There’s a deep connection between my favorite book of 2019 and the time I was fired from my first “adult” job back in 2011.
Let’s start with a quick story:
I’m glad I got fired
In 2010, I worked as an intern at a company called Urban Science. I’d landed the gig through the Co-op program at the University of Michigan where I was attending school.
While in college, I was a pretty active student. I led our LGBT student group, served on Student Government, had a seat on the Student Philanthropy Council, and helped out with a number of other projects. Plus, I was working full time at Urban Science and had a full class schedule. I was busy.
It turns out though that it’s pretty hard to juggle all of those balls at the same time. I performed amazingly well at work when I first started in the summer of 2010 and had no class or org work to deal with. But, by winter, my performance in all areas was suffering.
Combined with the crazy scheduled, my immediate supervisor was a bit tough to work with. So, I checked out. I put in the minimum effort required, and didn’t do too well even at that level. So, one day, my boss’ boss called me into a conference room and promptly fired me.
She was right to do it, for sure. And while it was very painful then, I look back and it’s not pain that I feel: I feel immense gratitude. Getting fired triggered a chain reaction that pushed me out of the technology program at U of M (I was unhappy there too), and into more fulfilling work. And ultimately, that path has led me to today.
Long story short: I’m glad I got fired.
My favorite book of 2019
How on earth does all of that connect with my favorite book? I’m glad you asked!
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
The premise of this book is simple: The things which are difficult are teaching us what to do. Or, as Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those things which hurt, instruct.”
Put another way, we must figure out how to take advantage of the obstacles, or opportunities, we encounter.
It’s not just: How can I think this is not so bad? No, it is how to will yourself to see that this must be good—an opportunity to gain a new foothold, move forward, or go in a better direction. Not “be positive” but learn to be ceaselessly creative and opportunistic.
Overall, having a specific mindset shift around this idea has helped me to grow a great deal in a short time.
As I write this, for instance, I’m facing several problems at my current job. But, I have this whole new way of viewing those problems. I’m looking for ways to leverage them, for ways to learn from them. It’s quite empowering, to tell the truth.
Here’s a video of the author summarizing his book in about six minutes:
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I highly recommend you give this book a shot. I’ve gained so much from it that I’m considering buying the a hard copy and displaying it in my office!
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With time, I’ve come to see the obstacle of getting fired as a helpful, necessary tool in my life. I wish I’d had the language this book offers to help me through it.
However, now that I’ve experienced this mindset shift, my life has been changed for the better. I’m searching for opportunity where only pain and frustration existed before, and it’s making me a better person.
Give The Obstacle is the Way a shot; I promise you won’t regret it!
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