In order to succeed in life, you have to be an eternal optimist. Every lemon you're given can be juiced into lemonade. Even when doors keep closing, you have to keep searching for new ones to unlock.
One of the most devastating things that can happen to anyone, even an optimist, is to lose one's job. The hit to the paycheck hurts enough but for some people, especially folks in high positions, it's the hit to the ego that hurts the most. People stop talking to you. You become less "relevant." Your identity suffers.
What's remarkable is how many people who've actually gone through the process tell me it was one of the best things to happen to them. They were set on a course they might not have otherwise taken. New doors opened up. Sometimes, the hit to the ego wasn't as bad as one thought.
On our podcast, Radiate, we talked about this moment with several CEOs. Here's what they said about their dismissals and what it taught them.
1. Sallie Krawcheck, founder/CEO, Ellevest: "The Bank of America one felt like a random act of violence, because the business that I had responsibility for was doing well, it was growing...but here's the thing, it really is about how you define yourself. Do you define yourself by your title? Do you define yourself by the company you work at? Do you define yourself by the amount of money you make? Do you define yourself by whether you have a corporate jet? I define myself by impact...and so, even when I went on the big jobs, I thought 'How can I have an impact?' And I'll tell you quite honestly, there were days where I think I'm having more impact here.
I look at my peers who are doing the jobs they've done at a more senior level, God bless them. I love them. My learning curve is vertical, right now. And it was for years [being an entrepreneur.]"
(Listen to Sallie's episode on SoundCloud or iTunes).
2. George Zimmer, former CEO, Men's Wearhouse, founder/CEO of Generation Tux & ZTailors: "The night I was fired, I came home for dinner and everybody was very uncomfortable at the dinner table...nobody wanted to talk to Dad who now no longer had a job. And I finally said to my family...'You know? Everybody is gonna get knocked down in life regardless of who you are or what you're doing. The question isn't how you get knocked down. The question is how do you get back up?' And I said that without actually knowing how I was getting up, but knowing that I was gonna get up...I think that I've become sort of this iconic person in America now. I actually believe that I have never been more popular than I am today. When I was just a CEO, I was just the CEO, but now, I'm a wronged CEO, and I think that the American support for the underdog has been activated in my defense."
(Listen to George's episode on SoundCloud or iTunes).
3. Jay Margolis, former CEO of The Limited, Cache: When [Silas Chou of Tommy Hilfiger] called me into a room and just said, 'I don't think you're happy. We're not happy in terms of how this is all working out. I think we should just part ways.' Really, I thought things were moving in the right direction. The company is growing incredibly...shops were bigger. We all were working at different parts of it. He did the right thing. It wasn't working for how we had board meetings and how we communicated information and who we had on our board. It just wasn't working for me...I didn't know until later in my career, in terms of how important values of a company are. There are certain values in terms of almost every aspect of how you work and how you function and how you hand off...I think more and more, people care about how a company functions and what their values are and what they put into their product and how they distribute their product and who their consumer is."
(Listen to Jay's episode on SoundCloud or iTunes).
If you like this article, you'll love my new podcast, Radiate, featuring interviews with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. You can click on new episodes on iTunes, SoundCloud or on my website. www.betty-liu.com. Here is the RSS feed too. And please don't forget to REVIEW the podcast or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.