Your Worst Enemy? You (& That's a Good Thing)
BY Steve Tobak
This entrepreneur talks about how being his own worst enemy actually worked to his benefit--and it still does.
When I was a young man, I joined a couple of early stage start-ups. One of them actually made it. So what did I do? I went head-to-head with the CEO and got fired.
That’s the abridged version of the story. The real version is a lot longer, a lot gorier, and a lot funnier, especially if I’ve had a few drinks. Nevertheless, the cause and effect are the same. I was headstrong and shot myself in the foot.
I was my own worst enemy.
You know, I could have kicked myself for being so damn stupid. I think my wife actually did (kick me, that is). But you know what? Immediately following that series of events, my career really took off.
Getting fired from that job turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me for a number of reasons.
For one thing, the company fell apart soon after its IPO. By the time I left, it had already seen its best days.
More importantly, since I lost my job in a recession, I had to get creative. I was a sales executive in southern California at the time and the only jobs I could find were in marketing in Silicon Valley. So I did my best to fake it and somehow landed a top marketing job with a hot chip company in Santa Clara.
That turned out to be the key that unlocked my future. I ended up making quite a name for myself in marketing with a couple of high-profile companies and today, twenty years later, I’m still here in Silicon Valley.
Who could have predicted any of that would have happened? Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure.
But get this. There’s a funny twist to the story that I bet you’d never imagine. That early stage start-up may have been the first time I shot myself in the foot, but it definitely wasn’t the last. And that CEO who canned me? He wasn’t the last, either.
To this day, I’m still my own worst enemy.
And it may have taken me a long, long time to realize this, but you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. The reason is simple. There are two sides to that coin. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts both ways.
It’s a defining characteristic that makes me who I am.
I believe in myself and trust my instincts. I push myself hard, and everyone around me, too. I don’t mince words and I don’t pull any punches. Sometimes that gets me in trouble. And sometimes the results are pretty cool. In any case, that’s me.
Now, I can’t say I have no regrets. There were one or two things I might have done differently. But the truth is -- and this is the lesson I’m trying to get across here -- that that’s a fool’s game. You can’t go back and you shouldn’t waste your time thinking about it.
We all have faults and we all change over time, hopefully for the better. But there are some things about us that we shouldn’t change. They’re what make us unique, what enable us to do great things that others can’t, even if they sometimes turn us into our own worst enemy.
Sure, I’m a bit smoother around the edges in some ways. But in others, in ways that count, I’ve still got the same double-edged sword thing going on. And I’m eternally grateful that, so far, those edges haven’t gotten dull.