I’m a Loser.
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 at [email protected] …
..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.
So let’s hear it – are you a loser too? Have you had your ass kicked before? Has it helped, or hurt you? Share below.
Great story. And a great lesson. I’ve had my ass shown the door a couple of times but in retrospect, they weren’t the right places for me in the first place. Live and learn.
Thanks David. Live and learn indeed. I think I was always an entrepreneur – just too scared to follow that passion. Until I HADto make it a success.
Love this!! And I proudly wear my “loser” badge with honor. My last gig as an employee had me in upper management with the largest company in my particular industry. Without warning, they fired my boss and mentor and offered me the reigns to run our $45M CT office. What instantly hit me was “Um, did I not just see you fire a man that is amazingly successful at running this office but you want to have me do it for 1/2 the cost to improve your bottom-line? And if I were to work up to his pay-grade, why would you not do to me, what you JUST did to him??” I looked at my shirt to make sure it didn’t say “sucker” on it!
I asked them for a few days to think about it which is a miracle of calmness for my Irish-temper. I really wanted to burn the place down in honor of my fallen mentor and boss. Instead spent those days talking to colleagues and mostly my mentor – the man that was fired so rudely. Everyone encouraged me to take the offer and “see what happens” – I think they told me this because, financially, I needed this job. Then I spoke to my husband, my other half, my rib and he said, “You know what you want to do so figure out how to make that happen…and try not to burn bridges along the way, it’s unbecoming.”
I asked to meet with the CEO – my call was transferred – he sounded pleased and invited me in the next day. When we met I felt light-headed. I asked him “How do you feel about women that go back to men that beat them? Or women that date known beaters??” He looked at me confused and I added, “Because I think they are foolish to think it won’t happen again to them…and I sir, am NO fool.” I then handed him a piece of paper that had something close to this written on it. “You sir ARE a fool. You care more about your bottom-line and not about the people that work hard to crush it. I do not want the job you offer me because you do not deserve one speck of my hard-work, passion and dedication. And to twist the words of the great Grocho Marx ‘Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that has you as a its leader’.” Nothing felt better than watching his face as he read it. When he was done and looked at me I swore I saw just a tiny portion of that proverbial “bridge” that wasn’t quite scorched to my liking – so I simply smiled at him, leaned over and said, “Suck it dipshit – you just lost two of your best in one week!” I turned, walked out. Yup…that burnt up any remnants of a bridge!!I came home and told my not-surprised husband about my bridge-burning departure and then panic set in…I was out of work for the first time since I was 16. YIKES! I started calling my old clients – all of them – even with an active non-compete. I never said a bad word about my old company I was just trying to make something happen…anything! “They’re going to sue me” was all I thought but I needed something. 3 days later and endless calls, one of my clients said, “Well, if you aren’t there anymore can you find us a new agency? We were there because of you!” The bliss of the kind words aside, it was the most powerful ‘a-ha’ moments of my professional life. “Yes I can!” came flying out of my mouth and close to 10 years later I am honored and thrilled to say I am still running agency selection and RFP processes for some of the nation’s largest industry leaders. And I get to do it on my terms – with nothing but integrity, positivity and enthusiasm everyday. I cherish and praise everyone I work with and even when I think a day is going to suck…it never does, because I AM IN CONTROL NOW and I determine the suck-a-tude [yes, I consider that a word] of a day.
So I am a loser…I lost big for a moment and then took control. Oh, and my old company…they didn’t sue me. In my first year of business, I took $18M worth of their accounts and helped get them placed elsewhere. Most of these clients wanted to leave my old company due to what they felt was a “lack of integrity” and “too much focus on profit-making.” Hmmm…interesting!! In eight years, my little start-up coordinated $57M of their business finding new agencies to service their needs and in 2009 the goliath that was my old company imploded…sold off offices and materials…and were no more. Boom goes the dynamite! And here I sit, digging what I do and knowing that what happened was the scariest thing to me but I came out the other side a better person, a stronger leader, an empathetic colleague, and much more blessed that I could imagine. I love this piece you wrote Chris…it inspires…and I dig losers! We need to catch up soon!
Thanks Noelle – and thanks for sharing your story – FEARLESS!!!
I am NOT a loser…but I want to thank everyone who has ever fired me, divorced me, or other -wise given up on me. I will never call my self a loser, but I will take the lessons I learned from being dumped on to propel myself and my business forward. It’s sort of the same thing as what you were saying Chris, but if I call myself a loser, I may start to believe it.
I am a winner and I have all of my former bosses, lovers and naysayers to thank for that.
Nice post. As you know Chris, I was fired once. The first and only time I have ever been fired from anything. The chip was then firmly carved into my shoulder that would allow me to start my own company, raise capital, hire a great team and build an awarding winning SaaS platform. Everyone needs to get punched in the stomach at least once in their careers to truely know what they are capable of.
Getting your ass kicked is a wonderful reminder that the employer/employee relationship is not for everyone. The truth is some people are better off as entrepreneurs which celebrates their drive, creativity and individualism in a way that working for a company or other type of organization just doesn’t do. I too am really nice to employees and colleagues because they deserve better than what they often get. So many people don’t understand that motivating people to do their best isn’t just about financial rewards, or spouting platitudes that it’s clear they don’t mean. It’s about someone else making you feel good about yourself and your work because they genuinely respect and admire it. We remember those who mentored and supported us, but those who didn’t become a blur really quickly. Good post.
Just had the canning experience. I was exploring another opportunity with a different employer and a confidant highlighted it to management. That was enough for a surprise meeting. It was a total shock as I had tried to leave last November and the company begged me to stay. Anyway I have tried to view the whole experience as a blessing as I wasn’t happy and wanted a new challenge after nearly 3 years. The challenge with sales is potential employers seem to view out of work sales people in a very different light to those employed and I can’t help but feel despite having excellent results at my last place that I am not so attractive. All that being said I do relish doing something new. Anyway I enjoyed reading the article and wish more people were open about these experiences.
Great piece, Chris! The most frustrating thing is those points in your career that are at the mercy of someone else’s decisions. Kudos to everyone who makes lemonade out of lemons or like Noelle, walks on their own terms. Let’s wave that “loser” flag proudly.
Great story Chris! Thanks for this & I was unaware of these things you have gone through. Takes much courage to get through this. I have lived and shared a similar path (fate) some two and a half years ago (might even have been with the same company), but it is something were I have moved on, tried to forget (not the important lessons), and built myself up to be better & stronger than ever before. It took some time though. The funny thing is, I wanted to leave that company multiple times, but due to various obligations / reasons I stayed on.
I have worked for so many companies in the past, where the company seemed to be great on the surface, but In time I have always noticed they sure do have a good habbit of having some of the worst people in the best or highest positions;) I guess certain things in life we do and the decisions we make (good or bad) make us stronger. I have always been an entrepreneur myself (going on some 3 years now), and I will stay this way as long as I financially can affoard it to avoid having to work for such companies/ people again.
I respect you Chris, not only for this story, but for the fact you have always been a fighter! We should most definitely take some time to have a nice cold beer & laugh about such things next opportunity we have to meet!