You’re Fired: 7 People Who Turned Career Failure Into Success

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So you’ve been fired. You may be stunned, angry, and fighting feelings of panic. But keep this in mind as you frantically try to figure out what to do next: Losing your job can be traumatic and ego bruising, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life.

While getting canned can seem like a major disaster at the time, sometimes it’s the first step to a better, more fulfilling job or career. Just ask these seven successful men, all of whom were fired at some point but managed to turn that failure into career success.

1. Steve Jobs

If there’s a poster child for bouncing back after getting the boot from your employer, it’s Steve Jobs. The prickly Apple founder was famously removed from his position as the head of the Macintosh group by the company’s board (a demotion Jobs compared to being exiled to “Siberia”), and a few months later he left the company. He went on to found the computer company NeXT and a little more than a decade later he was back at Apple, and better for the experience.

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life,” he said in a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

2. Mark Cuban

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Mark Cuban’s first job out of college involved selling IBM computers at a Dallas store. As Cuban explained in a blog post, when he started out he knew nothing about the product he was selling, so he spent his nights reading the manuals. Soon, he was familiar enough with the software to make money on the side installing it at customer’s offices, splitting what he earned with the store. But Cuban’s ambitions caused him to overlook his primary job responsibilities, and after he failed to open the store one morning because he was at a customer’s office closing a sale, he was fired. Cuban – now a billionaire – doesn’t regret following his instincts in that situation, even though he ended up losing his job.

“We all have to make that ‘make or break’ call to follow orders or do what you know is right. I followed my first instinct: close the sale. I guess I could have rescheduled the appointment, but I rationalized that you never turn your back on a closed deal,” Cuban wrote.

3. Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg, billionaire and former mayor of New York, may be incredibly successful now, but he wouldn’t be where he is today if he hadn’t gotten fired. In 1981, Bloomberg was let go from Wall Street investment firm Salomon Brothers. The $10 million severance package he received probably took away a bit of the sting, though, especially since he was able to use those funds to found financial software company Bloomberg L.P.

“Nobody offered me a job, I was probably too proud to go look for one, and I said well why not start your own company?” Bloomberg – now the eighth-richest person in America, according to Forbes – said in an interview with TechCrunch.

4. Jerry Seinfeld

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Seinfeld may be one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, but before its star became a household name, he was fired from one of his first acting gigs. In 1979, Jerry Seinfeld, then an up-and-coming comedian, landed a recurring role on the show Benson. But it didn’t work out, and the actor was shown the door after only a few episodes.

Even worse than losing the job was the way the comedian found out his part had been eliminated. He showed up for a read-through only to find there was no script for him. An assistant eventually told him he’d been fired. Apparently, no one had thought to inform the young actor of the decision. Seinfeld didn’t let the set back stop him; he returned to doing stand-up and eventually landed his own show.

5. Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s true-crime classic In Cold Blood was first serialized in The New Yorker, but the writer’s relationship with the publication wasn’t always so cordial. At 17, he landed a low-level position at the magazine but was eventually fired for offending the poet Robert Frost. Still, Capote felt the job had provided a valuable education he wouldn’t have otherwise received.

“Not a very grand job, for all it really involved was sorting cartoons and clipping newspapers,” Capote wrote. “Still, I was fortunate to have it, especially since I was determined never to set a studious foot inside a college classroom. I felt that either one was or wasn’t a writer, and no combination of professors could influence the outcome. I still think I was correct, at least in my own case.”

6. George Foreman

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Boxer and grill inventor George Foreman has enjoyed tremendous success in life, but he still regrets getting fired from his first job. As a teen, Foreman dropped out of high school and found work at a furniture moving company. He liked the job and was eager to move up and become a regular employee. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding about scheduling led to Foreman losing his job. Though it eventually turned out to be a blessing, at the time he was devastated.

“Being fired released me and allowed me to pursue my destiny. That firing was best thing that happened to me, but it was my lowest point when it happened,” Foreman told Forbes. Even today, he believes he could have made a successful career out of the job if he’d just been given a second chance. “My lifelong dream is still to be a regular for that transfer and storage company,” he said. “If I hadn’t been fired from my job, I’d have worked there until I retired.”


7. Bernie Marcus & Arthur Blank

You might not recognize the names of Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, but you’ve probably been inside one of their stores: The Home Depot. In the late ‘70s, the pair were executives at a successful California hardware chain called Handy Dan. But when the chain’s parent company brought in a corporate turnaround artist, their jobs were history.

Marcus and Blank didn’t let getting fired get them down. Instead, they took a discounting concept they’d initially developed while working for Handy Dan and started their own chain. Now, The Home Depot is the largest home improvement chain in the United States.

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