Thu. Jul 19th, 2018

It’s What You Do, Not Who You Are

The first time I got fired from a radio gig I was 29 years old. My partner Salt MacMillan and I had been hosting mornings on 96 Rock in Raleigh for about 5 years. Ratings were never awful but the times they were great were few and far between. In hindsight, I can understand why the company might want to shake things up.

I sure as hell didn’t feel that way at the time though. Like I said, I was 29 (read “immature and very stupid”). My wife and I had a one year old daughter. We had just moved to a new home that was considerably more expensive than our first home, and we had another kid on the way. You might say it was not an ideal time for me to lose a steady paycheck.

In the days and weeks after, I got super depressed. My emotions would swing from anger to grief to outright hopelessness at the drop of a hat. It was not pretty.

I blocked my former bosses on social media. If I saw former co-workers out socially, I would talk their ear off about how I was done wrong and demand to know how terribly the new morning show was doing. 

I found steady work as a writer almost immediately. I found a new hosting gig in less than a year. It didn’t matter. When Salt left for Boston to join the staff of Mix 104.1, it felt like my world was crumbling in on itself. It’s not that I saw our partnership lasting forever. It was just now the person I was going through this with was moving on and I was truly alone.

I had been wronged! I was pissed! Everyone I came into contact with had to know about it!

Looking back, I can’t tell you exactly when it was that I let go of all my bitterness and anger at my former employers. I just kinda did one day and it has made being in the very unsteady and uncertain business of radio a little more bearable and frankly, a lot more rewarding. 

In the last month, I have watched three friends lose their gig. One of them lost his job over one of the most backhanded, dirty moves I’ve ever heard of another host pulling. He has every right to be angry. I’m angry for him. Hell, all these guys have the right to be angry. So do any of you that have lost a gig and never met me. This business sucks more often than it is great.

There is nothing anyone can say or write that will instantly flip a light switch for you when you’re fired or laid off. There’s no secret to remember that will prevent you from any feelings of anger or depression. Feel your feelings in that moment. It is more than okay.

Just don’t live in those feelings forever. 

When I got fired from 96 Rock, I got an email from Duke football coach David Cutcliffe. He told me to remember that I was more than a job. Hosting a radio show wasn’t who I am. It was just what I did. 

In the moment, that email was just a supportive message from a friend. But I held on to it. Occasionally I would go back and read all of the supportive messages I had received on email and social media on the day I was fired. Honestly, as I read that back, it sounds insane. 

Anyway, one day it just kind of clicked. I mean, it was years later, but it just kind of clicked. If I never got another radio gig, that would suck. I have been doing this since I was 15. There is always going to be a part of me that feels like I HAVE to do this. It would suck, but I would still be me.

Get mad. Feel hurt. Stay bitter for as long as you need to after your told that your services are no longer required. It’s more than okay to even cry if you want to. God knows I did. A lot!

Take it from me though, a guy that has been laid off not once, not twice, but three times, you can’t truly be ready for another opportunity until you come to terms with your emotions over losing the last gig. You don’t have to all the sudden be at peace. You just have to get to the point where you aren’t telling waiters at Applebee’s about “the asshole market manager that wouldn’t know good content if it jumped up and bit him on the nose!”. 

Understand what factors in the decision were beyond your control. 96 Rock was on the road to flipping formats when we got let go. Take ownership of what you may have done that you can do better in your next job. I was standoffish towards the sales staff and so resistant to working with them on branded content, that I didn’t even try to mold their ideas and pitches to fit the show better. I just did what they asked of me as half-assed as possible. Realize that both are true. There were factors beyond my control and there were things I did that probably diminished the decision makers’ trust in me. 

I can’t change what happened. I can’t change why it happened. The best you can do is accept that it did happen. Who knows? It could happen again. All you can do is control the controllable. 

Radio is what we do. It’s not who we are. For my friends that have just lost their jobs, I know that is a hard thing to remember right now. 

So take as long as you need to be mad or upset. Just remember that at a certain point the anger is no longer doing anything for you. At some point it is no longer part of your healing process. The people who made the decision to let you go get to move on. So do you.

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