Laid Off, “I just want to go home”

LinkedIn has a lot of activity from people who have lost their jobs through layoffs. It seems like most of the posts start today: “I sad to announce that after _________ years with _______ company I have learned that my job has been eliminated. “This means new opportunities if you know of anyone who may be hiring.

Getting laid off is a challenging experience for any person. It is especially hard for the high performer who was all on for the job. This person drank the culture cool-aid, wore the shirt, cheered at the meetings, and sacrificed much to give their best. Now, in just a moment, it is all gone.

Many companies immediately shut off company access for the employees, asking them to clear personal things out and leave.

Add insult to injury.

No, you did nothing wrong. No, you are not a bad person or a low performer. The business changed, funding was removed, or some other vague economic factor has resulted in eliminating a budget line item. You.

Knowing these facts does not make it any easier to take. You are a human with feelings and a performer with a commitment to the cause.

I was especially stricken by a post from a person a couple of weeks ago. Her post was so powerful that I could not stop thinking about it. I wish I could speak to her in person to let her know everything will be okay. Performers win and perform no matter where they work.

Retired at 56. What could possibly go wrong

I was separated from T-Mobile on December 4th, 2024, after 27 years.

It was tragic but not unexpected, as I had just helped complete a major layoff, with over 5,000 employees receiving their notification. The question then became. What now?

Get busy finding another job? Take some time off and enjoy some travel or pull back and early retire.

We had been preparing for this day for many years and have decided to take early retirement for a spin. I have more than 20 years of planning for this moment and feel we have a good plan for retirement. That does not mean that we are missing fears. In this video I address what could go wrong and the many concerns I have about early retirement.

The good news is that if I am wrong the plan is simple. Go back to work!

In the meantime, we are going to enjoy traveling, dreaming and putting years of planning into practice. It is my hope that through this blog and the videos that you will learn from us. Learn what we planned that has gone wrong and what has gone right.

It is going to be a great experiment.


Is today your someday?

I got the official call notifying me that I had been laid off while on vacation. We were on the second leg of our bucket list vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

The call came just moments after stepping out of the car as we arrived at the site for our hike we had planned for the day.

As soon as I saw the caller ID, I knew the purpose. I have had to make the same call many times over the years, and I could hear the nervousness in the voice of my manager as she dutifully read the script we required.

It’s the same script I had coached leaders on over the last several years. I felt kind of bad for her knowing what is is like to be on that side of the table.

The call was short, as these typically go—some light details regarding the package and dates. My notification was today, September 17th, 2023, and my separation was not until December 4th. That was a good amount of time, and it was very generous.

Next, I knew that upon my return to work, I would have to clean out my desk and say the usual goodbyes. There were not a lot of so longs to give since most folks sitting around me had been let go the month before. HR does the laying off, and then we are left to lock the doors and walk out last.

I listened to all the information with my wife standing a few yards away.

I was on a dream vacation in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I was determined to move forward and complete our plans for the day. More importantly, I was determined to do this hike in a place of personal gratitude. Thanks for the call, the years of preparation, and for being in this magical place with my wonderful wife.

The end of the hike brought a lesson that helped seal the day. In this video, I tell the story of the day and the person that is helping inspire my new journey.

This is my someday

Laid off? Now what?

As mentioned in my previous post, my career at T-Mobile (Sprint) has ended. I am not alone, as more than 5,000 people were let go before the elimination of my HR team.

I am also no stranger to layoffs. They have surrounded me for most of my career and are deeply engrained in my psyche. I have experienced these as an employee with people around me being laid off. I have experienced these as a manager when I had to make the difficult choices to reduce my team, and more recently, I have experienced these as an HR Partner consulting with leaders as they lead reductions.

My experience is unique, and I have learned many lessons. I want to help and to share.

Four things to do as you kick off your Journey




Take action

I will break these down in more detail over several posts. For now, here is a video to get things started.

So long T-Mobile (Sprint)

Amazing to think that I started with Sprint 27 years ago and now that time has come to an end.

A lot of emotions naturally as I reflect on the past and think about the future.

Mostly I am grateful. Grateful for everything that a long career has provided. Grateful for the many people I met and served through my various roles. Grateful for my family and what we have been able to build together.

I know many others are going through something similar now. I just want you to know that I am convinced all will be okay. Take some time to rest, assess, and plan. Your future is bright!

