Three Lessons I Learned from Getting Fired

It’s easy to look at successful people and envy their situation. What you often don’t see is the pain they went through to get there. That certainly applies to me.

I didn’t eventually become a CEO because I made fewer mistakes than you. In fact, it’s probably just the opposite. I made more. In fact, I’ve been fired from three jobs in my career.

An Employee Being Shown the Door - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #10081269

Photo courtesy of ©

Each of these was a very painful experience. But these experiences also taught me important lessons that I probably could not have learned any other way.

  1. Lesson #1: Don’t take your job for granted. I got my first real job at the age of fifteen. I was hired as a dishwasher at Giovanni’s Pizza in Waco, Texas. After a few months, I was given the opportunity to cook pizzas.

    It was a part-time job. I usually worked a few evenings after school and then Friday or Saturday night. It wasn’t too demanding, but it gave me some much-needed spending money.

    After working at this job for a little over a year, I was fired. I was unceremoniously given the boot. I didn’t do anything egregious or outrageous. I just got sloppy. I was often late to work. I regularly asked my boss to change my work schedule at the last minute.

    The problem was that I thought the job was about me. My employer (rightly) thought it was about him and the restaurant. In the end, I became more trouble than I was worth, so he canned me. This was the best thing that could have happened to me. It got my attention, and it was the beginning of my education.

    After this experience, I never took any job for granted.

  2. Lesson #2: Take time to clarify expectations. When I was in business for myself, I agreed to manage an artist’s singing career. I was reluctant, but she was persistent.

    At the time, she was a B-level artist who was convinced that she could be an A-level talent with the right exposure. My job, as I understood it, was to get her better concert bookings, a book deal, and exploit whatever other opportunities we could create. My job, as she understood it, was to make her famous.

    I knew I was in trouble after the first month. In the first thirty days, I doubled her bookings, secured a decent book deal (even coming up with the book concept myself), and got her an appearance on a major, national TV show.

    I was feeling pretty good about my progress. But, she could only find fault. Over dinner, she complained that she still wasn’t “famous.” I pointed out what I had accomplished. She dismissed it as “the low hanging fruit.” She then pointed out all the things I hadn’t accomplished. I left the meeting totally demoralized.

    I realized I had made a major error in not getting her expectations on the table from the get-go. Unfortunately, the relationship never really recovered. She eventually fired me—by fax. It was painful, but, honestly, I felt relieved. I knew I was never going to meet her expectations no matter how hard I tried.

    After this experience, I decided to discuss expectations at the beginning of any new relationship—and document them.

  3. Lesson #3: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Unfortunately, I’ve made this mistake more than once. The last time was about fifteen years ago.

    At the time, I co-owned a literary agency. I agreed to take on a giant project for a major client. I worked my tail off for about a year, focusing exclusively on this one client. My relationship had morphed into an artist management relationship, and I was, essentially, managing this client’s career.

    Meanwhile my partner and associates took care of everyone else. We all thought it was a good bet. But in the end, the client fired me (also via fax!) and signed with an agency who promised to get him “a major book deal with a New York publishing house and an appearance on Oprah. (His book with the New York house tanked, and he never did get on Oprah.) I was left high and dry with nothing to show for my year-long investment.

    The worst part was that I did not see it coming. I was blind-sided. I thought I had done a great job. Besides, we had enjoyed a long-term personal relationship. My client wasn’t so impressed with my work. He had his eye on bigger things, and decided I couldn’t take him there. So, without even so much as a discussion, he dumped me.

    In the end it was a humbling—even humiliating—experience. I learned that clients (and customers) are fickle. You can’t afford to put all your eggs in one basket. You have to spread the risk. You also can’t assume that today’s victories will be remembered. You have to keep raising the bar.

These, of course, aren’t the only mistakes I’ve made in my career. I’m not even sure they were the biggest ones. But they were mistakes that got me fired, and in the end that got my attention. They were painful, but the education was invaluable.

Question: What have you learned from your mistakes? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Russell

    Thanks so much for sharing these stories. I hope you don’t mind if I laughed a bit, especially about your B-grade star client.

    It’s encouraging to know that we all go through “failure” moments. I read a book once in which the author claimed failure is the back door to success. Handled rightly it can lead us to character growth, wisdom for life, and greater humilty.

    It was humble for you to share. God gives grace to the humble.


