Archive for May, 2009


May 21, 2009

I found a bug in the term “laid-off.”  It’s not binary or Boolean like I thought.

I was notified on May 8 that my job at LexisNexis is being cut.   I just started there last August, so it’s a bummer.  But the good news is, it’s not effective until October.

No doubt that I am a statistic, I’m just not sure what slice of the employed / laid-off pie chart I am in now.  Maybe there’s a “laid-off-but-still-employed” piece?

I’m also in a rare category because I saw it coming the day I was hired and I decided to chance it anyway.  HR did a great job of preparing us all for the news — we knew it would be a possibility, but none of us were sure what the real impact would be.  A lot of people were thinking: “Which is worse? Knowing that an asteroid is coming but you’re not sure when, or living in blissful ignorance until you learn an asteroid has suddenly hit?”

My take on it was to stay cool.  After all, maybe when the asteroid impacted, it would be the size of a grain of sand.

But the asteroid hit and it was noticeable.  Maybe the size of a two-pound rock? 

Covered in the ejecta blanket, my crew and I set our sights on how to take on our new role — training our Indian replacements for the next few weeks.  My staff has been well-behaved and professional so far, but it’s starting to sink in that we will not be around when this is over.

Range of emotions is now yielding to acceptance.  After all, every job I’ve ever had I’ve got by coincidence or happy accident — something I can’t predict or control.  All I can do is maximize the chance for it to happen — submit the resumes, fire up LinkedIn, send some emails, find out what I really want to do next, talk to people I trust who support and know me, update my blog…  🙂 

The economy is the economy.  I can’t control that either.  I CAN control my fear about it by examining what it is I’m afraid of, and the more I think about it, every time I’ve been afraid it was out of fear of being powerless, helpess, afraid.  And I finally get it — we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  Easy to say, harder to practice.  It helps when you have no choice.  Practice it, else be afraid.  I also now understand the maxim: Feel the fear and do it anyway.

In 1996, I quit my first job at Microsoft because I fell in love online to a girl in Virginia.  They told me at work that would be a bad move.  *No one* quits Microsot for such a reason.  “People leave girlfriends to *come* to Microsoft,” they said.  “Go home and watch Oprah and get over it,” they said.  “It won’t work out,” they said.  “Internet relationships don’t work in person.”  They told me I would never work at Microsoft again.

I felt torn apart.  My mind here, my heart there.  My brother James said I would crack if I didn’t follow my heart, and I believed him.  So I left for Richmond.  I quit and left.

But before I did, I started writing myself reminders — notes to myself to help me cope when the fear overcame me.

* Breathe

* Don’t swing at the pitch until it’s right in front of you

* What’s the worst that can happen?

* What would James / Rob / Dad / someone-I-respect do in this situation?

* Maybe you are on an adventure that will be a useful experience later on

* Check your expectations — maybe they are too high or you are too tough on yourself

* Someone will want what you have to offer

All of these worked for awhile, but it got lost in the shuffle when my girlfriend had an affair two months after I got there. 

So they were right.  It didn’t work out.  The “Survival Guide” was meaningless.

A year later, I came back to Seattle from Virginia, assuming that I would not be able to get a job at Microsoft, or anywhere because of the impulsiveness I showed in quitting. 

Wrong.  Microsoft (through Volt) hired me back.  My old *group* even wanted me back. I couldn’t understand that after all they said to me.

So here I am in 2009 — 13 years later, full of the same fear about what the future holds for me.  Why the amnesia at all the Universe has done for me in the past?  Why the lack of faith that it will give me something cool to do next?  Because maybe it was a fluke…

No, no, no… time to read that old guide and to add to it — to remember all of the cool things — coincidences — that have happened to me since then that have  given me opportunities to get better and better.

If you’ve been laid off, that’s my only piece of advice — that is, until I get a more recent unbelievable coincidence to make the Power of Coincidence more believeable.

Note: In the year 1999, I met another woman online — while at my desk after hours at Microsoft.  I followed my heart, we met that night in Seattle, we married a year later, and have been married ever since .  (They were wrong, Internet relationships do work in person.)