

    It just goes to show you how much Bill believed in Dave when he’s willing to put on a ridiculous-looking costume on national TV for the cause.

    There’s a lesson in that, too. When you can infect someone else with your passion, amazing things will happen.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Bingo Jeanne…

      You’re exactly right on Bill believing in Dave. Huge, important point. Amazing things do happen when you’re making bold, passionate moves.

      You’ll love part II when Dave reveals more details on his relationship with Bill and what it’s meant to him.

      And funny you have the recording of that episode. Classic stuff is right…

      Thanks Jeanne. Appreciate your input… :-)

  7. I love this,,I am one of those stuck in “job jail”. I recently realized as
    Dawn said, I am here because of me, not being forced to stay. This is my first site looking for information for starting a business. I can’t wait for part 2. Getting my notebooks ready,,,Thanks.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Hi Nancy… Thanks for sharing.

      Yes, if you don’t belong in job jail, you can feel it. Be happy to help anyone I can break free from such bondage — including you Nancy.

      I see you’re on the list for follow up, so please look for my email early next week. (Part II is scheduled to publish on Forbes on Tuesday morning.)

      In the meantime, get to work on those 3 questions and really start looking in your heart for the answers. Okay?

      Thanks Nancy…. :-)

  8. Eric,

    Very interesting …. very, very interesting!

    I’m a triathlete myself and cleaning the bottles is a pain.

    This just proves the point that even those small improvements will make a difference :)

    Also, I liked the idea of running to something instead of running from something. So true!

    Looking forward to read the part II of this series.


    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Timo…

      Yes, Dave’s wisdom on running to something is good. No, actually, it’s really great. It just flat-out makes sense.

      Oh, and part II of Dave’s job jail-break story is coming in a few days…

      Okay my friend? :-)

  9. Hi,
    I am quite impressed and inspired that you making an effort to reach out to wards the cause. I had started my carrier too in a Startup company little did i know when u move to a BIG Corporate company the ambitions and zeal gets shaded by the easy money don’t bother attitude. However it wasn’t long till realized i couldn’t do it anymore working for yourself is the greatest feeling ever and i called it quits. I am not an entrepreneur but after reading your article i am getting feelers of what i should be doing. Thanks i feel really positive after reading the article.

  10. Hey Eric, really enjoyable interview! My husband and I are huge Shark Tank fans (let’s face it – that show is like porn for entrepreneurs) so I totally remember Dave from that show.

    I loved how he used the human-sized running bottle as guerilla marketing and got on so many TV stations covering the marathon! That’s bootstrap marketing at its finest.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Howdy Carmen.

      Yes, Dave is a crazy man with marketing and basically burst on the scene with his UVP.

      You should see the video coming up in part II. Crazy stuff. :-)

      Thanks Carmen…

  11. Hi Eric

    Great points you raised in this post. so many people don’t realize that they can choose to escape, as if its a decision that’s arrived at from outside of themselves.

    It’s not that they don’t have it in them to create a business or new life, that’s evidenced by how many people are put in the position of losing their job and dig deep enough to believe in themselves and try.

    They say necessity is the mother of invention.

    I keep hearing about this shark tank program. Sounds like its similar to Dragons Den? Wish we had it here in Australia. Will have to look it up online perhaps.

    Look foward to part two.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Jackie. Appreciate your insight.

      You’re right. People just need to believe in themselves more. Deep down inside, each of us has what it takes.

      Knowing this, then overcoming (or moving forward anyway) our fear, is a must step. Without it, you’re stuck in job jail… forever.

      Thank you Jackie… :-)

  12. wow, great article eric! love your take on everything.

    Am one of those who ran down the corridor screaming like a banshee and handed a resignation letter to their boss. I did not regret it though..cos I was busy getting married to the love of my life :)

    I had no cash for my start-up (actually it was more of a non-profit) so I figured I could volunteer in an established organisation first…you, know learn the ropes.

    A few months later, I quit and began my my own business..not a non-profit :) It occurred to me that I needed a sustainable source of funds/plan/network for my non-profit work.

    Two years and two businesses later, I moved continents :).

    That was a few months ago.

    Am back to square one…getting my training, writing & mentoring/coaching business on it’s feet in the US. (quite a different experience from doing business in Africa)

    so, am quite happy to have discovered this site…look forward to learning more from ya. :)

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Ngina. Sounds like you’ve had quite the adventure.

      Reach out if you need some guidance or wisdom. That’s why I’m here… :-)

      Warm Regards… Eric

  13. Denis Twinamatsiko says:

    Wisdom is equal to Knowledge plus Planning!

  14. job jail is at epidemic preportion, imo–because most people exist or survive, because thats how they were brought up,educated. Dont have anything against higher education, if its a profession that is always in demand, say like a pharmacist, I mean who is going to replace that person? On the other hand, the people in these schools/profession, make really good salaries & charge great interest loans & 50% or more of the young adults that actually graduate & cant find a job, and are in debt. Saying all this, chase your dream, dont let friends or family discourage you, because they dont have the courage to take a risk. There are many successful people out there that had to do the same.

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