  • Stacy L. Harp

    Hi Mike,

    I would have to say that one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is assuming that working with Christians makes a job easier….NOT! Are you kidding me, working with other Christians is one trial after another. So the lesson that I had to learn the hard way is that Christians are not to be trusted or given any more grace than nonbelievers. Plus, when you work in a ministry setting you have to be very careful with your boundaries because the tendency to blur work life with “fellowship” is great…and if you’re not careful you can really get burned. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything :)

  • Michael Hyatt


    I have certainly found this to be the case. It’s all about expectations. People expect Christians to be honest and treat them kindly. This is not always—or even usually—the case. As long as we have to recruit from the human race, we will have human problems.



  • Deb

    I have never been “fired.” They offered me a membership in the Corporate Castaway Club. I was “let go” and not because I was slothful or not doing my job. It was “business.” Same effect. Still painful. Still suffering from the effects of losing 2/3rds of my income in one day. Ouch! It definitely was a wake up call. Thanks for sharing! Somehow it takes a little bit of the sting out to know someone highly successful recovered and flourished after a similar experience.

  • shari brown

    I was “helped to resign” from a job I didn’t have passion for. Reflectively, it was best for me and done out of love. I am now pursuing the passion of my life and loving the pursuit. My previous company treated me very well and kept both our best interests at heart. What I learned was grow where you are planted, and if you are uprooted and replanted, grow there too.

  • Michelle Pendergrass

    I worked for an outdoor advertising company, I was the first woman ever to work in the shop and some of the egotistical men thought I should be harassed. I stood my ground and proved myself as the master of billboard paste. ;)

    I had just graduated high school and after a year of working and attending college, I felt the need to move on. About six months later the shop foreman called me to offer my job back plus a sizable raise. I accepted. This actually happened three more times. I was making more than anyone had ever made in that position and had restructured the process so that efficiency and output were at an all-time high.

    The corporate office restructured management , my boss was demoted and they brought in a man with twenty years experience at the steel mill–to run a billboard shop? It didn’t make sense to anyone. They asked me to train him. I asked for a raise. They declined.

    I told the Executive Supervisor the new shop foreman could watch and take notes, but without a raise I wouldn’t formally train him, they should find someone qualified to fulfill that need. They fired me.

    I packed up my files and went home. If I remember correctly, it was about a year later they were acquired by another outdoor advertising company and the Executive Supervisor and the new shop foreman lost their jobs. I got a call to come back to work. I declined.

    I was young, so my actions might not have been the best choices, looking back though, I learned that if you allow people to walk on you and take advantage of you, they will. I wouldn’t stand for it from the guys in the shop and I wouldn’t stand for it from the supervisors. Yes, I lost my job, but I gained the respect of everyone else working there and became rather infamous. This all happened over a decade ago and I still get calls from new shop foremans making pretty decent offers.

    The most important thing I learned, though, is that a formal education doesn’t teach you how to deal with people.

    As low man on the totem pole, when you approach someone in upper level management with respect and honesty, you’ll find the depth of their character and integrity simply by the value they place on you. I’ve found the greatest have walked a mile in your shoes and remember the feeling, therefore they treat you with respect and they’re more than willing to help you succeed. I’ve also learned that this type of person is rare, but a blessing when found.

  • Rusty

    I spent the first 14 years of my career as an engineer with a public utility company, and despite my resolve not to, eventually developed a “job for life” mentality. When the business climate changed and the company started reorganizing (downsizing, rightsizing, etc) I like everyone else seemed to focus on what I could do to keep my job. I realized I had become “a slave to security”. After much prayer and thought I volunteered out, taking a package that allowed my to go to work for myself. I could never have forseen this was simply God’s way of putting me where I needed to be for what was soon to happen in our lives. But my leaving was jumpstarted by the CEO of my former company who said in a meeting, “The only job security any of you have, is to be good enough at what you do that you’re able to find a job when you leave here.” He meant it, and I believed it, … any by God’s grace, I was. :)

  • Dee Stewart

    Stacy and Mike, I agree.

    Sometimes working with your brothers and sisters can be dissappointing just like working with your blood relatives.

    I’ve worked in many Christian niche businesses from church architects, bookstores, magazines to recording studios. What I’ve learned is to never take a job or contract until you have received payment. Oftentimes Christian businesses and churches expect you to do the work on a volunteer basis. They assume that since you’re Christian, you will not ask for a check.

