In Chapter 4 of the podcast, J. Thorn explores the concept of a “Point of No Return,” which is a mindset shift that necessitates stopping one activity and starting another. J. shares his personal experience of leaving his job at the peak of his career in education, a decision that was challenging due to financial and personal considerations. The episode emphasizes the importance of making decisions and taking control of one’s reactions to the outcomes of those decisions.

You will come to a Point of No Return. It’s not final or a matter of life and death, but there will be a moment when you’ll need to stop doing one thing and start doing another. To put it another way, the only true “Point of No Return” is death. As far as we know. Therefore, the Point of No Return we’re talking about is a mindset shift.

As you’ve likely discovered, the older you get, the harder it is to make decisions and create change. But you’ve also seen how making the decision reduces anxiety because it’s the anticipation of the choice that causes it more so than the consequences.

The ancient Greeks knew something important. The Stoics believed that you couldn’t control outcomes, only how you reacted to them. To put it another way, you don’t get to decide what happens to you, but you get to choose how to feel about it. And if you don’t like the way your choice played out, you can make a new one.

My worst-case scenario

As it is for everyone, my Point of No Return felt enormous. I was about to leave my position at Hawken School, the apex of my career in education and at the top end of both the salary and prestige I could expect in my industry.

It would have been easy for me to call my decision a success because it worked for me. But you know that’s nothing more than resulting. On paper, I was about to make a horrible decision, one that I would never counsel someone else to do.

In 2017, I was the primary wage earner of the family. I had two children enrolled in a private school, two car payments, and a mortgage. I taught where my children attended school, so I wasn’t sure what the ramifications might be on them if I quit. My wife was also employed by the school at the time—yet more potential collateral damage.

To pay for an editing certification, I maxed out a credit card to the tune of $5,000. I was about to put myself into a frightening predicament. By the time I received my last paycheck from Hawken School, my fiction was earning about $250 a month.

But the worst-case scenario is never the worst case. While I had new challenges and obstacles to face, I also found new opportunities. I started doing client work and paid off that credit card in the first six months. I was hired to teach a graduate level course at John Carroll University. Zach Bohannon and I started Molten Universe Media publishing company, and we hosted the first “Authors on a Train” writer’s retreat.

But it’s worth revisiting those early years and climbing inside my head where all the fear and doubt lived.

The Intronaut // Episode 43 // October 10, 2016

This clip is from “The Intronaut,” episode 43, first published on October 10, 2016, the aforementioned podcast I hosted for introverts.

In this episode, I vocalize my trepidation about telling my boss that I’m quitting my job.

I recorded this episode the same week I had that fateful meeting with my headmaster in October 2016. You’ll hear the absolute terror in my voice as I explain how I’m giving up the safety net, and about all the catastrophic scenarios I had running through my head at that time.

You’ll discover that it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, you will be tested along the way. It’s normal to fear the unknown, and change, by definition, is the ultimate unknown. As you approach major challenges, you should expect the unexpected. And it’s frightening.


This is one I’ve been putting off for about 48 hours.

I knew I was going to record an episode this week, and I had some things planned, some ideas, and I kind of put them aside because I knew I wanted to talk about something in kind of vague terms, but something that’s really personal and heavy on my mind. And you know, nothing major for you, no major drama, but definitely something I’ve been wrestling with for a few months.

A lot of that kind of came to a point recently, and I really didn’t want to talk about it. Whenever I feel that feeling of resistance, I know it’s something I need to do. Both the decision and me talking about it on this episode are being forced upon me by the universe.

I figured I would start with a little story, partially because I’m still procrastinating and not wanting to get into this, but I think this will help the story a little bit.

When my wife and I were first married, we lived in New Jersey, and a friend of ours had bought a puppy, a lab. His lab’s name was Jake, a golden lab retriever, I believe he was, and was just the greatest dog. We’re not really dog people, so when I say he was the greatest dog, it was pretty fun.

And this dog, most dogs are like this, but this dog in particular. We found this out from the owner because he had several dogs. And he said, “Jake, he’s a tenacious guy, he likes to play and he’ll give you the chew toy, and you do this little tug of war thing with him. But he’ll do that for hours. He’s persistent. He just won’t give up.”

Most dogs are kind of like that, I think they’ll play as long as you play. But I think over time, we did realize that there was something different about this dog. He really did, and it was good-natured. He never got angry, never got too excited, never jumped up on you. But that chew toy, he wouldn’t let go.

