How to Cope with Getting Fired

Photo by Joe Carder

I got fired today. No seriously, the same day I’m writing this, I got fired from my day job. If my title caught your eye, chances are you got fired recently too. It’s ok. You’re not stupid, worthless, or unskilled. At least, I hope that’s not what you see in the mirror in the morning after it happened. If it is, reach out to me because we need to have a whole separate discussion. We could talk about the five stages of grief here too, because let’s face it you’re going to leapfrog the shit out of those, but that’s not what I want to talk about either.

“How many have laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements-how little of your own was left for you. You will realize you are dying before your time!” – Seneca, on the Brevity of Life, 3.3b

I found that quote in The Daily Stoic, by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman on page 11, just a few days ago. I feel it introduces perfectly what we should be talking about when facing hard times like ones that come with getting fired. The anger, anxiety, fear of the future and even dread about how it might affect how people see you. All of these things were immediate initial reactions to what I felt this morning when this all happened. I needed to relax offload and gather some advice, so I got in touch with my closest friends one at a time, told them what happened, and let them feed me their perspectives. As I’m sure you are too, I was shaking with anger at first, saying to myself: –“after all I did in that role and how hard I worked for them in the last X amount of time, and this treatment is all I get in return!?” That went on in my mind like a broken tape for longer than I’m willing to admit in public so let’s not dwell on it more than we need too and agree that you probably understand that feeling.

Let’s get back to that quote. Read it again. One more time. Now take 30 seconds to pause and reflect. Done? Good. If you understand how that ego driven anger feels, you could maybe see what appeal this quote might have to you.

But how far can this go in helping us both figure out what to do next?

Let’s start with the big F-word. Not that one. Ok, maybe that one is in there too but let’s keep this family friendly. Fired means you’re no longer of use to the organization. The reason is irrelevant. My fire is different from your fire and different from cousin Ed’s who may have done something not so socially acceptable with office equipment. Right, family friendly. Sorry. But why you’re no longer useful doesn’t matter. What matters is what will make you useful now. Getting fired is no different than being presented with an opportunity. You likely stopped being happy a while ago if you got into a situation that ended in getting let go in the first place. When I sat and thought about it earlier today, I realized that was the case for me anyway. I showed up every day and did what I was paid to do, but if I managed to get myself fired, that means my heart wasn’t in it. I remembered that quote and realized I was dying before my time.

My heart lies with the written word. Maybe now is the time to let go of expectations and be aware of what I’m losing. As angry as I was for the feeling of inadequacy and being discarded, it is the chance I’ve been waiting for, and thankfully am ready for. We both have dreams. What are yours? What can you put into motion today that will yield happiness for tomorrow? You have a hard road ahead, but remember you are now free to make space for what matters.

Fill your cup and drink your fill. Your soul will thank you.

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