    But I’ve learned that your clients will be more cooperative, give you more referrals and respect you if you demand some form of upfront payment. And no matter how great the person’s voice is, great their ministry is don’t complete a service unless some monies have exchanged hands and a contract is signed.

  • Leah Adams

    One of the things that I learned was never to get personally involved in close friendships with those with whom I work. Perhaps there are some of you who have done this successfully and I admire that, but it was a disaster for me and the reason I ended up leaving a job I loved 25 years ago.

    Another thing I learned from the mistakes of others is to never let your boss be surprised by bad news. If I have messed up I want him/her to hear it from me and not from the office grapevine or the client.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That last one is particularly important. I used to tell my colleagues, “I don’t live surprises.”

      • tonychung

        I live surprises. I just don’t like ‘em much.

    • Lee Nickles

      My previous boss and another manager there were very up-front about admitting their mistakes to us. They did it quickly (usually at the very next group meeting), clearly (none of the “if that offended you, then I’m sorry” stuff), and with a “let’s fix that and keep moving” attitude.

      That’s been a great leadership example to me and encouraged me to feel free to admit mistakes to them and others.

      • Leah Adams

        That is great, Lee. I think the more transparent we can be the better. Transparency helps those who work with and for us see that we are real people who mess up just like they do. Transparency builds relationship.

      • Sundi Jo Graham

        Love that. What a great example of leadership. 

      • Jeff Randleman

        Great leaders are transparent without being too transparent.  Sounds like you had a good experience.

        • Jim Hardy


          you are correct. Authentic leaders are transparent and being transparent saves you a lot of headaches over time.


      • Theresa Ip Froehlich

        We need to have more bosses and managers like the ones you had!

    • Sundi Jo Graham

      Definitely true on the last part Leah. I think we get more respect from those who lead us if we own up to the mistakes as soon as we make them before everyone else “gladly” lets them know we’ve made a mistake. 

      • Leah Adams

        Oh yes, and others will gladly let the boss know when you mess up. Thanks for  your thoughts Sundi Jo.

    • TNeal

      That last one is a tough lesson to learn. When I screw up, hiding is my initial thought. Integrity, maturity, and wisdom ask for a different and better response.–Tom

      • Leah Adams

        I think hiding is everyone’s initial thought. “Maybe no one say, heard, felt that!”  You’re so right. It does take integrity, maturity and wisdom to do the hard thing in that case.

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        I agree with you Tom! It’s our natural tendency to save our faces. So, obviously, when we screw up, hiding becomes our initial thought.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      That’s true! Giving surprises to our bosses is never a good sign. It will produce its repercussions on us.

  • Joey Espinosa

    Having recently gone through a transition (from being  on staff of a large church that I was a part of for 15 years, to working in an after school program in an impoverished area) I didn’t realize how much the stress of the former job was hurting me. It hurt physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I took way too much of the burden on myself, more than even my superiors wanted me to.

    In my current role, there are still many struggles (including with some leadership), but I see how this is so much better of a fit. It’s amazing to see how much freer I feel in an environment that many would feel is stifling and discouraging.

    If you want, you can read more about our adventure in Allendale, SC here:

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Thanks for sharing your website, Joey; I read several of your posts.  It was encouraging to see the work you’re doing there.

    • Jim Hardy

      Thank you for sharing this post.


    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Thanks for sharing the link. The work you are carrying out — that’s amazing.

  • Jamie (Lionstand)

    The biggest lesson I learned in the workforce was when I was 16. In Ireland, where I was born and raised before moving to the States, we have many convenience stores. A neighborhood Walmart would be a close equivalent.

    I had worked for one during my summer holidays from school and it was a pretty enjoyable job. I decided for one of the summers that I would try and work for a different one. The first thing I noticed was that the standards were much lower than in my previous job.

    Being the young “go-getter” that I was, I proceeded to be a one man mission in brining the standards up in this store. The boss was happy but the pretty much everyone else wasn’t.

    One mid-20 something supervisor gave out to me for making him look bad. I left pretty quickly after that.

    I don’t believe I was wrong in what I did but the method I went about it was way off base. I learned that working within the structure of the culture of a business is just as important working hard.

    In hindsight I know the standards of that convenience store could have been raised. I had not learned yet to utilize “strategy” in how I brought about change.

