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Millions turning their backs on traditional lifestyles

There has been very little to be happy about when reflecting on the past 2 years of COVID. So much stress and erosion of people’s personal well being, and threats to what we each consider to be “society”.

But the related phenomenon that is “the Great Resignation” of 2021 is fascinating to me. It is something that I felt immediately connected to, though at this point I still have my paying job. And strangely enough, it reminded me of craft beer – and the attitude towards making a living, and working – that drove many of the first generation of craft brewing to leave the 9 to 5 “safe life” for one of uncertainty, challenge and their own kind of way of life.

As reported by “Business” in October 2021 according to the latest Job Openings, Layoffs, and Turnover Survey (JOLTS) release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs. That’s a drop from the month prior, when a whopping 4.4 million workers left. That’s 3% of the workforce in September and 2.8% in October. …All told, over 38 million workers have quit their jobs during 2021.

Indeed [the on-line employment market place] surveyed a little over 1,000 people who “voluntarily resigned from at least two jobs since March 2020.” 92% of those double-quitters said that “the pandemic made them feel life is too short to stay in a job they weren’t passionate about.” 

A recent comment from a voluntary resigner on NPR: “I think the pandemic just allowed for time.You just have more time to think about what you really want. Work is no longer just about paying the bills.”

From CNN Business: “The pandemic has forced a rethinking of how we work. A new study released by the University of Michigan shows college-educated workers prioritize work passion over financial security, forcing companies to reassess what they offer their employees.”

On CBS news, Karin Kimbrough LinkedIn’s chief economist explained: “People have been living to work for a very long time. And I think the pandemic brought that moment of reflection for everyone. “What do I wanna do? What makes my heart sing?” And people are thinking, “If not now, then when?”

With these facts and comments about the motivation behind the Great Resignation as a backdrop, I decided to check back on my recollection of the motivation of some of the great early craft brewers of some 40 years ago. Why did they really leave the typical world of careers and their 9 – 5 jobs? Was it to do what they wanted and pursue their passion – like the “great resigners” of 2021? What follows are a few excerpts from books written by some of the early leaders of the craft brewing movement. See what you think.

“Sam Calagione does not aspire to sit among the suits at a boardroom table and be a slave to the military metaphors of marketing. He fights his own battles, on behalf of people with individual tastes and against tyranny of timidity, conformity and the lowest common denominator…If you have a passion, look at that first. Whatever excited your passion, there are surely others that feel the same way.” From “Brewing up a Business” by Sam Calagione (Dogfish Brewery) – forward by Michael Jackson, 2005.

“I have long thought that others who see their life as separate from their work (work time vs. personal time) end up with only half a career and, worse, only half a life. The thing about starting your own company and brand and seeing it through is that it is a long-form symphony, a composition, a thing worth doing, and you learn a lot about your self along the way.” From “Lagunitas Brewing Company – The Story” – by Tony Magee, 2012.

Sam from Dogfish rocking conformity

“I came to the conclusion that the safe option wouldn’t be as rewarding. Though I enjoyed running the bike shop i feared that I would eventually become bored and lose interest. The thought of brewing for a living was much more appealing…The “Sierra Way” is a company philosophy that emphasizes sustainability, nonconformity, following one’s passion – and doing things the right way.” From “Beyond the Pale” (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co), by Ken Grossman, 2013.

“We learned that when we could not find a conventional way to get something done, we had to make our own way of doing things. Sometimes we succeeded and sometimes we failed miserably…We learned that entrepreneurs have to articulate a dream, inspire the followers to believe in that dream, work tirelessly for its realization.” From Steve Hindy & Tom Potter “Beer School” (Story of Brooklyn Brewing), 2005.

“I wanted to share the very simple idea of doing it our way is better. And by ‘our way’ I mean ‘your way’…. What I mean is, I believe that things are almost universally better when people do something they way they think it should be done – the way they truly think is the best way… I hope that our story of doing it our way bolsters your confidence to do things you are interested in your way. If you are great at what you do, the world is a better place as a result.” From “The Craft of Stone Brewing Co” – Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, 2011.

40 years from Sierra, 26 from Dogfish

It sure sounds to me a lot like “What do I wanna do? What makes my heart sing?” doesn’t it? Of course there are a number of other unique factors at play, and even if AIDS was a major concern in the ’80’s that was nothing like the impact of COVID. And, in 2021 droves of baby-boomers retired early – probably most weren’t doing that to become entrepreneurs. But the seed of the realization about doing what you want to do, leaving the common world behind to follow your passion feels very much the same.

Ironically, due to the COVID economic impact, it seems unlikely that many of these “resigners” are going to open breweries any time soon, but maybe some will. Some will try things and succeed, others will fail miserably. But if they are great at what they do, in whatever they have a passion for, then the world will be a better place. I’ll drink to that.

Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River makes a point with Fritz Maytag in 2011 – Showing the way for craft brewers