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When I was fired

May 22, 2023

This is about when I got fired. It is the story of how I felt and how it changed me. The purpose of my writing is to share with the men and women who are getting fired for no fault of theirs, what I went through and what worked for me.

As an introvert, at the start of my career, sales seemed really daunting. In those early years, I needed to muster a lot of grit to overcome my self-consciousness and do what my job needed. The only way I knew to deal with this personal challenge was through hard work. I was fortunate to have some fantastic bosses and mentors, who encouraged me when I most needed it and put me through some great training programs. In time, it started getting easier, I learned to overcome my hesitation about meeting new people, learned to sell, negotiate hard, and even make some all-right public presentations. Eventually, I was doing quite well. I was promoted, sometimes rapidly, to leadership positions. All these acknowledgements made me bold, perhaps even a bit reckless. So I made some career moves that in hindsight were clearly risky. Then, one day I was suddenly fired.

I felt that I was adding a lot of value to the company. But my boss felt otherwise. I couldn’t believe it. It was as if, the rug had been pulled from under my feet. I remember stopping on the side of the road, unable to drive back from work that day because the tears wouldn’t let me see straight.

I found my next break with an even bigger and better employer almost immediately, and it was at a designation and pay far higher, but something had shifted in me. I found myself confronted with some strange, fundamental questions. Why was I working? Who was I trying to impress? What was the point? Does it make any difference? There had to be something meaningful about life and work. The personal ambition that had kept me going in the past now seemed shallow and even unreal like a mirage that one never gets to.

Now, I look back at those days as perhaps, the most life-defining times of my life. I did work for a few more years in corporate leadership positions but the contemplations of that time eventually helped me discover my calling and purpose in coaching. Let me add that it didn’t happen quickly or easily, the journey of healing and self-discovery took its time, but it was powerfully liberating. Its eventual reward is a kind of ease and clarity in life, that I could not have imagined possible.

It is well-accepted in some Western societies that there is always a risk of getting fired from a private sector job when the business cycle goes down. But in India, it is still not the social norm yet. But our leadership seems to be learning the US-style immediate profit-driven business management far too quickly. Not too long ago, people worked most of their lives at one company, that offered a moderate salary, but good financial security and gave life some stability. But those days are long gone. Uncertainty is the new normal.

Today, the purpose of my writing is to share with the men and women who are getting fired for no fault of theirs, what I went through and what worked for me, if it can serve them.

“Why me?”

The first thing that confronted me was- what did I do wrong? When the answer is not too obvious, overthinking and self-criticism do more damage than good. Nor does anger help. I think it serves one better to remember that it can also happen for no fault of oneself. It could be because of the business cycle or maybe others simply worked harder and better. One has to choose to be kind to oneself, for trying however one knew best at that moment. There would be time for work, but first, let some self-love in.

When we resist feeling uncomfortable emotions, they persist.

It’s okay to feel hurt. I found that when you don’t resist feeling painful emotions, they run their course and pass off naturally. It is better to let yourself feel the strong emotions — they come and flow away. Let the healing take its time.

It's better to share with someone in the family or a friend.

Bring them in, and let them see how you feel. You could always tell them that for now, you don’t want their advice, just a strong, supportive heart. They may also be just as worried and fearful about what lies in the future, but it works better to team up and have faith together.

Nurture self-belief and faith.

Do what you need to, to strengthen your self-confidence and faith in your ability to work hard. I’ve learned that we grow only through hard times and challenges. Failures strengthen our character in a way that success simply can’t. When life is sending some struggles your way, it is calling you to be bigger. Who is life calling you to be?

What kind of career would give life meaning?

I was obsessed with this. I did a lot of research- read, attended programs and listened to great speakers talk. This urge to find purpose had become personal, important and urgent. I discovered that confronting it also called for some real courage. I found that we let our jobs define who we are. Mindlessly introducing ourselves to others just by our designations and names of the employers. Now it was time to contemplate ‘Who am I beyond my work?’ Maybe, career is not a complete assessment of our life. Just a part of it. But now how would I introduce myself? I didn’t want to look like a loser. It took me a while to work this out.

Time for some spirituality.

After a somewhat prolonged period of inner conflict, I resigned from my corporate career, trained to become a coach and went to teach at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning- which focused on spiritual education. There are times when we need the kind of truth that can create absolute certainty. But that kind of assurance that can only be found deep in our soul. We have to go silently within.

Money is necessary, but not too much is needed.

While living and teaching in the small village town of Puttaparthi, I discovered how easy it is to reduce expenses. It made me feel so much more financially secure. What really matters, costs so little. Even today, as a coach, I make only a fraction of what I earned in my best job, but I live a far richer and more fulfilling life. I respect myself more.

I now feel grateful that I was fired.

It kicked me out of my comfort zone. On my own, I wasn’t willing to grow past my ambition and discover what more life could be. Now I feel that life is easier than how I had made it for myself when I was fighting to make it. Some day you might be grateful for it too.

Take a few days’ break and then get back in action.

Do what you need to do to get back on your feet. Don’t overthink. Stay out of the brooding zone, stay in the action zone of life.

If you were picked to be fired from a team, you may like to assess if you neglect developing good relations with those in authority.

I often ask my clients this question, it might serve you to contemplate upon it too- if you were to assess your relationships with people who report to you, and then with the people whom you report to, which of the two groups do you feel you have better relations with? Almost every client of mine said that they have had better relationships with their subordinates in most of their past jobs. If that’s how it is for you too, don’t you think you need to contemplate what keeps you from having warm and mutually supportive relationships with your bosses?

Invest in your growth and development.

Your company or your bosses wouldn’t be able to invest in you or in the development of your career beyond how it directly serves them. You will have to set aside a certain amount of money and time every year to upskill and to develop the competencies, even wisdom and demeanour that your future career and life require. If you’ve been neglecting this, it might be time to correct it. Talk to a coach.

Make a fresh start.

Maybe you don’t belong where you are not valued. Perhaps your skills and attitudes don’t agree with that job, see if you are better off exploring other work options. The Service-dominant logic now suggests that all careers and businesses are fundamental services. See if you’d like to contemplate- who could benefit from your presence, with your help and love? That’s how you’d find your purpose.

There are many ways to make a living, but not all would fulfil you.

Trust life. Aim big.

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