As mentioned in my previous post, my career at T-Mobile (Sprint). 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
I will break these down in more detail over several posts. For now, here is a video to get things started.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Have you ever watched the movie Hunt for Red October? It is one of my favorites of all time.
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?
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.
In February 2014, we submitted our final payment for our final debt to pay off the house.
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.
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.
Imagine how you would feel if you had no debt obligation to anyone?
Imagine how you would feel if your savings and retirement were on a mathematical path that provides confidence that you will have a comfortable retirement starting at a time of your own choosing?
This is the reality for my family thanks, in no small part, to being debt-free.
Feb 23rd is our 100% debt-free anniversary. That was the day, in 2014, when we made the final payment on our house. I celebrate this day each year with a plea out to anyone willing to listen about the joys of debt-free living.
It is kind of amazing to think that we have now gone more than eight years with ZERO debt.
Life without debt obligations brings a sense of freedom that is hard to express. Having no debt opens doors to many things. It is the best step on the path to financial independence, it protects you from the blows of economic uncertainties, and it frees you from being held captive by the golden handcuffs of a job.
You are in control, not the world around you.
Here is my annual debt-free plea.
Get out of debt as quickly as you can!
I totally understand that a mortgage is hard to avoid so that is a longer game. As for car debt, credit card debt, and even new phone debt, these are 100% personal choice debts. You are making a choice with each of the decisions to giveaway a bit of yourself and put someone else in charge of your life.
Have a 3 to 6-month emergency fund
Just yesterday I saw an ad where a family has their car breakdown on the side of the road. The woman exclaims to the child in the car that she is not worried. She can get an emergency loan thanks to her credit score. The interest rate she was selecting was over 16%. Wait! What?
Cars break down. Pipes burst. Phones stop working. These are not real emergencies and instead are just part of life. Have good savings for the oh shit moments and you will be far less worried when they happen.
Save at a high rate
Best yet, make this saving automatic by sending a large percentage right to your 401K, IRA, or whatever is best for you. This is often referred to as paying yourself first. Don’t let having the money available tempt you into buying something stupid. Instead, keep it from ever hitting the wallet by sending it straight to savings.
Live below your means
Common sense and certainly not common practice when you consider the amount of credit card debt many people have. That $100 pair of jeans caught your eye? Well, if you have paid yourself first, have all your bills covered, and margin in the bank account that would allow you to pay for them. Go for it!
If you do not have money on hand. You can’t afford them and should not buy them.
Keep it simple
Day trading, 0 down house flipping, Beanie Baby saving, Enron stock buying, blockchain, crypto, next big thing whatevers are all well and good. I am sure, with these things, there are many that have made buckets of money and are very happy. The path for me has been the simple one with high quality, low cost, mutual funds.
Do the saving first and then use the leftover for speculative playing.
The number of resources available right in the palm of your hand thanks to youtube, podcasts and other resources just amaze me. Get obsessed. Soak in a wide range of opinions and then take action based on deep knowledge based on the success of others that are now where you want to be someday.
That is it! If you have made it to the end of this post then you are indeed a winner. Now, take action!
“I am a failure. I try to win but there are just too many barriers. It is better to not try as I always end up disappointed and heartbroken. Instead, I will live a small life, with small dreams, and I will blame the world around me for all my problems”
People with this inner voice suffer from a victim mindset. They see the supposedly perfect lives of those that have got everything in life handed to them. These lucky people have a life so easy. Good looks, great cars, big bank accounts, travel to exotic destinations, amazing jobs, and more.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media resources have amplified the opportunities to get minute-by-minute reminders of how much your life sucks relative to what seems to be the lives of the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, that same feed, along with your search suggestions, provides basket loads of evidence that the world is one messed up place with more doom on the way. This only serves to validate how you feel about your obvious failings.
Instead of using these images to spark motivation, these feelings are turned to anger and efforts to tear down others. It can be very easy to join in a party of negativity. It is kind of fun to release this anger from the safety of your phone. See someone living their best life and being positive? Be sure and lash out at the person so that they too know that actually, they suck because the world sucks.
Only by forcing the world around you to be smaller, can you in turn create a feeling of being taller. That is the classic mindset of the bully.
I had a bully growing up. His name was Carlos and in elementary as well as middle school, he would torture me with taunts about my weight and lack of athletic ability. I became so fearful of gym class that there were a few times that I made up fake notes from my mother to get out of having to go. It was dreadful to always be the last picked for the team and the first to get hit in the head or balls with the dodgeball.
I was joyful when I learned that joining the band would get me out of any future requirement to go to gym class. Whew, at least now the bullying would move to only lunch. The band turned out to be a terrific experience and I am very thankful as it saved me in a way.
Carlos is long gone but that bully voice still speaks to me at times even though I am now in my mid-50s. The bully voice pops in with reminders of my inadequacies as I strive to reach big vision goals for my future.
