It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game


A picture is worth a thousand cliches. (courtesy of

My employer and I parted ways last October. I wasn’t blind-sided or steamrolled by the layoff, but the hit really cleaned my clock and rung my bell. The incident was unfortunate, though inevitable. With the failing economy, the company wasn’t getting the job done on either side of the ball. They were in search of an identity. Management was in the hot seat and under fire (over fire too, I suppose), but in no position to turn on the after-burners. The writing was on the wall, and something had to change. Heads rolled. It is what it is.

The company may not have been the right place for me, and I was looking to explore other options. After all, I need to feed my family and make a living… this is America, where everyone deserves a second chance. But I always gave it my all at work – 110% – leaving everything on the field and nothing on the table or to chance. I came to play, mentally prepared for each day, and worked as if it were my last. I never lost focus, and was never flat. Is it possible that I was part of the problem and not the solution? No. I’m a difference maker, have been at every company I’ve ever worked. I’m a scrappy and unselfish player, but also an impact player who can take over a game. I have great vision, owing to the eyes in the back of my head. Who does the boss call when the game is on the line? Me, the go-to guy, the team player who can carry the team on his shoulders. I’m a proven winner, the real deal. Former employers can’t say enough about me. I may bring a lot to the table, but I’m only human; I’m only one man. My last company was missing some other pieces of the puzzle. They needed to circle the wagons, take stock and get back on track.

I’m not pointing fingers. In the end, my boss did what was best for the team. I tip my hat to him for making a difficult decision at a difficult time; he didn’t want to dig himself a deeper hole. In the end, I can really only blame myself – the man in the mirror – for not taking my game to the next level. Mistakes may have been made. Ultimately continued employment just wasn’t meant to be, nor was it in the cards, stars or offing or written in the sky. I learned a lot in my time with the company and made a lot of friends. I can hold my head high, knowing I did my best. But the time had come to move on, hopefully to greener pastures.

There is no “i” in “team,” or “paycheck,” which I no longer had. There is an “i” in “bills” though, which would continue to show up on my doorstep. Coming off a heartbreaking loss, what would be my next step? Could I pick myself up by my bootstraps? Could I get back in the saddle on that horse and ride, or at least lead it to water? While my job loss was a bitter pill to swallow, I just had to put it behind me… move on with my life. Whatever mistakes were made were in the past, and I’m not here to talk about the past. This was my wake-up call. Opportunity was knocking, and I had to answer the call.

Without a job, I had room to operate and play my game, let Norm be Norm. I had a solid foundation to build on. The first step was to collect my thoughts, get my act together and put my ducks in a row. My resume had to be whipped into shape. It needed to show my mental agility and toughness, along with my depth of character, to silence all the naysayers. The next step was to go out there and execute. If I could bring my A-game while firing on all cylinders, a new job would be as good as in the bag. After all, the game is won and lost in the trenches, where the devil is in the details. I would march right down the field and score, then leave the rest up to God. I could afford to take my time, one day at a time. But I couldn’t afford to milk the clock. I didn’t have all day.

I know how to play the game. I wasn’t coming out of nowhere as a job candidate. I’d been around the block a few times, seen some things and given a lot back to the community. But events of the past year really took the wind out of the economy’s sails. There were no jobs to be had, not even as a speed merchant, field general, play maker or workhorse. Even the best in the business were having trouble navigating these difficult waters. My layoff hasn’t been all bad. It’s let me spend more time with my family and pursue other interests.

These days, I’m down but not out with my back against the wall, in a do-or-die situation behind the eight ball. Things are tough out there. It’s been a long job search journey, with nothing to show for it but an excel spreadsheet filled with notes about all the resumes I’ve submitted. New York City and its employers haven’t exactly rallied around me. Maybe they think I’m past my prime, not a wily veteran or elder statesman, but someone who doesn’t know when to quit. I feel like there’s a monkey on my back and an elephant in the room, both staring me right in the face. The ball just hasn’t bounced my way; I haven’t gotten any breaks. Sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles, even for the Norm Elrods of the world.

But I suppose we make our own luck and control our own destiny. So I just have to remember what got me here, dig deep, stay focused, step up and make plays and then play to win. It’s a whole new ballgame, and I will not be denied. I have a strong supporting cast, who have rallied to my side in this time of need. I’m heading in the right direction, playing with confidence and doing all the little things I need to do to win. All that matters is the final score, and the game isn’t over. Finding a job takes time. But I’m just one big play away from the promised land. To get there, I just need stick to the game plan and keep the drive alive. No one’s throwing in the towel just yet. So let’s look on the bright side and call 2009 a rebuilding year. Tomorrow is another day, and the sun will rise. Maybe I’ll find a job… that’s why we play the game.

