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5 Empowering Lessons from Being Fired

“Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.” ~Unknown

I was fired via email as my plane touched down at LAX.

I am not the kind of person who gets fired, who gets dismissed, who is asked to leave and is not welcomed back.

This was not my track record, no. What was happening?

I had seen the ad on Craigslist, and it looked perfect. An educational theater program for kids was seeking instructors and administrators to help revitalize the company. They needed someone with current experience in the entertainment industry who was an educator, and also had the business vision to help them grow.

Application. Interview. Second interview! This was looking good. The company would soon be expanding into a beautiful big new building. They were interested in new ideas. I knew I could bring a lot to the table. 

They wanted to hire me part-time, as a contractor. I was okay with that. I asked if there was any kind of contract or written agreement. In my past experience, contractors had, you know, contracts.

They said that they didn't do contracts because they trust the people they hire, but if I wanted one, I could write it up and then we could go from there.

So I did. I based it off a contract an employer had provided to me in the past, and of course asked my attorney father if there was anything else I was missing. I made a couple adjustments and fired it off to them. Nothing overly litigious, just making sure we had in writing what our agreement was.

Days passed. I started to worry. Things had been moving so quickly and so well. Finally, I got an email. Could I come in and talk about the contract?

So I went in for a third meeting. This time, they had me sit in one of the classrooms. With a faux-paternal furrow in his brow, the owner asked me why I didn't trust them. Why I had written up such a formal document? 

Then came the PowerPoint presentation, highlighting each dagger I had thrown at them with my contract, line by line.

This, ladies and gents, is when I should have picked up my purse, politely exited, and never looked back. 

But that was not my choice.

I sat, berated, confused, and tried to defend myself without being defensive—tried to support the common practice of the contract, open to their suggestions and amendments, but wanting to take care of myself.

Such things were not understood or appreciated there. And so I began my stint, with my boss not trusting me, and me not trusting my boss. 

Over the weeks, the systemic failures of the organization blanched what had once seemed promising.

Questionable marketing practices. Employees manipulating management. Damning reviews with the Better Business Bureau.

And yet I stayed. I believed that there was good work to be done there, and that I could really make a difference. The drive to contribute and develop something blinded my judgment. 

I frequently complained to another co-worker about the choices the company was making. Not a flattering trait, or a healthy one.

I was not rude or out of line, but I was not quiet. I voiced concerns. I spoke out against policies. I strived for us to do things with more integrity.

And in the telling of this story, it seems very clear that this was not a place that I belonged. 

But when I got that email on the tarmac, anger outweighed my relief.

My background was “too aristocratic,” they said. I had asked for things like contracts and mission statements and getting paid the same rate as the other teachers—all things one commonly associates with aristocracy.

Bitter, jobless, I started to find gratitude in my situation.

Here are the 5 blessings that I found in being fired: 

1. I learned to take responsibility for my part. 

As much as I wanted to be right and make them wrong, the truth is that I co-created the dynamic that led to this point. My hands were dirty, and it wasn't as simple as getting dumped by the bad guys.

No matter why you've been fired, odds are you played some role. Once you take responsibility, it's easier to get past the anger and onto the next thing.

2. Acceptance replaced resentment. 

I wasn't a good fit there. As much as I didn't want that to be true, it was. Getting fired helped me see beyond what I wanted to see, and accept the situation as it truly was. When you accept fact over fiction, you can begin healing from the experience.

3. I detached my worth from my work. 

Who was I if I wasn't going to work, making money, and contributing in that way? I had to answer that question, and learn to love the Laura that just is, not the Laura that does. It's that saying of “you're not a human doing, you're a human being.”

Learning to value the being part of yourself not only puts you in deeper relationship with yourself, it also helps you appreciate the other “beings” in your life.

4. I got a fresh start. 

Sounds cliche, but it's true. Having to leave the familiar stretched me to reevaluate what I really wanted and gave me the freedom to go for it.

Do-overs can reenergize you and give a much-needed shake up to other areas of your life.

5. I learned to trust my gut. 

I had the impulse to abandon ship, or rather, not to board ship, early on. I learned that my intuition is right, and that I don't have to fully understand or verbalize it to let it guide me. That quiet voice we all have knows so, so much, and when we listen, we can act in alignment with our most sacred intelligence.

Getting fired hurts, regardless of the circumstances. But as with most everything in life, it can be an opportunity. You can't un-fire yourself, but you can choose your experience of being fired. You can find the blessings in the beast.

Photo by Ed Yourdon

About Laura Simms

Laura Simms is a career coach who helps entrepreneurs, career changers, and purpose-driven women thrive at the fulfilling work meant just for them. Learn more with the "get paid for being you" free video series at createasfolk.com.

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