I got fired from my second grown up job.
I was 23 years old and working at a small startup tech company as a writer.
I lasted there about 4 months until they let me go. It was the right decision on their part. I was a terrible employee.
When they would give me feedback, I would ignore it and instead write what I wanted to. When they would correct me, I would inwardly roll my eyes, disappointed they were unable to fully recognize my genius. When they would ask me to work harder or redo something, I would huff and puff at the inconvenience they had just thrust upon my day.
One afternoon, they had experienced enough of the Jon Acuff show and fired me.
The problem wasn’t my age, I know lots of wonderful 23 year olds who are capable of amazing things. It was my attitude that blinded me to the simple fact that I was there to do the work they hired me to do, not the work I wanted to do. I was their employee. You would think that arrangement would be painfully obvious and yet, so many people, of varying ages, seem to forget that.
Have you ever hired a developer to build a website? Sometimes in the middle of the project, as you give feedback on changes you’d like made, they get frustrated. They revolt and act like they are client. As you write an apologetic email to them, expressing your regret that you see a few things they need to fix, it will hit you, “Wait, I am paying them money. I’m the client. I hired them to do work, not the other way around. Why do I feel guilty right now?” (Great developers, and there are many, know that if you want to absolutely dominate the marketplace, you should never make a client feel like this.)
Comedian Louis CK commented on this phenomenon recently on Late Night with Seth Myers. When he was in his mid 20s, writing for the Conan O’Brien show, he forgot how work worked.
“I was in my twenties, so I just thought that I wanted to get my stuff on the show. Now I know that I was working for people that I should have been helping because they were giving me money. If somebody hires you to do anything and they pay you money that you then go live your life with, you should really want to do anything that they need. At the time I didn’t believe that.”
I didn’t believe that either and I got fired.
You will too if you’re not careful.
Whether you’re 23 or 53, don’t show up to work like they’re doing you a favor. Show up like they are paying you to do something and then go do that something. Show up helpful. Show up grateful. Show up humble.
Listen to Louis CK.
It just might save your job.