And I tell that story now, and Jake’s long since gone. But this was 20 plus years ago. I tell that story now because I’m in a not so strange, more like an inevitable place. And what I mean by that is, I don’t know how many of you know my author story. I’m not going to bore you with all the details. But I started writing genre fiction in 2009, seven years ago now. When Amazon first gave authors the ability to publish directly to Amazon on their own, that was something I kind of jumped into.

Over the past five to six years, I’ve been building a readership on Amazon and have published, I don’t know, like 1.5 million words worth of fiction, I don’t even know how many books that is, but it’s a lot. And, you know, I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I’ve also kind of been a little bit like Jake. I haven’t let go of the chew toy. And I’ve been doing this with a wife, two kids, a mortgage, two car payments, bills, and everything like that. So, I’m still doing that.

What that means for my writing and for my creative pursuits, like this podcast, is that they usually bookend my day. So I might get up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and do my writing, then I come home after work and after all the family stuff is done in the evening and into the night, I do a lot of the marketing and administrative stuff that goes along with this little authorpreneur business I have here. So, it’s been something in addition, and I’ve been doing that for five or six years now. I’m not looking for a pat on the back, I’m just kind of like Jake, I think I’m a bit gritty, I don’t want to give up that chew toy.

Yet, at the same time, being a highly sensitive introvert, I’m constantly self-reflecting, probably more so than what’s healthy. And what’s happened is I’m kind of at the point with my main source of income, my “day job,” where that is kind of coming to an end. It’s kind of hard because it’s an industry and a job that I’ve been in for 22 years, and it’s really secure.

And so with a mortgage, two teenage kids, a wife, and all that stuff, I’m sort of now in a position where I feel like I have to step away from that. It’s going to be a long off-ramp for me. I’m under contract for employment until the end of June of 2017, so I have a wonderful buffer. I know now in October that that’s coming. But it scares the shit out of me. For 22 years, I’ve had a salaried income and have gotten a nice check every month. And come July, that’s not going to happen. It’s going to be completely on me.

And I have several different revenue models in play. You probably know you don’t make a ton of money in podcasting. So this is more of a passion project. But most of the revenue stream stuff is coming from my fiction, and then any coaching or mentoring stuff that I do around that.

But it’s all on me. God, it scares the fuck out of me. I know I have to do it, there’s a lot of factors involved in the day job stuff that this is absolutely the moment I have to do it. But it doesn’t make it any easier to let go of that safety net that I’ve had for so long.

And I’m sure many of you are in situations like that. It doesn’t even have to be work-related, it could be relationships, or anything else for that matter, where you’re playing it safe but you’re settling. It’s not that I’ve been settling for 22 years, but I’ve definitely been settling for the past couple. I’ve known in my heart for the past couple of years that I needed to get out of this industry, that I needed to change something, and I needed to throw myself into my creative work. But knowing that and doing it are really two different things.

God, these just crazy, terrible, horrific scenarios play through my head. And yet I know I’m resourceful. Like I know, I’m tough. I know, I’m gritty. I’ve never been unemployed in my life. And I’m not bragging, it’s just because I’m just relentless. And if I have to take a job that I’m not suited for, that is below my pay grade, so to speak, I’m going to do that.

So I know, like, I’ll be okay. I know my family is going to be okay. But I have these late-night thoughts of, “What am I doing? This is crazy.”

So that’s kind of where I am. I guess it’s not really a decision, the decision’s been made. I’m meeting with my superiors this week, and that decision is kind of final now, but it’ll be final-final soon. And then I’ll have between now and July to figure out what the hell I’m doing. There’s a lot of potential, but potential doesn’t pay the mortgage.

So that’s kind of where I am. I’ve had a few friends help out, and my wife’s been really supportive, but it’s still scary. So that’s just kind of where I am, and hopefully, if you’re in a similar situation, or you will be, this will encourage you to say, “It’s okay. It’s alright to be scared. It’s alright to be unsure of what’s going to happen.” That’s basically how we live anyway. I think a lot of times we’re fooling ourselves.

The Writer’s Well // Episode 37 // September 13, 2017

This clip is from “The Writer’s Well” podcast episode 37, first published on September 13, 2017.

With my previously mentioned “sister,” Rachael and I try to answer the question, “How has age affected your outlook and decision making?”

