Let’s be honest. Life can super suck.
There will be days during this journey toward success when out of nowhere you will feel completely blindsided by life. It will happen in a matter of moments, a phone call, a letter, an email, your breath will catch, and suddenly reality has shifted and your future is uncertain, unpredictable, unknown.
We humans are creatures of habit, creatures of security, we require some level of predictability to our lives to keep living. Whether or not we say we are spontaneous creatures, we still need to eat, sleep, shelter from the storm, and these require forethought. Some of us, especially the older we get, or if we have children, require even more predictability whether toward future retirement or developing the life of a smaller human.
What are the catalysts for entropy in our lives? They can come from various sources:
- From our employers who call us into an office to tell us our position is being eliminated
- A phone call from a loved one telling us of an unexpected death, or sometimes, expected, death
- The end of a relationship, divorce.
Each of these events is disruptive to the patterns we develop and the goals we set for ourselves. Each of these is a loss that impacts all parts of our lives, but the requirements that existed for our livelihood before haven’t disappeared. If anything, they have increased in need.
We still need food.
We still need sleep.
We still need shelter.
But how? How to cope and continue on while dealing with the emotional and mental fallout that inevitably happens? The question is, how will you respond when life changes suddenly and you don’t have control over it happening? What are the tools you have at your disposal to keep carrying on?
Each of these events are ones I have experienced within a 2 year time span approximately 6 years ago.
The first one happened with a phone call in the middle of the night. It was the unexpected death of the man I considered my father, the person I relied on to be the biggest champion of me for years longer than we were given. Suddenly, in a moment, he was gone.
Later, in the same year, 4 months later to be exact, I received a flurry of messages from a couple of co-workers, each with the ominous message “I’m so sorry!”. Fast forward to my boss on the phone from Disney World, he had failed to inform me before he left for vacation I was being let go, or “laid off”.
Within a few months I had lost not only one of the most important people in my lives, but my job as well. Neither of these events changed that I still needed to provide for myself, and make sure that my family was taken care of. Yet, in between the bouts of grief, and insecurity, how was I able to find a path forward?
It wasn’t that I was an incredibly resilient individual with super human coping powers. I’m as vulnerable as the next person. It wasn’t that I had this incredibly impressive resume at this point either, I was in my first tech job and was laid off from it, and at this point I only had one certification. So how did I move ahead?
Through the power of a strong network, both personally and professionally.
- I knew I needed to keep myself mentally stable in order to manage my grief and my job situation. There was a looming reality that I didn’t have an option otherwise. I activated my friends, and my family, and talked when I needed to talk, and cried when I needed to cry. This kept me sane and functioning, and kept the sense of overwhelmingness at bay.
- Prior to this I had started attending meet-ups and user groups, getting to know others in the data community who had skills that I wanted to learn. Through-out the community and online I made sure to keep in contact with influential people, and found people who believed in my potential. When the moment came for me to talk to them, and tell them I was on the job market, I had a bunch of people behind me and telling me about jobs or connecting me with others who could help find an open position. In two weeks I had a new job. I had multiple offers.
I make it sound much simpler than what it is, but your network is life. Building a community you can depend on and grow with is life. Whether you need your friends there for moment to shove a tasty slice of pizza in your face, and share a moment of quiet, or you are unhappy in your job and need to know what your options are. Your network is an intricately woven web meant to catch you in the moments when life blindsides you, and interrupts all the plans you have carefully laid.
If you haven’t started building yours, it isn’t too late.
Here are 5 tips to start creating your own network.:
- Reach out to new people very week, through LinkedIn or Twitter, an author you respect online. Contact them and tell them why you are reaching out to them.
- Create an internal network at your current job, people you don’t know but you’d like to, ask for introductions.
- Check in all the time. With your friends, your coworkers, tell them you were thinking of them, be honest, be sincere.
- Join local groups or meet-ups for technologies you want to learn or already know. Become an active, contributing member.
- Never under-estimate the power of your network, offer to help others whenever you can. Make an introduction if you can, just because. You don’t need a reason other than it’s the right thing to do.
I promise these small steps will lead to bigger things, and it will prepare you for the moments when life happens. Life sucks, but you can be prepared.