Getting Fired – Why Failure is an Illusion

This article explains why losing my job was the best thing that happened to me, and how you can make your biggest life crisis your best opportunity. 


Back in 2016, I lived in Vienna, I had a 9 to 5 job as a Marketing Assistant, went to dance class every Wednesday and met friends on the weekends. I was quite happy with my job, I mean I had a stable income and worked with a cool young team, with great opportunities to climb up the career ladder. Sure, I didn’t really enjoy working in front of the computer all day, but, then, nowadays, technology rules, right? So, I spend my days mostly working, sleeping, dancing, eating and watching Netflix. That was my reality.

How I Got Punched in the Face

One day, I went to the office and my boss took me aside. “Can we talk?” Oh no. I already had this bad feeling in my gut for the past days, which I had been ignoring successfully until then. I even wrote down in my diary, “This is not what I want. I feel like the clock is ticking and I should wake up soon.” When I heard the words, “We will go separate ways,” it felt like a hard punch in my face. I completely lost it, I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I cried and pitied myself. I listened to my boss telling me the reasons for getting rid of me. If something unexpected and seemingly horrible happens to us, we tend to look for reasons outside in order to feel better. Because then, our focus can shift away from us, away from the truth. Let’s be real, it sucks. And I felt like shit. I went home and cried, screamed, felt lost. At one point, I laid down on my bed and with red and teary eyes, I started staring at the ceiling. Suddenly, a shift was happening. I started to see something else behind all that grief and pain. I saw a possibility. 

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Quilotoa, Ecuador

A Little Metaphor of Life

I imagine life as a path. There is this perfectly designed path made of concrete stones, and on this path, there are millions of people. Next to you, behind you, in front of you. They are all walking blindly ahead, they don’t really have to think because it is so easy, all they have to do is follow the crowd. When you are on this stone-paved path, all you can see is only this one track. And now, imagine someone suddenly punches you in the face. You start stumbling and falling off the path. You have failed. First, you will feel pain from the punch and the fall, but then you will start to also feel soft green grass underneath you. Then, there is no more concrete stone. And when you look up and see beautiful flowers and different animals crawling and flying around. It is like a whole new world you want to explore. And when you start looking around, you realise that there are so many other paths, in all shapes and forms you can imagine. And then you will understand that you always had a choice.

The Real Meaning of “Everything Happens for a Reason”

Now, when something like that happens to you, this sentence is pretty popular nowadays. To be fair, it is an easy sentence to say whenever something happens that wasn’t planned, or that we don’t really like. Mostly when we think we failed, we excuse our actions with “It happened for a reason.” After we said that, we can move on. It is a way of accepting what happened, but we never go beyond that. Because many people who use it don’t understand it. The truth is that this “reason” wants to be understood, reflected on and learnt from. Because behind every failure lies a bigger truth. And the truth is, failure as we know it, is an illusion. If I had, after being fired, just used “It happened for a reason,” and closed this chapter, I wouldn’t be here now. Instead, I investigated that reason.

A Basic Need

Life gives you what you need, not what you want. This is one of my favourite truths.

We all want stability. A stable job, a stable relationship, a stable state of mind. Society provides us with a perfectly pre-defined model, a model to live by,  follow and fit in. It shows us the direction where to go and paves the road underneath our feet. It creates the path. In the end, it gives us security. And security is a basic need. This is why we cling to it so much. But what we are really doing is living by the rules and limits of others. Society teaches us how to behave and defines what is good and bad, who fails and who succeeds. But why does failure equal bad? One thing I want encourage you to do is to question. To question and challenge the things that are “set in stone” by society. Don’t take any word for the one truth. Also not mine. The only real truth you will ever know is inside of you. Because once we don’t have security anymore, we feel totally lost, and really, really scared. We are outsiders, weirdos, we don’t belong anymore. Then, we suddenly have to face life and ourselves all alone. Define our own rules and limits. Until we realise there are no limits. Nothing great has ever been achieved out of safety and feeling comfortable. All the greatest achievements in this world, from inventions to cures to revelations, have been born out of this place of being lost. That is why life needs to hit us hard sometimes, otherwise, we would not be able to break free.

Who said I need to walk on the path everyone is taking?

At that moment starring at the sealing, I realised how unhappy I was because the whole time, I was walking on this stone-paved path. I actually didn’t like that job. And damn, I didn’t like the city that much either. Now was the time to change something. The first step was taken, all I had to do was follow the call. Life had indeed presented me with a way out. A way out of my unhappiness, to free myself from society’s chains. At times a good hard punch in the face is what we need to become aware of our misery. And look the other way. But I was scared shitless. Why? Because what we want is security and stability, but what we actually need is to get lost. When you feel the most confused and lost, you will find yourself. Because a feeling of being lost and confused is born out of old structures that are being destroyed. And there lies the possibility, the opportunity to build it new.

And I did it. I packed my bags, sold my stuff and off I went on a plane to South America. On a journey of self discovery and in search for something bigger. And looking back now, getting fired was the best thing that happened to me, actually it was the ONLY thing that could have happened. Otherwise, I would have never asked myself what it really is I want to do with my time, my talents, my life. Otherwise, I would not be writing these words to you right now from a beach in Ecuador. Because now I am walking on my own path, and not on the path of someone else.

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Quilotoa, Ecuador

What to Do if Life Punches You in the Face?

Here is a little recommendation on how to deal with a big change.

1) Accept that it happened.

However shitty and unfair it might seem, it happened already. There is no way of changing it. There lies a lot of strength and boldness in accepting that which already happened. And it allows you to move forward.

2) Let all feelings be.

Get it all out, any kind of emotion is welcomed. Eat as much ice cream as you want, cry on your friends shoulder, punch some bags in the gym, go out and party, take a vacation, … Do whatever you have to do to allow all feelings and emotions to express themselves. Don’t repress, it will come out one way or the other. Then, there is clarity for new possibilities, you can look behind the cloud of emotions and see opportunity for change.

3) Investigate the reason.

Whatever it was, it happened for a reason, that is for sure. But ask yourself, what could those reasons be? Reflect on your thoughts, emotions and actions during the past few weeks. And compare it to how you feel now. Is there something else behind the grief?

4) Recognise your opportunities.

Take a piece of paper and brainstorm  – what are your options? And don’t restrict yourself here, because at this moment, everything is possible. Life gave you a chance to recreate. Ask yourself, if what you have been doing the past years really made you happy. How to find that out? Imagine you would do what you have been doing for the rest of your life – does this thought make you smile or shiver? Be creative, be crazy and be bold. Maybe you want to consider working in another sector, or another job all along. Or you actually want to take some time off to travel, or work less and spend more time with your family. Now is your time to create.

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