Who’s ready for some football, and all the laughably cliched interviews that precede and follow each game? I know I am. Go Skins!

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  1. Michelle wrote:

    Hey Norm,

    Just wanted to say that I used one of the very same expressions you did, in my blog entry just yesterday.

    “I’m down but not out”.

    I guess it was good week for some introspection & reevaluation! Admittedly, I haven’t been unemployed as long as you but, I definitely need to take a step back and remind myself that I am more than worthy of a new job and that I need to buckle down and make things happen for myself! Hereโ€™s to hoping good news is on the way for both of us!

    Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  2. t wrote:

    Hilarious, charming, and ambitious.
    Dare to Disagree?

    Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 11:12 am | Permalink
  3. Anne B wrote:

    I checked out your resume, and you seem like an incredibly talented and smart guy. I would think that you would clean up at consulting work? Why bother with a job at all? If I had your creds, I’d just study investing and bag the whole job thing altogether. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Monday, September 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink
  4. Jon S wrote:

    I agree with Anne B.

    What is this focus on a job thing?

    Why not steal some business from your former employer as a consultant? Don’t tell me they don’t deserve that.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  5. Norm wrote:

    I appreciate the ideas and support. I’m definitely in the process of rethinking my job search.

    I fear people may have missed the point of this post though. It’s made up entirely of cliches, to honor the start of football season. Each sentence has at least one. If professional athletes can speak in cliches, why can’t an unemployed blogger?

    Friday, September 18, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  6. Christine P wrote:

    Thanks for the words of inspiration. I, too, am unemployed and am fighting to look for work. I have been lied to and tricked by past companies and this is just what I needed to hear!

    I need to fight like a local. Originally from Pittsburgh, I have a soft heart and I let people take advantage of it too often.

    I will be sure to keep reading your blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink
  7. Jeff wrote:

    That was awesome!! I’m glad it wasn’t a stumbling, bumbling, fumbling attempt at a Hail Mary pass towards an interview. You’re a literary gunslinger, my friend. Hope you can circle the wagons.

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  8. Laine wrote:

    Just laid off yesterday Jan 5th and really enjoyed this blog. I can relate to a lot that was said. I brought a lot of experience to my previous job but in this economy I don’t think it matters. I saw the handwriting on the wall too. A small company that was a “sinking ship” in this economy. I was the last person hired and eventually the first person let go. However, I am networking and hope to find a better place to hang my hat.

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink
  9. Rick Jones wrote:

    Nice Blog! I was suprised to see it hasn’t been updated in a while. Are you still unemployed?

    I just started my own unemployed blog:

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  10. Norm wrote:

    I’ve been freelancing, but those projects come and go. So one day soon I’ll be officially unemployed again. It’s a rough market out there. But I can say from experience that a blog is a good way to work through things and get out frustrations. And it can lead to paying work.

    And I’ve posted much more recently than Sept. 2009. I just bumped this post up top for a few days in honor of football season. It seemed appropriate.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  11. This is such a wonderful blog. It is great reading comments from people who are in the same situation as myself. I wish us all the best of luck!

    A little about myself: I am an out-of-work lawyer living in Manhattan. I got so desperate to pay the rent that I put up signs in my neighborhood saying, “Lawyer turned Cleaning Lady – don’t you want to see a lawyer clean a toilet?” Wouldn’t you know it, less than twenty-four hours later I had a full-page article in The Daily News and a segment on NBC television news. It is wonderful to have the publicity, but isn’t it a shame that you have to do something so outrageous to get a job?

    Anyhow, I started a new blog called “Alice Overtime” about my mission to take any and all jobs that are offered to me. This week, I am cleaning houses. In the next few weeks, I have a short gig with a NY Event Planner, am hoping to train to be a burlesque dancer (fully clothed and for one night only!), and hope to ride along on a NYC garbage truck!

    Check out my blog. I hope it makes you laugh in this time of stress.

    Thanks! Alice

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  12. Bruce Albright wrote:

    This was a literary tour-de-force, hands down the best I’ve seen in years. In these trying times it’s good to know that good old American ingenuity can save the day. Never in the course of human events has so much been said by so few to so many. Here’s looking at you, Kid.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink