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You're Fired!

Is it the worst thing to ever happen to you or the best chance you'll ever have to become your own boss?

Don't panic. Breathe deeply. The halls of history are crowded with people who have been fired--friends and family members, the coaches of losing football teams, all those contestants on The Apprentice. Of course, that knowledge may not be very soothing if, moments ago, you were standing on a street corner outside your former place of employment, a box of your belongings in your hands, a dazed look on your face . . . and now you're flipping through this magazine and thinking, "I don't need a pep talk--I need money, and I need a $@#%& life!"

Again, don't panic. Just breathe deeply. The ax has fallen on just about everybody at one time or another, and if you look at this in the right way, you might someday thank the person who did the swinging.

Trail of Pink Slips

Similar to the stages that one goes through after losing a loved one, there are eight stages-incredulity, humiliation, terror, resentment, acceptance, perspective, action and control--that an unsuspecting person goes through after they're fired, says Francie Dalton, a business consultant in Columbia, Maryland, whose firm has done a lot of work in management and HR.

But entrepreneur Beth Shaw, who had been fired multiple times before starting her business, was generally able to jettison those first four phases. She was almost used to getting the ax.

Over the years, others might have developed something of an inferiority complex after being fired so many times, but Shaw, 38, has dodged that-partly because once you own a business that has 15 full-time employees, 45 contractors and 2005 sales projections of $3 million, you can't help but feel OK about yourself. Shaw owns YogaFit, a Redondo Beach, California, company that has training programs across the country and sells yoga-related items online at www.yogafit.com.

For a while, however, Shaw was probably beginning to wonder if something was wrong with her. She was fired from a series of waitressing jobs in college because she sometimes brought the wrong orders to tables and wasn't as polite to the customers as she probably should have been. She was fired from her first job after college because, as she recalls, "I wanted to have a role that was a lot more advanced. I wanted to be the PR person for the company, but they didn't want that. They wanted somebody who could keep her mouth shut and was happy earning $15,000 a year."

That particular firing especially smarted, "but you pick yourself up," observes Shaw, "and you always find something better. And so, by the third or fourth time, it gets easier."

Still, she was surprised to go from her first job out of college to a second, and get fired yet again. She worked for a company that required her to be in the office at 6:45 a.m., and every time she was late, she was written up. And her supervisors were constantly urging her to go on more sales calls. Eventually, Shaw got canned. From there, she went on to be a West Coast advertising manager for a trade magazine in Ohio. She gamely began her duties, constantly re-energizing herself through her hobby, yoga.

That was part of the problem. Not only did she practice it, she began a little side business teaching yoga, selling mail order yoga products and starring in a little-seen cable yoga show, which didn't bring in much money but kept her busy--so busy that her work began to suffer. "As I got more into my hobby, I spent less and less time working on my job," says Shaw, "and less and less time putting proper sales reports together, documenting things, and playing by the rules that you try to play by. My employer told me, 'You either get it together and follow through on these things, or you don't have a job.' And I couldn't get it together. I guess I didn't want to get it together."

When she was fired in 1998, it was done over the telephone, right around noon. She was sickened but not all that surprised. Says Shaw, "Very few people get fired out of the blue, I think." A little dazed, Shaw made an instinctive move, her first executive decision: This was the perfect time for her to turn her hobby and part-time gig into a full-time company.

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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