So you got laid off

john | Feb. 23, 2023, 11:50 p.m. Uncategorized

It must feel terrible.  Frankly, I got fired once.  It felt like relief more than anything else.  It was finally the excuse I needed to break free from the drudgery that was a job I sucked at.

That's when life started to get very interesting.  The first thing I did was decided I needed to figure out my life.  How was I going to pay to live.  Did I want to be constantly being worried about being fired or laid off.  And even more of these questions.  They all had answers, I just didn't know them.

So I did what I felt I needed to.  I swallowed by pride, having a degree in Civil Engineering from a decent university, and I applied for a job as a dishwasher.  As prerequisites, I put that I was Mexican, but made in America.  I got a call the next day asking if I spoke Spanish and English.  I said yes, and was asked when I could start.

Minimum wage, here I come.  Now of course, this might sound absurd to some, but it was exactly what I needed and wanted.  I had only one boss.  The head chef.  Anyone else, was going to have to wait for their dishes to get washed till it was their turn.

This wasn't the first time I was a dishwasher.  Back when I was 15, my first job was in a nursing home as a dishwasher.  Once I quit that I said I would never go back to that sort of life.  Boy was I wrong.

So as the ski season kicked off, and I washed my dishes, I decided it was time to start my own business on the side.  Now of course, I feel this has to be the general principal of most startups.  As you need a sort of lively hood or savings to be able to deal with what, but given I cared less about my actual living situation, I was completely content living life on the poverty line.

So I started searching.  Now at the time, google existed, but ChatGpt didn't.  What ever I was going to do, had to have a chance to either help people, make money, or be fun to do, and solve a problem.  Preferably, all four.

I decided to take a second and ponder what other financially successful people had done.  I decided to start at the time and see what the top 10 richest people in the world had done.  I don't remember specifically, but from my quick analysis 7 out of the top 10 had done some sort of "tech" company.  Specifically had programmed.  Or made something along the lines of an app or website before their business got going.  The other was Warren Buffet and Carlos Slim.  Both of which, I had zero desire in being as I did not have the pleasure of having an MBA or enough money to buy a monopoly.  So programming it was.  

Now this was daunting.  Because, first of all, what are you suppose to even program if you have no idea what you want to do, let alone what to code.  All while making my hands completely insensitive to scolding hot water.  Either way, I decided to try and take the "easy" way out.  After searching around a bunch, I discovered WordPress.  This seemed at the time, the best way to a "tech" business off the ground.

Of course, to me "tech" at the time implied that if I had a website, I was a tech business.  But what was my tech business going to be about.  I liked games, had played a bunch of flash games in college so I decided I was going to make a flash game website.  Specifically because at the time, it seemed like the absolute easiest thing since WordPress had a theme you could install that would already be a self populating flash game website feeding games from various providers.

I am proud to say that once I had that idea, I was gun ho on making it a reality.  Despite having easily installable WordPress themes etc, it still was extremely hard to set up at the time.  But in the end, I got it up and running.  I felt magnanimous.  

I still didn't know a damn thing about coding, nor could at the time I just ask ChatGPT "Explain this" or "Write me a function that does this". I had none of that but I did have a "tech" business.  In today's world, this would be start up land.  I was in, I was now officially running my own startup.  The hardest part of course.  Getting the site up was really hard, but making money off it was going to be easy, I mean every tech business I researched made money, this was going to be no different.  And I was right.  

I got approved for adsense after weeks of setting up the site.  And given that the time the domain I bought had some type in traffic.   Within no time, this "tech" business I had, did the impossible.  It made $1.  

From 0 to 1 baby.  I still remember the feeling waking up and seeing that $1.  I couldn't believe it.  It was real, I was now a true to the T, startup.  Now of course you had to make $100 for google to pay you, so that meant I was well on my way to retirement, one dollar a day.

I still had absolutely no idea how to code, but I started getting a bit better, with massive frustration, in how to adjust css and html.  At times the site would be broken for days as I didn't have git or even know what that was, and when I messed up something on the site, it looked horrible or would just flat out break.

Since I had now one site that made $1, I decided I needed to make more.  To try and get up to what I made washing dishes a day, so I could quit.