One of the many great blessings of being a cancer survivor is that it grounds you on what is most important. Jobs are just jobs and come and go. Family and friends are forever.

I went to the office yesterday to clean out the desk and experience the Call Center for the last time. Here is a little video I made

The cancer is back. Or is it?

Spoiler alert. This story does have a happy ending.

This year is the 25-year anniversary of my Stage IV cancer experience as I wrote about previously. Just a couple of weeks after this previous post, I learned I had a small melanoma on my face which was removed with an all-clear, nothing to worry about prognosis. However, given my history with cancer and my family history, the oncologist recommended a PET scan out of an abundance of caution. This was a full body scan fancy procedure.

The results

Test results are now shared with the patient at the same time they are sent over to the Dr. I got the ping on my phone and then opened the e-mail to read:

IMPRESSION: 1. Multiple small hypermetabolic mediastinal and bilateral hilar lymph nodes,while not definitive, are suspicious for metastatic disease. CHEST: Multiple (10-20) intensely and moderately hypermetabolic, minimally enlarged mediastinal and bilateral hilar lymph nodes are suspicious for metastatic disease.

Oh my

Cancer has returned to my lymph nodes?

My mind immediately went through multiple scenarios imagining a new future with cancer. I remember clearly what it was like before. The surgeries, the chemo, the radiation, the fear. To add to the pile, my area of work is headed to a layoff soon so that too was part of the swirl.

How will I cover medical if laid off?

Why come back now? I just reached 25 years of cancer-free life. And selfishly, I do not have time for this, I am on vacation next week.

I called the doctor’s office immediately and was able to speak with his nurse later in the day. The recommendation was for a bronchoscopy ASAP to insert a camera through my throat to take samples of the suspicious nodes and evaluate them for cancer.

Cool but….

This was Thursday and we were scheduled to leave for an Alaskan Cruise on Saturday. The Dr was very understanding and scheduled the procedure for the Tuesday following the return home.

We stepped onto the cruise ship with many unknowns to float along with us. We could have let this situation ruin the trip with a mind full of what-ifs or we could let the situation make the adventure even better with a mind full of gratitude.

When in doubt, always choose gratitude for the win

During our week of vacation, my heart was full of joy as I thought deeply about our lives together these last 30 years and the 25 years since I felt the lump. There were no feelings of regret about things I had not accomplished or done. Instead, I found a wonderful sense of peace in the life I have lived. A simple life, a quiet life. A good life.

So here I am 0500 Tuesday

Vacation behind us and now it is time for the procedure which took just a few hours of hospital time. The Dr. told me when I awoke that the results would be available on Thursday.

Thursday? Over and over in my head…

Multiple (10-20) intensely and moderately hypermetabolic, minimally enlarged mediastinal and bilateral hilar lymph nodes are suspicious for metastatic disease.

And now all I can do is wait for the phone call. Wait and wait.


As the day unfolded, there was an unsettling absence of phone calls. Later in the afternoon, I anxiously reached out to both the pulmonologist and the oncologist, but unfortunately, I could not get through to either of them. The day ended with no call and no results.


Late in the day Friday the results came through. No cancer was found and the doctor could not explain why so many lymph nodes showed on the scan. I was advised to do the scan again in a few months to see if there are any measurable changes. 

What a relief!

Back to the ol’ gratitude thing. I am very thankful, really, for this whole experience. My reflections during the time of the unknown were an incredible gift of grounding into a reminder

of the WHYs behind so many of the choices we have made these last 25 years. Choices to live our lives with intentionality and to see things ever so slightly different from many. 

Now I await the results of my latest layoff experience. The great news is that the thought of losing my job is quite small in comparison to cancer returning. I am prepared for whatever may come my way and I am thankful. 

Lump day–25 years ago today

I was in my regular morning routine. Up early, pour down some coffee, and get ready for a new day of work.

While taking a shower, I felt a lump under my arm and then upon a deeper press, I felt another. 

Immediately, in my mind, I knew what it was. Cancer

The word was not a stranger to me as I had a mole removed from my back just a few years earlier that was melanoma. Less than two years before, my mother had died of cancer after a grueling multi-year battle. 

My life was just hitting its stride with a new job, a nine-month-old son, and a wife that was, and still is, the woman of my dreams. Everything seemed to be going my way. 

