This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share how they turned setbacks into success. Read all their stories here.
I'm a big fan of getting fired. I'm not proposing that anyone actively encourage the act. But, from personal experience, I can tell you that you can't hope to be a success unless you get fired – at least once. Because, more often than not, it will be the best thing that ever happened to you.
Back in the late 1970s, I was a correspondent for Newsweek. After 7 years, I was hired away to be the West Coast editor for a relatively new magazine called New Times. It was a great opportunity, great responsibility, the chance to do longer, more cutting-edge pieces. The deal was done.
The magazine was based in New York and had no West Coast presence. So I opened up an office in San Francisco. I found a great location, a cute second floor office right above a Japanese restaurant on Sacramento street.
Because I had to make a decision quickly, I rented the office in my name and was told the magazine would reimburse me and honor the lease. And to help light the fire, I went out and ordered a brass door sign, with the New Times logo to go on the front street entrance to the office.
The sign cost $84. I remember that well.
I then went out and purchased some basic office furniture: a desk, some typewriter tables (yes...typewriters), a couch, a coffee table, some filing cabinets. I sent the receipts to New Times.
Then, I went out and wrote a number of cover stories for the magazine. They ran, and with great reader response and critical success. But on the financial side, things were somewhat bleak. I never received reimbursement for the furniture. The rent was never paid on time. Our correspondents were always late in receiving their checks. But I DID receive one reimbursement check: $84 for the door sign.
What I didn't know was that the editor in chief in New York was completely obsessed with that door sign. Fixated might be more correct. He told other editors that I was out on the West Coast grandstanding, that my ego had gotten out of control and he couldn't understand why I would make such a ridiculous and unnecessary purchase.
In the meantime, I was out on the West Coast, trying to drum up publicity for the magazine, reader interest, visibility. I asked the New York office to send me bulk copies of the magazine so I could hand them out to key decision makers and influencers.
Finally, six months later, the copies arrived...15 boxes of bundled magazines, many of them four and five months old. But it was, I told myself, a start.
What I didn't realize is that it was also the finish. The editor in chief, the same one who bristled at the $84 cost of the door sign, was now fixated at the cost of shipping me the magazines. He used that as an excuse to fire me for extravagant spending. And in the letter that fired me, he demanded to have the brass door sign sent back to New York. Immediately.
It was a sad day for me. There I was, cut off, sitting in an office for which I was financially responsible for, with all new furniture I had paid for and a lease that had two more years on it. And I was out of a job.
I took all 15 boxes of magazines. I opened all of them and reorganized them. Got a screw driver and removed the brass door plaque, put it inside one of the magazines and rebundled all 15 boxes. Sent them FedEx Priority Overnight, charged to the magazine, with a note to the editor attached, that essentially said, here are your magazines back, and your f**king door sign is enclosed!
I got a new door sign with MY name on it, and decided to keep the office. And just when I was about to feel sorry for myself, came the turning point. My phone rang. It was CBS calling. Not CBS News (that came later). But CBS Television.
They had read one of my magazine stories and wanted to know if Iwould be available to fly down to Los Angeles and discuss it. I suddenly had the time. I was on the first flight out the next morning. By that afternoon, I was producing my very first movie.
All because of an $84 door sign and getting fired. Talk about a curveball. And New Timesmagazine? It folded just about the time I started production.