I received my last paycheck from Hawken in late August 2017, and we recorded this episode just a few weeks later. Rachael and I discuss the challenges of being self-employed, and how much more important decision-making becomes without a safety net.

Although I was still happy with my decision to leave teaching, I began to realize that being self-employed wasn’t exactly the way I thought it would be.

You’ll discover how quickly an obstacle or a test puts you into a state of laser focus. Once the decision is made and you know you can’t go back, even though you can always make another decision, the irrational fears slide away and the practical ones take their place. The same, but different.


Rachael: There is something really wonderful about being self-employed. One of my favorite things about being self-employed is that, at this point in my life, I only have to be around the people that I choose to be around. You don’t get that in a day job. Period. You can’t have that. You will always work with somebody who is the passive-aggressive monster, who is the jerk, who’s the queen, who’s, you know, all of these things.

So, I want to acknowledge that. It is really a difficult place to be. But still, even when I was in the day job, with my advanced age, I got really good at saying, “No, I don’t feel that way. And here’s why.”

J.: One of the ways this manifests for me now is, I feel like because of my age, my experience, and the leap I’ve taken recently, I feel more focused than I’ve ever been. As far as decision-making goes, I feel like I’m very laser-focused. Things are either yes or no. If they’re yes, I do it, and if they’re no, I cut it and I move on.

And I think that’s a factor of not only age and experience but not having a safety net anymore. And realizing every decision I make will impact my income.

I will say something to the people who are right behind me because I’m only a few weeks into this. It is absolutely different. I had convinced myself that going full time and being a full-time creative meant I just cut one thing and doubled something else. The math does not work that way.

Rachael: It doesn’t!

J.: It’s just totally different. And it’ll be different for everybody. I didn’t believe it. I said, “No, no, no, I’ll be different. I’ll be different.” And I’m not.

Rachael: None of us are. We all think that when we’re full time, we can get more done. The truth is we can, and I do. But it’s in a different math that I didn’t expect. I do more of some things and less of others. And there’s no explaining it. Are you still happy that you did?

J.: I am ecstatic right now. I really am. I’ve gotten validation every single day in many different ways that this was the right move. Even, like you said, when we opened this conversation, even if I yanked myself out of this dirt and put myself somewhere else, or someone else did it for me, I feel like it wouldn’t matter. Like, even if I had to walk away from this completely and do something else. The process I just went through, and I’m going through, I needed to have.

The Writer’s Well // Episode 15 // April 19, 2017

This clip is also from “The Writer’s Well” podcast episode 15, first published on April 19, 2017.

I invited my good friend Zach Bohannon on the podcast when Rachael couldn’t record. I consider Zach a brother even though I’m 14 years older than him—a fact he won’t let me forget. We’ve been through a lot together, including co-writing, collaborative author events, a publishing company, and multiple podcasts. If I needed to bury a body at 3am in rural Texas, I’d call Zach first. I love this guy and I’m not afraid to say it.

With Zach sitting in for Rachael, we try to answer the question, “How does it feel to be standing on the edge?”

Zach and I explore how the right decision isn’t always the easiest one. Both of us enjoyed our jobs, which made our departures bittersweet.

We explain why it’s not healthy to compare your situation to someone else’s, and why it had to be an all-or-nothing move for us.

You’ll discover how easy and natural it is to compare yourself to others, and to assume that their challenges or obstacles are like yours. You minimize the impact of decision-making by other people and emphasize your own situation, which is normal. Conflicting feelings during life transitions are also normal.


J.: Within a matter of days, you are no longer going to be going to your day job. Is that correct?

Zach: That is correct.

J.: Okay, how does it feel to be standing on the edge?

Zach: It’s pretty, it’s scary. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. You know, J, as I’ve told you several times, when we’re getting ready for the New Orleans trip and stuff, I don’t really feel a lot of emotion about things until they are about to happen. By “about to happen,” I mean, like, the morning of, so.

So, with Friday, when this airs, Friday will be my last day at work, at my day job that I’ve been at for eight years. It’s the longest I’ve been in a job. I started working there right before I turned 25 years old. And it’s a great company. And so, you know, I think that morning, I’m gonna really start feeling this. And then, even more so on the next Monday when I wake up and, you know, I don’t necessarily have to set my alarm to get there on time and all those kinds of things, you know.

