I’m a loser. Really, I am. I’ve had my ass kicked so many times I’ve stopped counting. I’ve been fired more times than I care to remember. Three times in less than two years in fact. I have scars. Deep ugly jagged cuts that at times have left me bleeding on the ground. That’s precisely why I win in business. It’s also exactly why my company performs 10X better than our competition. Because I’ve had my ass kicked I do things differently.
Let me explain:
The last time I was let go I was so stunned I couldn’t respond.
Shock: I just sat there. Stone faced. Mind racing, heart pounding. I tried to speak, but nothing came out. The CEO sat across from me realized I was in shock, stood up shook my hand, and escorted me out.
Reality: I went back to my desk where my colleagues sat completely oblivious. They joked, and worked and began to notice me packing up my things
Colleague “Spring cleaning Chris”?
Me “No, I just got fired.”
Anger: My direct manager came up to me and gestured for me to leave. Through gritted teeth I said,
“I’m getting my things together.”
A moment flashed in my mind of me throwing a vicious, violent punch.
More shock: I packed up my things walked outside and wandered about 30 blocks holding a box containing all of my belongings. A keyboard, a mouse, notebooks, files, even a bobblehead doll I had just received for being at the company for a year. I was stunned, and spun around. I finally got too fatigued to walk any longer so I sat down. I started to send emails.
“Dear, So and so, as of this afternoon I’m no longer with xxx. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org …
..on and on.
Betrayal: The morning I was terminated the CEO had signed an NDA to a $350,000 deal of mine that would close in the ensuing days after my departure. The commission went to my direct manager who had only been at the company for a few short weeks.
The Final F*ck You
Immediately after being terminated I did the only thing I knew to do. I went on interviews. I needed to get something going and something going fast. I had taken a pay cut to work at this company and I needed to keep my financial life straight. No time to select where I would be. I had to take every single interview that came my way. My wife was pregnant with our second child and I was panicked. I was invited to interview with a competitor. I had to take the meeting. Moments after leaving the interview (I was still in the elevator) I received an email from the CEO of the company that had just fired me:
“Chris, it’s come to my attention that you were interviewing at XXX company. You are arguably in violation of your non compete so you will not be eligible for your severance pay.”
Months later I would learn that there was a salesman that was still employed at the competitor, but who had signed on with my former company. He notified the CEO that he had just met me.
I got off the elevator blindly meandered into the lobby. Stunned again. The proverbial kick to the nuts after I had already been knocked on the ground. I heard my heart pounding in my head, the blood swooshing in my ears. Nothing. That was it. Not even a severance. I could have fought it but I would have lost. And I had no money to defend myself. And the CEO had me by the short hairs. I had violent daydreams filled with revenge fantasies. I’ve since let it go because I know that contempt kills.
I’m grateful for the experience. It taught me more about myself than any other experience save my father’s diagnosis with ALS. Powerful. It’s now years later and I thank God I had this experience because I survived. I learned from it and I kept on going. I didn’t die, nothing blew up, and I survived well. In my mind it was the worst case scenario and I lived through the other side. I know that no outside force can make me do anything I don’t want to. I am the master of my own fate. This experience propelled me into entrepreneurial endeavors because I swore I would never…ever work for anyone ever again. I would never give anyone control over my destiny. Previously I would look to the company I worked at or my business partner for guidance and money making opportunities. Now I focus on my strengths and make things happen on my own. I am beholden to nobody. I’m also tremendously grateful for what I have, and I give thanks to the people that surround me. I’ve seen what others do in Machiavellian manner. That’s not me. I shower my employees with praise. In the past I didn’t do this. Then I got my assed kicked and swore I would never treat my employees the way I was treated. Grateful. Experiencing that and knowing you can survive is what helps you shed fear, and fear will kill you.
Because I’m a loser, and because I’ve had my ass kicked and because I have scar tissue, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I also focus on improving myself daily so that I never have to be reliant on anyone else for my own success. At that job I looked to others for more money and more responsibility instead of just closing more business and showing him by my actions that I should be promoted. I can see this now, but I was blind to my own blindness then. I know I can survive anything you throw at me.
We don’t waste time seeing what the competition does, we plow our own path. I know myself better than I ever have. I know what my strengths are and how I can profit from them in a start-up environment as a true entrepreneur. I aggressively focus on my biggest ideas because anything less would be falling short of the standards I set for myself. Silverback provides big solutions for big companies doing big things. I don’t panic. I don’t freak out. If I never got my ass kicked I would have still been a “sales manager”…not a Founder and CEO.
So if you’ve just gotten your ass kicked. Get up, wipe the blood off your face and thank God for this lesson. Be grateful for your scar tissue, learn from it, and take that first step forward. I know I did. My head is bloodied, but unbowed.