While seeking to validate my being fired on the first day of my very first job, I have spent an unjustifiable amount of time crawling the web, looking for, and gleefully eating up stories of highly successful people who rebounded after getting fired.
There are loads of them too. Just Google the words “Fired Entrepreneurs” and you’ll find scores of well-known founders, renown artists, inventors, and CEOs of top global companies who were once given the boot but turned these events into success stories.
We can learn a thing or ten about entrepreneurship from these successful “failures”.
Here are a few honourable mentions:
Steve Jobs got fired — very publicly, from a company that he had started (Apple), one year after they released their most beautiful creation — the Macintosh. So, did he beat himself down, split from Silicon Valley and hide? No! He went on to found Pixar Animation Studios, and NeXT. And what do you know? He soon acquired Apple, became Apple’s CEO and developed some of the most loved communication devices in the world.
Walt Disney was once fired for not being creative enough. Unbelievable, isn’t it? But yes, the man who co-founded “The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio”; was behind the creation of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, was fired in his early 20s by the Kansas City Star Newspaper for his “lack of creativity”. Later, he pursued a career in commercial art, specializing in animation and short films. This did not go well either, and he soon became bankrupt. Undeterred, he went to Hollywood and started afresh, and his persistence soon bore fruit.
Closer to home, we have Mwanaisha Chidzuga, who lost her job in 2015 and now runs a hotel business. She has used her experience to encourage those who have recently been laid off to focus on the lessons learnt and use employment only as a platform to build oneself up and not as the thing that defines them.
My own personal experience has not been that dramatic, but it is worth mentioning. When I was eighteen, I decided to take up work in a local factory that I quickly discovered, didn’t have much ventilation. Very soon, someone in the factory line up got a bit dizzy, could not keep the pace, and stopped working to catch a breath. The lie-in-wait foreman tippy-toed in and asked why this person was not working. Instead of letting the “unwell” person speak up, I butted in and complained about the working conditions. Suffice to say, my job was history. Meanwhile, the “unwell” person whom I had been defending simply stood up, and continued working as if nothing had happened—no job lost there.
That first moment of being fired within hours of being hired has always stayed on my mind. The reason for that is that being fired or let go still feels like being judged and found wanting.
Note to my future self.
When things go wrong, don’t panic — take stock. It may be the beginning of a new chapter. Always keep an eye on the lesson learnt. And, no matter how painful it may be, evaluate the reason why you lost money, a client, a job, and find a solution or another more profitable path for yourself.
Knowing you are in good company will always help you focus on how to quickly reinvent yourself. This is an essential factor not only for employees but also for entrepreneurs who have lost an important client or customer, or who have also at one time had to shut down their business. It is lovely to know that there is life after being fired.
If you ever find yourself working for someone while wishing that you were working for yourself, then it is about time you were fired. That is the first sign of a risk-taking entrepreneur who has no business working for someone else.