I started reading up on SEO, since still believing I ran a "tech" company, I needed SEO over any other tech thing, such as programming.  It worked.  I was able to launch a few more sites, and within months, I finally did it.  I launched a site that ended up ranking, even for a short amount of time, for a big keyword.

It all started falling together, and that's when I quit the dish washing job.  But shortly after two things happened, almost in unison.  First, google changed their algorithm and my few sites making me minimum wage, went back to making a dollar or less.  And flash gaming became obsolete as phones became more prolific.  I still also wasn't really doing or making something that created value, it was more just SEO rag projects, not something that would grow on its own or people wanted to remember the name of or use again.

This left me right back where I was when I had gotten fired from the get go.  But now instead of having to swallow my pride again and take a dish washing job, instead I decided to do the hard thing, learn programming.

That was horrific at first.  Like most things hard at first, I felt like a complete helpless fool, not understanding what was going on or even how to begin to debug these things.  I joke that to be a good programmer it takes only five minutes a day, for ten years.  I still don't think I am that far off.  But the main thing was getting to actually programming.

Now the reason I wanted to learn programming was first because I had picked up some domains in hope, or at the time just putting WordPress sites on them and "magically" having them make money.  But more so because I had stumbled upon another idea I wanted to make, a Reddit for videos.  And well, Reddit was open source at the time, so what better place to start than with the originally code base.

Sooner or later, I was able to cobble something together, and as they say the rest is history.  Or more specifically failure.  Since that idea failed, and by this time I was very accustomed to failure, I finally had happen what I had read about.  I finally got to the mother of all entrepreneurship issues ever tried to express.  I discovered my problem.  One that would ultimately do three of the fourish things I wanted, help people, be fun, and fix my problem.  Making money wasn't in the cards.

Now, I wont bore you with that survivorship biased story of harrowing stupidity, but the point I was trying to make by painting you this picture is getting laid off or fired is a perfect opportunity to do something difficult that will hopefully pay dividend for life.  When I finally got my problem I had to code for a year to get a simple MVP.

I didn't have Chatgpt at the time.  I wish I did in a sense.  Since now, anyone who gets fired or laid off, has an actually pseudo "teacher" in a sense who can explain the issues you are stuck with in your coding journey.  Now you might say "well I don't want to learn to code" and honestly I do feel that is a dumb view.  Since not only is coding in every single part of your life, I mean even the blog you are reading this on, or the computer or phone runs on code, but there exists no better ROI that I can think of.  Tech companies has the largest margins, developers are among the highest paid professions, and entrepreneurs who made some of the largest companies in the world, the majority coded their way there, at least from a beginning.

Granted, you might be my age now, a 37 year old male.  You might say "Well John, this all sounds glorious but I have a family, kids, and responsibility" but the problem with that excuse, is you are still trying to avoid having to just put in the work, now with assistance, in learning to code, launch websites, or perhaps some day not getting fired or laid off, but maybe being the one hiring people, and not laying them off.  It has only gotten easier to learn to code, it has only gotten easier to make a website or app, and it has only gotten easier to try and solve your own problems, at least those that can be solved with code, and hope some one else has that problem too.  Because, if you have a problem, and a clever solution, its possible other people will have it.  But the only way to know if code can solve it, is to code.

If not, the worse that happens, is you learn to code, and can instead apply for higher paying jobs.  Now you might say I already know how to code, so then I ask you, why have you not started launching apps or websites to see what works and what does not.  No matter what you will still be without a job, but those five minutes here and there, will probably add up over time.  And there really is no better way to reach people across the planet than through tech.  

If you lack ideas of what to launch.   Just google anything and make a competitor.  I remind you that convince stores are all over the place, so maybe start building a convenience store.  It's not new, its not ingenuity, but it is something people need and use.  Worse case it fails, best case you end up as 7-11.  But probably something in between.   And maybe that in between is all you needed to branch out and start a unicorn that really does change the world, or you invent something with the tools and problem solving methodology you acquired.  Or more importantly, changes your world.

And worse case, you become addicted to the tech, and make a cool robot.

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