How to Make Bad Choices: A Case Study.

Mistakes happen. We all try to learn from them.

Sometimes, we hear a story of someone else’s mistakes. These are excellent opportunities to learn from mistakes that you didn’t actually make, which is the best way to learn from them (in my opinion).

This person was recently fired from her San Francisco-based job at Yelp. She was fired for writing and posting a public hatchet job against her employer. It is a sob story about how difficult her life is.

Problem: she brought this all on herself. Let’s take a look, with my comments interspersed.

Dear Jeremy [Yelp CEO],

When I was a kid, back in the 90s when Spice Girls and owning a pager were #goals, I dreamed of having a car and a credit card and my own apartment. I told my 8-year old self, This is what it means to be an adult.

Now, seventeen years later, I have those things. But boy did I not anticipate a decade and a half ago that a car and a credit card and an apartment would all be symbols of stress, not success.

I don’t know what her exact mindset is, but key in on this phrase: symbols of success. Is she hung up on symbols of success? It may just be a happenstance choice of words. But succumbing to the desire for status has destroyed many people. This is called “Keeping up with the Joneses”. Status symbols start out cool. But eventually, they become burdens. Then they become strait jackets.

I left college, having majored in English literature, with a dream to work in media. It was either that or go to law school. Or become a teacher. But I didn’t want to become a cliche or drown in student loans, see.

This was her first big mistake: choosing English Literature as a major. The outlook for your average English Lit graduate is grim.

Second big mistake: taking out student loans to pay for it. She does not specify how much exactly, but she later says that college left her “drowning in debt”, which I presume refers to student loans. If you’re going to select a borderline worthless major, at least do it the inexpensive way.

I also desperately needed to leave where I was living — I could get into the details of why, but to sum up: I wanted to die every single day of my life and it took me several years to realize it was because of the environment I was in. So, I picked the next best place: somewhere close to my dad, since we’ve never gotten to have much of a relationship and I like the weather up here [in San Francisco]. I found a job (I was hired the same day as my interview, in fact) and I put a bunch of debt on a shiny new credit card to afford the move.

Unless you are taking a high-paying job in Silicon Valley, do not move to San Francisco. The cost of living, in every respect, is insane. You will never be able to accumulate savings. When you are young, this doesn’t seem like such a big deal. The older you get, the bigger a deal it becomes.

Coming out of college without much more than freelancing and tutoring under my belt, I felt it was fair that I start out working in the customer support section of Yelp/Eat24 before I’d be qualified to transfer to media.

She was willing to start at the bottom. This was good. But it is a pinprick of light in the darkness.

Then, after I had moved and got firmly stuck in this apartment with this debt, I was told I’d have to work in support for an entire year before I would be able to move to a different department.

A year is not that long. In fact, this is frequently how employers operate: give an untested employee some time before moving her up the ladder. She was a fresh graduate with nothing but tutoring and freelancing under her belt. What did she expect?

A whole year answering calls and talking to customers just for the hope that someday I’d be able to make memes and twitter jokes about food. If you follow me on twitter, which you don’t, you’d know that these are things I already do. But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s get back to the situation at hand, shall we?

A whole year? Wah wah, toots.

She looked at things entirely the wrong way. She should have looked at it this way: “A whole year of opportunity to prove my value as an employee and privately establish a portfolio that I can use to impress the hiring manager when I have the chance to apply for an internal transfer.”

She opted for the entitlement mindset instead. “How DARE they hire me but not give me the position I want making food jokes on Twitter?”

She goes on to complain about her life and her job. She complains about the employee snack bar and company-provided coconut water. Some people are compelled to complain endlessly, about everything. We will skip these portions.

We continue:

I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job. Not because I’m lazy, but because I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can’t afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me, even though you’ve got a whole fridge full of it on the 8th floor. But we’re not allowed to take any of that home because it’s for at-work eating. Of which I do a lot. Because 80 percent of my income goes to paying my rent. Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right?

Ironic, indeed. But it has nothing to do with her poor decision-making: moving to one of the most expensive cities in the world without a high-paying job lined up, or even a solid plan. She gave the vague reasons of “I like the weather and wanted to be close to my deadbeat dad who I barely knew as kid” as reasons for moving to San Francisco. These are not good reasons for moving to San Francisco. These are good reasons to move to Dallas or Phoenix. You move to San Francisco either because you’re getting a high-paying job, or you’re marrying into money. Otherwise, you’re asking for trouble.

She goes on to complain about how terrible her situation is. I agree with that her situation is terrible. But she’s looking for sympathy. Here, she will find none.

At one point, she says this:

How about this: instead of telling you about all the ways I’m withering away from putting my all into a company that doesn’t have my back, I offer some solutions.

This statement is incomparably stupid. If she doesn’t feel like the company has her back, then why is she putting her all into it to the point of supposedly “withering away”? She talks about solutions. Let me offer a genuine solution: Quit. Start looking for a new job, and put in your two week notice as soon as you have one lined up. Nobody should work for a company that doesn’t have their back. If she feels this way, she should quit. She’s holding the cards here. She can call the shots.

But this isn’t the solution she wants. She has already decided what solution she wants: a pay increase. Fair enough. We all want pay increases. In this case, she should walk into her boss’s office and make her case for a pay increase. If they reject her, then she can quit. If she has faith in her abilities, then she’ll find work elsewhere. But she has already predetermined that she not only deserves a pay increase, but also deserves a cushy job writing food jokes on Twitter. And it is Yelp’s obligation to provide that to her.

Common sense dictates this: when you’ve dug yourself into a hole, stop digging. Apparently, this girl has never heard of this. She wanted to dig until she broke through into the light of China. So she ends her letter with this update:

UPDATE: As of 5:43pm PST, I have been officially let go from the company. This was entirely unplanned (but I guess not completely unexpected?) but any help until I find new employment would be extremely appreciated.

So not only did she basically wreck her life by going into major debt for a worthless degree and moving to an expensive city with no major prospects of success, but she also publicly took to social media to air her baggage and bitter complaints about the company even though her bad situation is entirely self-inflicted.

This girl is utterly hopeless. She makes bad choice after bad choice. She is a pathological poor decision-maker.

One word sums up this entire letter: Whine. She is whining because the good life is not being delivered to her on a silver platter by her employer or the city of her dreams. But whining is not a currency. It won’t put food on the table.

She needs to come to terms with this fact: She is a loser. Harsh, but true. The first step toward not being a loser is to admit to yourself, “I am a loser”. I have discussed this before. The sooner this girl realizes that, the sooner she can begin rebuilding her life. She can look at the decisions she’s made in life and determine what went wrong. She can use this knowledge to move forward and make good decisions. Thankfully, she is young. She can make up for lost time after she begins making good decisions.

She said she didn’t have much of a relationship with her dad. This is the only area in which I might give her sympathy. I will presume her dad left her as a child, which is the most sympathetic situation. A fatherless childhood can have a more negative impact on a child than most people realize, especially in the long run.


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