"We thank you for all the hard work you have put in during your time here at NBC. During this corporate merger, we have been forced to evaluate all our senior management positions - and the decision has been made to terminate you."
The words hung in the air. I knew it was coming. When management calls and asks you to come in an hour early and meet them in the front conference room (we fired people in the front conference room so if they freaked out and went "Jerry Maguire" - they wouldn't have an audience like they would back in the newsroom.)
I had achieved everything I had set out to achieve when I was 18. I had a goal of being an Executive Producer in a top 25 market by the time I was 30. I came close - accepting this job at NBC in Raleigh, NC at the age of 31. Things immediately were nothing like I thought they would be - the emphasis was no longer on real journalism - instead favoring click-bait bullshit online and celebrity news that would get us ratings. I was miserable - but I had kids to support and the paycheck was good, so I went through the motions. I was part of a PM News Team that won the station's first every Edward R. Murrow Award, along with a Best Newscast Award and a shelf full of Emmy Awards.
I couldn't believe they were giving me the axe - but looking back at it, they did me a favor - that was one of the best days of my life.
Most mornings I stop for coffee on my way to the office, or as a break from a long writing marathon. As I watch the person making my coffee, I remind myself that I am always one day away from making coffee for someone. One day of not working as hard as I possibly can, one day of not creating a new product, one day of not giving everything I have to create the life I want. 24 hours, and that could be me. I’m not “too good” for any profession. If I was brewing coffee for a living, you can bet your ass that would be the best goddamn cup of java you’ve ever had. Because I take pride in anything I put my name on.
Part of being rabidly individualistic, is you don’t fit into a lot of corporate work settings. I don’t like rules...any rules...of any kind. I hate the fact that as an adult, I still get told what kind of clothes I have to wear to work. I hate being told when to show up and when I can leave. Give me my task, let me get it done and let me go home. My award-winning success as a journalist meant I could find a job anywhere – tv station executives in markets large and small, drooled over my ability to motivate a newsroom and teach young reporters and producers how to be professional ass-kickers. The offers came and went - and I turned them all down. My “make my own road” persona often caused rifts with these executives once the honeymoon phase of my time at their station had passed. I knew getting back into it and accepting one of these offers would just start that same pattern all over again.
My charisma and hard-driving, take-no-prisoners, win-at-all-costs approach, endeared me to my bosses at first, but eventually lead to conflicts with upper-management. For those who read this blog regularly, it will come as no surprise that I have been fired – more than once.
Some of the things I’ve heard as I was being “let go”.
“Your ‘all or nothing, scorched-earth’ approach to everything is sometimes just too much.”
“We love your intensity and passion – but you have to understand not everyone is motivated by this.”
“Your ‘in-your-face’, confrontational style works with some of the staff, but others are down-right afraid of you.”
“The way you lead is seen as motivating to our top people and they love you – but some of the more average employees see you as a tyrant.”
You see, I never wanted to lead a flock of sheep. I only wanted ass-kickers in my pack of wolves. If you weren’t motivated by the idea of defeating the other station in every aspect of your daily work, I didn’t want to work with you - but that’s not the way corporate America works. We have to coddle the weak and simply be glad our strongest employees are doing their jobs – because all our time as leaders is spent with the worst groups on our team. If I had been in charge of the entire operation, I would have fired every single one of these wastes of oxygen and found someone strong to replace them with.
There is a reason every single station I worked for had a whole case of trophies and awards when I left, whether I was fired or left on my own. Those in power can point to whatever reason they want – but the one consistent in all of it, was me.
I came. I saw. I fucked shit up and won a ton of awards. I increased ratings – and a lot of the time I was fired – within a couple years. I am not for everyone. The people who enjoy or enjoyed working for me or with me – saw my passion for what it is – an unquenchable thirst for success, a passion for what I choose to do and a desire to “just win baby” – no matter what.
The first time you get “canned” can be really scary. You immediately start to panic. “How am I going to pay my rent, food, my car payment?” You really start to freak out, especially when you have other people who depend on you. Take a breath. The sun is going to rise tomorrow, you are not going to be homeless. In fact, you are going to be better than you ever have been before. You have been unchained from a prison run by someone who didn’t appreciate you. Those other jobs you used to look at online at your desk – those dreams of doing something else? You just got handed a reason to chase them down – because the Universe knew you’d never do it on your own. This is a good thing.
Sure, you may have to take some odd jobs in the meantime. Maybe you will have to get busy slanging the best cup of coffee anyone has ever had. I freelanced and did some really cool shit with some awesome people. I helped produce a reality TV show, I helped make a series of commercials for a resort in Myrtle Beach, SC. I also busted my ass waiting tables while I figured out my next move. Life has a way of self-correcting for those who hustle and dream. Getting fired is something that happens to BAMFs who are passionate about what they do. Working at the same desk for 25 years? That shit is for people who want to live boring lives filled with nothing but repetition.
I always wanted to run my own company – be my own boss, create something that people would enjoy – but I was like so many people that dream about these things – I wouldn’t act. I wouldn’t pull the trigger.
I consider August 18, 2014 to be one of the top 5 most significant dates of my life. That was the day I got called in to work early to "have a conversation" in the front conference room of NBC-Raleigh.
A little over a year later, I run my own business and work for a small marketing firm. I get to write, design, create and do shit on social media for both of them. I have a couple of interns who I get to teach my style of doing things. I feel like I am finally doing something with my life. Stop looking at the day you lost your job as the end of something and start viewing it as what it is – the best day of your life.
Getting fired is wild/STRONG as fuck - as long as you see it for what it is.