Getting Fired From My First Job Helped Me Become a Better Worker

Today’s guest post comes to us from Nathan who blogs over at Millionaire Dojo. Great post Nathan! Thank you.

When I was 17, I got my first job at Chic-fil-A. I was excited to start earning some money and hoped to make some new friends. I was homeschooled, so creating friendships at work was important to me. I had heard that Chic-fil-A was a great company to work for, so I thought it would be a good experience.

After a few months of working, I had made some friends, but wasn’t super close to anyone in particular. We goofed off a lot in the kitchen, and that made the days go by a little quicker. We realized that Chic-fil-A wasn’t the same company that outsiders thought it was. They may treat their customers great, but their employees not so much.

A lot of times I felt like I was on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen (minus a lot of the cussing). You’re expected to do everything perfectly and as fast as humanly possible when you work for Chic-fil-A. The moto for employees is to provide “second mile service.” This just means that they expect you to work your hands to the bone and not expect any thanks in return. One of the managers was particularly mean. Everyone (including other managers) usually walked away with their tails tucked between their legs after any altercation with this manager.

A mean boss can make work insufferable.

I felt like I was a good employee. Always showed up on time and did what was expected of me. It seemed like I was favored over most of the crew. I’m an introvert, so I usually tried to fly under the radar and just work when I was on the clock. Sometimes flying under the radar isn’t the way to go.

The night it all went down

I was working a normal shift, with a particularly disturbed employee. I was somewhat friends with this guy, but he definitely had some social issues. Everyone thought he was awesome when they first met him, but the more you got to know about him, the less appealing he became. He was a compulsive liar, and it was hard to know if anything he said was the truth.

It was getting close to closing time, and my coworker came by the sandwich making area with a box. He decided he wanted to take some of the food home with him. Although I knew that was against the policy, no one seemed to care. I had even seen managers take food home with them before. He filled up his box with leftover food and placed it somewhere he thought would be safe (behind the dumpster outside).

Low and behold, someone found the box of food behind the dumpster. I don’t know if someone saw him with the box of food or if the employees just liked to hangout behind the dumpster. The particular employee that found the box wanted desperately to be promoted, so ratting our coworker out would help her look good to management. The way that restaurant was ran developed a hierarchy of suck ups who tried to look like goody two shoes.

Ignorance is bliss

I didn’t think much about the situation with my coworker taking the food. Closing down the kitchen is very hands-on, and I didn’t have any time to sit around and think about what just happened. I noticed a couple of the other coworkers talking, but I didn’t know that the guy got caught with the box of food until after my shift.

After I clocked out, I noticed my disturbed coworker wanted to stick around and talk. He told me how he had gotten caught and that he thought the manager was going to tell the operator which would likely result in him getting fired. I had an early shift the next day, and my coworker told me he was going to come in and apologize and beg for his job. The manager that was on duty when he got caught was also working the next morning. She just told him to go home and not worry about it.

I thought the whole situation was over with, and we continued on as usual with work for the next couple of weeks.

Surprise, you’re fired!

A couple of weeks after the night my coworker got caught, I arrived to my normal shift early. All the guys on my shift hated their jobs, so we needed our time to meetup and complain about work in the parking lot before clocking in. The thief coworker was working that day, and as we were walking in, the owner of the restaurant pulled up on us. “My office! Now!” He yelled out of his truck window.

Stunned, we continued to walk into the restaurant. “Bro, what do you think this is about?” My coworker asked me. I responded, “I don’t know, but it appears we’re about to get fired.” Once we were in the restaurant, the owner came busting through the door, told me to sit down and took my coworker back to the office. I waited for about 30 minutes before he came and got me. Those 30 minutes felt like a lifetime to my 18-year-old self.

The owner asked me what had happened a couple of weeks ago on the night shift. I responded, “Is this about the box of food that was found?” He confirmed, and then I told my account of the story. I told him that I had put the leftover food in a box and that I sat it somewhere and it ended up disappearing. In a raised voice, he said “You expect me to believe that story!?”

After threatening me with pressing charges for theft, I finally told him that I knew my coworker was going to take the food. I don’t know why I didn’t just say that to begin with. I guess I was trying to cover for my coworker. After confessing, he fired me on the spot. Thankfully, he didn’t press charges on me. I’m not quite sure what he could have had me arrested  for anyways though.

Take away

I guess since I didn’t tell the truth to begin with, it cost me my job. I have no idea what my coworker told the owner, so he could have totally thrown me under the bus.

Getting fired like this was a pretty big blow to my confidence. Although it was just a silly high school job, it impacted the way I go about work to this day, 7 years later.

The main takeaway I have from this experience is to always speak the truth. I very well could have kept my job if I had just gotten my story straight the first time in the interrogation.

