One day at work I got called into a meeting. The assembly of people in the conference room was odd, a random assortment of characters from any and every department. Herman the VP was pacing pack and forth wheezing. Something was up.
He managed to stammer out a notice that Ford had canceled a big project and sales had, uh, slowed down and they had to make cuts. We were all being laid off.
One by one we filed into his office and got handed a check and informed of our severance package. Mine was six weeks.
I shook Herman’s hand and said, “Hey man, it’s not like on the day I was born, some other guy was born with an obligation to give me a job. Thanks for the opportunity, it’s been a hoot.”
My co-workers mumbled regrets as I walked out the door. Minutes later, I was driving home at 11am in my green Toyota Tercel hatchback.
It’s a terrifying when the world suddenly jerks your cord out of the socket. You sit at home. The clock ticks. Cars drive by. The mailman comes by at 3 o’clock. Even on the most gorgeous day you feel like crap. You hope you can find someplace where you can be useful again. You ponder the specter of your impending financial doom.
Weeks drug by. Hunting for jobs is a draining and demoralizing sport. I kept myself sane by doing Amway meetings. I scoured the papers for engineering jobs but everything I could get was at least one state away. I didn’t want to move.
I decided to interview for sales jobs.
Today, September 6, is my anniversary of getting kicked out of engineering and tossed into sales. I don’t think it would have ever happened if it had been up to just me.
The first guy I interviewed with told me about a little trade show at a Holiday Inn. I walked around handing out my resume (that was a pretty good idea actually). One guy faxed my resume to another guy, Wally. Wally called and hired me.
Thus begun a 2 year stretch where I couldn’t sell anything to save my life.
I don’t know about you, but OUT OF THE FRYING PAN AND INTO THE FIRE seemed to be the story of my life. “I don’t know how I’m gonna do this, but I guess I’m about to find out, right now.”
It took me a loooong time to figure out that you don’t just blindly poke around and try stuff. You don’t just “build relationships and hope they’ll buy from you sooner or later.” You do everything with specific intent. You read everything you can get your hands on. You find people who know what they’re doing and you force them to explain what they do and how they do it.
We took the hard road. Laura quit her job and came home and had a baby. She didn’t get a job. Would have taken a lot of pressure off of me if she did, and we might have avoided some close calls.
We believed that if I get myself out on a limb, I will figure out how to get down from the tree. If Mr. Perry has to be the sole breadwinner, he’ll find a way to win the bread. “Perry, you’ll figure this out. Sooner or later. Hopefully we don’t end up moving in with my parents first.”
It’s was harrowing but it worked.
I don’t know what nest you’ve been kicked out of. If you’re like most people in the last 5 years, you’ve gotten kicked out of some nest somewhere.
So let me leave you with a totally counter-intuitive, radical thought:
THE LESS YOU LIKE WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW, THE BETTER IT MIGHT ACTUALLY BE.
The best thing you might do today is decide to be thankful for whatever knuckles just slammed into your jaw yesterday.
I know, it doesn’t make sense.
But it will later.
“Illusions are painfully shattered, right where discovery starts.” -Neil Peart
Be the contrarian. Lean into the wind. Find the spot where it’s howling the loudest and press into it.
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