Getting fired could have been the end of my career…
I could have tried to get another job and toe the line from then on. I could have just given up. But that’s not me.
My early experiences of working for someone else had already proved to me that I wasn’t built for that kind of life. I wasn’t built to wear a uniform or sit at a desk all day. I wasn’t built to follow rules that make no sense. And I wasn’t built to get paid by the hour instead of getting paid for performance.
I wasn’t built to be an employee. It just took me a while to figure that out. (Is that you too? Let’s be friends!)
I always wanted to be my own boss, work from anywhere, and get paid for what I did — not how long it took me to do it.
Even after discovering the freedom of working as a freelance proofreader and German tutor, it still hadn’t dawned on me that I could make it my full-time, permanent career path. Funnily enough, I didn’t even know the work I was doing was considered “freelancing.” I was just looking for gigs to pay me so I could avoid getting another stupid job with another stupid boss. I was still stuck in the mindset that I needed to finish college and find a “real job.”
Forcing Myself to Get a “Real Job”
After I finished college, I kept proofreading and tutoring but also took a $12-per-hour receptionist position working at a busy and prestigious court reporting agency.
There were warning signs right from the start. My workload was intense and never-ending. Some days, I couldn’t get all my work done no matter how hard I tried.
It was the first time I had ever not totally crushed productivity expectations at a job, so I was frustrated. I worked as quickly and efficiently as I could, but their business was growing fast and I just couldn’t keep up! The constant pressure to do more and more caused me to spend all day every day paranoid I’d get fired at any moment.
I decided to suck it up and “play the game” as long and as well as I could, but it kept getting worse.
I totally should’ve gotten outta Dodge, but I was twenty-two years old, fresh out of college, and green to the business world. I’d no idea what it was like to work in a positive environment.
No matter how unreasonable the bosses were, they couldn’t deny I was getting a ton done. I kept getting raises and promotions there. By January 2011, I was at $16 per hour and had business cards with the fancy title of “Director of Marketing and Business Development” on them.
The Bait and Switch
It turned out my fancy title was simply a way to make me do more work. And I still needed to do everything their way — even if it made no sense. I wasn’t allowed to do any real marketing. All they wanted me to do was make cold calls all day. Even worse, if I finished my list of leads early, I had to get leads from slower workers and make their calls.
Productivity wasn’t rewarded. The volume of work you actually completed didn’t matter. If you didn’t finish your work, then more efficient people (like me) would finish it for you — so there was zero incentive for most employees to do anything more than the bare minimum.
I hated I had to spend the best nine hours of every weekday sitting on a bar stool chained to my work area.
It was only a matter of time before it all blew up… not much time, either.
I stopped even trying to play the game and started rebelling. The best I could hope for was a small raise once a year, so I decided I was done doing other people’s work.
I’d get my work done in the first three or four hours of the day, and then I quietly did whatever I wanted until 5:00 p.m. when I was allowed to go home.
I still got more done than anyone else in the first half of my day. I always made sure I got all my work done, but I simply wasn’t going to keep working harder and harder just to get nothing but other people’s work in return.
They never asked how long my work took me. I always earned a quarterly bonus and scored high on my performance reviews. Everything was going fine until somebody decided to check how I was spending my time.
When “It” Finally Hit the Fan
The company bought software that constantly recorded everyone’s computer activities. I knew it would take a while for them to suspect anything because of my high productivity. But another part of me actually hoped they’d figure it out. That way, I’d either be able to prove my point about productivity… or they’d fire me. I was fine either way.
It took them more than five months to check up on me. Once they did, all hell broke loose. Upper management confronted me, said I had been “stealing time” from the company, and fired me. Within two days, I went from being everybody’s favorite to fired — like ugly fired. The owner of the company called me a thief and told me I was a “worthless pig” who would die alone. One of the other managers said I shouldn’t have children because I had no morals. And those are just the highlights — or lowlights, depending on your perspective!
That was the short version. You can read all the gory details in my new book Work at Home.
I didn’t know it yet, but my success following this epic “failure” would become the sweetest form of revenge imaginable.
Here’s the Thing…
My ex-boss was absolutely right in firing me; I’d have fired me too. I broke the rules. I didn’t like the rules, but they were the rules, and I broke them.
As I sat there listening to my boss call me a sack of trash, I knew I would never let anything like that happen again. I would never depend on someone else giving me a “job” for the source of all my income. Any success I had in the future would be completely up to me.
I’m not proud of the way I handled things and spent several years after that hating myself for it. I was pretty bored and very unhappy at the court reporting agency, but I didn’t handle it well. I should’ve just quit, but I didn’t. Passive-aggressively, I tried to make my workload match my paycheck and broke the company’s rules in doing so. While I disagreed with the rule, it was still a rule.
I felt guilty about it for a long time — I even had nightmares for years about the situation. Now that I’ve stopped kicking myself about my mistakes, I embrace them. I learn from them. Everyone makes mistakes.
Our mistakes don’t define us
I openly share my mistakes here not because I’m proud of them, but because I want to help you get past your mistakes. There is life beyond that stupid thing you did five, ten, twenty, or thirty+ years ago. It’s safe to move forward. Now. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do it either.
My mistakes are now a central part of my message as a blogger and influencer. I hit rock bottom in my sad excuse for a career on August 8, 2011, and that’s exactly what needed to happen to get me on a path to creating my own success.
Now I consider getting fired as the best thing that has ever happened to me. Why? Because it got me started on the journey that got me where I am today — a multimillionaire by the age of thirty!
I didn’t know it yet, but I already had the only two things I needed to make it happen: marketable skills and a willingness to take action.
Fear is a Tool
I struggled with self-doubt a lot in the years after getting fired. Even after the success of my first course, Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice, that self-doubt came back. I’ve learned to expect it and welcome it. I now know that fear never goes away; it just changes its outfit… and we get better at taking action no matter how scary the outfit gets.
Look at fear as a tool to gauge your potential for growth. If the thing you want to do isn’t scary at all, then you’re not going to grow from it. If it’s easy, then you won’t learn anything new. Good things happen when you act in spite of fear. Facing fear always makes us stronger.
If you’ve been fired too, then I want you to know that you can move past it. It’s not too late. You didn’t ruin your life. Hire yourself — and fire the ridiculous notion that you need someone else to give you the privilege of creating income. You don’t. It’s all you, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Want to know what happened next? My new book Work at Home covers my journey from overcoming soul-sucking jobs to becoming a leader in the work-at-home world. I’m determined to help others enjoy the same kind of freedom I’ve gained, so I’m sharing practical steps and suggestions for how to ditch the 9-to-5 and build your own business around your passion.