“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney
It was 20th November 2014. A day I would not forget in my life. My boss scheduled a meeting with me with the subject title “catchup”. I felt intrigued and scared about it. Deep inside there was something with it that I did not know and so my expectation was in two sides of the coin – a positive and a negative thing.
The meeting came and, lo and behold, the HR Manager was joining us. What the f*** is this? I told myself. It did not feel good. There was something going on.
As we sat on the conference room, my boss started talking with an intro – “This is not something easy for me…”. I knew right there it was coming.
My position was “made redundant”. As they said, it was not me who was made redundant but the position. Whatever that meant, I really did not care. The tense feeling was there and no amount of consolation can stop the pressure building up.
Deep inside it was not about the lost income. Maybe it was the uncertainty? Or maybe it was the feeling of rejection? Somehow it started to become clear it was the latter.
I went home and told my wife about it. And there we were, sad but feeling we wanted to move on to a new challenge.
A month after the event, I have moved on. Made a bit of grieving, some soul-searching and business planning, and as Christmas comes close, I am ready to celebrate!
What did I learn from this event in my life? Isn’t losing a job very depressing? Isn’t that supposed to be a low phase in life and a dark one at that? It was supposed to be a start of a gloomy chapter!
No way! There can’t be a gloomy dark chapter for me now that I have a family (a beauritful loving queen and two cute princesses). There is a challenge though not even an ugly difficulty. It is a great opportunity out there.
Now I have come fresh with lessons learned. Ready to face the world with an iron fist. I want to share this with you because life is a continuous learning experience. Though I talk about self-confidence and success, I am not exempt from losses and sad experiences!
This is what ConfidenceCues is all about: a self-confidence lab with experiments- successful ones and unsuccessful ones. But all comes with lessons we all can benefit from.
Here goes the five great lessons I learned from losing a job. By the way, it also applies in other sad, challenging situations.
#1. To be grounded with my feelings in spite of the confusion and denial.
You will find peace not by trying to escape your problems, but by confronting them courageously. You will find peace not in denial, but in victory. — J. Donald Walters
Back in the conference room where I was “axed”, I was completely blank. I was in my usual calm demeanor and I managed through that.
There was a transition workshop that was offered to us. Being the positive psychology junkie that I was, I attended the sessions thinking it can do me some good emotionally. I thought it will probably also serve my curiosity.
In the workshop I admitted being my usual “emotionless” guy. But somehow as I talked initially there was tension. Whatever that workshop did was to put the emotions relax a bit and see the better side of the situation.
Being the dense guy that I was, I would have been in a mix of denial, anger and grief while trying to force on a positive attitude. And that mix of feeling would have stayed there in my heart without any closure simply because I did not deal with it.
The good thing about it was I made the effort to be aware of the negative emotion I felt about the event. It was more of the feeling of rejection and not a feeling of sadness or depression. After all it really opened new opportunities for me.
#2. Quick thinking to grab opportunities.
As I saw it, a little threatening was a good thing. It kept the men on their toes. – Tahir Shah, House of the Tiger King: the Quest for a Lost City
A day after the incident, I was still in shock and confusion. I have a lot of things going in my mind and have not slowed down to make a more careful planning.
My boss offered me to continue servicing a client for two days which gives me a part time work while in transition. This was the positive thing going on in my mind and hoping the arrangement will work. I felt that would open a new avenue for me to go into consulting work.
Yet with a lot of things in my mind, while talking to client, he had impression I was not fully decided what to do. Yes, I was really unclear what to do yet. And because of that, after the meeting, the client seemed to have been more comfortable for me to turn over work with someone else in my boss’ team and let me move on. I thought I just lost an opportunity.
That was Friday. Over the weekend, I had myself thinking – I should have been clearer about what I really wanted. The thought persisted and so I kept thinking whether I should talk again to my boss and ask his help to work the arrangement out.
Monday came and a colleague (now a mentor), out of nowhere, offered to talk to me before I talked to my boss. Lo and behold, she brought up the same concern and advised it might be a good one to grab.