Another lesson learned is to always put out fires when you see sparks. I should’ve been proactive and had my name cleared from the situation long before the day I got fired. I took the route of staying quiet, and that seemed to backfire on me. I should have gone straight to a manager and told them that my coworker was taking food. While I don’t like ratting people out, I lost my job and my only source of income because I held my tongue.

Thankfully, this is the only time I’ve been fired and I’m currently employed in the IT field.

To read more about Nathan’s journey, check out the blog over at Millionaire Dojo.

Overcoming Job Related Identity Loss

Today’s guest post talks about the loss of identity. It often comes with losing a job, but sometimes, it can come WITH the job. This post comes to you courtesy of Mr. Flexcents who writes about personal finance as well as health and wellness over at  Let’s dive in with a personal story of his. – Milton


One of the first things that we ask the people we meet is “What do you do for a living?” This question can lead to an awkward silence, especially if you recently lost your job — or worse, your identity. I’m not talking about identity theft either.

Career Beginnings

Ever since high school, I always wanted to become a physical therapist (PT). It was a burning desire to help people recover from their injuries so they can return to caring for themselves or their family. In 2014, I finally achieved this dream after 7 years of rigorous study. To add to the thrills of graduation and passing my licensure exam, I was accepted into a competitive residency program at a non-profit outpatient PT clinic. While residencies for PTs are completely optional, I had the career goal of furthering my education to become an orthopedic clinical specialist and this residency was designed to provide my with the training to achieve my goals. However, my passion to drive my career forward began to fade along with a large piece of my personal identity.

Initial Experiences

The last thing I expected fresh out of school was to be told I was not good enough. These words came from one of my residency mentors. I recognized this residency was made to groom me to become a better PT. However, what I didn’t realize was that my was that my mentor’s teaching style was poorly aligned with my learning style. I figured I would continue to work hard regardless and eventually, it would pay off. Despite my efforts, all I received were negative feedback and insults. This lead me to feel incompetent, intimidated and powerless by my mentor’s mere presence. I now realize, I needed more guidance and positive feedback.

When things are not working, speak up rather than wait for things to get worse.

Instead of focusing on the details of how he made me feel this way, let’s focus on some dynamics on why my first professional experience made me feel so lost and how you can learn from my mistakes. To do this, I will refer to a model called The Wheel of Life.

The Wheel of Life

The wheel of life was a concept originally created by Paul J. Meyer. He is considered the pioneer of the self-improvement industry. Many have made modifications to the areas of life measured in this model. I will be using Zig Ziglar’s modification which considers intellect, social, family, spiritual, physical, financial, and career. Each area of your life affects another.

This is what mine looked like at the start of my residency.

You can see that I was heavily focused on my career. As the residency progressed, my focus shifted even more towards my career and studies. Of course, this took from other areas of my life such as spending time with my friends and family and spending little to no time in the gym. My life began to be thrown out of balance and was I was poorly equipped to deal with the stressors of unexpected events at work.

The unhappiness from my job began bleeding into other areas of my life. I began to isolate myself to avoid my mentor at work to avoid harsh criticism, I became agitated at home and I could no longer resolve familial issues with a cool head. I stopped working out all-together and just stopped taking care of myself. To make matters worse, I had to start worrying about finances since the public service loan forgiveness became more uncertain for my situation – I was already in over $100K in student loan debt!

Not only was I questioning my career, intellect, and financial stability, I was questioning who I was and who I wanted to become. I felt like I was stuck in a void with no answers and was just trying to survive. It wasn’t long before I felt useless to everyone around me. This was the most dangerous feeling I ever had.

The Fix

My trajectory drastically changed after being involved in a hit and run while walking to work. The van tossed me into the air and miraculously, I only ended up with a few bruises and a broken leg. This accident made me realize how valuable my life is and how my life is much more than my career.

I took control of my situation and sought professional help to figure out what was wrong with me. I also reached out to family and friends to discuss my feelings and difficulties at work. They already knew something was up and was willing to lend a helping hand. I don’t know what took so long for me to reach out to others, but the support provided me with clarity. It wasn’t me that was the problem, it was my environment at work.

This lead me to leave the residency and determine that no amount of career success or loan forgiveness is worth my happiness. I transitioned out of this outpatient residency and went into a skilled nursing facility (SNF) to build up my confidence back up. Changing jobs also came with a 10% pay raise allowing my to put more money towards my student loans!


Fast forward a couple years later, I transitioned from an SNF to treating patients in their homes. I have learned to love my career again and enjoy the good people I work with. I have developed a better work-life balance, paid off over $100K of student debt and now I am pursuing financial independence so I can allocate my time and energy to other passions and spending more time with loved ones.

As you can see below, I am living a more balanced life now as I live a life that is defined by much more than my career.

