Everybody Should Get Fired (At Least Once)

My oldest child is about the graduate from college, which means, from a parent’s perspective, that this kid is about to get tossed into the grinder of the worst job market for young people since the invention of job markets for young people. (Note: don’t worry, child, it will be OK. You will find work. Just not the way you thought. Be patient and persistent. Keep your sense of humor.)

Naturally, this rite of passage is an augur for the need for the talk about getting fired.

This talk, by the way, falls under the heading of “How to Learn.”

Some background is in order. One can learn: 1) the Easy Way; or 2) the Hard Way. Parents prefer their children to learn things the Easy Way: read the directions; take to heart what your parents tell you; never play “Truth or Dare”; drink in moderation, and only after reaching the age of 21; avoid fucking until after you are married; avoid getting married altogether.

However, since most parents themselves were young, they will understand that the Hard Way is often the best way to learn. Parents do not like acknowledging this rule of thumb, but:

  • When you don’t follow the directions, something blows up. That hurts and your child will want to avoid future infliction of pain and trips to the emergency room.
  • Remember that time you ignored your parents’ warning about teasing the asshole neighbor’s dachshund and that fucking dog bit you in the face and you had to go to the emergency room? Yeah, that time. Did you ever go within 20 feet of that cocksucking dog again? Nope.
  • Remember that time your former best friend dared you pour more lighter fluid on the BBQ even though the directions on the fluid can advised in the strongest possible wording to NOT do that? And the BBQ blew up and you had to go to the emergency room? You now use charcoal in your own BBQ that does not require lighter fluid, don’t you?
  • Do we really need to recap the other perils of learning the Hard Way? No? Good!

OK, getting back to getting fired. Sorry, but there really is no Easy Way around the issue: Everyone should get fired at least once in the course of their so-called career.

There you are, cruising long on the fast track. You are a rising star. You are at the top of your field. You are expert nonpareil. You think your shit stopped stinking in middle school. Hubris is setting in…and then you get fired.

Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe you simply lost an intramural battle with that new vice president. Maybe the economy tanked. Maybe your industry was outsourced or disappeared overnight. None of that matters.

What matters is what comes next: You can roll up into a ball in the corner or you can use this unforeseen turn to your advantage. No, no, no: I am not trying to sell you a book about what fucking color you should paint your parachute or how to move your shitty piece of cheese. This is serious business.

Before you succumb to the instinct to roll up into a ball in the corner, think about this. What is “this?” you ask. Precisely!

What is this?

“This” is your life and you are at a crossroads. You have invested a lot in that job. That job was the source of income. That job gave you purpose. That job gave you an identity. That job gave you something to talk about at parties. That job might even have gotten you laid.

Let’s face it: that job probably defined you. You were a banker, a lawyer, a salesperson, a spokesperson, a webmaster, a clerk, a personal assistant, a dental hygienist, a designer. Or at least that’s how you introduced yourself to people. You = Your Job. Really? That’s sad. Unless you are The Dude.

So, unless you are The Dude, ask yourself: how did you get here? Think hard about the answer. Get comfortable with the answer, even if you don’t like it. Even if it embarrasses you.

Then ask yourself if you learned anything along the way. Good Stuff? Bad Stuff?

Try to figure out how to get rid of the Bad Stuff from your life, whether it had to do with substance abuse, passive-aggressive behavior, lack of curiosity, settling into a rut, bad romantic choices, whatever.

Try to figure out how to use the Good Stuff in your life: education, friends and family, knowledge and skills, experiences, your goddamn winning personality, whatever.

Wherever you are, you are not in your comfort zone. That is a good thing, because you are at a crossroads and you are going to have to make a choice and it is a choice that you do not want to make, one that you never thought you were going to have to confront. And making that choice will be one of the best things you will do with your life.

Presumably my oldest child will ignore this advice because, well, who wants to think about getting fired before getting that goddamn, coveted first job?

So let me put this lesson in a particular context that Yutes might understand:

As a parent, I do not want my kids to have to go through the nightmare of getting fired. I know, because I lived that nightmare. However, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. If I had not been fired, I would probably still have that job. That thought gives me shivers.

And, so, my oldest child, get that first job. And get that second job. And that third job. Somewhere along the way, you might get fired. You will be shocked and hurt. You will be frightened. And then you will be amazed. In a good way. Just like Steve Jobs (though probably not as lucratively).


About Stephen Dedalus, Jr.

I am trying to awaken from the history of my ancestor's nightmare to comment on my Holy Trinity of Interests: art, literature, and music. Oh, and thoughts on dysfunctional families, which is to say families.
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