    • Jim Hardy

      Thank you for sharing your experience. We all can learn not only from ourselves, but from others also.


      • Jamie (Lionstand)

        You’re welcome Jim.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      ” I learned that working within the structure of the culture of a business is just as important as working hard.” – Great wisdom Jamie! Thanks for sharing your story.

      • Jamie (Lionstand)

        You’re welcome Uma.

  • Joe Abraham

    Thanks Michael for openly sharing the lessons you learned from your mistakes. As you also mentioned, one thing I learned from my mistakes is that I got to learn from my mistakes! Or else, chances are that I repeat them again and again.

  • Doris

    I’ve never been fired from a job, but I have resigned in different occasions when I just don’t feel the fulfillment. I worked with a colleague and she would be a person to never resign from a job. The fear of losing stability and income would frighten her. Yet we both were miserable working for that company at that time. I left as I found another job. I advised her to do the same, but she wouldn’t do it. Well, she ended up being fired. Later, she was offered a job that she loves very much. We are now best friends, and she tells me that being fired was the best thing that could ever happen to her. “They did me a favor” she says, with a wide smile. 


    • Jim Hardy


      Thank you for the post. I will check it out.


      • Doris Plaster

        Thank you, Jim. That’s very kind of you. 


    • Joe Lalonde

      It’s amazing how we’re willing to stay in a miserable job just for the security. Sometimes you need to step out of that kind of situation. Great to hear you were able to.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Yup! Getting resigned is far better than getting fired.

  • Sherri

    I got fired once when I was in graduate school, and it took me completely by surprise. I had not been there long, but had worked very hard – something my boss commented on frequently. I worked for an optometrist and his wife ‘managed’ the office. She was there one day when a friend of mine from school asked my opinion about frames for his glasses. I answered. BIG MISTAKE! Apparently I was not qualified to give an opinion. Anyway, I learned that it’s not always about just doing your job, and your job is not just about your assigned tasks. It is also about interpersonal relationships. People can sometimes be petty and sometimes those people are the ones in charge. Life is not always fair, but we can always learn from situations like this, and most importantly…God is the one in control!  Thank goodness for that!

    • Jeff Randleman

      I was fired from a toy store when I was in college.  Apparently, you’re not supposed to play with the toys on display with the kids who come in the store, regardless of how many you actually sell to the parents of said kids…

      • Anonymous

        Sympathetically yours.  I could never work for a toy store, a book store, or a library.  

        • Jeff Randleman

          I loved the toy store, and longed for the book store.  But I probably would have been fired from there as well…

      • Joe Lalonde

        While I’ve never been fired for that, I have been reprimanded for engaging with customers in a similar manner. It blows my mind that employers would rather you clean the store than build relationships with the customer.

        • Jeff Randleman

          It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  I actually sold more because I engaged with the customers so much.  But I guess that wasn’t what they wanted.  FYI… They’re out of business now.  Ironic… 

          • Joe Lalonde

            I know it makes no sense. Stores should encourage employees to engage with customers to build relationships. It keeps customers coming back and enjoying their visits.

            After I parted ways with the bookstore, I had customers asking for me for years. It was their loss, I guess.

            BTW, the toy store wouldn’t happen to have been KB Toys?

          • Jeff Randleman

            I think it was a sub-brand of theirs, Circus World Toys.  KB was at the other end of the mall, and we were connected somehow.  They closed that store at the same time ours closed.

          • Joe Lalonde

            That’s interesting. I had never heard of Circus World before. After a quick Google search, it looks like it had an interesting history. At one point they were owned by Rite Aid and then the parent company of KB bought them.

          • Jeff Randleman

            Rite Aid?  That is interesting.  I thought they were connected to KB somehow, I just wasn’t sure of the exact connection.

          • Joe Lalonde

            When I saw Rite Aid, I thought it was a strange connection. My first thought was “What does a drug store have to do with a toy store?” I guess they wanted to be connected to people from the cradle to the grave.

