Laid Off – A Reader’s Story

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working with – and ultimately becoming friends with – Amber Lancour. We worked together at a company in Los Angeles and have kept in touch through email and through this blog and BadRoomie.com – a now defunct website I started with my brother (Amber’s had the craziest roomies).

Last week, Amber sent me an email with some kind words of encouragement about this blog along with her personal story about getting laid off and the forced transition to being self-employed. I was moved. So much of what she shared in that story applies to everyone who has made, is making, or has yet to make the transition to entrepreneur.

I wrote back to Amber and asked if she would let me post it here. I hope it brings you hope and encouragement in whatever stage of transition you’re in. The story has not been edited by me. It’s in the original and honest form she wrote.


December 10, 2008

If you worked/work for a company I will refer to as Y, you probably recall that date.  It was the day that the company decided to lay off a couple thousand employees.

Weeks prior to 12/10, the company announced that cuts had to be made.  The company was going to become “leaner and meaner” to survive.  I, and thousands of others, heard the announcement and cringed.  We all knew what this really meant.  There would be cuts, but the people losing their jobs would be the very people who actually did the work, who added value to the organization and who really took pride in what they produced.  The people that avoided being “cut” would be the “fat” that stuck to the very methods that were causing the company to sink in the first place.

Lo and behold, D-Day comes and our prediction comes true.  The fatty layer of the organization is letting the others go.

I will never forget it.

I walked back to my cubicle and 10 minutes later, the Director of our group says, “Amber, do you have a few minutes.”  I looked at the folder in his hands, smirked and simply said, “For you so-and-so, I have 15.”  What I really wanted to say was 1) take the damn folder and shove it up your a** 2) this is the first time you have EVER spoken to me for more than a minute and I am surprised you even know who I am and 3) do this quick so I can get out of here.

He goes into the usual wind and grind, loosely using phrases like “thank you for your contributions”, “this is not personal” and “you are well-known for your hard work”.  I just sit and I want to hit myself because I keep smiling.  It is a habit I have when I get nervous – smiling like an idiot.  To be honest, I was surprised that he even knew what I did as my manager had been taking credit for my accomplishments for some time.

So, the layoff is official.  He leads me down to HR and there I am – still smirking like a jackass.  He looks at me and says, “What’s new?”

I guess I was caught off guard because tears come to my eyes and I say, “My grandmother is dying.”

I try to hide my tears, I look up at the ceiling as it suddenly comes to my attention that instead of going back home to say “goodbye” to my grandma, I chose to stay in L.A. and work at a job I no longer have.

I muster the strength and the tears disappear.  It is only when I am with the HR person, a complete stranger that I allow myself to cry.  I can’t help it.  I feel rejected, I feel like a failure and I just want to go home.

Weeks later, my grandmother died.  I never did go home to say goodbye because I become fixated on myself – my being a failure, my being a loser and my letting everyone down.  Who was “I” if “I” was not working?  What value did I add if I was not working 60 plus hour work weeks?  What contribution did I make if I was not earning a consistent paycheck?

Unable to cope with these thoughts, I threw myself into freelancing.  I worked and I worked and I worked.  I make a paycheck. I produce some work for a few companies and I try to hold onto a definition of myself that I am really outgrowing.

I see my friends collecting their unemployment checks, some even say they are “fun-employed”, but I never take that route.  When you grow up with parents who have to work themselves to the bone to earn a meager paycheck, you learn to appreciate any work that is given to you.  You don’t complain, you do it – and you do it with a damn smile on your face.  And, I have to say – my pride is huge.  In my mind, being unemployed is associated with negative connotations.

Months roll by in 2009.  It seems like the more I try to be happy, try to make money and try to be “myself”, the more opposition I face.  Bad things happen – things that I am positive that a younger version of me could not deal with.

I lose my grandmother (someone I cherished and looked up to immensely), I give up my dream wedding, I lose an aunt, I lose an uncle, my sister in-law gets into a near fatal accident, my older brother almost dies… the list goes on and on.  Every time bad news comes, I think, “What did I do to deserve this?”

I feel sorry for myself and become depressed.  It becomes harder and harder to smile and I feel scared.  When life continually throws you hardballs, you start to think the next bad thing that happens will break me…

Yet, in between the moments of crisis, there are these positive moments.  Transitioning into 2010, I see I took those moments for granted.

