Stage 1: Why?
I checked my inbox yesterday to find an email titled ‘Contract Termination’. I did a double-take. I read it, thought about it, a little bemused, read it again.
It surprised me because I thought this had been a one-way relationship of dissatisfaction so far. I thought I had managed to mask my disinterest & dislike well enough to keep doing a good enough job.
But then some decisions like this are not always ‘fair’. The problem is not the work, but my failure to submit to our autocracy. The small things, going against the culture that has been forced upon us, obviously became a problem.
The fact that it was a 9-5 for me, rather than a passion, meant I was out the door by 5.30pm. I wanted to spend as little time as possible in that toxic environment, true. But also, pressure to work long hours completely went against my belief in- & the science behind- peak productivity practices.
The fact that I didn’t participate in our monthly team events must also have been a problem. I knew this would be the case, but I refuse to acquiesce to something that does not strike at the root of the problem. We had a culture lacking empathy & genuine teamwork. A monthly fun evening out is a lazy attempt to just paste over the cracks.
The fact that I didn’t engage with our CEO. Rather than trying to get ahead, putting on a smile & charm & pretending everything was great, I refused. I wouldn’t say I looked hostile, but indifferent & disapproving would be pretty accurate descriptions.
The fact that I didn’t get behind “the vision” was clear. Despite not a single attempt to sell the vision – let alone present the vision – we were expected to throw on our company t-shirts & talk excitedly about the road ahead. Pretty hard to keep your motivation up when you can only see two inches in front of your face.
So I reasoned that it was probably fair to get rid of me. Whether I agree with the reasons or not is largely irrelevant.
Stage 2: Panic
“What am I gonna do about money? What do I tell my family? How do I even register as unemployed?! I don’t even speak German!”
Luckily this only lasted 5 minutes.
I had been building up to resignation for 2 months, so already had a detailed, day-by-day plan of what to do once I was finally out of work.
But irrationality, fear & panic are inevitable in these kind of situations. Once I had got the initial wave out of my system, I decided to do some fear-setting, a practice coined by Tim Ferriss for approaching problems rationally & quantifying your fears.
“What about my CV? I only worked there for 4 months!”
Firstly, I am going into freelancing next, where all work is short-term. Therefore a perception that I seem to leave companies soon after joining is irrelevant. Secondly, I’m starting my own company in future. I don’t need a CV for that. I need a good story.
“What about my income?”
I have savings to cover my expenses for 6 months, my living costs are low in Berlin & I will be freelancing to generate income, which can be more lucrative than a contract role.
“How can I tell my friends & family I’ve been fired?”
My ego was its predictably irrational self in this case. I don’t think they would particularly care that much, first of all. I also think that training yourself to not give a shit about what others think is an essential skill to entrepreneurship & a happier life, as it tends to mean you do more of what you want to do, rather than what you think others want you to do.
“Maybe I’m just not that good at my work?”
The fact I found work relatively easily over the last year & a half, the fact my work was praised, even in this job, for the first few months, disproves this. I just lost interest & therefore motivation, so inevitably the quality of my work deteriorated.
“How do I navigate German bureaucracy?”
This one is a valid fear & one I will have to confront with all my strength (& limited German conversation skills).
Stage 3: A Wealth of Opportunity
This is my favourite stage. After realising my fears were largely irrational & unfounded, I decided to write down the opportunities that my firing now presented.
1) I will finally have the energy, time & focus to build up the long-term business, which has started with this blog. I’ll be able to develop the blog, a podcast, create in-depth content – maybe even a book – & eventually move towards providing online courses on entrepreneurship.
2) I will finally have the time to improve my German through an intensive language programme here in Berlin.
3) I finally have control over my time. I can experiment with productivity practices, try out new hobbies, read more & generally feel more free & happy with my life.
4) I can explore different business models over the next year & see which works. UX Design consultancy? Setting up a product development agency? Going into consultancy? Starting to specialise in organisational psychology?
5) I can escape the bleak German winter for a few months a year & work remotely again.
Stage 4: Selecting a plan & executing
Two days later, now that the irrational fears have faded & the giddy excitement of opportunity is slowly dissipating, it is time to put my plan into action.
On Monday, I’ll be signing myself up for an intensive German learning course until Christmas. As soon as that is sorted, I’ll execute my freelancing plan.
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