What better moment to reflect on life, life choices and happiness than a day after you were laid off?
Ultimately, the reasons do not matter much and will not be exposed here.
A 1 to zero transition:
I realized today that quitting your job (without another one planned) or being fired is a 1-to-0 transition. In physics, this is called a
non-linear transition. It describes rapidly evolving phenomena like phase transitions and the exponential growth of tiny lifeforms. We don't practice (mentally) this 0-to-1 transition! It is, in fact, the exact opposite of a prevalent mental model of the product & business world. Pether Thiel popularized the 0-to-1 mental model in a well-known book of the same name.
It is incredibly challenging because I consider myself a 0-to-1 person: entrepreneur, start-up, team builder, product builder, and team builder. Let's see what a 1-to-0 transition looks like:
When you lose your job, you realize we are all addicted to our job. Like any addiction, losing it during a 1-to-0 transition creates withdrawal symptoms.
1-to-0 withdrawal symptoms:
- No more connexions. All the relationships you developed with coworkers/customers/partners seem to disappear. They seem irremediably gone. It feels like losing someone: you can still hear their voice, their laugh, their accent, etc., but like any other memory, it will slowly fade with time and disappear.
- No more habits. Suddenly, your calendar is ... empty! And you have to figure out what to do with your time. This can be daunting, especially while you mourn the losses associated with a 1-to-0 transition. It is hard because instead of being part of a system that imposes a specific discipline, you now have to think about every task: what will you do next? You rapidly reach
decision fatigueand this can become a vicious circle.
- Less Ego: Ego is pumped by our job in three main ways: Job Title and Employer name, Scope of what you were working on (impact/power) and monetization (money you were earning). All this is going to zero for a while. If you had any attachment to your title, your revenues or the scope of what you were doing, you would feel it quite acutely.
Most of these feelings are tangled together and will be hard to separate. Having a mental model to identify them will help process this information.
How do I feel about these symptoms?
This will be different for everyone and each 1-to-0 transition.
- Connexion: This is the hardest for me. As a team player, coach and manager, I always build solid and meaningful personal relationships with the humans I work with. Most of us do. I feel this one quite acutely!
- Habits: I am disciplined, and I decided not to change my daily routine of waking with the sun, meditation, reading, writing, coffee, physical activity (biking these days), etc. Not much impact (for now) besides the unusual feeling of having a lot of free time!
- Ego: I don't feel a sense of loss related to my ego and job loss yet. I expect this to come later, especially if I remain unemployed or have not had a project for a long time. Society can make you feel excluded if you are not a
productivecontributor. You can practice the following mantra:
I am not my job and my job does not define me as human being.
What can you do?
I did my research, and here are some tips that could help:
- Change your environment! You have a lot of free time now. Leverage this to experiment with other environments. Go outside, to the library, to this coffee you did not visit yet. Don't try to maintain the same environment: remember that this is a 1-to-0 transition: changing your environment will help your brain accept this change.
- Distract yourself! Seriously. You will feel the urge to work on
stuff. Maybe even write down the unfinished aspects of your job (this can be quite therapeutic!) or even continue working on specific issues/projects/past or future decisions. Don't! If you want to journal it, do it but then leave the past to rest and resist these urges to continue your past job role & responsibilities
as if you still had a job. Distracting yourself will cause dopamine release and demonstrate to your brain that you can find pleasure outside of work!
- Don't stay isolated! Talk to your family and friends. Build your support network (alumni, etc.). If possible, do not talk job or work: you don't want to reexperience the addiction you are trying to break! You may also want to consider finding a health counsellor (and this is quite often part of your separation package)
- Have fun! It may be the most counterintuitive, but life decided to give you some free time! Change your environment (to have more fun!), distract yourself (to also have more fun!) and create/reinforce meaningful connexions with fellow humans.