How does it feel to get fired? In everyday language: awful. Or is you want to be more technical about it, "most people report feeling a whirlwind of emotions, but the most typical are denial, shock, sadness, anxiety, and anger," according to psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter.  

When NerdWallet founder Tim Chen found out he was being unexpectedly let go from his job at a hedge fund he was no exception. But as he explains in the video above that was only the first stage of his reaction to this crushing setback. Soon he started thinking: "what do I really care about in life? What do I want to accomplish?" and the idea for a $64 million business was born.

"I honestly don't know if I would have waited another decade to do something entrepreneurial if it hadn't been for that event," he concludes.

Great for him, you might reply, but I'm not some super resilient overachiever who can magically turn defeat into victory. But the truth is, you don't have to be exceptional to use a serious career setback as a launching pad for you dreams. It's actually a surprisingly common story.

Jane West: from housewife to marijuana queen

Take the inspiring story of Jane West, who as a mother of two with a steady gig as a middle manager lived a simple life in Colorado before a unexpected firing shook up her life. A long-time recreational marijuana user, West organized an event that combined good food, good music, and cannabis shortly after her state legalized the drug.

It was meant to be a fun side hustle that indulged one of her personal passions, but when the national media, hungry for interesting stories from the frontlines of the nation's changing drug laws came knocking, her hobby cost her the job that paid her mortgage. After seeing her using marijuana on a national news program, her company fired her for being in breach of their drug policy.

"I'd never been fired from anything in my life. I've been working since I was 15!" a flabbergasted West told angel investor Joanne Wilson on her Positively Gotham Gal podcast digging into the stories of female entrepreneurs. (Thanks to Wilson for the headline inspiration.) Devastated and worried about her family's finances, West scrambled to figure out what to do next.

The result of her personal career crisis is Women Grow, a network of women in the cannabis industry that's now got chapters in dozens of cities worldwide, as well as a rising profile as one of the best known entrepreneurs in the wildly expanding cannabis industry. Last year, she also raised $1 million to launch a line of cannabis products.

Noah Kagan: so long Facebook, hello multi-million dollar business

If getting fired cost West a $90,000 a year corporate job, it potentially cost Noah Kagan much more. As employee 30 at Facebook he was in line to eventual cash out big time when the social media giant went public. That didn't happen. Instead, Kagan was let go for disclosing too much information on the company on his personal blog.

And if you think that was demoralizing enough, that's not even the lowest point in Kagan's story. In an attempt to bounce back from losing the Facebook gig, Kagan started a company called Gambit, a payment system for social games. It was earning Kagan a tidy profit when Facebook pulled the rug out from him under again, denying Gambit access to Facebook because it ran tobacco and gambling ads.

Twice crushed, Kagan didn't decide that world was trying to tell him something and downgrade his dreams. Instead, he launched yet another company. This one eventually grew into AppSumo, a daily deals site for entrepreneurs, and Sumo, which helps you grow website traffic. Kagan claims that together they are "eight-figure" businesses.  

What's the point of all these stories? Whether you're a straight-laced overachiever like Chen, an everyday person with no sense of yourself as an entrepreneur like West, or a bit of a loose cannon like Kagan in his younger days, getting fired needn't be the end of the road. In fact, after the initial storm of emotion subsides, it can be an inspiration for incredible feats of entrepreneurialism.

Or as Chen puts it: "Every time a door closes a giant gates opens." 

Published on: Nov 6, 2017