For the first time in my life, on July 5, 2011, I was fired from my job.
It happened my first day back from vacation and I was caught off guard. Nearly everyone in my life was confused, disappointed and/or angry, including my coworkers (except the few who were in on the decision). One of my friends even said, “Dave, you’re not the kind of guy who gets fired, so what the *%$# happened?!”
It was a shock to everyone. Most of all, to me. But now, given the benefit of hindsight, it’s probably one of best things ever to happen to me.
It gave me the time to do things I wasn’t able to do before. It gave me the space to grow personally. Over time, the independence and freedom gave me the courage to start things I had dreamed about for years.
So I encourage you to read this list carefully and I hope you can take a few valuable lessons from it.
Things I did
- Started [davidpmariano.com]. This is my home to create and share my ideas. It’s my online workshop to build whatever I want. This is where people can come to learn more about me.
- Started a podcast on leadership. This began as a simple weekly call, but I’ve upped the quality and try to make it better each week.
- Started my first business. Music is a passion of mine and I created a business around it.
- Created Guitar Lessons for Busy People. I was once a busy professional with dreams of getting back into music. I created this for people like me.
- Spent more time with Heather than I could ever ask for. My wife is my best friend and I can’t get enough of her.
- We tightened up our finances. It’s a good idea to do this regularly to cut out the fat and make sure you’re using your funds wisely.
- We gave away a lot of stuff, and we still have too much. Take an inventory of your belongings and honestly evaluate what you can and can’t live without. Americans might all be stage 1 hoarders.
- I started writing. Writing has been a healthy way for me to sort and clarify my thoughts. I encourage everyone to do it. If you don’t like the written word, speak into a camera. It feels weird at first, but is very effective.
- Forgave a lot. I held some grudges I didn’t even know about until I forced myself to think about it. Many of these issues came out in my writing.
- Read 30+ books. I love reading and learning and can’t get enough of it. I wasn’t doing it enough before and am glad I got back into it. Reading is a great way to continue to grow.
- Took a creative writing class with the amazing Neal Chandler. I joined his workshop because I wanted to become a better storyteller. Stories are useful in writing, speaking, and selling.
- Developed many new relationships. When you stretch yourself, you meet new people. This is a good thing.
- Repaired some old relationships. Relationships are everything. Don’t avoid conflict out of comfort.
- Volunteered for a great mentoring program for college students in the Cleveland area. If you want this city to succeed, this is a great way to help out.
- Started a church. This is our community. We are lucky to have them.
- Rediscovered riding my bike. You see the world from a different perspective when you ride a bike.
- Enjoyed the quiet of the Metroparks several hours each morning for months. Peace and quiet is an important part of my mornings and parks are a great place to find it. We are lucky to have the Metroparks in Cleveland.
- Visited my parents in Boston more than normal. I miss my family and love to visit. 4th of July on their sailboat is a treat.
- Enjoyed platefuls of authentic Italian food. This is why we went to Italy in the first place!
- Ate gelato every day for a week. Our treat of choice for our Italy trip. It’s way better than the stuff you get in the U.S. Just avoid the bright colors.
- Had pici pasta for the first time on a Siena side street that had a slope close to 40 degrees. Siena is tiny, but the architecture and people are amazing.
- Saw an amazing sunset at the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence. The was probably our favorite spot because of the spectacular panoramic view and one of the most memorable nights.
- Saw all three Davids (Michelangelo’s version) in Florence. The original is in Uffizi and the two main replicas are outside at Piazzale Michelangelo and Palazzo Vecchio, but they’re all amazing.
- Stared at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in complete silence and awe for 20 minutes. Just go see it.
- Hung with ghosts of gladiators in the Colosseum. It is eerily similar to a football stadium, but better constructed and a tad more violence happened there.
- Joined a crew of 20 for a tasting at Sant’Appiano, one of the oldest farms in the Chianti wine region of Tuscany, and had a case of wine shipped home.
