The Biggest Gift I Ever Got: How I Turned A Negative Into a Positive Without Math (And How You Can Too)

Culture & Society, Re-framing Your Thinking




(Image Credit: Kathy Smith)

Firstly, this requires no math whatsoever.

Secondly, I’m not going to tell you that you should mutter positive affirmations under your breath the whole time you’re recovering from going through something negative or read What Color’s Your Parachute or some other self-help or career book. Sure, that works for some people, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

I didn’t get this gift on Christmas; I got it at the end of this summer. It wasn’t wrapped up in pretty paper or decorated like Japanese department store windows. It was 6 little words.

“We have to let you go.”

I’ll be honest: being let go from my first job wasn’t pleasant. It was shocking. It felt like I was being hit headlong by several of those long buses used for tours from Coach America. We’ve all seen Mean Girls. We all know what happened when Regina got hit by the bus.

I didn’t fracture my spine, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

In retrospect, being let go was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

It gave me the opportunity to do a lot of soul searching; I worked with someone who helped me get some clarity on some of the things that I’m passionate about. Her coaching also exposed me to new thinking patterns and tools. This isn’t to say that I’ve done a complete 180. It’s a definite process. Here are some things that have helped me as I continue to look for the next stepping-stone in my journey.


Give Yourself Time to Grieve What You’ve Lost


 In the words of Tess Vigeland, one of the brilliant speakers who inspired this post:

“We all know that we’re not supposed to define ourselves by what we do, our job is not who we are. And we certainly aren’t supposed to define ourselves by page views and Twitter followers, and audience size. But if you have a job, it defines you in many ways; it just does.”

Professional athletes are defined (at least in part) by their sport. A good chunk of their lives revolve around it. When they retire or injure themselves (depending on the severity of the injury,) they are forced to recalibrate their thinking.

What do they have left?

Who are they without the sport?

You may have to redefine who you are and what success means to you. And that’s not an easy thing, by any means. You have to grieve that loss. For me, this meant having a good cry, copious amounts of tea, and talking to friends. Take your time. You lost something, a part of your identity. Mourn that loss in the best way you know how.


Know that Rejection is a Nothing More Than Someone’s Opinions and Preferences

If someone had told me this before I started my job hunt, it would have saved me a lot of grief.  But I’m grateful that I know it now. Thank you, Jia Jiang.


 “Rejection is nothing more than someone’s opinion and preference. It says as much about the person who gives the rejection as the people who receive it.” 


I would have looked at you like you had told me you had told me you had claws growing out of your head if you had told me this a year ago. But it’s true. When you apply for a job and don’t get it, the fact is that the person (or people) who looked at your application doesn’t think that you’re the right fit for their company and its culture. That’s their opinion; it’s not a fact. It doesn’t reflect badly on you or mean that you’re a bad person. It’s just that someone thinks you’re not a good fit.




Take some time (especially when you’re talking careers) ask yourself some questions:

What works for you?

What do you enjoy?

What do you hate?

Take note of those things; they help. I worked with a coach to develop an ideal vision for myself; being able to articulate my long-term goals to professionals has helped me immensely in the whole networking process.


Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People


It’s important to surround yourself with people who you respect and admire, if possible.  We are social animals, easily influenced by our surroundings. Having a strong support group is crucial to turning negative energy into positive energy.  Getting encouragement from those who love you does wonders.




Figure out what you like and do more of it. Put your skills out there; you never know what you may get in return.


Know That Not Knowing Is Okay


Just know that whatever you do will be remarkable.



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