Downturn Survival Guide Part 2 – Good Grief

If you haven’t already read the State of the Industry: Intro to the Downturn Survival Guide, it would be a good place to start, even though it’s now lost some context due to the sudden departure of ADBB (and the tweets that tied the post together). Yesterday LandmanFieldNotes published Part 1 of the Downturn Survival Guide – Diet Tips for the Struggling Landman. This post is going to take a more serious tone, but one that seems necessary for a lot of us in the industry.

This is the first post from JoadsCukes. He’s been on the Roadtrip to Nowhere for most of his career, and we’re happy to have him sharing some of those experiences with LandmanLife, give him a follow @massive_frac on Twitter.

The loss of a loved one...

There’s been a death in the family, but nobody’s willing to talk about it. It affected you, whether you were first of kin or a distant cousin. You’re still not willing to truly discuss what this particular passing means to you or your family, but it’s significant. And we need to talk about it. 

I’ve been grieving since the middle of March. The death came suddenly, but I can’t say it was without warning. There were signs pointing to the patient’s poor health leading all the way back to the previous decade. None of that made the passing any less difficult to process.

I’ve been a landman for nearly 40% of my life. I’m not certain I have the capacity to explain – and believe me, I’ve tried – just what else it is that I might “be”. I’d love to tell you that I’m not one of those people that lets their career define them, but that’s simply not true. 40% of my life, so many waking hours spent learning and doing. Striving to become something. Somewhere along the way I did it – I’d finally given myself permission to claim this profession, and along with it, this identity. I was good at what I did. I’d proven myself at every level, and I was proud of it. In my mind, with so many people complaining about their choice of career or their status in life, I’d found the sweet spot. I once thought I might even get rich doing it – this thing that I love so much.

When it falls apart...

So what is there to say or do when this Landman Life is suddenly ripped away from you, seemingly forever? This isn’t hyperbole…these are the real, deep thoughts of a person that’s allowed themself to be defined by this crazy existence for a long time – for better or for worse. I know the business well enough to know that those that didn’t fully embrace it never made a true career of it in the first place.  This message isn’t for them. What are we supposed to do?

The practical answer might be to bide your time. Find another job that utilizes transferable skills, perhaps. But that’s the rub – those are just jobs. I’ve been in a few interviews since March trying to convince myself and others that my skills are transferable to several wonderful new industries. I know I’m not buying the bullshit, so why would they? So many of my accomplishments are so firmly rooted in oil and gas that I hardly know how to parse them for laymen. I try, of course, but I catch myself grinning about how I got one over on the old sonofabitch, and I know on the spot – and they know too – that I can’t wait to be right back in that same place.

Processing the pain

So I’ve decided to grieve. It’s the only way I know to potentially put this business to bed for good. I don’t believe that’s it’s gone…not for a second. But to wait around for it (or bemoan that it ever existed) seems as foolish as Aunt Edna waiting for a sign of life in the viewing room. Uncle Rodney has passed, Edna – let him go. Salad days in the oil patch have passed. Your niche in the complex world of oil and gas exploration has passed, too. Lay it all to rest.

As you come to terms with your grief, think about all the good times you had in the patch; how you can proudly say you worked on multiple-million dollar projects, and many times had more impact on those projects than most people see even once in a lifetime. Think about the amazing people you’ve met – entrepreneurs, each and every one of them. You’ve likely been closer to greatness than the vast majority of the American workforce. Many of us have rubbed elbows with icons in this industry. Some of us with individuals that fit the definition of a titan in any industry. Drink it in. But be willing to let it all go. If we really stop to think about it, we’ve known the music was bound to stop at some point. While I’m not ready to admit that time is now, I’m certain there isn’t a path forward that does not include grieving – right now — for an industry that may never be the same.

How to move on

So what do we do? I don’t know. I have experienced grief for the loss of a loved one in my life. I didn’t know what to do then either. But for those of us that experienced such a loss, isn’t it better to know that there is no plan, no path forward in those situations? You just do the best you can. Some days are better than others. I know talking about it helps. I know laughing about the good and the bad helps. But one thing is for certain: you have to come to some kind of terms with the loss. Collecting PPP loans or unemployment while you wait for prices to recover is probably not the answer. Not this time. Instead, think about channeling the same inner badass that led you to this career in the first place. Becoming a landman isn’t an easy thing to do. The path to the Landman Life is probably – especially these last 5 years – not as straightforward as becoming a geo or an engineer in some ways. It about who you know, sure – but it’s also about what you can accomplish with a finite amount of resources. When have resources ever been so finite in our industry? Take that gumption and really focus. Channel that grief into something better than wallowing in your drink of choice.  


Take some time to grieve, though. Hardly any of us have. I’ve started. 40% of my life might appear to some to have been spent in vain. It’s enough to be bitter and jaded, but it’s not my whole career. Maybe – in line with many other lessons in life – this was just the path I was supposed to take for the next 60%. I’m embracing it. I’m not looking back.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top