My freelancing efforts resulted in my building a network of clients and that led to me realizing that I could be in business for myself.  Imagine that, me working for me.  Isn’t that something I had longed for almost all my life?  And, wasn’t I up to the challenge?

I started running.  Years ago, running a mile was unfathomable.  Just a few days ago, I ran over 8 miles and committed to running a half marathon in May.

Things no longer scare me.  Losses don’t make me anxious.  I start to know, innately, that every loss leads to a new beginning and I don’t panic, I don’t get scared – I confront nerve wrecking situations with ease and calm.

My marriage grows.  We celebrate one year of happiness and I know that if we are able to get through this past year, the rest is smooth sailing.  I thank God everyday for my husband’s existence, for his love and his belief in me.

I am surrounded by amazing people – family and friends.

And then it hits me… when my mind doesn’t dwell on the negative, I clearly see the positive.  I learn that perspective is everything and that we attract what we believe.  I write this today with the mindset that when the universe wipes things from your life, it is only making room for things that are bigger and better.


Many of us have been there. Frustrated. Defeated. Anxious. Fearful. Please share your story in the comments below. You’re not alone and you may find hope in the story of others.

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  • Thanks for posting this, Travis!

    Truly, whether it is a lay off or another life crisis, I think the moments we believe are "awful" are the exact moments that force us to re-evaluate what we are doing and what SHOULD we be doing.

  • Thanks for posting this, Travis!

    Truly, whether it is a lay off or another life crisis, I think the moments we believe are "awful" are the exact moments that force us to re-evaluate what we are doing and what SHOULD we be doing.

  • Thank you for sharing this, Amber! You're right. I think we all know deep down when we're doing something that doesn't fit who we are. Fear and self-doubt keep us from taking that leap of faith. Sometimes, it takes brut force to get us to move on to something different. It hurts for a time. But, like you said, when you start to distance yourself from it and look at the positive results, you begin to appreciate the event as the catalyst for something much more fulfilling.

  • Thank you for sharing this, Amber! You're right. I think we all know deep down when we're doing something that doesn't fit who we are. Fear and self-doubt keep us from taking that leap of faith. Sometimes, it takes brut force to get us to move on to something different. It hurts for a time. But, like you said, when you start to distance yourself from it and look at the positive results, you begin to appreciate the event as the catalyst for something much more fulfilling.

  • You're 100% right. You know, I think a lot of us get comfortable in the corporate arena and we trap ourselves with a false sense of security. Truthfully, I have more security now because I am finally in control of my future and am my own boss. Any day, you can go to work and get fired – how is the security? It isn't – that is illusion. Once you see that, you become liberated and you know, it just takes that kick in the butt to finally "get it".

  • You're 100% right. You know, I think a lot of us get comfortable in the corporate arena and we trap ourselves with a false sense of security. Truthfully, I have more security now because I am finally in control of my future and am my own boss. Any day, you can go to work and get fired – how is the security? It isn't – that is illusion. Once you see that, you become liberated and you know, it just takes that kick in the butt to finally "get it".

  • Thanks, Knight! She's an incredible writer. She's actually commented on this post (Amber) so you can reply to one of her comments – I'm sure she'd love to hear it from you. 🙂

  • Thanks, Knight! She's an incredible writer. She's actually commented on this post (Amber) so you can reply to one of her comments – I'm sure she'd love to hear it from you. 🙂

  • mjs

    Thanks Amber! This is amazing, moving and inspirational. In retrospect, getting laid off from "Y" was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but at the time, I would have argued differently.

  • mjs

    Thanks Amber! This is amazing, moving and inspirational. In retrospect, getting laid off from "Y" was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but at the time, I would have argued differently.

  • I know who you are, mjs 😉

    Of course, it was tough on our whole team to go through this ordeal. It was a nightmare, actually.

    But, kudos to us for where we are now and what we having going on for us! Things really do happen for a reason!

