“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” –Ferris Bueller
There are some days that are seared so deeply into my brain I’ll never forget them as long as I live. For me, July 20, 2018 was one of those days.
The day before my boss had sent me a calendar invite for a “check-in”.
We hadn’t had a “check-in” since my two month anniversary with the company, that was 6 months before and was mandated by my offer letter.
I’d negotiated a raise at my 60 day anniversary with the company and the meeting was simply a formality to discuss.
Outside of that, we’d not had the kind of working relationship where you check in.
I froze when I saw the meeting invite, I knew I was going to be fired.
I’d seen it happen to others over my short tenure with the company and figured it was only a matter of time.
I was working almost 80 hours a week at that point and it wasn’t making any sort of positive impact on the business.
My mental state was a constant stress and worry, and the tears would just flow. There was nothing I could do in that state to improve the situation.
When it happened, I felt numb. I’d never been fired before.
I’d also never even had a bad performance review.
This was uncharted territory for me, but I remember walking out of the office that day, getting into an Uber with the last of my things and feeling relief.
I had mostly cleaned my desk out the night before – I knew what I was walking into and I wasn’t gonna let them see me sweat.
The next few days were a blur. Reality set in and I now had to file for unemployment and figure out how I was going to pay my bills in the longer term.
I’d recently rescued a puppy and figuring out his training and care was high on my priority list.
As it turns out, having the new puppy was the best thing that could have happened at this time in my life.
He made me get out of bed to take him for all of his walks and because I was responsible for him, I had to take good care of myself.
The other gift I had luckily given myself was that my unlimited yoga membership had been fully paid for until the end of the year so I could do as much yoga as my body could handle.
What unfolded over the course of this summer was one of the greatest gifts I’d ever been given.
The lessons I learned propelled me into becoming a successful business owner.
I now own a consulting practice where I help startups, small businesses, and family-owned businesses with sales, marketing, strategy and project management.
Here are some of the things I learned.
1. Demand What I Am Worth
I don’t just mean money but that happened, too.
I thought being fired was the worst thing that could happen to me.
I was wrong.
What was worse?
Working in jobs where I:
- Wasn’t treated with respect.
- Was held to a different standard than my peers without any reward.
- Was being abused by clients.
2. Enjoy Simple Pleasures Every Day
To me, self-care had become more than just yoga and spa treatments (which I could no longer afford).
It was walking down by the water with the puppy, cooking delicious meals, resting a lot, and visiting with friends.
I was spending as little money as possible in the transition but enjoying life so much more.
I know it’s a great privilege to be able to take this time and it made me appreciate it so much more.
3. Save Money
Before this change, I was never good at saving money. I spent when I was unhappy. I shopped all the time and spent way too much money dining out.
I bought things that felt good at the moment but didn’t serve me long term.
I’ve spent the last year building up what I call the F*ck-You Fund.
This ensures I have enough money to walk away from any client who isn’t a good fit for my business at any time, for any reason.
I hope to use these funds to add to my retirement and travel, but it’s nice to know I can afford my freedom.
4. Do the Hard Things
When I was figuring out my next move, going out on my own was not something I had initially considered.
I knew I wanted to work for people who shared my values, believed in a mentally healthy work environment, and who would allow me the flexibility to work where and when I wanted to.
Going out on my own was going to be very hard. I’d have to build a website, find clients, handle accounting, IT and get benefits for myself.
All things that in a bigger company a person or department would handle for me. But taking all of that on was empowering.
I have health insurance, a retirement plan, and several backup laptops should my main computer need some help from the Genius bar.
5. Ask for Help
While doing the hard things was, and continues to be important, it is also OK for me to ask for help when I need it.
I surround myself with other founders, ask them what worked for them when I get stuck.
When the hard things get too hard, I step away, ask a friend to meet me for a coffee or a drink or enlist some professional help.
6. Hold People Accountable
Early on in my business, I joined a networking group based on “sharing power”. I was met with empty promises, no follow up, and a bickering board.
I stopped spending my time and money and found some other groups to connect into. Accountability starts and ends with me.
I respond to all emails, LinkedIn messages, and cold calls. A polite “no, thank you” works just fine.
I don’t spoon feed or follow up with clients or partners a million times.
A friendly reminder or two, totally appropriate but if you can’t do what you said you would – I move on. No begging, no chasing.
To Sum Up
Looking back over the past year, it’s amazing to me how different my life is.
While the lessons I’ve learned this year have been powerful, I want to make sure to say that the first year of a new business has been far from “perfect.”
I’ve learned to make mistakes, fail and get back up again.
If you take nothing else from my column this week I hope it’s this: give yourself permission to try.
Whether it’s going out on your own, advocating for yourself or your team in a current role, or just finding more joy in your work this week.