Getting fired is a good thing

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This isn’t a new idea. I just Googled various phrases around the positives of being fired, and there’s close to 185M results. Others have discussed this in the past, so I don’t see myself as breaking new ground or anything.

Let’s take this in a couple of steps.

The logical: If an organization fires you, it would stand to reason they don’t want you around anymore. Maybe it was a performance issue. Maybe it was completely random and you never got a reason. Maybe it was because of revenue erosion/headcount/cost issues. Whatever the case may be, you were ultimately selected to be a part of the group that doesn’t get to stay on the bus. Who would want to be in something that doesn’t want them?

Now, that part said, I know it’s hard. We’ll get to the personal in a second, but I’ve been laid off 2–3 times in my life. The major one was about 17 months after I moved to Texas on this arc. I don’t think I got any severance, etc. from that job, so I was basically staring at nothing in terms of income when it all happened. And yes, a lot of that particular termination was on me, but the writing had been on the wall on both sides for probably close to eight months. So while I can say it’s “logical” that a firing means an employer doesn’t want you and you too should move on, I also realize that there’s a huge emotional and fiscal component to it too.

The personal: OK, so the firing above … I basically had fucked up the use of my corporate credit card. That was the stated reason for termination. In reality, it was a mix of that + my boss and her boss not liking me. I was going through a lot of stuff then and I’m sure I was a terrible employee. But see, I also was a terrible fit with the culture, as I once described here.

I’ve also been bounced from a couple of other jobs. Honestly, in all three cases, I went to a bar within 24 hours of it happening. Not the healthiest idea, no, but it happens. In all three of those bar sittings, it took me less than 20 minutes — still IPA №1 — to realize that it was a good deal. I didn’t fit the culture (of any of the three places) and the culture would be better off without someone like me. It made sense. It didn’t make anything better financially in that second, and paradoxically nor did the fact that I was spending money on what’s essentially a depressant, but I knew it made sense and, for the long-term, it was the better play.

What happened after that firing: Well, a lot of stuff. I tried to get a job at a few places in January 2016. That did not really pan out, so I started freelancing, which I was deceptively good at. The problem was that my marriage was also getting fucked at this time, and my ex got a new job where she was staffing a lot of evening events, so I was working from home basically all day with XYZ assignments to do and no people around. That, and some decisions on my end largely around drinking too much, led to the end of that deal. So now at this stage you might think “Oh, well, he’s arguing that getting fired is a good thing, but his life got messier after he got fired.” Yes and no. I learned a ton about myself and what I am capable of as a solo worker after I got fired. If I had stayed in that job, who knows when — if ever — I would have learned that. If you know you can slay revenue dragons as a freelancer, it makes your life a lot easier to deal with. Because now you know that if you get fired again and you’re back on your own, you can do it. Or you can find a way to make it work. Life is kinda sorta really all about these little lessons you get here and there, and getting fired + getting divorced within about a year of each other taught me a lot, including being thankful for the journey (even if it sucks) and learning how to embrace uncertainty and finally, making sure you have a plan in case life punches you in the mouth.

There was other stuff that happened along this arc. In 2016, as a freelancer, I made a bunch of money. Not a humble brag, just a confidence boost — because I got fired at the end of 2015, then got denied for this job I thought I’d be good at in early 2016. (Flash forward almost three years and I primarily work at that job, so life really is a series of butterfly events.) In 2017 I was making good money, then a bunch of stuff crashed and burned. I’ve told this story on other blogs, I think, but at one point I had $9.36 in my primary checking account and was waiting for some people to pay me. A few months after that, my checking account now stabilized, I met one of my friend’s kids. He was about five years old. He had $27 in his Piggy Bank. You think that was an eye-opener? It was.

The point is, before this gets self-indulgent: firing is a good thing because it should open your eyes to your particular set of bullshit and blind spots. If it does that and you bob and weave with the journey that comes from it, eventually you are probably going to land somewhere that feels tenable for you. It might take three minutes. It might take three years. It might take longer or shorter than either of those. But if you use it as a launchpad for self-awareness and realize “Hey, I’m better off not being there,” eventually I do think most people get to their spot. And you may see a five year-old have triple your net worth along the way, sure. And you may make the same mistakes 14,191 times. But you can get there if you contextualize what happened and try to grow from it.

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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