    • Patty

      Hey Amber, Thanks for sharing laid off by Y. A lot of times I get caught up in the negative. I am sure that everyone goes through stuff but it sometimes seem that things pile one on top of the other and then your in a sink hole trying to figure out how to get out. I thought my life was great at 21. I was married, expecting my first child just out of the Air Force with 6 years experience as an electrician. As soon as I had that baby I was going to go out and get an electrician position at the hospital that I worked at. (I didn't think they would hire me for that position if I was pregnant) I have never become an electrician and it has been now 29 years since then. I lost my husband to divorce, brother-n-law to suicide, nephew to diabetes, niece atv accident and am still in a dead in job. With all that being said I still am searching at 53 for the dream career, business whatever. I went to college and recieved my BA in Management and Leadership with a second major in Human Services. Where did this lead me but to a bakery were I work 2nd shift with Monday and fridays off and driving school bus. I know that this is not it. Can't be. Thank you for the words of encouragement look forward to seeing more from you.

      • Patty, please hang in there and keep plugging forward. Sometimes, it seems like life gives us a laundry list of negatives, but I think mind set is everything and we have to power to change things. You have already accomplished so much!

  • I know who you are, mjs 😉

    Of course, it was tough on our whole team to go through this ordeal. It was a nightmare, actually.

    But, kudos to us for where we are now and what we having going on for us! Things really do happen for a reason!

    • Patty

      Hey Amber, Thanks for sharing laid off by Y. A lot of times I get caught up in the negative. I am sure that everyone goes through stuff but it sometimes seem that things pile one on top of the other and then your in a sink hole trying to figure out how to get out. I thought my life was great at 21. I was married, expecting my first child just out of the Air Force with 6 years experience as an electrician. As soon as I had that baby I was going to go out and get an electrician position at the hospital that I worked at. (I didn't think they would hire me for that position if I was pregnant) I have never become an electrician and it has been now 29 years since then. I lost my husband to divorce, brother-n-law to suicide, nephew to diabetes, niece atv accident and am still in a dead in job. With all that being said I still am searching at 53 for the dream career, business whatever. I went to college and recieved my BA in Management and Leadership with a second major in Human Services. Where did this lead me but to a bakery were I work 2nd shift with Monday and fridays off and driving school bus. I know that this is not it. Can't be. Thank you for the words of encouragement look forward to seeing more from you.

      • Patty, please hang in there and keep plugging forward. Sometimes, it seems like life gives us a laundry list of negatives, but I think mind set is everything and we have to power to change things. You have already accomplished so much!

  • Wow. Travis, I hope your friend knows what a strong writer she is, not only in craft but in perspective. "We attract what we believe" is a powerful statement.

  • Wow. Travis, I hope your friend knows what a strong writer she is, not only in craft but in perspective. "We attract what we believe" is a powerful statement.

  • Travis, I think this post illustrates some really important points. Firstly, Mindset is the key to success – whether that be business/worklife, relationships or any other area of our life. Secondly, there is real danger when our identity and sense of self is attached to our career.
    I think be focussing on deigning the life we really want for ourselves we can drive what we really want to happen.
    The way Amber illustrated that in her writing by sharing her story, her honesty and her vulnerability made for a thought provoking read.
    Two books I would highly recommend if you haven't read them is "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz and "Think and Grow Rich" by Napolean Hill (not just about money but about the mindset, habits and behaviour of success). They both are very releveant to Amber's post.

    • Thanks, Ali. Great thoughts! So much of what we are able to accomplish begins in our minds/thoughts. We can't live beyond what we believe. I would say that wrapping our identity up in a job is certainly a dangerous thing to do. However, I think we were created for work and we need to find satisfaction and fulfillment in our chosen profession. Part of our ability to find that satisfaction and fulfillment in work requires that we attach a part of ourselves to the work. (I'm sensing a blog post as I write this – thanks for the idea!)

      "Think and Grow Rich" is a fantastic book along those lines. I also like "Thou Shall Prosper" by Daniel Lapin. I've not read "The Four Agreements" but I'll check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Travis, I think this post illustrates some really important points. Firstly, Mindset is the key to success – whether that be business/worklife, relationships or any other area of our life. Secondly, there is real danger when our identity and sense of self is attached to our career.
    I think be focussing on deigning the life we really want for ourselves we can drive what we really want to happen.
    The way Amber illustrated that in her writing by sharing her story, her honesty and her vulnerability made for a thought provoking read.
    Two books I would highly recommend if you haven't read them is "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz and "Think and Grow Rich" by Napolean Hill (not just about money but about the mindset, habits and behaviour of success). They both are very releveant to Amber's post.

