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I Got Fired From My Own Startup And Found Freedom

How to change your mindset after getting fired

Photo by Yan from Pexels
Photo by Yan from Pexels

I got fired over Skype… from my own company.
Now a lot of people are getting fired from their jobs. I couldn’t help but remember one of the chapters that hurt me the most, but at the same time catalyzed my growth. People are getting fired over the phone, Zoom, Slack, DM, mass mailing, and the stories keep on coming.
The courtesy of eye to eye, one to one, or the professional version of “we have to talk” are long gone. But I dare to say, that was gone way before. Back in 2018, I got fired as the CEO of my startup over a video call. My co-founders couldn’t even look me in the eye, and turn their videos on.
Let me tell you one thing straight. I won’t make it sound rosy. This sucks! But growing also sucks. No learning happens inside the comfort zone. 
After I got off that call, I bought a ticket to meet them face to face because for me that’s the way to handle things. Straight to my face. Later on, I proceed to travel to 35+ countries. Back then, I took travel as my therapy. Now, not only travel is not an option, but, I know better and that’s not where I got my freedom back. 

So, if you have got fired recently keep on reading. I’m about to save you weeks of recovery and years of therapy.

Feel all the feelings

The 5 Stages of Grief

The 5 stages of grief were originally to explain the emotional trajectory of people with a terminal illness. Yet, in a world were everyone describes themselves as what you do as who you are. Losing a job for some feels like a death. Or at least, it can feel like going through a breakup. In her book, On Death and Dying, Kübler-Ross writes about the 5 stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She did not develop these stages to describe the loss of a job. But, it does help.

Everyone has a different time to get to the acceptance stage. Also, these stages are not linear, you can go from one to another and then come back to the previous stage. Once I reached acceptance I managed to see the things as they were: a neutral event. This is how I knew I had transcended it.

Step 1: Stop the rumination

Every moment you create your future

The past and future are a constant collection of small bits of present moments. So, are you going through that experience only once or how many times are you going to be re-fired in your brain?
Each thought, sensation, memory is firing up a neural pathway. We re-wire our brains every day and we are always making new neural paths. Are you going to keep training your brain to feel miserable? or Are you going to train yourself to feel grateful? You decide.
In a world where is common to activate our amygdala on a daily basis with negative news. It’s not strange we fall back into our default mode. Our brains are trained to look for the negative and fix it. To survive not to thrive.
But is that what we want? Is it worth it? Are you going to change the past by reliving it again and again? 

Actionable step: An exercise that helped me is re-write the story with the learnings that you got from this. Think of this as an expensive MBA class to your life résumé. Points extra if you do this exercise with pen & paper as it will help you create new brain patterns.

Step 2: Change your lenses

There is no good or bad

Let me tell you The Story of the Chinese Farmer, a tale I used to listen to growing up exemplifies it best.

One day a farmer lost a horse, and his neighbors told them that’s too bad. The farmer said: maybe.

The next day the horse came back with many wild horses and his neighbors told them he was lucky and that’s good. He said: maybe

Then his son broke his leg playing with the horses. The neighbors rushed to tell him that’s too bad. He is so unlucky. He again said: maybe.

Then all the boys got recruited to go to war. But because his son had broken his leg, he couldn’t go. The neighbors said once again that’s he was lucky. 

The moral of the story is there is no good or bad. Or bad luck and good luck. Everything is how you perceive it.

To see the whole picture takes immense complexity. And you never know what would be the consequences of misfortune until you get to see the whole picture.

The truth is the events are nor good or bad. They are neutral and we are the ones who give significance to them. 

Actionable step: An exercise that has helped me is to write a list of things you are grateful for. Even in the darkest times, we can find simple things to be grateful for. Or just listing 10 things that you are grateful while you wash your hands, could help you start shifting your focus.

Step 3: You are not alone.

This pain is shared among millions of people. Don’t see it as something that only happens to you. 

Let me tell you after I experienced this, I called my closest friends. Many of them have built businesses, were successful entrepreneurs. And, to my big surprise, they would come clean and told me that they have been through this as well. Not to mention hyper famous entrepreneurs like Elon Musk or Whitney Wolfe founder of the dating app Bumble, who has gone through similar experiences. A high amount of founders, get forced out to sell, “fired” and no one talks about it.

We often hear about the dream of being your own boss. But in reality, you are always working for someone. You work for your clients, your audience, your investors. It’s always about being of service to someone. The key is are you going to be of service while doing something you love? That sweet spot where your passion meets your skills meets your paycheck. Summed up with the Japanese term Ikigai.

So, the solution to getting fired is not rushing into starting a company. But being clear and aligning your personal why to the why of the company. It could be your own business or not.

I learned was that job security doesn’t exist. It has never existed. It’s about being of essential service to others.

Freedom is not about being your own boss or traveling the world. Being free to control your thoughts, actions, and words. And aligning those to your personal why is a freedom that goes with you wherever you go and doesn’t require a plane ticket.

I hope that this chapter in all our lives at least allows us to talk more openly about our failures. All kinds, either personal or professional.

We are human, failure is part of our progress. 

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