Before you flame me for being an insensitive jerk, hear me out. First of all, I’ve been fired, more than once. It sucked, big-time. Just like getting dumped in a relationship, except you lose your paycheck too.
But here’s the thing. Just like with relationships, once you get past the sense of rejection and loss – financial, as well – getting fired is usually the best thing that could have happened to you.
You see, there are five basic reasons for getting fired:
- Your company’s not doing so well.
- You’re not doing so well, i.e. job performance, you’re miserable, etc.
- Your boss is an idiot or dysfunctional.
- You’ve done great but have become complacent.
- Stuff that has nothing to do with you: market changes, executive turnover, reorganization, restructuring.
In every case except that last one, you’ll be better off somewhere else, in the long run. And getting canned was the kick in the pants you needed to get out and find a better career, company, job, situation, whatever.
And you know what? The same thing goes for rejection, failure, losing business, anything that feels gut-wrenchingly bad at the time is an opportunity to learn, gain wisdom, and ultimately improve your position.
That is, as long as you’ve got the guts to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and work on it, instead of throwing in the towel and feeling sorry for yourself.
Now, I’ve got plenty of war injuries on this front, but so do a lot of very smart and successful CEOs. Check out what they have to say on the subject.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs, on getting fired:
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, on getting rejected:
“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.”
Microsoft chairman and former CEO, Bill Gates, on losing business:
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, on complacency:
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”
As for me, every time I lost my job – whether I was fired, laid off, or CEO of a startup that filed for bankruptcy – it felt horrible at the time but turned out to be a blessing in disguise, a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Every single time.
So here are my 5 Key Takeaways on Losing:
- No successful career goes straight up and to the right, and “bumps in the road” is one helluva euphemism for reality periodically kicking your arse.
- Behind most successful products and businesses are entrepreneurs who were turned down a hundred times.
- Winning is great, but you learn more from losing. Customers that turn you down – if you can get them to talk – are a goldmine.
- Failure and loss, especially getting fired, is not only a source of great wisdom, it’s also necessary to keep that fire that drives you burning inside.
- When you’re down, especially when you’ve hit rock bottom, gains are relatively easy to come by. When you’re on top, just maintaining your position is a real challenge
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