Earlier this year on January 17th, with no warning whatsoever and with no reason given, I was fired from the job I’d been at for over 6 years. I can’t say I was surprised, however, as I swung the axe myself.
The idea was born as I sat on my deck, appreciating all that my wife and I have worked for, and the thought struck me: what if I lost my job tomorrow? What would we do?
As part of my job, I learned that decisions made under stress are far more susceptible to failure than those made away from the heat of battle. It was this same logic that led San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh to script the first 15 plays of the game; an innovation when he introduced it that is now widely copied throughout the NFL. I also have a Plan B for many situations and was shocked I didn’t already have a Plan B in place for a sudden job loss. I made the decision on the spot: Ok, Michael. You’re fired. Now what?
I dashed to the printer, pulled out several blank sheets of copy paper, and started making notes of what I would need to do immediately, what I would need to do in the short-term, and the long-term plan to keep my plans on track. As part of the immediate and short-term planning, I opened up the family budget spreadsheet to see what spending we could immediately cut and what had to stay.
For two hours I went back and forth between my scratch pages of notes, my spreadsheet, and a digital note (in Evernote) where I recorded each step in the plan that I considered official and finalized. A strange mixture of agitation and exhilaration overtook me as I slashed thousands of dollars in spending from the family budget and assembled a list of potential consulting prospects. Stranger still was the feeling that washed over me as I finished the exercise: Happiness.
My final list consisted of 8 steps I would take as a result of being fired. I slept on it, and the next morning when I reviewed those steps again I realized there was nothing stopping me from taking two of those eight straightaway, without waiting for the axe to fall. Neither step would interfere with my current job and would, in the meantime, make any unforeseen transition significantly smoother if ever the worst happened. In fact, starting right away on those steps would help ensure that being fired would NOT be the worst.
Suddenly and unexpectedly losing your job is among most people’s top 5 biggest fears, and when you ask people what they would do if they were fired tomorrow, many answer with “I don’t even want to think about it.” I discovered that thinking about it was the best thing I could have done. There was an immediate sense of freedom and liberation from having completed a Plan B. As an added perk, I’ve never been more relaxed at work as I have since that wonderful day I was fired.
YOUR TURN: Take a couple of hours this weekend to work on your own Plan B. Fire yourself and see how it goes. Then tell us about it in the comment section.