I did not tell Michelle about the lump and instead made an appointment to see an Oncologist and he was able to fit me in right away. This was the same person that I had gone to see right before popping the question to get reassurance that I was going to be okay. 

He said, “Live on David, and be happy.”

My experience

Now, I found myself back in his office. 

He pressed hard and was able to easily find lumps in my armpit. Next, he said, “What about the lump on your neck? How long have you had that one?” 


It turned out that in addition to the tumors under my arm, I also had one near my neck. A later surgery would show that I had not only the tumors but also melanoma throughout many of the lymph nodes on my right side. 

You can fill in the blanks for the next several months. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and an unfortunate obsession with online statistics. Meanwhile, I still had a family, a job, and a man mindset that an outward show of fear was only for the weak. I think I only missed work on the days I was needed at the clinic for my chemo.

Life with cancer

My greatest fear was that I would die leaving my wife alone and our son to have never known me as his dad. My own father died when I was young and I have no memories of him.

All of this seems like long ago while at the same time, it can feel like just yesterday. Cancer really never leaves you. The experience becomes part of who you are and whispers to your consciousness. 

“I found you once and I am going to find you again” 

“You should be living life differently, you are a survivor”  

“Why are you stressed, have gratitude for this new day”

The voice can be negative at times but for the most part, it has reset my mind to good things.

Life after cancer

I would like to tell you that after my treatments I became a great adventurer with jumps from planes, rides on bulls, and spectacular experiences. I have for sure done some cool things but I am most thankful for the simple moments. 

My happy place is time with Michelle. I have also been able to see the son grow up, go to college, and get married to an amazing person. 

Cancer drove me to a conservative financial life that has us debt free and prepared for whatever the world will throw at us. 

Most of all, I have gratitude to the Lord for each new day that I get to experience as I truly did not think I would be here today to write this. 

It is a good life and I am thankful. 

What about you?

It should not take a traumatic experience to make someone appreciate life and choose a different path from the norm.  

I honestly get frustrated with the drama I see from some people and the lack of action to be their best and to live their potential. 

Life is way too precious to get worked up about things that really do not matter and too precious to NOT get worked up about the things that do.

What matters is your faith, family, friends, health, impact on others, and financial independence. 

Get these things right and everything else will fall into place. 

How to get things right

  • Clearly define your what–What is your vision for your best life?
  • Clearly define your why–Why is this vision important to you? 
  • Map out your how–These are the actions you will take to bridge the gap between your what and your why. 
  • Take action!

Many people dream about the life they want. Very few put in the work required to make these dreams come true. 

The how is the hard part. 

So, happy lump day to me. I will use this as a reminder to live with few regrets and continue to be my own kind of weird. 

I hope you find a way to be weird too. 


Time to burn the boats?

Have you ever watched the movie Hunt for Red October? It is one of my favorites of all time.

Finding motivation

Early in the movie Captain Ramious during a gathering of his officers, rather casually informs them that he has left a letter with the Soviet high command informing them of their plan to defect to the United States and turnover their high-tech submarine to the Americans. The officers are enraged as they know this will bring the entire Soviet fleet down on them to destroy the ship and prevent the defection.

His men are aghast and ask the Captain why he sent the letter. 

Next, Sean Connery, in that famous accent of his, tells the legend of Cortez and his arrival to the new world. As the story goes, in 1519, Cortez, with 500 men and 11 ships, traveled to the new world, intending to conquer the mighty Aztec empire and capture their vast treasure.

Cortez knew this would be a great challenge for his men and decided to take action to ensure his army’s complete engagement. 

He burned the boats

This left his men with no alternative other than to win or die. As Captain Ramious so eloquently frames it in the movie, this left his men “highly motivated.”

Time to make a choice

Too seldom in our lives do we decide, as Cortez did, to throw away all fear and burn the boats. Instead, we let our self-doubt and focus on past failed attempts keep us from fully living life as it should be lived.

No turning back. No moving backward. A highly motivated battle forward to win the prize.

Pivoting my career three years ago was a burn the boats moment for me. I decided the only way I would genuinely move in a different path was to blaze a new one. 

Even this change will only take me so far, and I know that soon I will once again be presented with a choice to burn the boats or keep floating along. 

Will I do it? Will I have the courage? 

I like to think that I will. 

What about you? 

What part of your life do you need to burn so that you can leap forward to a better you? 

A job? 

