Oh, the things people say to you when you’re unemployed. This is Week 8 for me, and it’s getting harder not easier. One of the haters at ZeroHedge was right: Let’s see how perky I’ll be feeling a year from now.
But I am steeled by the comments I’ve heard since I left FoxBiz on February 6th. Many are insightful and some are funny as hell. Being jobless is a mind game: It’s all how you look at it, and what you let it do to your own image of yourself. Hearing from others can put it in perspective. A few samples:
From Slava Rubin, CEO of indiegogo.com, the crowdfunding site, after I tell him it feels like my six-year stab at TV has failed: “What do you mean, ‘fail’? You only succeed or learn!”
From a good friend and networking genius (Keith Ferrazzi, who wrote “Never Eat Alone”): “Don’t waste your time lamenting. Focus forward.”
A sharp Silicon Valley handler says of getting fired: “Everyone has to go through this once. I’ve been pink-slipped and I’ve been fired. At the end of the day, one thing you come back to is: You have skills. How do you take those and build from there? It sucks, there’s no other way to put it. You gotta power through it and come out the other side.”
And this from another networking genius, a guy steeped in all things Davos: “You’ve build up a great reputation—if the whole industry hadn’t changed, you’d be in great shape.”
Ah yes, if only. “Fast Charlie,” my website guy, says the senior media execs who keep firing “talent” have no idea the Internet is about to pound them down: “They think they have the upper hand in that relationship, and they’re gonna regret it. They’re sitting on top of a melting iceberg, they think they’re gonna throw everybody else and survive. But they won’t.”
This came by text, from a friend 10 years younger than I: “You’re 56. This is your last chance.”
Another longtime friend (since freshman year at U. of Florida) suggests radio: “How can you compete on TV with Megyn Kelly and Nora O’Donnell? But on radio it doesn’t matter what you look like.”
Likewise from my mom, advising me to give up TV: “And think about this: You’re not getting any younger. You can sit on that Internet, and no one cares if you’re old and wrinkled.”
I remind her that I’d first decided to become a journalist at age 10, that it’s all I’ve ever done and I hate the idea of leaving “the cloth.” She answers: “I think the cloth left you, honey. You got so high up, there was nothing left for you.”
From my 13-year-old daughter, on Day 1 of my layoff as I walk her to school and joke that I’d better be careful or “God’s gonna strike me down”: “He already has. He just did.” Late in day I get her on the phone, and she asks: “So, did you have a productive day?” This, on Day 1. The pressure is on. A few weeks later, sitting next to me on the sofa one Saturday, she tossles the hair on my right temple and says:
“Whoa! You got some grey there. That’s what unemployment does to you.” Baddabing!
A senior exec at a big cable operator assures me: “You will rise!”
But a Silicon Valley pal I’ve known for 30 years balks when I brag about my new website: “And who’s paying you for those articles on your website? If nobody’s paying you then you’re wasting your time. You need a job! You have private school and child support and rent and you have to find a way to cover that.”
This is not the support I was seeking, but on Facebook an hour or two later, when I post my latest column and get a raft of instant “likes,” he feels shame and chimes in: “Follow your dreams!” Hah! How can I follow them… when you just crushed them? But my Silicon Valley pal is right, entirely.
Still, comma: maybe there’s something to that dream stuff. An old college pal tells me: “I think it’s a grave mistake to only think about the money. You have to go where your heart is, and where the future of you is, not just go to some prick who puts the right number on the table.”
William Bulkeley was a longtime reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and he posted this in response to my earlier piece, “How to be Unemployed” http://bit.ly/1i2hdyE : “I never applied for a full-time job after I was laid off. I like the flexibility and the control of my time. I miss the adrenaline rush of a deadline, but I don’t miss the gut-wrenching frustration of pursuing a rival’s scoop. You may not get the equivalent of the last job you had, but you’ll figure out a way to reinvent yourself.”
Figure out a way to reinvent yourself: That is the key to my next, and possibly last, career push. Like the other guy told me: It may be my last chance.