Two horrible things happened to me after turning 30.
I lost my job.
And I lost my family.
In both instances, the cuts were deep. I’ve never known rejection like either of those incidents.
To be sure, your wife leaving and deciding to love someone else makes you feel pretty worthless.
And generally speaking, divorce is about a million times worse than unemployment.
But this is also true: I have never felt like more of a loser than when I was laid off from my job.
The Job Hunt
The local job market wasn’t exactly clamoring for laid-off newspaper reporters.
Finding work as a reporter would have been even more difficult than what I was facing at age 30: Reinventing myself.
I did the only things I could. I made my résumé the best it could be. I tapped into my local network. And I started doing the work I wanted to do in my new professional life.
Without realizing it, I chose myself.
I caught a few breaks, and I started a freelance business creating marketing content for several companies and organizations.
But I did something more important than that.
I showed tenacity and sticktoitiveness.
A company for which I wanted to work invited me to interview for an opening in their advertising department.
But I didn’t get an offer.
The head of human resources liked me, though, and kept fighting for interviews.
One day, I showed up for one of the company’s job fairs. I met with another department head for a writing position.
But I didn’t get an offer.
I was invited to interview with a third department. Internet marketing.
It went well. But the other two had also.
Days turned into weeks. And weeks turned into months.
I kept looking for opportunities. I was making money freelancing. And I still qualified for unemployment benefits during the weeks when I didn’t earn as much as my benefits were worth.
The clock was ticking on unemployment, though. The benefits were a couple weeks away from running dry.
Things were about to get really dicey.
One sunny afternoon, I was downtown attending a chamber of commerce luncheon to hear a speaker.
So, I didn’t get the phone call.
Back in my car, I listened to the voice mail.
It was the HR lady who liked me, asking me to call back. She had a job offer for me. For more money than I’d ever made before. She hoped I was still interested and available.
I’d never tasted victory so sweet.
I got ballsy and asked for more money anyway. (You should ALWAYS ask for more.)
And I got it. Two years worth of raises with one simple question.
Play ‘til the ninth inning.
Near the end, Kleon tells an anecdote about one time he and a co-worker returned to their office building from lunch to find no parking spaces available. They circled and circled and circled the lot. Both were ready to give up, but just then a spot opened up, and they pulled in.
Kleon’s co-worker looked at him and said “You gotta play till the ninth inning, man.”
Kleon never forgot it.
And I hope I never will either.
Never Say Die
You don’t have to be a Goonie to appreciate what it means to have a never-quit attitude.
It’s impossible for me to think about this without thinking about my marriage.
I had spent a long time doing all of the wrong things.
And then my father-in-law died and everything turned to shit.
Shortly thereafter, I was in the guest room.
The guest room is an interesting place when it’s located directly below the bedroom you want to be in.
Because you stare at the ceiling. Because you hear her footsteps. Because there’s no running away from all that truth piled up on your chest while you’re trying to catch your breath.
And that’s when it started.
It was the 7th inning stretch.
I was tired. Exhausted. But I wasn’t quitting.
I read books.
I was about to lose everything. I could feel it. But I was holding on.
The guest room is where I learned that love is a choice.
The guest room is where I learned that you have to give more than you take.
The guest room is where l became a different person. Where I turned into the kind of man that is going to play through the ninth inning.
And now I’m left with only questions. Questions that will go forever unanswered.
Now I’m back sleeping where I wanted to be. But the footsteps echoing into the guest room below are my own.
And no one is around to listen to them.
Maybe she thinks about this stuff sometimes. Maybe she doesn’t.
But here’s the one thing I’m sure of.
The man she left was the best version of himself she ever knew.
And I’ll never stop believing that if she would have been willing to play just one more inning, we could have avoided everything crashing and burning.
Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.
It probably doesn’t.
But the idea matters.
Because there are a bunch of other guys in guest rooms. On couches. Sleeping at their parents’ houses. All over the world.
Relationships in limbo.
Everyone’s hurting. Hurting so bad that quitting looks like an attractive option. Most people are going to quit. Because it’s the decision requiring the least amount of effort. The least amount of pride swallowing. The least amount of choosing love.
Everyone wants to fall in love. Few of us want to choose it when it’s inconvenient.
I have truckloads of regret over my marital missteps. But I sleep at night because of how I played toward the end of the game.
Maybe you’ll climb that mountain.
Maybe you’ll get that job.
Maybe you’ll save your family.
Or maybe you won’t.
But if you can muster up the strength and courage to play ‘til the ninth?
You’ll walk tall no matter what.