I want you to think back on your life five years ago from this very day. Where were you? What were you doing? Were you still in school? Working? Retired? Wherever you were, I assume you are in a much different position today than you were five years ago. One of my favorite artists, Dave Matthews, says it best when he states,
"Every day things change, but basically they stay the same."
How true is that? If I think back about my life five years ago, much of my day-to-day is pretty similar. I lived in Columbus at the time, but I would wake up in the morning, get ready for work, grab breakfast and head to work. Here and there, that routine changed, adapted, grew or faltered completely, but basically things stayed the same. Except they really didn't. Every single day, things were changing. My career, my thoughts, my growth, my family, my friends, the world, my living situation, the seasons. We become so accustomed to our routines and levels of comfort that we don't take a second to look around at the changes occurring in the world, as they are happening. Change is constant and if you don't accept it, learn from it, or stay ahead of the curve, it will completely pass you by.
So, now that you've thought back on your life five years ago, I'd like to let you in on mine. As I mentioned, I was living and working up in Columbus, OH, at the time, honing my skills in IT sales. I'm not sure honing is the word, because I was terrible at my job. I really was. Sure, it was my first job out of college, but I didn't really have any passion for it and my work environment was interesting to say the least. Looking back, I see that I lacked any type of vision for my life. Like I said it was my first job out of college, but I had no wherewithal on the direction of my life and where I wanted to go. Sure, I had dreams, but I wasn't doing much of anything with them, and it seemed like I was just going through the motions each and every single day. Looking back, I wasgoing through the motions.
I made excuses, stopped working as hard as I should, feuded with our new sales manager, and was finally hit with a corporate "talk" discussing my numbers, or my lack thereof. I was essentially put on a plan, and if I didn't meet the goals my sales manager set for me, I would surely be let go. Ouch.
So, what did I do? Well, I wanted to quit right there. I really did. I almost did. But, I just couldn't do it. A person who I lacked respect for had called me out, challenged me, and essentially told me I wasn't good enough to work for the company any longer. He was probably right. I wasn't a fit for that role and they should have gotten rid of me months earlier. But, they didn't, and here I was sitting in his office with an employee plan in place.
My requirements were obviously above the norm and extended well beyond the reach of what I had previously accomplished with the company. But, I got angry. In the words of The Hulk,
"You're not going to like me when I'm angry."
And, that's how I felt. So, I came in locked and loaded every single day from the conclusion of that meeting, up until my final hours with the company. I hit and exceeded every number, I set a record number of sales meetings for my account managers, I recorded the most daily calls in my time there, and at the end of every week, I was completely exhausted. I'm not writing this to toot my own horn. I should have been working that hard from the start, but my heart just wasn't in it. I felt sorry for myself because I was the only employee probably in the entire company who hadn't recorded an official start (landing someone in the IT field a contract or job with a client), and I constantly fell back on my excuses.
I never interned at a company in college (I actually worked at a warehouse).
My sales manager doesn't care about my success (I had several conversations with my former sales manager about my success and how I could improve there).
My account manager doesn't care about my success (Also not true. My AM went out of her way to include me in meetings, show me the ropes and set goals with me. I just didn't take initiative).
See what I mean? My excuses started to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher:
No one cares! It would be better if I said I no longer make excuses, but that just wouldn't be true. It's something I've been working on for awhile, and maybe one day, I'll stop falling back on them. But, when I think back on my time in 2012, I realize that no one truly cared about the excuses that I fed them. Why should they?
So, as I continued to hit my numbers, I noticed the atmosphere in the office beginning to change. People were working scared, the overall day-to-day experience was darker, and I started to get a bad feeling about the entire job. One day, one of my friends in the company was let go. The next day, my friend who was working towards a promotion came in and told me that he was going to quit that day. Twenty minutes later, our sales manager had an office-wide meeting telling us that our friend had moved on, and deep down, I knew it wouldn't be too long. The following afternoon, six people were let go before lunch. One of my good friends called me right after he was called into the meeting room, and I texted him back letting him know that I'd call him back in a second. His text to me,
"Just wanted to let you know, man. They are bringing the firing squad today."
No more than three seconds passed by as I was getting up to grab a glass of water, when I saw my sales manager out of the corner of my eye.
"Can I speak with you for a second?"
And, just like that, I knew it was over. I'll never forget that feeling for as long as I live. Overall, we actually had a very professional meeting. I gained his respect by proving him wrong for over two months, and I gained respect for him along the way as well. I realized he wasn't a great sales manager, he was only two years older than me and he also had been receiving information and demands from upper management on how to run our office. The kid was put in a bad situation. I just don't think he handled it that well. Most people don't handle power that well though, so it's not surprising.
When all was said and done, I looked him in the eye, shook his hand and took the elevator down to the parking garage. A group of us met at a cafe for lunch and shared stories about our time there and what we planned on doing next. My friend who quit a few days prior, met us there in sweat pants, a t-shirt and a full beard. We were required to shave every day at this job, so he had obviously taken full advantage. That weekend, I headed home to Cincinnati, and my dad picked me up on his way home from Pittsburgh. It was an awful weekend. I felt completely insignificant. My parents asked if I wanted to enjoy some dinner with their friends one evening, and I couldn't do it. I couldn't look them in the eye and tell them I had just been let go. It was too difficult. I laugh about it now because I realize that many people are fired or let go or laid off in their time.
Some of the most successful people ever were laid off from several jobs because they didn't follow rules and knew it was their destiny to carve their own path.
But, at the time, it was the end of the world as I knew it.
On Monday, I drove to the gym to get a much needed workout in, and a sense of pure joy and jubilation completely overtook my body. I was possessed with happiness. I yelled, screamed, honked my horn and turned up my music, because I finally realized that I would never have to step foot inside of that building again. That excited me. The possibilities were endless and my journey was truly just beginning. Had I not been let go, where would I be today?
It is a weird question, because I believe I was supposed to be fired that Friday afternoon back in 2012, but what if it didn't happen? Would I be living in Cincinnati? Would I have met my girlfriend? Would I be working in Marketing? Would I be working in videography? Would I have ever interviewed in New York and Chicago? Who knows. Yet, I'm glad it happened and I hope this inspires you to look in the mirror and ask yourself what you really want in your life.
It might just be the most important question you ask.
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