So it’s, as of right now though, it’s definitely, I’m feeling a little bit, you know, feeling a little nervous, a little scared. Obviously there’s a lot on my mind, I’m having to get some things in place like health insurance, I’m tying all that kind of thing up. And, and it’s kind of crazy to have it out in the open, especially at my job and have people coming up to me and talking to me and being a little surprised, you know. So there’s a lot of emotion attached to that as well.

J.: So yeah, yeah, I would imagine that anybody would sort of become increasingly more reflective or emotional about it, the closer it gets. I think that’s probably pretty natural. You know, maybe we have some self-defense mechanisms that are like, don’t want to let us go there just yet until we finish the task at hand.

Zach: And it’s, you know, it’s pretty bittersweet because like I said, I’ve worked there eight years. I’ve done several things at this company. And, you know, I’ve been a traveling salesperson, and then I just worked out in our warehouse and working my way up to becoming the warehouse manager. And I have 12 employees and, and all this stuff, and it’s been a lot of work to get where I am.

So it wasn’t easy to it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I know that it was the right decision. And what’s funny for me is that the place I work, so I work at a place that is a distributor for one of the world’s top music instrument companies for drummers. So it’s, like, it’s so funny, because my job is so many people’s dream job. Maybe not necessarily my position, but, we have so many people who, you know, are moving to Nashville, and they really want to get into the music business. And, you know, they just, it’s a very rock and roll company, and a lot of places that a lot of people will just dream to work at. And I’m leaving that for my dream job. So it’s kind of, it’s kind of bittersweet and kind of weird in a way.

J.: As always, you know, feel free to share as much or as little as you want to share. To be totally honest about it, you’re not making enough money on your fiction to replace your regular day job. And in fact, part of the conversation that we had, and one of the things that Joanna was talking about was you had considered a part-time position.

I’m wondering if maybe you could explain a little bit of rationale, because I’m sure there are listeners who think like, “Wow, if I could, if I could transition out, like if I could just go part-time, or, or do this, that that might make it easier.” And yet you left that dinner thinking like that was not the right way to go. Right?

Zach: Yeah, so, there’s one thing I want to say before I even answer that question that you kind of alluded to, you kind of made me think about. I want people to be really, really careful about hearing my story. And, and comparing it to their own situation.

So because I’m saying that, because I’ve done that a lot. I’ve like I listen to a lot of other podcasts with writers who are full-time. And I like to, I want to hear them basically say how they did it. And not everyone’s situation is the same. So I think people need to be really careful about, you know, “Oh, well, if you’re making this much money, how are you able to do it?” Because the reality for me is that my wife makes really good money. I live in Tennessee, which has a low cost of living, no state income tax, which is a big deal. We don’t have any debt. So the only debt that we have is our house and a small car payment, we don’t have student loans, none of that stuff. So the biggest barrier for me was health insurance, which I figured out.

And so I just want to preface with that, you know, before I go any further. So my situation and how much money that we need to make as a family is part of the reason why I don’t have to have a part-time job, and why I didn’t have to stay at my job part-time. And for me, that makes sense because my job is also half an hour away from where I live. So that right there adds an hour a day just commuting. So, for me, it just didn’t make sense.

There’s other things I can do to make money part-time if I need to, like I’ve told you, I’m totally cool saying this, like, you know, I’m prepared to Uber if I need to, like if my wife is not as busy one week, and, you know, doesn’t have as many massages to do, like, I have no problem getting out and Ubering.

But like our goal is that we want to give me as much time as I can to work on making this fiction thing work. And I’ve had months where I’ve made more than I made in my day job. So I know it can happen. I just I’ve done that only putting 10 hours a week in. So that’s I only work on my fiction stuff about 10 hours a week on average. So if I’m doing that 40 or 50 hours a week like it’s just I really feel like that. There’ll be no turning back.

Teaching Transformations // Episode 2 // April 5, 2021

This is another clip from Teaching Transformations, episode 2, first published on April 5, 2021. In this episode, I talk about quitting my job with Dr. Ryan Wooley.

I get very specific in the retelling of my job responsibilities at the top of the profession. As Ryan and I stated several times, it was a “really good gig.” But for many who reach the pinnacle of their career or profession, there’s an emptiness there, a yearning for something more.

Four years removed from the decision, I can see that teaching has always been part of my core identity and I’ve always done that in some capacity.

