November 16, 2017 is a day I’ll never forget. It was a normal Thursday up until 4:13 p.m., when I got called into what I thought was a basic, run-of-the-mill meeting. I walked into the conference room, sat at the table with my immediate supervisor, department supervisor, and HR manager, and immediately heard “well Anthony, we’re going to have to let you go”. I don’t think I’ve ever been as blindsided by something as I was by those ten words. I mean, the team I was leading was ranked number one in 3 out of 4 major metrics we were judged on, we were positively impacting lives, and there was no heads up or even progressive “discipline” that led me to believe I’d be losing my job—things were literally, fine. However, despite being completely caught off guard by this decision, my response was surreal: I listened to what the reasoning was for the decision, thanked them for the opportunity, walked out of the meeting, packed up my stuff, texted my family, and headed home. I mean, I had a crazy sense of calm.
Understand, the reason I say my calm was “crazy” is because my family had just moved into a new house one year earlier and we now had a four-month-old baby. While I knew I should’ve been scared out of my mind about what would happen next, at the time of that conversation, I wasn’t. It’s not because I had this unshakable faith of biblical proportions in The Lord or that my connections (my uncle had been announced as the new mayor of Birmingham’s Chief of Staff just TWO days earlier) would swoop in and save me; no, it was actually because I arrogantly assumed my credentials (MBA, nearly ten years of exec-level experience, service on various boards, etc.) would get me a new job in 2-3 weeks easily. Two weeks turned into four, four weeks turned into six, six weeks turned into eight. Of twenty legitimate applications I submitted, I got 13 “unfortunately we…” responses, 6 non-responses, and ONE interview that resulted in nothing.
For months, I prayed, cried, and was angry and depressed. My wife would come home to a husband who was downtrodden, confused, and honestly, pretty broken. I felt like a complete failure. After making it through the holiday season on credit cards and bill extensions, I took a leap of faith and reached out to someone I’d met years earlier in a different capacity. I asked her if she knew of any open opportunities I could lend my skills and abilities to. Not only did she respond swiftly, but she actually told me that she’d been planning to reach out to me to assist her with some projects she was working on! And get this: The work she was talking about was the work I had been praying for the opportunity to do!
Something I realized in my period of confusion and depression is that so many of us get so wrapped up in WHAT WE DO that we forget WHO WE ARE. We get so caught up in titles and status, that instead of being known by who we are as people, we fall into the trap of being known by our profession. The reason that’s problematic is because if you define yourself by what you do, once what you do changes, then so does who you are. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life weaving in and out of identities based on whether or not someone thinks my efforts are good enough.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say I saw my life playing out like this. I don’t know many people who would sign up for involuntarily losing a job—and the stigma that comes with that, living off credit cards for months, and hoping the bill collectors are willing to extend some grace. But I really believe God knew that despite me being so unhappy in that work environment, I wouldn’t voluntarily leave because I needed the money (remember, new house and new baby). And while I’m not making as much money (yet) as I used to, I’m the happiest I’ve been in my professional life; I’m doing something (speaking, consulting, writing, and coaching) that I’ve long dreamed of doing, I’m home more, I have time to go to school events for my sons, I can enjoy my wife’s off days with her, and I’ve got time to randomly binge watch some great shows every now and then (lol).
Don’t get me wrong, while life as an entrepreneur is a series of peaks and valleys, the highs have definitely outweighed the lows. I’m living out an interesting juxtaposition and it’s that I had to [seemingly] FAIL in order to FLY. But even more importantly, I’ve gained a new perspective that will hopefully help those of you out there who are either “between jobs” or stuck somewhere that’s really hurting you more than it’s helping you and that is: Sometimes you might have to LOSE a job to FIND yourself.