Heyman spent 2001 backpacking around the world. He climbed mountains, scuba dived, studied Zen in Japan, stayed at a Greek Orthodox monastery, made a Catholic pilgrimage in France. And created his personal mission statement: "Maximizing my sphere of positive influence."
He used his share of the proceeds from selling Beyond to become a silent partner in more than a dozen small businesses. At the same time, he started Project Pangea, a not-for-profit group that helps arts organizations create fundraisers that build community as they replenish the not-for-profit group coffers.
"I've created a positive legacy that will continue to serve the world after I'm gone - and I'm not even halfway through with my life," Heyman says.
The motivations of dot-com dropouts may not be so different from those that drove the hippies away from commerce in the 1960s, according to John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm. "Both generations went through some real highs and lows, leading to that sense of disillusion with the corporate world or the establishment," Challenger says. "So people drop out to pursue alternative work and lifestyles, often ones that are simpler or have more impact on people."
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But It's Not Always
A Bowl Of Cherries
Of course, those who've made the switch have faced some challenges. First, their incomes often fall dramatically. Many ex-techies start their own businesses, projects that can be slower to take off - and pay off - than technology start-ups. The microbusinesses Heyman financed surprised him with their lack of growth. Freeman reports that, despite his research showing the multitude of horses in his area, most of them wearing shoes, his first-year business was below his projections. As the family breadwinner, Riley says, "We can certainly get by - not nearly to the extent we've been used to."