How A Glass Half Full Helped Me (And Can Help You Too)

Halffull anniversary

TerryStarbucker.com turns 4 on 12/25; Today, in marking this anniversary, I tell the story of how my philosophy of "Half-Fullism" was born.

“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!)

Comments

  1. says

    Terry,
    Happy 4th blog birthday!!

    I’m all for the “glass half full” mentality, and reading your story – and what you experienced – attitude plays a large role in how we view life. You’ve got it – the attitude to succeed!

  2. says

    …always reminding me that the glass is half full… I thank you for your words of inspiration and for the years you have added to my life.

    God Bless, Terry!

    Andrew B. Clark

  3. says

    Great story Terry. It demonstrates why you’re still succeeding too. Of course, the next step in looking at the glass half full is to find yourself seeing that it just needs ice.

    Happy Holidays,
    Rich

  4. says

    Terry,
    Happy 4th to your blog and your freedom. I appreciate your story and resonate with the realistic optimism. Life is hard, but it is good.
    Thank you for telling your story.
    Tim

  5. says

    Happy 4 year anniversary!

    I am new to reading your blog but have enjoyed your insights. The things you write always make me think and usually inspire me to write as well. This post jumps out because in the past few months, I have really had to consciously remind myself of the state of “the glass”. What has gotten me through is something a mentor told me years ago, which I think his mentor told him, and that is “the glass is ALWAYS full.” Another teacher recently pointed out to me that, “there is plenty to go around.” The more I project that belief, the less I worry when the numbers aren’t adding up. And so far, the theory holds water. Or, what I should say is that the glass is overflowing!

  6. says

    Hi Terry:

    First off, happy anniversary on your blog. I can really identify with your story…I’ve been laid off a few times in five years in the marketing area. While I am still doing some career exploration while I’m “in transition,” I know that I need to think more in terms of “Me, Inc.” whether it happens right away or not.

    I relaunched my blog earlier this year and it is part of my journey. I have connected with people and made some friends through it and I know I will continue to evolve and it will evolve with me. While my job search has not been as fruitful as I had hoped so far, all of the learning that I’ve done through my blog really keeps me going.

    I’m glad to hear that this new attitude, for you, included a focus on authenticity and optimism. It was also interesting to learn about the manifesto you wrote for yourself. Sounds cool.

    In any case, best wishes for another great year of learning and having that glass half full attitude!

  7. Judith says

    Terry — I’m new to your blog, so thanks for sharing your experience. I, myself, went through two layoffs in the span of 6 years…the first one from a job of 10 years. (I had survived 3 “right-sizings” but didn’t survive the fourth.)

    I, too, believe that both layoffs — especially the first one — were some of the best things to happen to me. They allowed me to free-lance, gain more confidence in my strengths and skills, and now to have a career that I thoroughly love. I have truly been blessed.

    I firmly believe “circumstances do not make our attitudes, our attitudes make our circumstances.” How we look at the glass is a choice we make everyday…and life is good.

  8. says

    Thanks Ash, Lance, Andrew, Rich, Tim, Somer, Tim, Judith and Steve for your kind words and good wishes.

    Lance, you are right – it’s all about attitude.

    Andrew, this whole exercise has added years to my life too! :-)

    Rich, yes, sometimes we need ice in that half full glass!

    Tim, that’s the point – it’s overcoming that “hardness” of life, or at least always staying a little bit ahead of it.

    Somer, it is all about self-awareness- that’s the point of “the glass”. So keep that focus, and get what you want.

    Tim, keep at it – persistence is so key in trying to land a new job. Look under every rock you can. And one of these days I’ll publish that manifesto. :-)

    Judith, thanks for discovering my blog! And for making that choice – I’m happy to hear you are doing something you love.

    Steve, the pleasure’s been all mine, my friend. Thank you.

    All the best and Happy Holidays to you all!
    Terry

  9. says

    In the entrepreneurial movement, a world that I joined earlier this year, what you just experienced is commonly referred to as “firing your boss.” Congratulations indeed!

    I especially like this remark: “I’m going to make the most of it. I’m going to become “Terry, Inc.” and learn to sell myself.”

    To that I would add this from Mr. Henry Ford himself: “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

    Best of luck in 2010!

  10. says

    Terry, I really enjoyed reading your blog. I have always felt the same as you about the glass being 1/2 full. I took control of my life this year and finally wrote the book I’ve been wanting to write. Plus I started a blog, too. In fact just today I just wrote a blog on my website about how to find opportunity when faced with adversity. Feel free to take a look at zen-mama.com!
    Best of luck to you!!

  11. says

    Thanks Ken & Betsy!

    Ken, Henry Ford was a very wise man. :-)

    Betsy, good for you! Congrats on the book, and I will check out your blog.

    All the best to you both, and Happy New Year!
    Terry

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