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Shit I Learned When I Got Laid Off From My Soul Sucking Job

I’d just returned from a relaxing family vacation on Cape Cod. As is the case, the reality of back to the grind hit me on my 90-minute, one-way commute to Orange County. I wasn’t going to let that take my vacation peace-of-mind out of me just yet, even though it was just par for the course of living in Southern California. There were other things that were about to do some major soul sucking to my life…I just didn’t realize it.

I arrived at my job, with a company where I was the third employee hired, ready to dive into the next big strategic project that loomed in my future. Feeling rather optimistic, mostly in a vacation high daze, I committed that I would not let the vampires of the job, drain my soul that day, and hopefully not for at least a week. Wishful thinking or as we say today, positive mindset.

It wasn’t a bad job, nor was it an exceptional job, it was simply and inspiring start-up with potential, if the right moves were being executed by the leaders who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. In other words, it was a typical start-up environment. A complete 360-degree pivot from the monstrous, fast-paced, corporate, cubicle dwelling I’d gotten laid off from, 6 years prior.  It was as if I’d been on the Concord non-stop to New York from Paris and was now flying coach class on American. Slower pace, but still moving forward.

Moving through the typical cubicle maze that is standard start-up office fare, I graciously said my hellos and provided the standard, “Vacation was great,” responses to my co-workers. Barely arriving at my industrial steel and cloth covered, three-walled adobe, I affectionately called my “jail cell away from home,” I was immediately summoned by my boss. Let’s just suffice it to say, she was my boss, no other commentary is necessary or deserving…if you get my drift.

She graciously, with a little bit too much false enthusiasm, invited me to join her in the Presidents office. I wasn’t really surprised by this invitation, as prior to my vacation, I knew we were to embark on a new strategic project upon my return. Cutting to the chase, 5 minutes later I was at my “jail cell away from home,” bidding adieu, never to return again. On one hand I was pissed off that I had just been laid off, especially right after a much needed vacation. On the other hand, I was grateful that my commute home would only take me 45 minutes as it was now off rush hour. Either way, vacation peace-of-mind begone!

Inflamed and furious I entered into a state of confusion.  Asking the standard post layoff questions, “Why me? What did I do? What will they do without me?” Of course, that was my own pathetic version of wallowing in self-pity and a spiteful need for revenge, both of which were dthe beginnings of an emotional roller coaster of reality that ensue for many weeks to come, until the reality set in that this was the blessing that would get me moving down a path yet to be revealed.

I know that sounds like trite, quasi motivation that you’ve heard 100x’s before from other writers and speech givers of the woes of the roads they’ve traveled. To some degree yes, you’ve heard it all before. However, don’t make the assumption that makes an ass out of you, before you hear the punch lines of what I discovered, once I let the victim in me sashay away to go find another corner to cry in.

Humility is your friend.

No matter who you think you are, how far up the food chain you’ve climbed, and who gives a flying flip how much cash you’ve stashed under the mattress, humility is the best medicine. It teaches you that your shit does stink and at times you need more than life’s air freshener to get you back on track. I realized I’d gotten a little cocky in my position, even though I was a valued asset, and I’d actually outgrown the role and culture of said little struggling startup. I needed to eat that humble pie so that I could prepare for my next adventure – regardless of how hard it would be to swallow – and without know what that adventure was to be.

Active duty is the best teacher.

No, I’m not referring to joining the Armed Forces, but there’s nothing like being on the front lines of a start-up to help you observe the IED’s of running your own business, at someone else’s expense. The daily explosions of growing pains, running low on capitol, juggling the customers who love you and warding off the ones who’ve come to despise you, equip you with the tough as nails skin you’ll need when you finally say, “I’m going to be an entrepreneur and start my own business. Buckle up boys and girls it’s going to be a rocky ride unless you let your enlistment time in someone else’s world, rock your future with learnings from your 20/20 hindsight.

I was part of the problem and the solution.

It’s really easy when it’s not your money funding the business, to point the crooked finger of “Look at how stupid they’re running this company!” In reality, I was part of the problem of some of the stupidity while simultaneously I could have been part of the solution. If you don’t come to the table with a solution to the problem, you are a big part of the problem. Now as I have strategic meetings with my team – me, myself, and I – it’s ironic to see how much I’ve learned from what I could have done more of, had I quit pointing the finger at what I deemed as the “company stupidity,” when I could have removed myself as a jester and been more of the team of battle ready success warriors.

Don’t stay longer than you’re welcome.

Even though I took a 50% pay cut to roll the dice on craps table of this organization, it was my choice, and my choice alone to join, stay, and to overstay my welcome. By year 3 I was feeling, disengaged, overlooked for positions, and not thrilled with the direction the organization was taking. Yet, I, and I alone, made the choice to persevere. Never once were handcuffs engaged to keep me in my position. Ok, maybe the taste of freedom to work remotely, and the ability to head up a higher profile project, might have locked me in, to some degree. Truth be told I overstayed my welcome and I now recognize that feeling when I’m doing it in my own business. If I’m spending too much effort or time in a particular are to make it work, or to succeed in something that isn’t aligned with my values, it’s time to roll up the Welcome mat and move one.

Opportunity knocks every day.

Hard as it is to admit this, I had every opportunity to be more at every position I ever held…on one condition…that I played by their rules. Nothing wrong with rules, they are there to guild us to get shit done. However, if you are not a complete rule follower, as I am, then it’s hard to get ahead in some environments, even when you see other rule breakers getting ahead. Those other rule breakers are usually the ones whose values are more aligned with the company than your own. What I now realize is the opportunities that presented themselves to me, for me to advance, were not the opportunities that led me to where I am today, and to where I will be tomorrow. I’ve learned to open my eyes to each and every opportunity that present themselves, and to those that aren’t quite obvious, because of what I learned working in soul-sucking environments. The opportunities are there, you’ve simply got to make room for them to come into your view and be awake enough to see them. Even when you are working solo in your own business.

In all honesty the biggest lesson I learned from my layoff from my soul-sucking job, was this.

Never allow anything to suck your soul!

People suck, and then people really suck. If you buy into that, then you are allowing people and organizations to suck your soul. However, when you take a stand and commit to not letting anyone or anything suck the soul out of you, you are fully empowered. Sure, there will be times that things suck, but the depth of how much you spiral into allowing that to consume you is on you, not them. They – people and organizations – can turn up the suction to suck you into their suckdom, but you can choose to either play in that arena or kick it to the curb. Given the fact that it is your soul and what makes you tick on the line, if you’re like me, you would choose wisely and give it a swift kick out of your life.

Even though, it was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, losing that job, it was the one that finally set me free to go be me, doing my thing, my way, and having an impact in the world the way I was truly meant to, and ain’t nobody going to suck me back into anything I don’t to because my soul and my sanity deserve more.

What about you? You ready to say adios to soul your soul sucking life with no apologies?

Take the Unapologetic Life Assessment, to start moving you forward from excuses and fears to no more apologies.

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