- Walked around a Medieval village and castle in Tuscany called Monteriggioni. Castles are much more intimidating and seem a lot bigger from far away. 100 people still live in this little village!
- Saw Buckingham Palace. Wow.
- Went to the Tower of London where Henry VIII killed many wives (and others). I wish we could’ve gone in but it was really expensive.
- Had fish and chips at a British pub. It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day so it was packed. Yes, people celebrate it in England.
Things I learned
- All jobs are temporary. Duh, right?
- Time is short, make a difference early and often.
- Stand up for what you believe in and be ok with the consequences.
- There is always opportunity on the other side of disaster.
- Most disasters aren’t really disasters at all.
- Money can stretch really far when you need it to.
- If you are reading this you are wealthy. It’s irresponsible to not put some of it to good use.
- Leading people is a temporary privilege, don’t screw it up.
- Real leaders are present (not distant).
- How not to fire someone. This isn’t just because of my experience. Most leaders don’t seem to get it.
- Make connections between people, information and ideas.
- People are all that matter. Give gifts.
- Remaining composed in the presence of bad people is tough, but necessary.
- People, including you, can change.
- Constantly blaming others ultimately leads to unhappiness.
- My burnout is my problem.
- It’s hard to work with people with whom you share different values.
- Making and fulfilling commitments is hard, which is why many people are bad at it.
- I’m unique because I’m a businessman AND a musician, among other things; I don’t have to choose one or the other.
- Sometimes a hobby should stay a hobby. Follow your passion, but don’t ever turn it into work (a burden).
- Starting a business is difficult and lonely, and completely worth it.
- Discipline takes on a new meaning when you work for yourself.
- If you have something to say, say it.
- It has never been easier or cheaper to create and spread your ideas. Everyone should be doing this. Nothing is standing in your way except yourself.
- Everyone has some unique genius inside screaming to get out, but most are afraid to let it. I’ll spend the rest of my life fighting the resistance and trying to pull mine out of me.
- Thinking bigger is better than thinking small. Do everything you can to expand your thinking.
- Creativity is not a natural born talent, it is a developable skill.
- Creativity is not something we lose as we grow older, we either let go of it or believe the lie it’s not important.
- Afternoon naps can boost productivity and creativity.
- People you know will reject your ideas and it will hurt. It doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t good or you shouldn’t pursue them.
- Being weird is good. Go your own way and you’ll be amazed how many people follow.
- Some people don’t like when you do the unexpected.
- People hold on to past versions of you. Don’t waste time trying to convince them you’ve changed, show them.
- Some “friends” come and go as your status changes.
- There are true friends and friends of circumstance; the former are harder to come by.
- Embrace discomfort. This is when we learn and grow most.
- Mistakes (most) won’t hurt or kill you, so make them freely. Poke the box.
- The riskiest thing in life, is not taking enough risks. It is harmful to yourself and cheats other people out of what you can offer.
- Extraordinary outcomes don’t come without putting something on the line.
- Flinching is usually silly and a waste of time.
- People who always need to be right aren’t pushing themselves hard enough.
- Take risks, especially when it’s hard.
- Arriving in a foreign country for the first time after being awake for 30 hours is really stressful.
- Real Italian food does not include things like meatballs or chicken parmigiana.
- The opulence of America is nothing compared to that in Europe.
- The United States is a truly young country.
- Inspiring content is everywhere, especially online.
- The past is as relevant as we allow, the future is uncertain and unwritten. Create into the uncertainty.
- Grow. Everyday.
Of course getting fired isn’t a prerequisite for doing or learning any of the things above.
But today, I can honestly say I am closer to who I’m supposed to be than I was back in July of 2011. It feels great, and getting fired was a huge catalyst for it.
I share this list with you so maybe you can get there quicker than I did, and hopefully with a little less drama.
Question: What lessons have you learned from a seemingly undesirable situation? Please feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to read your thoughts.