Time to lose some weight? The bully in my head says you will always be fat!
Proud of my debt-free life? The bully says, so what, an economic crash is coming and you will never have enough.
Signing up for a race? The bully says you are a to-be-picked last person, why bother.
Writing a new blog post? There will be at least one typo or grammar error that you will find later. Post with errors and people will think you are stupid.
The voice goes on and on.
Yes, I still hear it from time to time. The good news is that I have identified my voice and even though it speaks to me, I know it is not in control. I know that I actually live a life of great success that is just a glimpse of even better things to come. I am not in competition with others. I only compete with the me of today as I strive to be a better me tomorrow.
Who is your bully? Do you have that secret voice inside of you that tries to pull you down?
Middle school playground kid that taunted you? A parent that put you down and said you were worthless? Former, or current, spouse that devalues your worth? Religious leader that filled you with guilt.
Who or whatever is your inner bully
Recognize it. Name it. Embrace it. Then resolve to bully it back. You are in control, not the world around you, and certainly not that meaningless negative voice(s) inside of you.
In Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG), Paul writes, “I’d say you’ll do your best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise, not things to curse”.
The best way to mute the bully is to take Paul’s advice. People on Facebook got you angry? Easy, get rid of Facebook. Tired of the pretty people on the Gram making you feel bad about not owning a Tesla, stop the scroll.
You know this. You know that your life will go where your mind and spirit have their focus. It is a universal truth. Want a new life? Direct the mind differently and follow that with action.
Perhaps it is time for you to shed everything around you that is trying to make you smaller. Call it the great purge if you will. Easy will be the redirecting of what you see on the phone and on the TV. Hard will be the choice to eliminate some people from your life.
Voids are called to be filled. Create a rise in your life by filling that hole with goodness. Good media, good health, good friends, and good times. Know that you are a unique masterpiece with many positive things left to give the world. You can win. It starts with being willing to fight. Forget you bully! I am calling the shots around here!
Are you ready? Victim or Victor? The choice is yours to make. Today!
“The purpose of a goal is not to achieve said goal. The purpose of the goal is to turn you into the type of person that could who could achieve that goal” –Jeff Woods
For many years I have spent a few hours over the course of the last week of December to jot down my goals and think deeply about what I want to accomplish. More so, I think of my life in the present and the life I desire in the future.
This is the root of the whole “davidnprogress” thing. I know that I am never finished and no matter where I am in the now there is hope for change in the next.
More than just goals
These are not set and forget goals. They have been a part of me for so long that they are ingrained as my value system. I view them often as the weeks and months go by and before writing for the next year, I add notes regarding my results for the current year as a review of my effectiveness.
The first goal document I have is from 2005 and I have goals from every year since that date.
Looking over them today, it is almost journal-like as I can see a picture of where I was in life at the time. Some years have been full of triumphs. Like for example the year(s) where I actually lost weight. (Yea for 2011, 2014 and 2017) And then there are those years where I felt like I had amazing outcomes at work. Finally, there are the years of wonderful family-impacting events, adventures, financial milestones, and parenting moments.
There are also years where I can tell that I had lost focus. I see no result notes and just know that for whatever reason, my motivation on progression just did not happen.
What about you?
Are you a goal setter? A dreamer? Someone in progress?
I hope that you are. I hope that you look in the mirror often and think about who you are now, who you were yesterday, and who you plan to be tomorrow. As you think, I especially hope that no matter what you see there is also a smile knowing that life is good and it is only getting better.
Not a goal setter? Perhaps now is your moment to start the journey.
Time is going to move no matter what actions you take. I promise this time will be better if you are engaged, chisel in hand, to craft yourself into the best you. The you that God gave you the potential to be. It is never too late.
Michelangelo is quoted as saying, “I created a vision of David in my mind and simply carved away everything that was not David”
Perhaps 2022 is the year to start shedding all that is really not you. Are you ready?
My goal setting template
Here is the format I have evolved to be my goal template to be over the years.
My one word. This is a word that I use to brand my focus for the year. My word for 2022–Persist
My affirmation. This is actually pretty new and something I added as almost a mantra. There have been many times where I start my day by repeating this a few times: I am positive, I am passionate, I am persistent. I make a difference for others.
Next, are the goals and I have these in categories to reflect the whole me that I want to impact. Ideally, your goals are SMARTER. That is, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timebound, exciting, and rewarding. The more detailed your goal, the more likely you are to follow through with your plan.
Here are the categories I use and under each category, I have at least one goal.
Yes, seven categories of goals with specifics under each is a lot.
If, for your first year of doing this it seems overwhelming, then just pick a couple of key categories and start digging deep. Even with just two of these committed to in writing you will be light years ahead of other people.
The last two years have brought tremendous challenges and yet you have made it through. Now is your opportunity to look into 2022 and make it your best year ever.