A Success Story

River StonesI’ve worked for some fine people over the course of my career.  One of the best was my old manager from my past employer, Chuck Reedy.

I worked for Chuck for two years.  He was a good manager, treating everyone with dignity and respect.  He was dedicated, hard working, and pragmatic.  Unfortunately, Chuck was laid-off in November, 2007 due to a company downsizing.

It was only after Chuck was gone that I fully appreciated the quality of his leadership and character.  In the span of one month, I reported to three different managers due to firings for performance.  Chuck had done an excellent job of insulating our team from the craziness of his leaders, never once complaining or blaming them to us.  He was a class act.

I kept tabs on Chuck’s job search through his son, who continues to work at that company.  But as the weeks turned into months and then stretched beyond a year with no full-time employment, I stopped asking about him. I justified myself by reasoning that it was rude to keep asking about such a painful issue – I’d be rubbing salt in an open wound.

Now that I’m unemployed, I see things very differently.  There’s nothing like walking in someone else’s shoes for a while to give you a new perspective.

Recently, I had to phone Chuck to ask if he’d be willing to be a reference for me.  I was nervous calling him – would he be upset that I had done a poor job of staying in contact, that I hadn’t been more supportive? But the warmth in his voice put my worries to rest.  He’s still a class act.

He said that he searched for full-time work for over a year.  Twice he made it as far as the final interview, only to lose out to another candidate or a hiring freeze.  Now Chuck sees this as a blessing.

“I always wanted to have my own business, but never took the time to pursue it.  God opened that door for me, but I spent a lot of time looking at the door He had closed.”

Now Chuck is running his own contracting / handyman service.  He has several remodeling and building projects in the works.  The same qualities he demonstrated as a manager serve him well in his new business.  The work is hard, but he’s happy and fulfilled, and wakes each morning with a new sense of purpose.

Chuck told a story of a recent church study group meeting where the leader asked everyone to share what they’re thankful for from the past year.  “I’m grateful that God led me to where I belong,” Chuck said.  “I never realized I could be this happy.”

Stories From Unemployment 1

You cannot teach a man anything.  You can only help him find it within himself.  — Galileo Galilei

It’s now two weeks since the layoff.  What a wild ride.  Each minute is an adventure.

Following is a short story from earlier this week.  I’m going to do my best to share more of these stories as they occur, if for no other reason than I to help me remember.  Hopefully you’ll find these stories as meaningful as me.

The Outplacement Seminar

Monday I was scheduled to start a two-day seminar with an outplacement consulting group as the final part of my severance package.  I had signed up for the first class available, hopeful it would help me shift my job search into high gear.  However, I was a little disappointed to learn the seminar was being moved from the consulting firm’s Columbus office to a site owned by my former employer.

Great! I thought.  Saving money again.  They probably won’t even have coffee available.

I woke up crabby on Monday morning, and even my journaling did nothing to improve my mood.  When the rest of the family woke up later that morning, my sour mood erupted into a full-blown meltdown – my first since the layoff.  I barked at the boys, then I barked at my wife.  I even barked at the dogs who barked back at me.

I retreated back to my office in the cellar.  What in the world just happened?

Slowly, over the course of the rest of the day, I began to understand: I was worried that the seminar would be a total waste of time, which is in short supply right now.  How good could it be if my old company was supplying it?

I’m angry at my old company.

Deep down in a secret compartment of my mind I’ve been stuffing all the resentment, anger, and fear collected over the past several years of my career.  I thought I was past it all when I was let go, but I was wrong.

And my family suffered for my mistake.

Now that I’m aware, I’m doing my best to bring those suppressed feelings into the light to release them.  It’s a bit like peeling an onion, each layer reveals a new, deeper level of grievance.  But it’s worthwhile work, perhaps the best that I’ve ever done.

Is this why I had to leave under these difficult circumstances – to make me stop and pay attention to all the baggage weighing me down? I wondered as I signed in for the seminar.

As it turns out, the seminar was extremely helpful and the instructor excellent.  He challenged us with his quiet confidence to pursue our careers with passion, to answer our callings.  Times may be tough, and we’ll all have to work hard at our search each day, but opportunities are still plentiful.

Our instructor, a retired Air Force Colonel of 30 years, was truly inspiring and supportive.  He commanded our attention for two straight days, faltering just once, when he noticed there weren’t any amenities in the meeting room.  “We usually offer coffee and snacks at our site,” he said.  “They don’t even have water in this room.”

It sucks to always be right, I thought.

Ah well, one more layer to peel.

I’m Responsible For The Economic Crisis On Wall Street

The news out of Wall Street and Washington over the past week has been grim.  We’re on the verge of an economic meltdown.  Congress needs to pass a record $700 billion bailout package or we could see the US economy grind to a halt.

When the House of Representatives failed to pass their version of the bailout bill on Monday, the Dow Jone’s Industrial Average plunged 777 points, the most in history.  Some economists and politicians are even tossing around the word “depression” to describe the dire potential of our current situation.

How did we get here?  I’m not an economist, so I’ll spare you my half-baked explanations.  The Cliffnotes summary: mortgage-related investments from the sub-prime lending crisis that caused the collapse of several large financial institutions are now causing a credit crunch that threatens the entire US economy.

The talking heads on the TV have been holding a finger-pointing festival.  The Democrats are blaming the Republicans for excessive deregulation.  The Republicans are pointing right back at the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.   Others are blaming greed on Wall Street, or corruption at the local banking levels during the real estate bubble before the sub-prime bust.

I’m To Blame

The truth is, I’m to blame for the current economic crisis.

No, I’m not a Wall Street investor, nor am I wealthy by any US financial definition.  In fact, I don’t care one bit if they raise the FDIC limit up from $100,000; I only need about 1% of the current limit to cover my savings.

That’s precisely why I’m to blame for the US economic woes: my lifestyle has caused this crisis.  I’m living beyond my means.  I’m not saving enough.  I have more house than I can afford.  I have too many cars in the driveway.

I complain about the price of gas, but I keep right on driving.  I worry about manufacturing jobs going overseas, but I demand the lowest prices at Walmart.  I have cell phones, computers, and multiple televisions with satellite feeds, and I call them all necessities.

I live pay check to pay check.  I make large purchases at 12 months-same-as-cash sales.  I’m too busy chasing the “American Dream” and keeping-up-with-the-Jones to worry about the consequences of my daily financial decisions.

Once or twice a month, I do the bills and balance the checkbook.  I feel anger, frustration, and fear.  I vow to do better, but I make no plans, I take no action.  And the next time that I feel too tired to cook dinner, I’ll take the family to the restaurant.

It’s Time To Make A Choice

We live in a land of plenty.  There is more than enough for all of us.

But I have been greedy.

The ends don’t justify the means.  My comfortable life has come at a great cost.  What I have somehow became more important than how I live.

I’ve done harm not only to our economy, but to my family, my fellow man, our nation, our environment, and our world.

We have an important national election coming up shortly.  You’re welcome to your opinion on who’s best suited to lead us through the issues we now face in our country, Obama or McCain.

But keep this in mind: you have the opportunity to vote for the President just once every four years.  You have the opportunity to vote daily on our collective future with your spending decisions.

As for me, I’ll be focusing on the more important campaign.

Feel free to hold me accountable.  I need all the help I can get.  I’ll be writing more in the future on the choices I’m making.  I’d appreciate any coaching or suggestions you care to offer.

Oh, and sorry about the mess I made.