“I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go”.
Boom. Just like that, the train derailed. All that promise, all that possibility, was now gone.
After 12 years of a relatively charmed professional life, reality set in with a vengeance.
How I dealt with this reality formed the basis of an entirely new approach to my career, and to my life.
I now call it Half-Fullism, or “looking at reality in a favorable way”, but back then, it was more like survival.
My life’s journey to that fateful moment had been a relatively effortless one, at least professionally. My education afforded me a seamless transition into a public accounting job, a position that played to one of my strengths as a number cruncher. It was a compromise decision at the time, because my desire to be a wage earner exceeded my dreams of any higher education and a more prestigious profession.
I quickly rose through the ranks in my accounting role, and in 5 years I was in a prime position to make it to partner and “lock in” the rest of my career. But fate intervened in a very strange way. Out of the blue, I got a call from an executive recruiter who was looking for a particular kind of accountant to “run” a service company with over 425,000 customers.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – didn’t he know I was only 27 years old? Apparently he didn’t care and the next thing you know I was indeed running the operations of that company. The owner had a thing about hiring young financial minds and throwing them headfirst into the pool, and I was his next project.
Problem was, while the experience was invaluable and the learning priceless, from the standpoint of my psyche it was too much, too soon. When the company was sold 3 years later I was openly wondering what I would do for an encore. Would anyone else take the same chance on me, or would I fall out of this dream-come-true, back at a cubicle cranking out spreadsheets?
Nothing had gone wrong so far – and I was very afraid that something now would. But once again, I was pulled away from it by another left-field offer, by the same owner, but for a different business. Way different – a professional sports team. Because like most other red-blooded men I am quite fond of sports, the thought of being associated with it at that level was intoxicating.
I took that offer. Again I was off the angst hook – and another charmed step was taken. This step turned out to be a huge mistake. The first three months were livin’ the dream, sitting in owner’s boxes and meeting celebrities, but things quickly turned sour, and for the next 3 years, I was miserable. The project I was working on was going nowhere, and the boss was a holy terror. Worse still, I had to literally change my personality at the workplace to “protect” myself, becoming a subdued, passive version of a “yes man”.
But I didn’t quit. I wasn’t fully absorbing the realities of my situation. I was too focused on the paycheck – for my age it was pretty substantial. The fear came back of the dream going bust.
And then, finally and mercifully, I heard those words.
I was fired.
My worst fears were now realized. My glass, it seemed, was now empty.
Boy was I wrong.
Somewhere, in that initial bout of despair, came a revelation – yes, this really stinks, BUT………
I’m going to make the most of it. I’m going to become “Terry, Inc.” and learn to sell myself.
And I remembered something – something I wrote when I was in the absolute depths of my loathing, about 6 months before I was let go. It was a personal manifesto, laying down the type of career I really wanted to have. I wanted to be a leader, one that shows his true personality.
Armed with these intentions, I forged ahead into the unknown with a renewed sense of optimism, but not the unbridled sort. It was tempered by several realities – the foremost of which was the notion that I was most likely going to have to step down the ladder a few notches before I could climb back up.
I also didn’t expect that every letter would result in an interview or an offer, or probably even every 10th letter, but knew that the more I sent the better my chances.
I was acting as a “realistic optimist” – those instincts had always been there, but they had never had a real chance of being acted upon fully until that time.
Three months into my search (and about 500 letters and phone calls) I was fortunate enough to find a new position – several notches down, as I had predicted, but with the potential to rise back up. I started this new phase of my career with my eyes now wide open, knowing that the charmed phase was over, and there was hard work ahead.
It was work, however, that came with a vow. I was always going to be true to myself, and my vision of what I wanted to become – otherwise it wouldn’t be worth doing.
As I restarted my career this new approach paid great dividends – for it also carried along with it my new attitude. I was now much better able to think about favorable outcomes to the situations I was facing – and reject them if need be. Several years later, this turnaround was confirmed by one of my teammates via an exclamation after a particularly intense budgeting session – “you’re glass is always half full!”
At that moment, my new attitude got a new name. And when it was time to start this blog, there was no question as to what it should be named, and what the overall tone of it should be. Because I felt it was well worth sharing my experiences from that point of view.
Half-Fullism ended up working for me in ways I never thought possible. And today, I face today and the tomorrows to come realizing that while every day isn’t going to be sunshine, there isn’t a magic wand that can solve everything, and not-so-good, unexplainable things can indeed happen to good people, there is still a lot of joy and fulfillment out there to be found and experienced.
And I’m going to do my best to find it. Join me, will you?
(Postscript: I also wish to extend my grateful thanks to all of you that have supported me and this blog for these past 4 years. I couldn’t have lasted this long, or loved it this much, without you!)