Eight Life Lessons I learned from Being Fired

Posted by Ronald Hickland on

In this special blog post, I wanted to talk about a topic often overlooked: being fired, laid-off, etc.

This is a personal topic for me.  Feb 26, 2015 was the day I was part of an economic layoff at Ebonite International. You can read the original blog I wrote here.  For 14 years, I had been the head designer for all of the bowling balls from Ebonite, Hammer, Columbia 300, and Track. This had been my dream job since I was kid.  I even did a TEDx Talk about it.  Within 1 hour, I went from a nice six figure salary to $0.00.  This is a very daunting position for anyone. In my time at Ebonite, I had seen this same situation happen to other people.  Because of that, I thought about the possibility of what if that happened to me and planned ahead to reduce the shock of losing an income.  

During that time, I had some close friends who rallied around me, and let me go through the cycle of grief, fear, anxiety, and all the other emotions of a life changing situation. Going through that process sucked; but it was necessary.  It also gave me the opportunity to really figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  At first, I was sad that I was no longer going to see some people who I truly loved working with. This gets easier over time as they are replaced by new people who come into your life. Then, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do since I had already achieved my goal of designing bowling balls in an effort to make bowling better. I thought about leaving the industry. I hired a head-hunter, updated my resume and went on several interviews. In the end, I wasn’t happy with my search and wasn’t really passionate about any of the jobs being offered. What I was and am passionate about is bowling.

One thing that was important to me was happiness.  I remembered when I hired in at EBI I took a $40,000 salary for happiness. How much did that cost me in dollars? Well I turned down a $65,000 salary from General Motors and a $100,000 salary position at Anheuser Busch.  I had been an intern a GM for four summers in college.  While I was there, I made a lot of money; but wasn’t happy. I learned from that experience that money wasn’t happiness. Doing what you love is happiness.

Another thing that helped was that I found a paper I had written as an exit interview as a senior in college. It had a section called goals. One of the goals I had was to own or run the company. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant, but that ended up being a big clue on what I needed to do now.  I didn’t know the first thing about owning a company; let alone how to set one up.  I did know how to assemble a team and that I was a problem solver who liked challenges. So I changed my mindset to look at my situation as a challenge. I assembled a team and began to work on solving problems.

One thing that stood out to me is that all performance balls die. This is mostly because they absorb oil from the lane and it fills up the pores. Working as a bowling ball designer, I had unlimited access to bowling balls. Since I didn’t have that luxury any longer, I thought it would be helpful to bowlers to come up with a way to make them last longer. That challenge became the birth of That Purple Stuff a Professional Grade Bowling Ball Cleaner.

Another challenge was the roadblocks put in the way of my progress which threatened my quest to make bowling better. I overcame these challenges by surrounding myself with a team of legal professionals who knew how to deal with these types of situations. In the end, I built a team, regained my passion, found my happiness, and started Creating The Difference.  I learned a lot going through that process and it has helped me become a much better person.

These are the eight life lessons I learned from this experience:

Be Prepared

Think about what would happen if you were fired today. Then plan for it as if you were. This is key, as it is better to be prepared and not need it than need it and not be prepared.

No Regrets

Some people will drop you the minute they think you are no longer useful to them.  These could be some of the people you are closest to. The lesson here is do your best everyday so that you won’t have any regrets when people exit your life. You will be surprised by who will support you in ways you couldn’t have imagined.

Get rid of the negative

Distance yourself from hate, and negativity. That means stop watching / consuming things that bring your mood down. Use the block feature on social media to remove people who want to bring negativity to your life.  They may not be doing so intentionally either.  If you have friends on Facebook who are always complaining about something or someone, get rid of them. Reading people’s negative posts will bring your down.  Find things that make you laugh. This will help you find peace and that is key to moving on.

Become a problem solver

Look, bad things happen to good people.  Focus on the solution not on the problem.  Have you heard the saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees?”  That’s what happens when you focus on the problem.  You can’t see the bigger picture because you’re focusing on trivial items. The faster you accept things that happen to you, the quicker you can begin to figure out what is the best way to move on.

Find a mentor

Look for people who have nothing to gain from working with or helping you. Bounce ideas off of them. They will be invaluable to you. They have a different perspective and that can accelerate your growth to what is next.

White Board/Vision Board

In my situation, this meant deciding what was next.  In life, this is just a way to sort your way through an issue or make sure you’re staying focused on your goals. I wrote everything down on big sheets of paper.
 Interests, Goals, Talents, Things I’m passionate about, Things I’m not good at, Things I didn’t want to do. These were clues to helping me figure out what to do.  If you’re not looking to create a new you, make an annual vision board.  Post it somewhere you can see if daily to keep yourself on track to your goals.

Remember everything is temporary

This too shall pass.  The key to speeding that up is action. Focus on solutions so that you can start acting on the problems.  No one gets better by wallowing in their woes.

Be Grateful/Give Thanks

Write down something you are grateful for everyday.  This will help you see the bright side of things and help keep your perspective positive.  Give thanks to people in your life every day.  At first, this may feel weird.  But after a while, it will become second nature and the people in your life will appreciate your positivity and reciprocate it.

The last two years has been more than I could ask for. I am grateful to see my entire family involved with bowling. We have helped to grow the USBC membership by adding first time bowlers.  I have some incredible friends who truly care about Creating the Difference and helping bowling. We have a talented group of coworkers that have made a positive impact on the Sport of Bowling.  I am thankful to have a Staff of more than 600 people who share in the common goal of becoming better.  I am thankful to the company that I worked for 14 years of my life. I learned a lot of valuable lessons. I believe that Creating the Difference is supposed to help grow the sport of bowling. I am grateful to be able to go along for the ride.


  • Ron, this message was so instrumental for me at a pivotal point in my life. I only wish I had read it a year ago! I am now exactly were you were in Febuary 2015. After 11 years with company of my dreams and eventually becoming a franchise owner the business was ripped from under me by an unscrupulous business partner. But, your blog has given me insight on changing my demeanor and seeking out a new solution. Thanks for the advice and guidance!

    Pat Baker on

  • Where do I start… I called you crazy for passing up the job at GM to accept the position at Ebonite. Little did I know at that time how passionate you were about bowling. Over the years of working with you, I watched your passion at work and you designed some of the craziest ideas we ever put into production, but they all worked! Reading this article is no different, your blog reads as I we were back at Ebonite having conversations on life. You have always possessed and will continue to possess a “can do / will do” mentality. This blog is a very inspirational read, regardless of ones situation. Surround yourself with positivity and positive things will happen! I am grateful that we were able to reconnect and that you shared your story.

    David MIlligan on

  • Ron,

    You are really an inspiration gor both young and older person.like me, when you came up wit you products like the purple stuff you help us as we.don’t have the money to buy new balls all the times this is where your products help our balls vome back to life thank you so much for your vission on this we really appreciate this, I have some friends that have started using your products and are really glad they did.

    Luis Rodriguez on

  • I like the strategy you used to get to where you are today. I also have a extremely strong passion for the growth of Bowling as a sport. I coach teenagers in the sport of Bowling and use my own resources to train both the mind and body how to work together for peak performance. We met in Virginia during the summer of 2016 . I purchased your products and continue to use them . I know we will meet again but until then remember this my friend " Good, Better, Best never let it rest until your Good is Better and Best. You are my Brother and I Love you. Glad we met and continue to Your Journey.

    Clifton Brown on

  • Very inspirational. Good read Ron.

    Adrian on

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