Lessons from losing my job

Advice in trying times, 68 pieces of advice, the importance of social distancing, and confusion

(Memories of France last summer… )

Hi friend,

Times are tough, and it's going to get much harder as economic conditions worsen in the coming months. Folks are losing jobs and reducing discretionary spending, leading to business impact and more jobs lost. Quite the not-so-positive feedback loop. Industries that rely on foot traffic have been devastated overnight, and many of my friends in the service industry and performing arts have been jobless for weeks. As of last week, 26 million Americans have become unemployed in the past five weeks.

Job security and I have had a rocky relationship. I've been let go from multiple jobs throughout my lifetime, all of which were due to circumstances outside of my control. While each one was difficult mentally and financially, these moments forced me to reevaluate my life and make changes that ultimately led me to where I am today.

Especially during these tumultuous times, here are a few insights I've learned along the way to cope and bounce back from job loss:

1. Getting fired or let go is not the end of the world.

The first job I was let go from was also my very first full-time opportunity. At the time, I was fresh out of college, working as a web developer in San Diego. After a year of freelancing around various companies, I landed at an advertising agency where I came to love the folks I worked with. Freelance turned to a full-time position but ended up getting chopped in a round of layoffs due to the agency's poor business and financial decisions.

At the time, I was distraught. I had poured night and weekends into my work, and getting let go was the last thing I was expecting. A part of me was equally disappointed and embarrassed that this had happened to my first salaried position. My identity was deeply rooted in this company. Being let go felt as if I was getting kicked out of my own house.

Except, it couldn't be further from the truth.

One of my colleagues had shared with me something that shifted my perspective: "we can still be friends without this company, you know." This feeling of abandonment was fueled by an illusion that I would lose everything, including the deep friendships I had formed during my time at the agency.

In reality, everything you create will be with you forever - in the relationships you keep, memories you share, and the knowledge you retain. In departing from a company, you do not become lesser or lose yourself. It's impossible to lose what you could not give away, to begin with.

2. Frugality and budgeting will help you survive.

Consumer spending runs a capitalist system. From the shows you watch on Netflix to the social media posts on Instagram, most advertisements are trying to get you to buy non-essential products. In tightening up finances, it will further extend the runway to survive and reach the next opportunity.

After my father passed away as a kid, my mom raised my sister and me as a single mother working as a hairdresser all her life. She always made sure that we had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. I never saw her spend any money on herself, and she was extremely frugal, making every single dollar count. When I threw away anything that could have been still useful, including office supplies and clothes, she would often reuse them herself without complaints. Looking back, I am floored by how she did all of that without ever complaining to my sister or me.

Since I started working, my mother inspired me to be smart with my money. I became interested in personal finance early on with help from Reddit (r/personalfinance). Budgeting and being frugal was key in bridging unemployment and covering living expenses for the coming months. 

In buttoning up your finances, ask yourself:

  • How am I tracking my spending? (I love Mint and YNAB)

  • What are some reoccurring charges I can stop or consolidate? (Do you use the services you pay for?)

  • What are the fees I can reverse or avoid? (Always call your banks for forgiveness on the charges) 

  • Is this spending a need or want? (Be truthful!)

  • How does this spending take away from my future goals? (It's a balance)

In being honest and vigilant with our finances, you can create a system to weather even the toughest of times. And perhaps, this system will fast-track abundance into your future.

3. Losing a job is an opportunity to believe in yourself.

In every opportunity that I've lost, I gained a newfound sense of belief in myself. Through the struggles, I've somehow made it through each time. After a few job transitions, I decided to do something big. I dropped everything, packed two bags for New York City, and slept on couches for months until I was able to find a job in the city. I applied for jobs every single day and interviewed relentlessly. It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding things I had done deliberately. In hindsight, I would not have done it without having been fired and let go of my past jobs.

In the loss, a door opens for something new. In being released, you are free to do anything that you have ever imagined before. You are more talented and powerful than you realize. Life is too short of having lived without having faith and taking risks for yourself.

68 pieces of advice

Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of WIRED, shares 68 pieces of life advice for his 68th birthday this past week.

Some of my favorites:

  • Learn how to learn from those you disagree with, or even offend you. See if you can find the truth in what they believe.

  • Always demand a deadline. A deadline weeds out the extraneous and the ordinary. It prevents you from trying to make it perfect, so you have to make it different. Different is better.

  • You are what you do. Not what you say, not what you believe, not how you vote, but what you spend your time on.

  • Eliminating clutter makes room for your true treasures.

  • The universe is conspiring behind your back to make you a success. This will be much easier to do if you embrace this pronoia.

We are not social distancing anymore

Parks were packed this weekend and mobile phone data shows Americans are leaving their homes.

About 50% of those mobile phones that SafeGraph had data on stayed home on April 12, which was Easter — the highest point in the data. That number hasn't since come anywhere close, showing a steady decline with the most recent numbers showing that less than 40% stayed home on April 27.

The trend, SafeGraph says, is consistent across the entire country, though the degree to which movement is increasing is different. Some counties showed extreme drop-offs in social distancing, while some showed more mild curves.

"It might be due to people getting tired of staying at home or it could be due to people reacting to the news that states are being reopened," Ghader says. "We can't really say why this trend is happening ... but we can certainly see the trend in decrease of social distancing metrics."

Unfortunately, this virus doesn't have empathy for how long we've been quarantined, our lack of vitamin D, or our want for physical contact. While I understand there are folks struggling to stay indoors, we need remind ourselves that folks are still being admitted to the hospitals every day at a steady rate due to COVID-19 exposure. As long as there is an asymptomatic carrier, this virus will continue to thrive.

And don’t take my word for it…

One of my favorite accounts to follow on COVID-19 has been Andrew M. Slavitt, former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In his latest post about relaxing social distancing as a mistake:

We are continually going to be looking at lagging data. Today we are seeing the results of early to mid-April. But if you are hearing our curve has flattened, it's likely not true. Don't get me wrong — if you look across the country from April 25 to May 1, new cases have dropped from 34,875 to 32,379. The sounds flat to down right? But that's misleading. If you're in New York, the numbers are way down. If you don't live in NY, it's a different story. To see what's going on, pretend like NY is its own country and look at the rest of the country.

Maybe nobody knows what's going on

Author Mark Manson, who I have a love-hate relationship with, recently published a delightful piece on COVID-19 as part of his weekly newsletter: Nobody Knows What is Going On.

As always, thanks for reading!

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Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),

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