The Day I Got Fired Changed My Life

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Some events cut through our lives and define a before and an after. For me, the day I got fired was one of those.

I was working as a project manager in a translation agency in Hamburg, Germany, when I felt I could use some change in my life. Work wasn’t too bad, quite the contrary, but I wanted to look for something better.

I had found a job similar to the one I already had but with better pay and where I could walk to the office instead of taking the metro. Everything was great. Few weeks in and I am assigned to a big project, which I manage poorly and eventually leads to a loss in revenue for the agency.

One day, while working in my cubicle, the boss asks me to join her in the meeting room. I wasn’t suspecting anything since we had cleared the issues on the previous project the day before, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and joined her. That’s when she fired me and told I had 10 minutes to collect my stuff and say goodbye to my colleagues.

Let this sink for a second. I had 10 minutes to collect my things and say goodbye. One minute and was working normally, one later I was packing my sh*t and leaving the building. They had so much haste to kick me out they were forgetting about the office keys I had to return.

I was completely lost. On my way home, a 12 minutes walk, my mind spun in all possible directions while I looked for a solution. It was indeed a hit, two weeks before Christmas, a gift I shall not forget.

I got kicked in the guts and I had no idea on what to do. So I did what everyone else would do, I spent three days looking on every job-searching platform for a new job. Two weeks before Christmas and I had managed to get fired.

I madly looked in every corner of the internet for a new job in my sector as well in new industries, but I could not find any that was exciting or close to my needs.

That’s when I started to panic. I mean, I had to find a job no matter what, I couldn’t afford to be choosy at the moment.

Or, could I?

What’s your fear, really?

As anybody in the first world, I was taught that you need a 9to5 to establish yourself as an individual and live a life worth living. The path that everyone else follows is the one you also need to follow.

But I wanted to be a translator, a freelance translator, and now I had the chance I was looking for. I had no constrictions, no obligations towards an employer, no obligations towards myself.

Oh, yes, I had to pay bills. How could I forget that?

It was indeed my greatest fear, not being able to pay rent and leave my partner to pay all expenses by herself. It’s a fear we all have to deal with, not being able to provide for ourselves or our household. Money it’s a layer of safety, and I just had lost my only source of revenue.

Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty. Tim Ferris

What I didn’t know is that more often than not, fear can be defeated just by defining it. More often than not, our idea of fear is greater than the real damage our fear would do if it’d become a reality. It’s what Tim Ferris, infamous author of “The 4-hour work week” calls Definition, as a way to conquer fear.

So, I did it. I defined my fear and it wasn’t so bad. If things went wrong, my partner agreed to support me, and I always could get back at looking for another 9to5-job. I also had some savings that could support me through January and February, if I had no revenue.

But it hadn’t been necessary. Since I had already worked in the industry and I was prepared, I managed to get clients on the very first weeks and started with a positive outcome in the first month, crushing what remained of my fears.

How I conquered my fears

Fear of failure is that thing that gets in the way between you and success.

It’s not fun being fired. Even less fun if you’re fired two weeks before Christmas, you can’t afford to buy a gift for your partner and you have bills waiting for you at the end of the month. Moreover, I was afraid the situation could get worse if I hadn’t found a job quickly.

So, how did I manage to change my mind and start my business as a translator?

1. Define your nightmare

You need to name things to be able to see them clearly. I named mine. Once you get a clear view of your worst nightmare, you can often see it is much smaller and less scary than you thought.

2. A solution to a problem

If everything went wrong and you failed in your attempt, what could you do to stand up and go on?

The answer?

If I failed, I had to go back and look for another job. My partner would have taken care of bills meanwhile.

Of course, she was really supportive of my business idea. She knew I could do it. But in that way, it looks indeed a less scary challenge.

3. What’s the cost of not doing it?

The opportunity cost is the price you pay for losing an opportunity.

In my case, it was the cost I would have paid, if I hadn’t decided to be a freelance translator. It’s not for being my boss, organize myself, yada yada yada…For me is the balance between work and life and the flexibility of working remotely, no matter where I am.

That’s how I was able to conquer my fears and start my career. I am now 3 years down the road, happy, with a successful business as a freelance translator. And my partner is happy, too.

I can say it out loud, I defined and conquered my fears.

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I’m an Italian freelance translator living in France. I write about freelancing, entrepreneurship, self-improvement, language, life in general.

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Paolo Defraia

Paolo Defraia

I’m an Italian freelance translator living in France. I write about freelancing, entrepreneurship, self-improvement, language, life in general.

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