A relationship?

A debt? 

A regret? 

Do you have the courage required to turn something that is holding you back to ashes? 

The truth is that you will never break free from the now unless you find a way to leave yourself with no other choice. 

Why not start today?

Burn the boats

Still Debt Free

In February 2014, we submitted our final payment for our final debt to pay off the house. 

On a bucket list adventure: Zion National Park

Years later, I find it hard to imagine ever having significant debt again. 

We got close a couple of times while sitting at the car dealership considering a loan. I could hear, in my head, all the reasons why a low-interest loan was a better way to go. We could, after all, just write a check at any time for the cost of the car if needed.

No. We are not going to do it. We are not going to be beholden to anyone voluntarily for a debt. 

There is mental freedom that comes with not owing anyone a payment. Instead, we pay ourselves by having a high savings rate and a conservative lifestyle.

This freedom made it possible for our son to go to college debt free. 

This freedom allowed my wife to work part-time.

This freedom reduced my stress levels during times of change at work resulting in layoffs.

This freedom gave me the courage to do a career pivot, with a demotion, in 2020 to a new role with new challenges.

This freedom has put us on track for an abundant retirement life that will be absent of financial worries. 

We are quietly the poster family for how someone with a modest income can live a life filled with joy, adventure, and financial security. 

There was a time when I would evangelize to others around me about how easy it is to be debt free and to build wealth. Just some education, small sacrifices, and a forward-thinking view can lead to amazing results. The strategies easily found in books, podcasts, and youtube videos do work. All you have to do is take action and have patience. 

Heck, I have a 20+ year spreadsheet to prove that keeping things simple works. What I have found is that most people will politely listen but very few will make changes. That indeed is why Dave Ramsey is so angry. It is not rocket science, it is simple math that even a guy like me that flunked algebra can figure out. 

I remain positive and believe there is hope for everyone to find their own path to financial success and the mental freedom that comes with it.  

Meanwhile, we will keep plugging along as we begin the transition from scarcity savers to a mindset of abundance. I am thankful for that moment in 2014 and will continue to honor our past by building our future. 

Hello Mrs. Copeland

Written October 8th, 2013

Conner is 16 now and it seems lately I have been thinking more and more about his future. What kind of man will he be? How will he do in college? Will his dream of becoming a petroleum engineer come true? Will he go on to have a big house, nice car, and fat bank account?

That stuff is all well and good but the bottom line really is that I just want him to be a Godly man and happy person no matter what path he takes to get there. I also hope that he is blessed to find a great woman to be his wife and partner through life’s journey.

It is kind of surreal to think that his future wife is out there now. This week she will go to class, hang out with friends and I am sure spend a bunch of time texting. She is also daily making choices and developing relationship skills that will impact her and Conner’s future. The teen years are the most formative in determining who we become in the future.

Right now she is learning what it means to be part of a family.  Her parents could be married, they could be divorced, they could be loving or they could be jerks. Either way, they are serving as her example.

Right now she is learning what it means to be a friend. Her circle could be supportive, they could be partiers, they could be bookworms, they could be a bunch of duds. Either way, these are the friends that will have the greatest long-term influence on her.

Right now she is learning what it means to be a girlfriend. Chances are she has a boyfriend, has had a boyfriend or wants a boyfriend. Either way, she most likely has in her heart an image of what it means to be in love and how the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship works.

This future Mrs. Copeland is unknown to me by name but God in his providence has already destined her to find Conner someday.

It is for this reason that I have begun to add Conner’s future wife to my prayers.

Not every day by any means but quite regularly I pray for her as if she is already part of the family. I pray for her success, her health, her choices, her relationships, and her love for God.

At home, I am also always cognitive that my life is the example for Conner as to how he will treat his Mrs. Copeland someday. Michelle and I are his examples much more by what we do as opposed to what we say.

It is important as parents that we realize every day that we are the model that will be followed.

Do you want your child to grow into a happy and God-centered marriage? Give them the best chance by living it yourself.

And while at it, why not go ahead and pray for the unknown to you yet a future family member.

I sincerely believe it will make a positive difference.

And to you future Mrs. Copeland

Someday in the future, we will talk on your wedding day.  I can’t wait to hold your hand, look into your eyes and tell you that we have loved you and prayed for you long before you were even known to us. Even today I know you are amazing.

Welcome to the family

August 13, 2022