At one point during my old job voice-writing news captions, I had to choose whether to sign a pro-union email.
It’s a complicated story that I did a six-part blog series on, click here if you care to read all the gory details.
But bottom line, my employer wasn’t treating the employees right, and when a group of us began the process of unionizing, the CEO sent out an email full of lies about unions so our group created a well-written response.
Then our leader asked each of us: would you be willing to sign this response email and officially associate your name with this movement?
Wow, I had only been at the company for about six months at that point, so I had a few things to consider before I added my name to the bottom of what I knew would be a controversial email.
There were plenty of pros and cons I considered and wrote down:
Why I should sign – I believe in unions, I believed the company was being abusive and only a union would change that, I was impressed by the union and its rep.
Why I shouldn’t – I could lose the new job that’s essentially feeding my family, I might be wrong about the company being abusive because I’m new, why should I trust people I don’t know, like the union?
When I took a good look at the two lists, I realized all the reasons why I should were based on my character and my instincts, what I believed in, and all of the reasons why I shouldn’t were based on fear, what I was afraid might or could happen.
My character, I’ve been told, isn’t based on what happens to me – instead, it’s based on how I react to what happens to me.
Once I considered that, the decision was easy.
Long story short, I signed the email, shit hit the fan, and my worst fear happened:
I got fired, as did my pro-union friend Marie.
They canned us using some ridiculous accusations, so at first I had a lot of doubts about having made my choice.
But I talked it over with my wife (something I highly recommend, except with your own empathetic and understanding partner, not mine, no offense) and we came to the conclusion that despite me losing my job, it was still the right choice, therefore a good choice, and we could both live with that.
And then here’s what happened next.
The union’s lawyer and I took the company to court for wrongful termination and after two years of judges and lawyers going back and forth we won.
During that time, the union gave me a small but respectable weekly relief check to help keep me and my family going.
During that time, six days a week I got up at 4:00 am and wrote journals, then children’s stories, then social blogs, then sports blogs, then gradually I got three major clients, DawgPound Daily, WSN and Copy Chief.
In other words, I became a professional writer, one who now makes over twice what that miserable captioning job had paid.
And now, once we win the appeal, Marie and I will get a decent-sized settlement.
Quick flash: here’s what would’ve happened had I NOT chosen to sign that email:
I would’ve kept my job, the one I hated.
I would’ve watched Marie get fired and thought, “See? I knew I made the right choice. Screw the union, I saved my job and I can still feed my family. Ha!”
I’d have still been working so chances are I would not have gotten up every day to write, so in that time I would not have become a writer.
As a result, I would not have begun to look for writing clients, so I would not have gotten a job writing NFL blogs or with Copy Chief.
I would have definitely been miserable, I just wouldn’t have known why.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but if I use it to learn, I see that despite the choice I made (based on my character) feeling uncomfortable at first, in the end it turned out to be the best choice for me.
Had I made the fearful choice that might have initially felt more comfortable, I wouldn’t have a lot of the things today that make me totally happy and content.
From the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I’m forced to make choices, some simple, some that will change my life. It never has to get too complicated as long as I base my choices on my character, what I know is the right thing to do.
Fear has no place in the decision-making process.
It’s just a temporary cloud of doubts and what-ifs you have to fly through holding your breath, trusting it’ll fade once the real action begins.
Making a tough choice in life is no less difficult than flying a trapeze .
At that one critical moment, you have to choose whether to trust your skills and instinct and completely let go, knowing that once you do, you’ll free-fly through the air for a few terrifying moments, arms outstretched, staring at the ground far below, forced to trust that at just the right moment two strong arms will be there to pull you to safety.
The moment I chose to sign that email and got fired, I was flying through the air, arms outstretched above the crowd, wondering whether I should curl up into a ball and bailout into the safety net that may or may not be down below.
Didn’t hurt to have a good wife whispering, “You can fly!” right at that critical moment, but in the end I had to trust that my tough choice was the right one and extend my arms perfectly and prepare to transition.
My writing discipline, the union and some ideal clients pulled me to safety, and let me tell you, surviving that experience was every bit as thrilling as starring in the freakin’ circus.
Making a tough choice in life is no less difficult than trusting your character over your fear.
Then you just let go, trust your instincts, and prepare to transition.