That somehow was a turning point in me. Thanks to this mentor, I doubled my courage to go right there and face my boss, never mind if it sounded like “begging”, to explain to him the situation and what I wanted to happen – to get that opportunity.
Luckily, I got my boss’ nod and voila. I got a business secured. I talked to the client the following day and sealed my first consulting gig!
What did I learn from this experience? Quick thinking. I was quick to jump at the opportunity but somehow I did not prepare myself to talk business. Luckily I had my second chance and I managed to get the guts to salvage the opportunity!
#3. Reach out for support.
Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we all need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife. — Tim Gunn
Talking to friends and wise men helps discern your plans and leverage your environment. I threw away my shy and withdrawn self and started reaching out to people.
At first, when few close colleagues and friends offered a time to talk, I felt numb and thought “I’m okay. Yeah, maybe we could talk.” And yet I thought deep inside “Yeah right”. Don’t offer me a consolation.
Then I started getting grounded and remembering what I preached about “support” and “reaching out”. I had a dose of my own medicine.
Without seriously just looking for the material benefits I could get out of the conversations, I started reaching out to other people to just talk and catch up. I received a good support from most of them even offering help and connections to iron out my new plans.
I did take advantage of the situation to get to talk to people – have an assessment of how I feel, what are their thoughts and what they could tell me to do in terms of options as they knew me from work.
In the end, I boosted my self-confidence with a new insight on my personal performance and equity (strengths and weaknesses balance). I felt like standing with a great support from friends!
#4. Use connections and network to solidify your plan.
Networking is more about ‘farming’ than it is about ‘hunting’. It’s about cultivating relationships. — Dr. Ivan Misner, BNI
One of the first things I did after the retrenchment was to jump into networking. I went to the anniversary party of this professional association for our industry. Unfortunately I found myself in the midst of competitor agencies (who just wanted to talk among themselves) and not potential clients. I had a couple of chat with people I knew and got re-connected with one colleague.
At that, I had a bad impression on networking. Is this how networking sucks?
I was not discouraged and continued with my personal experiments.
As mentioned earlier, I reached out to people and started talking. Seriously, it was not me. I was not that sort of person who will talk and open up with my vulnerabilities (to a certain extent). But I did so, facing people professionally and telling them what had happened in the nice way of saying it.
I was sure people would be wondering in their minds why it was me and not someone else. And with me thinking about that—it was very humiliating. That was part of the rejection thought!
I threw away that thought and instead sought people to “side”with me. In other words, get their sympathy. It was not a mean strategy. I just wanted them to hear from me and vice versa.
Whether their sympathetic words were true or not, it was not important. At the least, the people I talked to were the ones I know who were true enough. It also revealed who really cared.
In the course of reaching out, I discovered the magic of connections. One advised to reach out to this person for a recommendation; another went out of her way to intervene and give me advise before I made a deal; and a number of others offered me leads to new jobs and gigs.
With the reaching out experience, I expanded my horizons and I saw a new world coming out!
#5. Pull a go-get and confident attitude
There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen. — Dr. Wayne Dyer
All learnings started to get into place one by one. As I started reaching out and connecting the dots of my business potentials, I pulled a strong inspiring go-get attitude.
My confidence tool box was busy getting for me inspirational songs to get me bag the prize.
It’s the moment of truth
You’re giving it all
Standing alone, willing to fall
If you can do it
Get up and prove it
Get up and show them who you are
— song from Survivor, Moment of Truth
The feeling of rejection has melted and I have a raw confidence building up into something huge. I managed to do this because of I was grounded with my emotions. It helped me to be self-aware.
If I know my enemy (rejection), I knew how to fight back and prepare myself with the armor of confidence, inspiration and support. I could not allow myself to fall into depression and negative emotions. I cannot isolate myself and keep myself from being angry with the world.
Now, I am fully charged and excited about my next steps and I can’t wait for the new year to come.
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. — song from Timbuk3
Have you experienced losing a job or any other similar challenge in your life? How did you manage to get through it?