In an interview in More magazine (December/January 2005), former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes discusses what she learned from being fired.
"No job will ever snuggle me in bed, stand with me beside my mother's casket, help me raise my child or love me when I am at my worst. Only my husband can do that.
"No job will ever call for me urgently during a thunderstorm, write me a carefully scrawled Mother's Day card or tell me he wants to marry me when he grows up. Only my son can do that."
Those are wonderful ideas, and I really hope Ms. Mapes knew them before she was fired. I like to believe that we all recognize that our jobs are not our essence. I've yet to read an obituary where the "Survived by" includes spouse, children and their beloved corporation. We all know it's not real, even if we don't put it into words. We all intuitively recognize the truth of Ms. Mapes' statements.
But acknowledging that truth and living in a way that exemplifies it are two dramatically different things.
I don't know Mary Mapes. Perhaps she crafted her life in such a way that it reflected this wisdom. Or perhaps she was caught up in the excitement of her job -- the travel, the power, the important issues. Perhaps there was very little time to look at that Mother's Day card.
Maybe she found the perfect balance. I don't know. But I do know that most of us don't. Many people -- men and women -- put their careers first, no matter what they say. Just check the number of hours worked. Listen to their conversations. Observe their social relationships.
Many people put much more time and energy into doing their job well than they do into their marriages or their children. And it exacts a cost.
Although being fired can have serious financial consequences and be a tremendous blow to our self-esteem, it is also an opportunity to re-evaluate and start anew.
Did I really stay focused on my goals? Did I create the kind of work-family balance I desire -- the kind I promised myself I would? Am I focused on the most important relationships?
I'm not advocating that we all get fired! I'd like to learn the lesson without that pain. We need to recognize and internalize the idea that even the most meaningful job is just that, a job. We need to take more pleasure in the simple gifts and accomplishments. We need to maintain perspective that working 24/6 doesn't usually allow us.
We need to go out and throw the football with our children. We need to go for a walk in the park with our spouse. We need to put our work in perspective, and hopefully we won't be forced to hear those ominous Donald Trump-ian words, "You're Fired."