Why Unemployment Motivates Me

There is a folder on my desktop with unemployment as the title.

My wife and I were both employed at the same University. I left my professorship in 2011 to catch up with my passion. So, I started my own Sport Psychology company helping teams and leaders build mental toughness.

My wife stayed on teaching and mentoring. If it weren’t for her support or God, I would have had to ask my dreams where they were going, because I was staying. 


God was huge because leaving my position was a leap of faith, so I asked God for a sign if this was correct. A real sign! Yes, I asked. Now, this is my experience, but I audibly heard “It’s going to be okay.” I’ve only heard this one other time and in both situations, God was right. 

I cut bait at the University and in the first few months of my new business, I was at The Masters for the entire week with one of my golfers, riding up Magnolia Lane every day, and enjoying the best event ever. It was my favorite week up to that point professionally. 

Less than two months later, I was fired.

See, I didn’t know this at the time, but I’ve been fired MORE times AFTER my teams or athletes have had success than when they failed. Huh? Think about it, helping professional athletes reach success means they’ve reached their goals; so you’re no longer needed on retainer. Not always of course, but it happens. 

Later that summer just two weeks before the college semester began, my wife received an email stating that her position was no longer needed. Fired. Bam. Done.

Two weeks before college classes started was a problem. No one was hiring educators at that time of the year. Seven years at the University and abruptly let go was not a good spot to be.

I hadn’t built up the business enough to sustain both of us, we had two kids under four, and we also needed the health insurance.

Faith isn’t really faith until it’s all you’ve got.

I tried to hire her for my business, but I couldn’t afford her full-time. I did the only thing I could which was stay hustling.  My pride was severely hurt and the evil head trash began “ Aren’t you supposed to provide?” “Are you good at what you do?”  “What are we going to do?”

But, that wasn’t the hardest part.

She was the one who went through the suck.

The unemployment office.

Here was an educator with a Masters degree, almost twelve years in higher education, forced to take a class on how to write a resume and apply for entry-level jobs.  She felt like a criminal because she had to prove her position was absolved and not trying to “work the system.”  It was the most humbling experience of her life. 

Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’ve got.

A few months later she found a new online position mentoring students, but it was massive transition.

The unemployment folder remains on my desktop. 

It’s a reminder. A nudge. Motivation that someone else is working right now, so you can either get better or stay bitter.

Funny how many successful people I’ve met that have been driven stronger by fear than success.

I’ve always grinded because I had a fear of what exactly happened, losing a position.  Now, we can’t live or operate out of fear  because that is suffocating and not joyful. But occasionally peaking at fear adjusts our focus to dig deep.

That’s why unemployment motivates me. 

That’s why failure drives me. 

I am blessed that business thrives today and we get to coach so many lives. God provided along this entire journey. 

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out all the books on Mental Toughness