You’ll discover the more intimately you’re involved in the situation, the more difficult it is to break free. Often, decisions create circumstances where you can’t go back and undo what was said or done. The more you’re risking, the greater the test.


Ryan: Wow. I’m thinking about the gig you had. It was a good gig.

J.: Oh, yeah. It was a sweet gig. I mean, I think I’ve mentioned it before. I was both teaching in an entrepreneurship program, and even now, there aren’t many of those, but they were even rarer then, five years ago. And I was so I was not only teaching in it, but I was the assistant director of the program. So I was involved in a lot of the higher-level stuff that I really enjoyed, like the big thinking like the workshops, the programming, I was producing podcasts, I was helping the director with other tasks. It was a nice gig for a teacher, it definitely was. And like, it’s hard for me to articulate that.

I’ve heard that, like, I’ve heard other entrepreneurs who have had big exits, like in a totally different circumstance, say, “Yeah, you know, I was CEO of a seven-figure company, and I just felt like I wanted something else.”

It’s weird, you know, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with money, or material things, or status—although it can—but for me, it was just sort of this internal yearning of like, “There’s something else I need to be doing, and this just isn’t it.” It wasn’t anything wrong with what I was doing. That just wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing at the moment.

Ryan: How much of your teacher self did you, or do you make use of now?

J.: When you’re in an environment and you’re in a profession and you’ve become skilled at it, and you’ve been recognized as being good at what you do, and let’s face it, if you’re in your 40s or 50s, and you’ve been working in the same profession, you are skilled at it, right?

And I think the danger in that is people start labeling themselves based on what they do versus what they are. And that’s an important distinction.

So I, yes, I was a teacher, but I also teach. But those two things are not the same. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they’re not the same.

So, when I talk to people who are starting to think about what’s coming next, what I always like to do is I like to unearth what are the passions or things of interest, or the themes of your life that you can draw straight through from the time you were 12 or 13 years old? Until right now? What are the types of things that you really enjoy doing? And I’m not talking about the measurable skills, these are more like soft skills, personality traits, tendencies, those types of things.

But what I’m doing is exactly the same thing. It’s what I’ve always done, from the time I was a Dungeon Master, and I was creating campaigns in Dungeons and Dragons for my friends. When I was coaching seven and eight-year-old deck hockey in Pittsburgh, when I was a classroom teacher, and now when I’m a book coach, and I do author work and editing: Teaching is straight through all of that.

So I think you have to broaden your perspective a bit and think like, “Okay, a skill set that I have is writing a lesson plan, and delivering it in 40 minutes.” That itself isn’t necessarily going to translate directly to anything. But the ability to communicate a complex idea in a short amount of time to a group of people? Universal.

So, it’s not so much about finding where your piece fits into a new puzzle. It’s thinking more about what type of puzzle do you want to be in? Maybe that’s a good way of putting it.

Closing Thoughts

There are “good” decisions and then there are “right” decisions. Sometimes they’re the same thing, and other times, they’re not.

I’d categorize my decision to quit my day job when my family depended on me as the primary wage earner as a “right decision.” It certainly created stress, uncertainty, and sleepless nights. But my bet on myself was hedged by the fact that I have a rock-solid work ethic. So, that, plus a little bit of luck, and it worked out for me.

The most difficult decisions are that way for a reason. Even if you encounter unintended consequences, those decisions shape who you are and who you will become. You only lose by not deciding, which we know instinctively is still a choice, albeit a poor one.

Whether you’re starting a small business, changing jobs, or changing careers, there will always be a perceived Point of No Return. It makes you feel unhinged, unsure, and unsafe. But once that decision is made, a strange sense of calm desperation sets in—a feeling that you’re now adrift, but that you have the power to start a new chapter of your story, and your life.


When it comes to quitting, what is giving you pause? What assumptions about what you think will happen should you question?

Up next…

In the next chapter of the story, we’ll experience perhaps the greatest ordeal of our adult lives—the death of a parent. The trauma will leave us forever changed, and through grief, we get a glimpse of our Reward for survival: hope and a renewed sense of purpose.


Mentorship by Brian Clark, Jerod Morris, and Trudi Roth

Podcast concept by Jerod Morris

Written, narrated, and produced by J. Thorn

Editing by Miranda Weingartner and Trudi Roth

Audio editing and production by J. Thorn

“Twisted” and “RetroFuture” courtesy of Kevin MacLeod at

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 at