If you were just fired, you're probably in a bit of a panic. You need a new job, but to do that you need to regain your composure and get out of your unemployed blues. Writer and investor James Altucher has been there, and offers this helpful advice for anyone suffering the stress and self-esteem hit that follows losing your job.
Photo by Nick Johnson
I was brought into the office of the head of the company and he said, "your contract is up and we won't be needing you anymore." I asked. "Can I stay a few days more to just finish what I was working on?" And he said, "No. You need to leave today". He had thick blonde hair, blue eyes, a square jaw, was about fifty and looked a little bit like Robert Redford. He smiled at me then. That's the last thing I remembered. His smile almost blinded me. I hate him. I was barely put together. I felt like the worst loser. I couldn't understand. I thought I had been doing good work. But suddenly, I was damaged goods.
Another time I was…And another time I did…And another and another and another. I've been fired so many times I can't list them all. I can't possibly make you cry over my sorrows because we all have them.
I would pace at three in the morning. "I'm going to lose this house. My kids are going to switch schools. I have three months to live. I'm going to lose this house. I'm going to this and that and this/that." The chatter doesn't stop, and it's nightmarish at three in the morning. And at four, and at five, and it doesn't stop when the kids wake up and they don't know anything is different but I cry then because everything is different. Because the house is a prison. Because my head is a mental asylum.
No advice helps. You can't meditate. You can't exercise. You can't eat healthy. You can't shave. Or bathe. You can't even take deep breaths. They feel like bullshit breaths. Shit breathes in and shit breathes out. You can't pray or read spiritual texts. None of that stuff helps, you think. None of that immediately deposits money in the bank. None of that brings back your self-esteem which was so randomly stolen from you by faceless bureaucats living on the outskirts of cubicles.
So here's advice that helps. I hope you follow it because I know it worked for me:
Do just one thing today.
And then do one thing tomorrow. And the next. That's all. Just one thing a day. If you do your thing, then feel good. You did it. Tomorrow you do the next thing. That's all you need to do.
Some preliminaries: First, you need to sleep. Make sure you sleep 8 hours a day, every day. And you can't drink. Delete your news-intake. You don't need news now. Things are bad. But they aren't as bad as they seem. The media lies every day about how bad things are. Trust me.
And then do one solid thing each day.
Here are some possible "one things":
- Schedule a lunch with someone you haven't seen in three years. Could be anyone. But it has to be someone you haven't seen in at least three years. This injects new blood into the system. You need a total transfusion to get rid of the infected old blood.
- Ideas. Find your "customers". Treat yourself like a one-man business. Make a list of customers (i.e. places or people you might want to work with) Then come up with a list of 10 ideas for each customer/place you might want to work. Ideas that can make them money. This way you keep your idea muscle intact. Don't let your idea muscle atrophy! Pitch your ideas to that customer if you can. If you can't , move onto the next customer. But wait until tomorrow. You did your thing for today. Be proud. THIS TECHNIQUE WORKS. It's worked for me.
- Gratitude. Make a list of the people you've worked with over the past ten years that you are grateful you worked with. Email them and tell them why you were grateful you worked with them. Ask them sincerely how they are doing. This is one of the most important things on this list.
- Wake up early, exercise, take a shower, wear a suit, go into the city, and walk around. Smell that freshness on you. It makes you feel as if you are ready for anything. And you are. That's all you need to do that day. Heck, go to a museum. You won't have this opportunity for freedom forever.
- Slash. Make a list of all expenses you can slash. Make your runway as long as possible. There are plenty of sites to advise how to do this. Picture your worst-worst case scenario. It's never as bad as you think. Write it down. Write down the plan for the worst-case scenario. Then take a nap. You just had a hard day. You need to rest.
Lunch, part II. Have lunch with one person in your industry. Have your ideas ready for that person. Have him critique your ideas. Learn.
- Reconnect. Contact other people who used to work at your old company. Maybe they even worked there ten years ago. Reconnect. Come up with ideas for them.
- Write. Write a book in the next three days. You can write a 30 page book about dieting ("100 ways to Lose 100 pounds") and put it on sale on Amazon in one day. Why not? The traditional book industry is over. Write the book "100 things to do the day after you are fired". Make it funny. Time to dominate the publishing industry while you are unemployed. Today make a list of all the possible 30 page books you can do. Then tomorrow start one of the books. I have one friend who just self-published a book. He was dead broke before that after being fired from his job. He made $US100k in 90 days. No joke. This was about a month ago.
- Resentment. You are going to feel resentful about people at your old job. They wronged you. But listen closely: they are just trying to survive also. They aren't different from you and me, no matter how much you feel they wronged you. You need to make a list of all the good qualities that person has and send them an email why you think they are good at what they do. Thank them.
- Brainstorm. Go completely in a different direction. What other industry can you work in? What other location can you live in? Make up the wildest fantasies about what you can do. Keep going until there is one possible direction you can execute on today. Brainstorm what blog you can do (and what products you can sell on the blog). Brainstorm about photography (anyone need a photographer this weekend?) Brainstorm about ecommerce (check out penny auction sites where you can buy stuff for pennies and resell on Ebay). I don't know. I'm making stuff up. But brainstorm for an hour and some little slice of reality might peak through.
Remember: just one thing a day at first. Some of these things above seem crazy. But I'm not recommending anything that I haven't done and made money doing. All of them.
If you are feeling better, go for the full Daily Practice. But don't stress it. The Daily Practice has always worked for me when I've hit my low points on repeated occasions. But first do "one thing a day". No pressures.
Corporate stability has always been a myth. But entrepreneurship and risk is also a myth. We were never without risk. Risk is life. But now you are forced to embrace it. The good thing is, sometimes embracing leads to love.
James Altucher has written five books on investing, started and sold a few companies and runs a small VC fund. Lost all his money, made some back. Repeated that adventure a few times. Now tries to live a simple life. Writes at jamesaltucher.com and you can find him on twitter at @jaltucher.