June 26, 2009 – One of the worst days of my entire life.
The day before, I was deep in my comfort zone. I was sooooooooo comfortable – like sitting in a soft, easy chair with a bottomless bag of Doritos, comfortable. There was no need to try new stuff, meet new people or do anything challenging, because that would require me to leave the comfort zone - and that wasn’t going to happen.
But then Boom! – out of nowhere, I was separated from my job of 16 years. I had done nothing wrong. I was well respected in my trade, but the Great Recession was devastating to the trucking industry.
The human psyche is not equipped to handle a sudden drop from the top to the bottom, especially when you aren’t at fault. I guess I took it kind of hard. I barfed every morning for a few weeks. I was actually losing a pound of weight every day. I was joyous the morning my weight stabilized – I wasn’t going to waste away a pound at a time, I was going to live!
The mental challenge was just as difficult. I was cast out at the very bottom of the job market and there were no jobs. None. My first search on Monster.com yielded one job, that I was marginally qualified for, and was two months old. My old friend Roger, who I reconnected with ten years ago in a job seekers group, reminded me last month that: “We thought we would never work again”. He remembers correctly.
To fill the idle time, I began writing an economic blog in September 2009. I credit the blog with preserving my sanity during this ordeal. And I was writing every week for the first time since college, which greatly sharpened my skills. Writing this blog led to writing my humor blog, which led to … whoa… we’re getting ahead of things.
I also began to network and meet hundreds of new people. Very diverse people, much more interesting than the people I interacted with on most days. (My new friends are great. I love ya!)
But I had to climb out of what seemed like an enormous pit. At the beginning, I looked backward a lot - at the comfort zone, at the good job, at many things. There comes a time, however, when you have to rip off the rear view mirror and cast it aside. The future is ahead of you, not behind, and there is only one direction to move, forward, not reverse.
It took me nine months to secure my first real interview, for a job I was only partially qualified for and didn’t really want. But it was the only opportunity out there, so I went after it full throttle. I was so intense during the interview, that after I got home, I discovered I had literally sweated blood. It’s called hematidrosis and it most often occurs in soldiers before going into a fierce battle. Even though there were more qualified applicants, I got the job.
Yes, I was on my way back, but I was far from where I needed to be. The next four years were brutal at times. Besides some family sufferings (my mother’s death and wife’s illness), I worked at jobs that were boring and at places where I didn’t fit in. I experienced numerous rejections and failures both at work and in the job market. Even though it felt good to have a job, at times I still detested my situation. It is said: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That may be true, but what doesn’t kill you still hurts like hell.
However, the hard times help you develop valuable skills that you’re not cognizant of at the time. You learn to be rejected repeatedly, but not stop trying. You learn to keep moving forward, despite being in great pain. And most importantly, you learn how to get up after up after being knocked down, each time spending less time on the ground.
And then after four years of struggle, Boom! My dream job just appears out of nowhere and falls into my lap. No effort, no struggle, no sweat. In a moment, I had I plunged from the top to the bottom and now I had soared from the bottom to the top. Ain’t life funny in that way? After being repeatedly rejected, when you know that you are more than good enough, and being so dead inside, it’s a wonderful feeling to be brought back to life and given a second chance. It’s called redemption, and redemptions should not be wasted.
The last five years of my life have been amazing! But I’m not going to list my accomplishments here. That would be too arrogant. If you want see them, just Google me. Yes, I am now Googleable. If you do Google me, 28 of the first 30 returns are just about me, and 35 of the first 40. No brag, just fact.
Google me ten years ago? Lots of blank pages. I am so dynamic that one woman who knew me on both a business and social basis, thought I was two different people. A scary thought, isn’t it?
During the last ten years I have never returned to the comfort zone. In fact, I have done many things that make me uncomfortable, such as returning to the stand-up comedy stage for one night, just to prove I could do it. It’s remarkable what you can accomplish when you have no fear of failure. And of course, you only lose that fear by failing repeatedly.
At times I think I know how Evil Knievel approached his trade. As I told my friend “Ski” before I published my first book, “I’m going for this. I’ve just spent four years developing an asbestos suit. I may crash, but I will not burn”. And I was right, I have crashed several times, have gotten back up smoldering, and keep moving forward. Because of course, there is only one direction to go.
In the past, in that comfort zone, it was fairly easy to stop me by placing obstacles in my way. Now, it is easy to slow me down, but much harder to stop me. And if you stand in my way, be careful. Sometimes I choose not to go around.
My most cherished achievements are my two books. I had a goal to write a book after I retired, but I ended up attaining that goal nine years earlier than planned. If you had told me in 2009, I would publish a book in 2015, I would have laughed hysterically. One does not try such foolish ventures from the comfort zone.
And if you want extreme discomfort, try writing and publishing a book. It is one of the humbling and ego-bruising endeavors you can ever do. You guys only see the good stuff I post on social media or you read elsewhere. You don’t see the rejections, the failures, the pain. It is said that for an author to be successful, he needs to grow an elephant skin.
That’s why most authors stop after their first book. You have to be a bit crazy to write one book, you are insane to choose to go through that process a second time. What personal qualities do you need to publish a second book?
Well, you need to be able to be repeatedly rejected, but to keep on trying. You must be able to keep moving forward, despite being in great pain. And most importantly, you must be able to get up quickly after getting knocked down repeatedly.
What’s the most important trait for an author? It’s not the ability to write well, thousands of people can do that. It’s perseverance. And perseverance is not something you get by reading about it, or practicing for. You have to learn how to walk through that fire without getting burned. And yes, there are plans for a third book to be released next year. I just have to let the smoke dissipate a bit more.
My good friend, and successful author, Julie Lindsey, puts it this way: “Only the unstoppable succeed.” Ten years ago, that adjective didn’t describe me. I was stopped, stationary, not wanting to move out of that comfort zone. The place I am at today is so much deeper and richer than where I was before. When I think about what my life would be like now if I had not been so rudely thrown out of that comfort zone, it make me want to ….. Well, you get the idea.
Last night my wife and I went out to celebrate this 10-year anniversary, anaction that at one time would have been unfathomable just a few years ago. We went to an expensive restaurant at a local vineyard. We toasted with the most expensive bottle of wine in the place. I don’t know anything about wine, heck I don’t even really enjoy wine, but this was a special night. When I told my friend Lori about my plan, she laughed and said “What are going to do? Go down the wine list and pick the most expensive bottle?”
Yes, that’s exactly what I did. Because I can. Because after ten years I deserve this. I deserve every drop (even though I did share with my wife). And no matter if I selected a marlow, cabinay, pee-no or cherdinay, (it was an imported Italian red) let me tell you, it tasted sweet. It tasted oh so sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.
June 26, 2009 – One of the best days of my entire life.