    • Thanks, Ali. Great thoughts! So much of what we are able to accomplish begins in our minds/thoughts. We can't live beyond what we believe. I would say that wrapping our identity up in a job is certainly a dangerous thing to do. However, I think we were created for work and we need to find satisfaction and fulfillment in our chosen profession. Part of our ability to find that satisfaction and fulfillment in work requires that we attach a part of ourselves to the work. (I'm sensing a blog post as I write this – thanks for the idea!)

      "Think and Grow Rich" is a fantastic book along those lines. I also like "Thou Shall Prosper" by Daniel Lapin. I've not read "The Four Agreements" but I'll check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • addude13

    Really good post. Going through a similar time in my life — layoff, financial issues, health issues, the whole thing. And yet, I'm excited because a partner and I are starting our own agency. To be the boss, and to do it right. Best of luck to all of you!

    • That's awesome! Congratulations on starting your own agency! It's an exciting time – enjoy it.

  • addude13

    Really good post. Going through a similar time in my life — layoff, financial issues, health issues, the whole thing. And yet, I'm excited because a partner and I are starting our own agency. To be the boss, and to do it right. Best of luck to all of you!

    • That's awesome! Congratulations on starting your own agency! It's an exciting time – enjoy it.

  • Wow! For the first time I've heard someone else describe exactly how myself and my wife feel about my current 9-5/cube situation. "we're doing something that doesn't fit who we are."

    I am making positive steps forward in my entrepreneurial career though and am excited for the future.

  • Wow! For the first time I've heard someone else describe exactly how myself and my wife feel about my current 9-5/cube situation. "we're doing something that doesn't fit who we are."

    I am making positive steps forward in my entrepreneurial career though and am excited for the future.

  • Love this. I struggled with anxiety for a long time. Thought most things in life were close to impossible when I was scared just talking to someone. Now I've started two companies, got a job heading marketing for an internet start-up, and consult on business and marketing for local companies.

    And it's all due to a change in mindset like yours.

    Go Amber!!!! You just inspired me.

  • Love this. I struggled with anxiety for a long time. Thought most things in life were close to impossible when I was scared just talking to someone. Now I've started two companies, got a job heading marketing for an internet start-up, and consult on business and marketing for local companies.

    And it's all due to a change in mindset like yours.

    Go Amber!!!! You just inspired me.

  • Great story. Hope this gives other people hope and to think more on positive things.

  • Thanks for the great story from Amber!

    It’s funny but as business owners we all get so used to dealing with roller coasters, that after a while without realizing it we’ve become so much more immune to the ups and downs that would have totally freaked us out when we were employed.

    Rock on!

  • I am blown away by the honesty & brilliance of Amber’s compelling story. I worked in HR for a large corporation and decided to leave after conducting the 5th-6th layoff in 3 years. It was just too painful to watch the insanity of it all. So I found another job where I helped people find work they love – much more rewarding.

    I am inspired by brave people like Amber who have the courage to pursue their dreams and not give into the lie that they are not worthy or somehow bad. The world needs all of us to shine brightly.

    Since someone mentioned a book, I have one to share that directly relates to what Amber did (move from victim to creator). The book is “The Power of TED*” by David Emerald.

  • Wendy

    Enjoyed reading this article, especially the last paragraph…when my mind doesn’t dwell on the negative, I clearly see the positive. I learn that perspective is everything and that we attract what we believe. I write this today with the mindset that when the universe wipes things from your life, it is only making room for things that are bigger and better.
    We should all practice that mindset daily…our lives would be so much more enjoyable!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks, Wendy! You’re so right that this has to be “practiced” daily. When we’re not intentional about how we think and what we dwell on, our thoughts rarely drift to the positive. It takes practice to take every thought captive and evaluate whether it’s a positive thought or a negative thought. It then takes even more discipline and will to change our thinking toward the positive if we realize it’s negative.

    We have control over our thoughts, we just so rarely exercise it!

    (Hopefully all that positive/negative stuff made sense!)