The Lessons I Have Learned

You Are Good Enough

Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. My mentor told me I was fail without his supervision. I am now thriving in my current position and am making a difference in my patients’ lives. I learned that when people are unjustifiably mean or unsupportive of you, it is more their problem than yours. Spend less energy focusing on the negative people and more energy focusing on the people who matter.

Diversify Your Purpose As You Would Your Money

You don’t have to be a financial advisor to recognize how important it is to diversify your investment portfolio. The same can be said in where you spend your time and energy. Even if you are lucky enough to find meaning in your career, find purpose and develop goals outside of your career. This will help during times of uncertainty, like job loss and retirement.

Ask For Help

No one knows what is going on in your head. People knew things were not going well with me, but I denied any issues. Even though I was screaming for help inside, but too proud to ask for it. Prolonged sadness can lead to serious problems. If you have lost interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling down or hopeless, seek help immediately. There is no shame in reaching out to friends and family.

Own Your Future

My favorite quote I have hanging on my wall goes something like: “Life does not get better by chance, it gets better by choice” – Jim Rohn. Bad things happen to people all the time. While it may not be your fault for these misfortunes, it sure as heck is your responsibility to find ways to better your life.

We All Have A Unifying Purpose

The most important thing I learned is to shift my focus from career to relationships and experiences. I learned that I am so much more than a physical therapist. I’m a husband, brother, son, uncle, reliable friend, exercise enthusiast, financial fanatic, blogger, amateur photographer, perpetual learner and so much more.

In the end, we are much more than our careers and titles. We are the laughs we put on other people’s faces, the experiences we share with acquaintances and loved ones, and the difference in all the lives we touch throughout our lifetime.

If you want to read more about me and how I am working towards financial independence, visit


Job Loss AGAIN. Next stop ASIA.

Well wouldn’t you know it, the “Getting Canned” blogger is about to deal with job loss again. But this time around, I won’t classify it as truly getting fired because this is more like a contract wrapping up. Nevertheless, this is the end of a job and time to move on to the next thing.

At the time of the time of this writing, it looks like my current contract gig will end around November 26th. The death of this income stream is in line with my timeline and plan to get out of the Midwest by mid-winter to avoid the impending deep freeze.  Chicago winters get COLD.

I’m planning on getting away from the Midwest as far as possible and leaving the country to head to Asia for the winter or longer. On the itinerary is

  • Taipei, Taiwan
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Guangzhou, China
  • Laos
  • Phuket, Thailand
  • Singapore
  • Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

I’m going to travel the world a bit and hit a few spots in Asia. I’ll make sure and do some recon on potential retirement destinations and report back here. Subscribe below if you want a reminder.

Past Travel

But before I go, let’s take a look at a few memorable pics from the times I lived in Taiwan in the past.

There’s the famous “Toilet Restaurant” where you sit on toilets and eat out of little toilet shaped plates and bowls.  Good times.

Ximending "Modern Toilet" restaurant
Modern Toilet Restaurant – 便所歡樂主題餐廳 in Taipei Ximending area.  Sitting on Toilets!

You eat from little toilet-shaped bowls. Yum.

Yum Toilet shaped bowl
Modern Toilet Restaurant – 便所歡樂主題餐廳 hot pot bowl shaped like a toilet.

Oh, how I miss Asia! What other distant memories were captured? Let’s take a look. It was often the little things that were amusing.

My first trip to a night market back in around 2010
Quaker Oats Drink
These were a favorite of mine. Some type of quaker oats drink. Why not drink your oatmeal?

In Taiwan, the majority of people get around by scooter. It’s an economical way to get around. The streets are flooded with mostly scooters although some people do drive cars. The first time I saw a parking lot packed with scooters it was pretty wild. It reminded me of that scene in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” where he knocked over the motorcycles and they went down like dominos.  I had a fear of scooters tumbling down in this way.

Scooters Parked
Don’t tip these scooters over, lest they fall like dominos

So Just What is My Plan Anyways?

Travel.  Exploring. Earning side gig income through a variety of income streams. I’m doing some consulting for CRM databases. I imagine I’ll do a bit of remote English teaching here and there. I have a few clients that need WordPress sites managed. And then there’s this blog which has a little income potential.

The Risks

There is, of course, the risk that my income will fall short of what I’m hoping. This is a bit of a trial break at life abroad and I imagine, I’ll likely return in the spring. Although nothing is written in stone. There is a chance that I’ll face a different job market from what exists at this point. Right now it’s a glorious market with plenty of opportunities. In six months that could change.

Another concern of mine is that our Western culture seems to really frown on time spent not working. “You haven’t been working for six months? Well, the only possible explanation is you’re incompetent and your skillset it now outdated…”No job for you!”


Long Term Unemployment

I sympathize with those that have ever been long-term unemployed. I experienced this myself several years ago. Back in the financial crisis of 2008, I found myself long-term unemployed for about two years before taking action that sent me to the other side of the planet.

