Getting fired: Ten years later and much happier

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Thought Leadership  |  Case Studies  |  Personal branding

Almost exactly ten years ago I was fired. Sacked. Let go. Terminated. Made redundant. Booted out. Canned.

Getting fired was an incredible gift. I just didn't know it at the time.

After NewsEdge was acquired by The Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters), my position as vice president of marketing was eliminated.

I like to think that my ideas about Web-based marketing were a little too radical for my new bosses. Perhaps.

Or as is the case in many acquisitions, maybe the new bosses had a pre-determined list of who from the acquired company were redundant to people already in the parent company. Likely.

Or maybe I just pissed somebody off. I was an unknown. I wanted to impress and might have been too aggressive. The people already in the company were familiar and I was unknown. In business the familiar usually wins. Possible.

Anyway, after six years at NewsEdge, I was out on the street.

This was in 2002, one of the worst job markets in history.

It was awful.

But it was also incredibly powerful and amazingly liberating.

It's too easy for me to say from my vantage point today that it was just a matter of starting my own business. The truth is that after 15 years of working for a living, it took some time to get my head around the idea that I could support myself by my own wits.

I had always been an employee. Except for doing yard work for neighbors when I was a teenager, I had never been an entrepreneur.

I did look around for another full-time marketing VP job, but it was a terrible economic situation after 9/11. There was nothing I could find in the Boston area.

I used the bruises on my butt from having been kicked out the door to motivate me to do something new.

It was very difficult.

I was a guy who always had a nice fat corporate teat to suckle. I was used to a corporate nanny to provide for me plus a business card with a name that many recognized.

Now I was going to be a company of one person.

I started my own business to refine my concepts about Web marketing, work with select clients, and teach others through writing, speaking at conferences, and conducting seminars for corporate groups.

Aren't you still unemployed?

It took a long time to convince my family, friends, and colleagues that "marketing strategist" wasn't a euphemism for "unemployed." No, I'd say, I do want to make a go of speaking and writing and consulting for a living. Really, I'd insist, I wasn't just waiting for a full time gig to come my way.

It's an enormous cliche to say that you need a disaster like being fired to change your trajectory in life. For me that was absolutely true. Had I not been kicked out of Thomson in a crappy job market, I'd likely still be working in a full-time marketing role today.

I was given the gift of a new direction.

That was ten years ago. The result has been the best ten years of my life.

Reinvention is difficult.

But the hard work can pay off.

Thank you for your support during the past ten years.