This morning I shared a post that was about the inspiration my son gave to me by his actions. It reminded me of a darker time about 10 years ago. The title is of a poem I came across and have subsequently kept with me for many years. I first started paying attention to it in January of 2002. That was when I went through my first layoff, and I’ve certainly thought about it quite a bit over the subsequent few years that followed (between 2002 and 2005, I would be let go of three jobs in the space of three years). I remember well the feeling of frustration and near helplessness at that time. It was not a good time to be a software tester, at least not in my immediate area. It would have been easy to give in to defeatism and hopelessness, but carrying this with me helped me remember that there’s a bigger picture, a brighter horizon and, yes, even an eternal perspective.

In that kind of a world view, three lean years is not that great an amount of time, and it gave me a chance to reflect on what I really valued and what I really wanted to do. I discovered something of great worth in those lean years. Yes, my family and I had to cut back on many creature comforts we had enjoyed, but our overall level of happiness did not diminish. We bought less stuff than before, but our relationships with each other were what truly mattered. I’d certainly like to not go through that particular “Refiners Fire” again if I can otherwise avoid it, but it taught me that I had more to do with my ultimate outcome than any circumstances that might befall me.

Mostly, I realized that no one else was going to solve my problems but me. No government agency, no headhunter, no service, no networking group. They might have a peripheral boost, but if I wasn’t focused on doing something that I felt was valuable, important and of worth, it wouldn’t matter. Real change doesn’t happen when external forces push on you. That’s just adaptation. Real change will happen when we decide we want a change, and when that happens, nothing will stand in our way.

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re treading seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must- but do not quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow-
You might succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than it seems
To a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out-
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt-
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

–Author Unknown