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What It Means to Get Fired - Mindful Firing Part 1

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I was fired from a job in 2002. I deserved it.

This isn't what the HR team or my boss at the time would have said. They would have said, "We let him go."

In fact, through the rest of these posts, I will use the same euphemisms because that's the world we live in.

But, since this one is about me specifically, I can tell it like it is or was.

I was not "let go." I was fired. And I'm not saying that about how it happened, or what someone else did to me.

I'm saying it because I deserved it. I had skill deficits. My attitude was not great. I wasn't making the company money. I didn't want to help with sales.

The company needed to make money, and they needed more adaptable employees with a better outlook. So they fired me. It's as simple as that.

I didn't see it that way right away of course. I was mad. Things had changed and it wasn't my fault. The new office didn't understand my value, blah, blah, blah.

All of it true up to a certain point, and all of it - all of it - ultimately beside the point.

Fortunately for me, I realized I had changes to make and I started to make those changes.

I started quickly, but I'm still not done. I never will be.

The world keeps going all the time. You can decide that you're done learning or pushing yourself if you want to, but that isn't going to help you stay competitive.

So we push ourselves, we learn new things, and we work to stay competitive. That was my choice in that moment and I'm glad I made it.

I wish that I could say that this was a mindful choice for me. I wish that I could say that I recognized the need to be proactive, stop blaming others, and move myself forward. That did come with time, and today I try to handle things that way. But the truth is that initially this was all driven by fear.

My skills weren't competitive, my attitude was problematic, and the labor market, even for developers, wasn't that great in 2002. I had to change and I had to change fast to stay competitive, so that's what I did.

Today I recognize this as a significant turning point that led me on to a lot of great opportunity I wouldn't have had without it. But it's hard to see it that way right away. Right away I was just fearful about my job prospects and started making changes that I felt would make me more competitive. And I took contract jobs at a significantly reduced rate to get some experience.

Today I can see it their way. But it took a long time. I understand that the best path to change and to managing these type of stressful, life-altering situations is with mindfulness and distance, though of course urgency remains important.

Fear can be a good source of urgency, but if you use fear to generate urgency you get all the stress and distrust that come along with it. Even if that stress and distrust are only pointed at yourself.

Looking back on it, I was fortunate to have had the upbringing I had. I think that is what made me react with a mostly 'can-do' attitude toward the challenges I had as a young person in my career. It wasn't mindfulness back then. It was Mom and Dad. Thanks Mom and Dad.

What does this tell us about letting someone go, if you are the person in the position of having to do that?

It tells you that it can be for the best. But almost no one will see it that way in the short-term.

It tells you that it isn't your place to tell anyone that. You absolutely are not in a position to tell someone "It's all for the best," because only they will be able to come to those realizations, and only on their own or with the help of good friends or family. And only in their own time. You can't rush that and you certainly aren't in a position to try.

And it tells you to be as kind as you can because inevitably this will be hard and scary for anyone impacted by your decision.


7 Habits Make Sandals Proactive Self-Reliance Leadership

Time to Make Sandals

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I finished Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning on the flight back from Oakland yesterday. A few important take-aways:

  1. Learning is a process. You learn by working at something. Taking this approach builds resiliency. Did I fail? I can try harder next time.

  2. Make Sandals. The world is wide. It is covered with rocks and thorns. If you wish to go on a journey you can either attempt to pave over all the difficult places, or you can make sandals. Will you try to change your environment to make things easy? Or will you change yourself so that it does not matter?

There is much more to the book than this, of course, but this is what mattered most to me.

In many places it is highly reminiscent of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the notion of 'Inside Out' as presented in that book.

How can we take those things that distract us or make us angry and change them so that they become powerful motivators for success? Or, at a minimum, make it so that they don't bother us anymore?

Time to make sandals.