What I Did Over My Summer Termination

Fired. Of course they don’t say that. Due to “economic conditions,” we were “terminated.” Whatever, same thing — there’s still no job. Brian Fowler and I have worked together on the radio since 1988, and we’d been through this before. We were fired twice, quit once and have been through numerous ownership changes. This recent downsizing has taught me a lot besides don’t answer the phone when the boss calls you at home because he could be firing you. Truth be told, there have been some wonderful side effects from unemployment. Here’s what I learned from my “occupational realignment.”

Punching the Clock ... Getting the most out of time. Lose your job, get more time. It’s like winning the lottery, without all the money and security. I was able to get the yard work done by the end of May, reorganize my closet by the end of June, put all cereal boxes and canned foods in alphabetical order by the end of July and drive my wife completely nuts by the end of August. I really did try to use the best of my time, and that meant making a daily schedule — even if there was nothing on it. It reminded me that the time was there. Use it or lose it.

Unexpected attacks of compassion ... There I was, picking up my son from a bowling party a week after my firing. A woman approached me and said, “I couldn’t believe they let you go! Both me and my husband are furious!” They were passionate about their radio and their morning show, and I loved it. I didn’t know her, but she knew my situation thanks to the news coverage of our “dismissal.”

The fact that she knew about my situation was a huge benefit. I didn’t have to tell her I was hurting. She already knew. People who feel ashamed to let others know they’ve lost their job miss out on so much warmth, support and insight, not to mention a possible job lead or new opportunity. Announce it. The feedback might surprise you.

Creative sparks ... Being out of work can open up your mind to new ideas. Albert Einstein once said, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Smart guy, that Einstein. Early in his life, when people didn’t think he was all that bright, Albert had a hard time finding work as a teacher and ended up taking a mundane job in a patent office. His mind would often wander, and he would think of all the what-ifs. He credited a lot of that daydreaming with his revolutionary Theory of Relativity.

I’ve forced myself to daydream, to think of things I’ve never thought of before. So far I’ve come up with 11 scenarios that I’d like to have happen to the people who decided to fire me, gas-powered batteries, lemon-flavored limes, self-cleaning dishwashers, self-propelled garbage cans (they put themselves out on trash day) and candles made of ice. (They put themselves out, too!) I’m still working on the design for a clothes closet that covers an entire bedroom floor (my four sons gave me that idea). I even thought about writing this all down and submitting it to Cleveland Magazine. Creativity fuels ambition, and that’s what gets me off the couch.

Here’s hoping ... The most powerful side effect of my recent career interruption has been hope. We’ve all heard the word a lot lately. “I hope you’re doing OK. I hope the economy turns around. I hope you get work again.”

Since I lost my job, there have been highs and lows. But surprisingly, it’s when I’m at my lowest that I receive the most hope. Getting a phone call in the middle of a family barbecue telling me I lost my job was rough. Sitting down at the table to tell my wife and four sons wasn’t easy. But then hope took over. I immediately began reassuring them that everything was going to be OK. They believed me and, just as importantly, I believed myself.

Hope is the seed that grows all things. It’s the spark that ignites the idea, the calm that provides the peace, the energy that keeps us all going. Who knew my ex-employers would give me so much attached to a pink slip?

Listen to daily podcasts, classic bits and more at Brian & Joe’s new Web site, brianandjoeshow.com.
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