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Black Swans and Defining Moments of Your Career – Part 2

March 15, 2009

One Friday evening many years ago, I experienced one of those significant Black Swan events that turned out to become a defining moment for my career. I had just gotten home from work when I received a call from my boss. She was crying. She told me that her boss, two layers of management above me, had just informed her that he was laying off our entire department within the company, and that there was nothing we could do about it. I would be getting a call from him shortly, she said, between slobbering glurps.

I looked over at my wife, who was very pregnant with our first child. We had just moved to a larger apartment to make room, paying a much higher rent than we had been used to. Plus, we were saving for a down payment on a house. This job was important to me.

Okay, I’m thinking to myself. First of all, my boss is crying like a little baby, and she’s falling apart. Losing a job is hard, but her hysteria didn’t win her any points in my eyes. Second, it is my boss’s boss who will be calling me. Hmm.

His name was Bob. I had seen him around from time to time, but I didn’t really know much about him. By the same token, he had no idea who I was or what I was working on, either. So this phone call from my boss’s boss about a corporate layoff would almost be like our first real introduction. How ironic.

Before she finished with our sad exchange, my boss cursed him out like a drunken truck driver and then made a few bitter parting remarks. “We’re all going,” she said. And with that she hung up the phone. My whole department was getting the hatchet, and that was that. I waited for the call from Bob.

Back then I was a young, aspiring guy in my late twenties working in business development. The company I was working for had hired me to open up a new market for them. I had been at it for almost a year and was just starting to gain some serious traction with some very lucrative clients on the horizon.

Bob was too far removed to know anything about this. He barely knew my name. There were several big opportunities on the verge of breaking which hadn’t yet surfaced to the higher-ups. I knew this was going to open up an entirely new source of revenue for the company in an untapped market that they had been hankering after. I was sure Bob knew nothing about any of this yet.

A few minutes later the phone rang again. It was Bob. He started out with his canned speech about the layoff. When he paused for a second to catch his breath, I very calmly asked, “So you want me to cancel my appointments next week with companies X, Y and Z?”

I knew he would perk up when I mentioned those corporate names. I pronounced each syllable of the brands ever so precisely, so that they would bubble up through the phone line and pop right next to his ear.

“We are ready to sign the contracts next week,” I told him. I was tossing out pieces of information to him like raw meat to a rabid wolf. It wasn’t BS, either. The timing was just so.

On the other end of the line was stunned silence. He wasn’t expecting this. Bob had just made about ten calls with screaming, crying, angry recipients on the other end. He didn’t quite know what to make of my enticing business prospects. I had thrown him a curve ball, and it landed squarely in his lap.

“Um, okay, that sounds interesting. You say it’s next week?”

“Yeah. And I can’t close this deal if I’m not working for you. How about I come in and meet with you Monday morning to tell you more about it before you make a decision?”

“Sure, that sounds good. See you Monday at 9 a.m.”

No histrionics, no foul-mouthed vengeance, no slamming phones. All I knew was that this guy really needed to know what he was walking away from.

That night, my wife and I spent the entire evening praying, strategizing, and role-playing like two attorneys building a case to justify their very lives. We went to bed around 11pm and then an odd thing happened. At exactly 2:15 am, each of us woke up at the same time. We turned to look at each other, and in a moment of clarity and absolute certainty I whispered to her, “I’m not going to lose my job!” She whispered back, “I know!”

We went back to sleep. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, we both knew what was going to happen. It was weird. It was like this certainty and confidence beyond any doubt that I knew God’s plan for my life at that exact moment. This all happened on a Friday night, and the next morning we woke up relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the weekend.

The following Monday, I met with Bob at his office and very calmly began to present the business case that he was about to miss out on. After just two minutes he started waving his hands at me, saying, “You’re not laid off. Pretend you never got that call. So. Go on.” My business development work was apparently the best kept secret in the company. It turned out I was the only one in my department not to get laid off.

Without knowing it, God had been preparing me for that moment. The development work I had been doing up until that time had not produced any major results, but it was just about to take hold. In addition, my previous job was a sales position that had prepared me to think on my feet in stressful situations, maintaining my composure in front of very intimidating circumstances.

All of these experiences together over the past four years had prepared me for that very moment. By God’s mercy, I didn’t screw it up.

I went on from that fateful day to build a successful business unit for my company over the next several years. Bob became very interested in my work. The results I produced for him then laid the groundwork for my next big move, then the one after that, and the next one after that. The rest, as they say, is history. My history.

What will your history be? Each of us will face these significant moments in our lives and careers that, depending how we react to it, will determine the fate of our future for many years to come. These are the defining moments of our lives. Everything that is going on during the in-between times – however difficult, boring or tedious – could actually be very important in the long run.

Think about it. God is preparing you for something big.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2009 12:26 am

    that was a very good story.

    i loved reading all about your experience at work, and you and your wife.

    it is good to think of things as preparation.

    i have to tell you, that there is nothing left to my blog as it was…there are now only two little posts.
    i would almost say that there not much to show for two years of blogging, however, there is a lot, and it is all in the blog list.
    i have related with a lot of wonderful people.

  2. March 16, 2009 8:44 pm

    I like the part about you and your wife waking up at the same moment. Mostly when I wake, I just twiddle my thumbs (so to speak) waiting to go back to sleep. How fun to wake and meet one another in the night, with a resonant moment.

  3. March 17, 2009 9:28 am

    A great practical story about God’s providence and how his hand provided for you in what could have been a moment of faithless panic.


  4. March 19, 2009 7:49 am

    Great reminder that while we can’t control the circumstances we find ourselves in, we can control our responses to those circumstances. God is faithful to our obediance.

  5. Michele Corbett permalink
    March 21, 2009 11:40 am

    Inspired by your story. Thanks!

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