We all have that moment - that moment when you actually hit bottom. For me it occurred while parked behind a Burger King in Phoenix, Arizona. I was crying that morning, knowing that I was soon going to lose my job. My boss and I just didn't see eye-to-eye, and what had started as disagreement was turning into the type of open warfare you usually only read about.

At that point in time my wife had been a stay-at-home parent for 7 years, and we had three kids between the ages of 3 and 12.

Job loss is something that, for most people, falls within the normal scope of hardships you can endure. Most (but certainly not everyone) eventually recovers from a job loss. However, in my family, job losses typically turned into a waking, years-long nightmare.

Partially as a result of their career struggles both of my parents developed addiction issues, which eventually contributed to my mom passing away at 56.

So, the tunnel I was staring down that day had absolutely no light at the end of it.

But, I had to do something.

Here's what I did:

1. I swallowed my pride.

I had to make peace, at least a temporary peace, with my boss. I knew peace wouldn't last, but I also knew I couldn't go home and tell my family I had been fired without feeling like I had let them down in the worst way.

So I called my boss, apologized for the state of our relationship, and listened to every veiled insult he threw my way.

Was it hard?

Yes.  

But a lot of people have had to do worse things to feed their family than listen to petty insults.

2. I swallowed my pride again.

I had been looking for new opportunities ever since the day I knew my relationship with my boss (who was the founder) just wasn't going to work. I thought I had found my dream job when I made it to the final round of a prestigious, highly paid fellowship program that sent private sector executives into public education.

The day I found out that I didn't make the cut for the fellowship was incredibly hard.

Two weeks later I was offered a job that was a 20% pay cut, and significant step back in my career. Given that it was the midst of the Great Recession, and jobs weren't growing on trees, I was faced with what was a pretty easy decision.

Our family could survive a 20% pay cut. It could not survive a 100% pay cut.

I took the job, and used it to motivate me for an eventual comeback.

(Cue the sports movie training montage of the down-and-out athlete.)

3. I started working on a side hustle that became a business.

It is not easy - in any sense of the word - to own your own business.

It can be, at least at the start, far less lucrative than a career working for someone else.

However, if I flame out as an entrepreneur at least I do it on my terms. If I fail because I'm just not good enough, or the market is wrong, that's one thing.

But after this experience I never wanted to fail simply because someone didn't like me, or we didn't get along.

I wanted to control my own fate.

My side hustle didn't start right away. About a year after I left this job I got my first consulting client, and that first $100 check made me feel more secure than any other paycheck had made me feel.

Because I knew that if I was going to end up in a hole, it was going to be one that I dug with my own shovel. 

Published on: Jun 14, 2016