I'll never forget the feeling.

The feeling of being so unimportant. So replaceable. So like nobody gave an eff about me.

It was eye opening. For the first split second I hated it, my stomach dropped and I choked up. Walking out the same side door I had buzzed in the last seven years of my life, now knowing that I wouldn't be able to buzz back in. Ever.

I had made up my mind. I needed a new challenge.

I had worked there from age 19-25. What an experience. What excitement. What a place to grow up. The Palace of Auburn Hills. The National Basketball Association. 2003 WNBA Champions. 2004 NBA Champions. 2006 WNBA Champions. Four straight NBA Conference Championships. This meant constantly working with national media and drooling local media. This meant working with world class athletes appearing in GQ Magazine, David Letterman and The Tonight Show. This meant helping improve the league's community image after a player jumped into the stands and PUNCHED A FAN! in 2003.

I was right in the middle of it. Always a part of the action. 80 hours + a week at the arena, doing radio interviews, talking to players, fans, media, local community organizations. Quite frankly, feeling important AF.

Then, all of the sudden, after the Pistons lost to LeBron and the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals in May of 2007, I didn't matter anymore. least, to the people in Detroit. Fair enough. Like I said, I had made up my mind. I was leaving for Nashville.

But after that split second of feeling sorry for myself, I instantly grew as a human. I had an "unlock," or as some call it, an "aha moment." Up until that moment - walking out the door with my last box of belongings, headed to my car - I had thought, honestly, that nobody could replace me. But then I realized, I was replaceable, and it was the best thing ever.

It meant that I was growing. I was moving on to new challenges. I wasn't so great, and I needed to get better in order to meet those new challenges ahead.

It's funny what we never forget. I never forget how much I matter and am irreplaceable, but that in the next split second, I don't really matter THAT much, and I'm TOTALLY REPLACEABLE, and that's an awesome thing.

It's personal and professional growth. And it's an awesome contradiction - cockiness and humility wrapped in one.

The cool thing is that it appears I might be making somewhat of a business model out of being replaced. 🙂 Twice in the last three years I've helped other agencies create digital strategy offerings, SEO offerings and even web design and development offerings that weren't previously there, then helped them replace me and build and train their own in-house teams.

Without experiences of walking out that side employee door at The Palace of Auburn Hills in 2006, I'm not sure I'd have the cockiness or humility to do what I'm doing today.

Now, running Data Driven Design, I feel important but replaceable every day. At any minute, clients - or even employees - can "replace me" with a new partner/agency or a new boss/job.

One thing I can say, is that due to all of my experiences in life and business, I'm nothing but grateful to be doing what I'm doing right now.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Paul Hickey has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 10 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing and Email Marketing. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.

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