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Introduction

 

I was never a particularly happy employee. In 1998, I left the last job I ever had and started my own.

 

I’ve had some successes and some failures, and these all led to where we are today.

 

This is how it started.

 

It was the final straw. When I asked for paid holidays, the owner’s wife laughed. Why? Did I think I deserved them? Nobody paid them to go away for more than a month each summer and, besides, doing so usually cost them more than 1 million yen. That evening, after my last class, I left a letter giving two month’s notice to quit.

 

The next day, on arriving to teach my first class at the small school in which I’d worked for almost three years, I realised I had been summarily sacked. My file was empty and my class notes had all gone.

 

My employer was a fellow Englishman and his school – two rooms above a flower shop with no telephone – was badly organised. The owner took his source of income for granted; so much so I once saw him reading up on his newly-bought computer under the desk while the kids he was supposedly teaching amused themselves with coloured pencils. I decided I couldn’t do any worse on my own.

 

I ran an advert in the local free newspaper and waited for the phone to ring. My Japanese was good enough to handle basic sales on the phone and arrange to meet prospective students in a nearby café for a trial lesson. I taught in one of the two rooms in my apartment and within a year I had a sign outside, a freedial number and a salary more than twice what I got above the flower shop.

 

I’d quit my job due to what I saw as unfavorable conditions and because I wasn’t happy. I had vague notions of taking control of my own destiny, cutting out the middleman and striking back against The System. Looking back, it still seems the right thing to have done, but given the chance to do it all over, I’d do a lot of things differently.

 

This series looks at what I did and what I’ve learned.

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