In 1989, I moved to Minnesota. At the time, I had a girlfriend and a great job working for an IT entrepreneur. I was right out of college. I had graduated with a double major in about three and a half years worth of classes, and knew everything. I was also impatient to make my mark in the world.
While I can see it clearly now, I was blind to the fact that my overconfidence and impatience not only aggravated my employer, it led to the loss of some of his customers. He was forced to let me go.
As a newly minted graduate, this was devastating. The feelings of anger, frustration, and inadequacy were overwhelming and I took them out on those around me. I ended up losing my girlfriend, because she grew tired of my behavior. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn anything from her departure. I just added it to the list of wrongs I’d complain about.
Fortunately, my grandfather, dad, mom, and stepmother never gave up on me. Using “tough love” they helped me realize I was sabotaging myself and my future. With their support and guidance I was finally able to find another job. I moved to Rochester, started a new life, and fell in love with the woman who would become my wife.
Around a year later, I found myself sitting in my supervisor’s office listening to him tell me that our contract with IBM had been cut and since I was one of the lowest performers on the team my services were no longer needed. He walked me back to my office, watched me pack my things, and had me escorted out by security. It was humiliating.
Once again, I looked everywhere but inward. I blamed my company. I blamed my supervisor. I was angry at the folks that weren’t laid off. And it showed. I treated my friends badly. I treated my girlfriend horribly. I drank too much, and was rude to folks who might have otherwise helped me. This time I was out of work for over a year. And, the longer I was out of work, the worse things got.
Finally, my girlfriend sat me down and told me she loved me but couldn’t go through this much longer. If we were going to stay together I needed to make some changes. My grandfather, mom, dad, and stepmother delivered similar messages. Again, within a couple of months of changing my attitude and behavior I was interviewed and hired for a job that turned out to be pretty good.
As I look back on these episodes, the lesson is pretty clear. I wasted time, energy, and many relationships playing the victim. Fortunately, I had some tough-skinned people who loved me enough to help me stop wasting energy on blaming and complaining and focus on moving forward.
Do yourself a favor. If things aren’t going well for you, take a step back and look at your own attitude and behavior. Stop blaming and complaining. They take a lot of energy and don’t move you any closer to improvement. Instead, focus your energy on finding a path forward. Use that emotion and the power that comes from it to change your mind and change your behavior. I guarantee, if you do, good things will start happening.
Scott’s new book, Swimming In Quicksand, is a parable about taking control of your career that contains proven strategies anyone can use to dog-paddle their way to success. It is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format.
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