'Working Wounded': Getting Pink-Slipped

DEAR READERS: I've received many e-mails from people who not only land on their feet after a firing or a layoff, they actually end up in an even better place. I've included a series of success stories below. For more, check out Harvey MacKay's excellent new book "We Got Fired: And it's the best thing that ever happened to us" (Ballentine, 2004). If you know someone who has recently been let go, encourage them to read Harvey's book or this column for inspiration.

Bernie Marcus was fired as chief executive officer of Handy Dan Home Improvement Center chain. Haven't heard of Handy Dan? You probably have heard of the next company that Marcus founded -- The Home Depot.

Bill Belichick was fired as the head football coach of the Cleveland Browns. The owner told him that the team needed to go in another direction. Even if you aren't a football fan, you are probably aware that Belichick's new team, the New England Patriots, just won its third Super Bowl in four years.

Michael Bloomberg and 62 colleagues were summoned by the executives of Salomon Brothers. They were all fired in advance of a merger. Bloomberg founded his own billion-dollar company and is presently the mayor of New York City.

Jesse Ventura was fired by Twin City Radio Station KSTP. Gov. Ventura showed that there is life after talk radio.

Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job for a lack of ideas. From Mickey Mouse to Daffy Duck, his ideas laid the groundwork for one of America's most creative corporations, the Walt Disney Company (the parent company of ABC News).

Burt Reynolds was fired from an acting job and told he couldn't act. Afterward he became the No. 1 box office draw for five consecutive years.

Lee Iacocca was fired from Ford on his 54th birthday after 32 years at the company. He led a struggling Chrysler back from the brink with the help of a loan from the U.S. government, a loan that was paid back in full.

Robert Redford was fired by Standard Oil after he broke 12 cases of empty soda bottles. His acting career has made him anything but "Ordinary People."

Louis Rukeyser, hosted the PBS show, "Wall Street Week" for 32 years. He was fired because PBS management felt he'd lost touch with younger viewers. His new show is on CNBC and quickly became its most watched program.

Ray Romano was fired from the pilot of a TV show called "News Radio." "Everybody Loves Raymond" has won many Golden Globes and Emmys.

Mark Cuban was fired from a computer store because all he wanted to do was sell and work on computers, instead of sweeping the floor like the owner wanted. Today, he is an Internet billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.

David Hasselhoff, the star of "Baywatch," was fired along with the rest of the cast when the show was canceled after the first season. He believed in the show and bought the show's rights. It ran for 11 years in 140 countries in 32 different languages.

Most people who've been fired or laid off feel like they are the only people in the world who this has ever happened to. Well, I've been fired, and so have most of the people that I know. The key thread in all of the stories above is the desire to prove wrong the company, or individuals, who let you go. That drive, combined with learning all that you can from the experience, can give you the fuel to reach new heights. It did for me and all the people above.

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