It happened a few months after accepting a consulting position in a large batch of hires who were doing the same role in implementing software. After about five months, I terminated for somewhat dubious reasons. Regardless of the company stated cause for termination, it was my opinion that the company hired 25 people, knowing that the need was probably closer to 21. I think the first few months of employment was a vetting process to determine who would make the cut. I was getting paid significantly more than some of my coworkers, and I’ll be the first to admit, my skillset did not justify it at that time. I was let go.

The 2008 Financial Crisis Begins

But I wasn’t let go into any old job market. I was let go towards the end of 2008 –  and towards the very beginning of the greatest financial crisis of my life which has since been called “The Great Recession.” Those that lived it know it would later become more like a depression. But at this time, no one could have known how big it was about to become.

I had worked ever since graduating in 2001 without any breaks and my initial attempts to find employment didn’t even yield any interviews. I didn’t panic.I figured this would be a few months off work to relax and finally have some me time. I foolishly thought I might be passive on the job search a bit and then in a month or two and when the job market picks up, I’ll rejoin the workforce.  The job market did not pick up.

The Job Market Becomes Impossible

The job market continued to plunge into hopelessness.  As the outlook became bleaker, my efforts increased. Every day became a ritual. Some time at the gym followed by some time at the coffee or tea shop sending resumes.    After some time, what began to happen is every open position I came across I recognized as being one that I’d already applied to. I applied again. I was qualified for the positions. Sometimes I was overqualified. But the phone never rang, and recruiters never came.

Time progressed. Week after week; then month after month. A year had passed. I was officially long-term unemployed. The job market didn’t want me. To be fair, they didn’t want much of anyone else either but that was little consolation to me. I expanded my job search. Despite having a previous role consulting on software implementation, I was applying to positions in customer service and sales which I thought I might have a better chance.  No luck.

They called it “The Great Recession” but for those living it, it felt like a Depression.

I continued to expand my job search this time thinking I would turn down no opportunity. I applied to retail positions. I applied to server positions at local restaurants and bars. I applied at McDonald’s.  I wasn’t sure how my previous position in software implementation would affect my chances.  My guess is that they wouldn’t want someone that had higher earning potential. But that’s all it was…potential.

There’s a cruel irony about being long-term unemployed. The very fact that you are long-term unemployed makes you MUCH less desirable to companies. Companies actually want the people that are currently working. The (incorrect) thinking is that if they are long-term unemployed it’s for a reason.  They are the leftovers that no one wants and there is no reason to waste time even considering them. The reason this is incredibly wrong is this:

If you ever wanted to hire someone that is going to take the job seriously and give it everything they have, a person that has been long-term unemployed definitely knows the value of finding work. Because they know the feeling of not being able to find work.

So after two years of trying I started working on building a business. If I knew what I know now, I could have taken it somewhere but I just didn’t understand anything about marketing. As such, I abandoned the idea at the first sign of an opportunity to earn real money.

Things Finally Turn Around

After two years of searching and losing a sense of self, I honestly figured I wouldn’t ever see another W2 paystub again. But things changed and I was finally to be paid again. At an hourly rate that I had never anticipated. I accepted a job paying $600 an hour. But my earlier notion that I might never again see a W2 still remained plausible. For this $600/hour wasn’t in US currency.

World Currencies
Money Changing Colors like Tie Dye

I accepted a job teaching English in another country.

I flew overseas to go teach English in Taiwan. I’d never taught anything in my life and I would have figured I was ill-qualified to do so. But the school assured me this was the norm. I did well enough to remain overseas for a few years.


Living overseas was an eye-opening experience. Seeing how other cultures lived gave me a much different perspective on life. Why is it that I could visit an ER room and get stitches and walk out with some pain meds and without any insurance be stuck with a bill of less than $30? This would easily cost $1000 in the USA.

Dealing With It

So what is the takeaway from my story?  Well for one, if you find yourself long-term unemployed, you’ve simply got to think outside the box. Conventional thinking would be to keep hitting the job search.  This was not too different from hitting your head on brick wall. Looking outside your own country is an option. But what else?

Knowing what I know NOW, I’d definitely consider other options. Like what?

  • Starting a business. I had a good business idea but I didn’t know how to market it. Thinking back, I don’t know why I didn’t do more research on learning HOW to market it.  Google’s your friend right? Nothing was stopping me from searching how to market.
  • Freelancing. I could have taken my skillset which consisted of among other things knowledge of databases, systems, SQL, requirements gathering and looked for freelance work or any other type of non-job income.
  • Starting a blog. Regret. I know it’s not good to look back, but this was sort of the golden age of when blogging first blossomed. I had a good story and if I knew what I know now, I could have started a blog and made a good deal of money documenting my travels and earning some affiliate money. But later is better than never hence this blog.

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