What It's Really Like To Get Fired

How my rise to the top of the corporate world came down crashing and burning.

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By Steve Eakin

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A little over a year ago, I started my own business. As you would expect, that caused me to reflect a bit. Tally up my wins and losses, make sure I've learned all the lessons that I need to learn -- that sort of thing.

It's gotten me thinking about the story of how I started. I would always tell people that it "just sort of fell into my lap" like some awesome stroke of luck. The problem is, that's not totally accurate. The truth is a bit… harsher.

I was pushed into it.

I've always been an entrepreneur at heart though. During college, I would work two or three odd jobs to get by. I would build websites for local businesses, sell TV's, wait tables, cook at that very same restaurant, valet cars… I even started and eventually sold a small SaaS company before that was a thing people were doing. Whatever it took to get the bills paid and still have enough cash to go out at night.

Related: How I Tripled My Salary in Less Than One Year After Getting Fired

After I graduated, I decided it was time to move to the standard: One job, One side-hustle. With my rebellious personality, a startup was the obvious choice. So I landed a development job at a mobile startup that sold ringtones and games and what not, way before the App Store was a thing. It was amazing. I learned more in the first three months than my entire college experience.

But, being the entrepreneur in spirit, it wasn't enough. I felt trapped -- like a big fish in a small pond. So with a heavy heart, I moved on. On to bigger and better things, just two blocks down the road in downtown NYC to a marketing company.

This too, was amazing. I met some of the greatest people ever, and found a mentor in my boss that would teach me more than I thought possible. I learned the in's and out's of the corporate world, how to work with fortune 500 clients and how to through the bullshit to build something great. But, this marketing company was owned by a massive parent company that had other plans for us all.

Without going into detail, let's just say that big corporates are big corporates and things lost their magic after a while. So, I moved back to startups. I chose an amazing, yet seriously risky startup. Their idea was crazy, which is right up my alley. They had an incredible product, users and revenue so I took the risk. Another few years of working as hard as can be, and they ended up being acquired by Amazon. What an incredible experience, but it left me with a bit of a problem.

I was right back in the big corporate world again.

Related: Getting Fired Was Step 1 to Increasing My Pay 1,000% in 3 Months

Not that it's a bad thing, after all that stressful risk I sort of romanticized the idea of a safe job with a normal pace of work. This realization lead to a decision: If I'm going to work for another big company, I should probably get to choose who it is.

The decision was clear. I wanted a change of industry and a major media company wanted me to run engineering for their entire digital media division. This was it. The dream.

Running my own engineering team, doing things the way I wanted them to be done. Twenty or so people under me, hundreds of millions of users each month and a dozen or so major media properties under my care. The dream.

Then I got fired. A new baby at home, a mortgage, car payments and a single income. We were now, a zero income family.

At first, I was (obviously) upset. Not just at the thought of "what am I going to do to support my family?" Mostly at the thought of "what do I do next?"

I had no idea, so I decided to take some odd jobs in consulting until I found my true calling, whatever that means. Thankfully, I always kept my side-hustle(s) going so I had a foundation to stand on.

Related: How Getting Fired Turned Into Sweet Success for This Entrepreneur

As it happened to turn out, I'm really good at helping people build money making apps. I also have a certain knack for growing and scaling tech companies. People really needed help in these two areas and were willing me to pay me to solve their problems.

I didn't really know how to turn that into full time work, but it didn't matter. My decision was made for me. My clients were practically pushing me towards this at full speed. So I gave in.

Now I help two specific groups of people and its great. The "I want to build an app" group and the "I want to grow and scale my tech company" group. I love them both very much.

The best part? My clients and their results are absolutely amazing.

I never would have believed that one of my first clients would have been purchased for $3 million. Another one raised $2 million. Another has a $6 million valuation. Another grew from 300 users to 30,000. And that is just scratching the surface. None of this would have happened from behind my old desk.

None of this would have happened without having a side-hustle either. (Please tell me you are working on an app on the side. You don't want to be totally screwed if you get the ax, do you?)

It's also given me something I never expected: Freedom. The freedom to spend more time with my family and even cofound a big-data startup, which I'm confident will be worth billions in the next few years.

Most importantly, I don't have to deal with corporate politics anymore. I can be who I want to be and do what I want to do. I can be my own boss.

The truth is, getting fired could be the best thing that has ever happened to you.

Steve Eakin

Founder of Startup Black Belt

Steve Eakin is a speaker, investor, startup advisor and the founder of Startup Black Belt, where he helps tech startups launch, grow and scale.

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