Humans are bound to make mistakes. Startup founders often share their successes, but failures get rarely discussed. So today, I want to share four short stories about getting fired. I hope it helps others navigate their journeys with more empathy and understanding.
Many people are getting fired right now; remember, you're not alone.
My first job with Compaq came through chance and my love for video games. I dropped out of high school and left for Ottawa to seek refuge with my uncle. He offered me a place to stay for the summer but bought me a bus ticket to return home in the last two weeks. I surprised him with a job at the last minute.
I managed to secure a technical support job. It was a combination of determination and knowledge of the Windows operating system. Who knew optimizing video games would translate into such a valuable skill?
In a few months, I moved to level two support. That's when I started programming on the job. I was growing my skillset like a weed. Then, in March 2002, HP acquired Compaq, and eight months later, I got laid off. After getting laid off, I ignored the job market. Instead, I ran headfirst into a world of video games. I lost touch with my newfound professional life—the consequence of struggling to balance my well-being and career. I played games for about a year before I got my next job.
In September 2004, I worked the night shift at an Internet service provider. I had recently gotten passed up for a promotion. I thought I deserved it, and so did many of my colleagues. I felt frustrated and sad.
In search of a fresh start, I moved to Toronto following my brother's persuasion. My brother let me live with him until I could find better accommodations. He also introduced me to his friends. They liked to party. It was customary to go out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I had no job or money, but I had friends for the first time in years.
Soon, I joined Opalis, a startup my brother worked at, and embarked on an incredible journey at such a young age. Yet, I was burning the candle at both ends. I couldn't balance my personal life, work, and mental health.
Opalis raised a round of venture capital. They used the funds to bring in professional management. The new environment was a pressure cooker. There were no more excuses for unreliability.
I couldn't keep it together. Despite my talents, I received a last warning email from my brother—poor guy. A few months later, I took a fateful "sick day," leading to my dismissal.
Microsoft later acquired Opalis. Since then, I've retold my experience with a distorted air of glamour, seldom acknowledging the painful dismissal.
The story of Critical Mass was almost identical to Opalis. Once again, my unreliability and skewed priorities blinded me to the opportunities available. Instead, I delved into DJing and socializing with friends. I neglected my professional responsibilities, leading to my dismissal.
In hindsight, knowing what I know now, I would have done the same thing if I were in my employer's shoes. Yet, at the time, I blamed others for my dismissal. I failed to recognize my shortcomings and self-sabotaging behavior.
I was never fired again for the same reason. But it took me almost two years to get my priorities straight. Finally, I began investing in myself and building a stable foundation.
Between Critical Mass and Delphia, I underwent a significant transformation. My life changed, and with it, my reputation. I evolved from the punk kid who couldn't balance work and personal life to a responsible adult with a wife and kids. In my earlier post, you can learn the full story of my dismissal. I discuss the consequences of my actions and the steps I took toward growth and self-improvement.
Delphia taught me the human condition is frail and growth is a lifelong process. So, it's essential to remain vigilant and maintain the work-life balance. If you don't, the repercussions can hold us back and impair our progress.
There are moments when I question why I keep making mistakes and wonder if I haven't learned better. In these times of frustration, I turn to my therapist for support. Their response is a reminder that the human condition is imperfect. The key lies in accepting our faults. Only then can we learn from our experiences and find room to grow.
In analyzing my dismissals, several common themes emerge. From unreliability to personal struggles. From self-sabotage to learning experiences and resilience. These experiences have shaped my personal and professional growth. As a result, I've learned the importance of balance, self-care, and prioritization.
My journey has included struggles, dismissals, and moments of vulnerability. Yet, through these experiences, I've developed resilience. I've learned valuable lessons and evolved as an individual.
As a startup founder, I hope my story resonates with others. I encourage you to acknowledge your mistakes. Be vulnerable. And remain committed to growth and self-improvement.
Embracing our imperfections enables us to forge a path toward success.
As we continue to learn and grow from our errors, we create a foundation of understanding, empathy, and resilience.