          • Jeff Randleman


    • Uma Maheswaran S

      “it’s not always about just doing your job, and your job is not just about your assigned tasks. It is also about interpersonal relationships. People can sometimes be petty …. Life is not always fair, ……and most importantly…God is the one in control!”  – Those are great lessons to be learnt by me. Thanks

  • David Barry DeLozier

    I was also fired from my first job when I was fifteen, which happened to be for a Mom and Pop pizza restaurant in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The owner was Hungarian and rather difficult for me to understand.  I thought I was communicating well, but apparently I was difficult to understand too.  I filled the restaurant with black smoke on a busy Friday evening when I put bread in the oven and thought Les would take it out while I went in back to grate cheese.  From this early experience, I learned a valuable lesson about communications: verify that the message you sent was the same message received.  Les was busy with a dozen details at the counter and never heard me say, “Bread’s in. I’m out back.”

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Verifying that the message we sent was the same message received. — Many times I am not careful at this. From now on, I should be careful enough not to repeat the same.

  • John Richardson

    One thing I’ve learned recently, is that large, state run programs can be de-funded in a minute during budget talks. Once the money or the program is gone, so is your job. If you find yourself in that program like that, it’s best to get some other training along the way. Most government specialty jobs don’t translate anywhere else. Bottom line, be prepared!

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is where a book like Free Agent Nation by Daniel Pink can be so helpful to start thinking about diversifying your career.

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks for the book info. Sounds like a good read.

  • Will Pershing

    The biggest thing I have learned from my mistakes is that I have to place my relationship with God above everything else.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Golden advice Will!

  • Greg McAfee

    Great information! I’ve been fired 4x in my life. It’s not only humbling, but now that I’ve run my own business for 20 years it  taught me to hire slow and fire fast.

    Greg M.
    Dayton, Oh

    • Michael Hyatt

      Hire slow and fire fast. That’s a great principle.

    • Jeff Randleman

      Great instructions!

  • Blaforce

    Michael, I was fired from my job when I tried to prove that I had a great personal friendship with you. The picture below really got me in a fix! I’m not sure what I’ve learned from this experience, but it’s been interesting! Just Kidding, of course! Thanks for all you have added to and continue to add to my life! In Christ, Bob

  • Lawrence W. Wilson

    One of my biggest employment mistakes was to leave a job that I didn’t like without having another one lined up. Fortunately, I did this when I was very young and it wasn’t so hard to recover. I’ve seen many of my colleagues in pastoral ministry do this over the years, and it can be devastating to both career and family.

    • Jim Hardy


      Thank you for sharing your lesson.


    • Uma Maheswaran S

      “to leave a job that I didn’t like without having another one lined up” – Yup! I have experimented the same in my life. That was one of the greatest blunders I did in my life.

  • Christin

    I find it extremely mature and professional of you to own up to the reasons you were fired, even though, to me, the last two don’t totally seem like your fault.
    But you were very wise in learning from the experiences rather than taking the other road. I commend you.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. :)

    I have never been fired, but I did come across some work experiences that I learned from. One is to never work with a group of people who are all friends with one another, except you. That is never a good situation. When money went missing, all the friends conspired together and me being the “outsider” was the accused. At that point, it’s my word against theirs and it was a TOUGH situation to be in. The pressure and stress were so great, I did the worst thing anyone could’ve done in that situation: I quit, appearing to be the guilty party in the end.

    I was 18 years old and an assistant manager of a retail store in the mall. All the girls were about the same age and very immature to be running a store.

    I much prefer the job I am in now, as a stay at home mom. :)

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      “One is to never work with a group of people who are all friends with one another, except you.” — A sound practical advice.

  • Richard Mabry

    Michael, Excellent examples. Thanks so much for sharing.
    I had no idea you grew up just a hundred miles south of here. One of these days, we’ll have to get together and talk about whether the hamburgers at the Health Camp were truly healthy.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think I know the answer to that question, Richard. ;-)

  • Steve

    A fellow publisher and friend of yours has written an excellent chapter on “failure” from his being fired. Bob Fryling, of Inter-Varsity Press has written for us an excellent roadmap of what he also learned from being fired from IV in the book, “The Transformation of a Man’s Heart.” (IVP). Keen insights and gripping lessons learned from another man who had to bite the dust in his vocation. It’s worth the read!

    Thank you for your insights and this valuable blog, Michael. I really appreciate it!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Steve. I will have to read that. Bob is a friend and someone I really admire.

    • Jim Hardy

      Thank you Steve. John Maxwell has written a book called Failing forward that I would encourage everyone to read. It is a great book on how to rebound and how to learn from your mistakes.


      • Uma Maheswaran S

        John is one of my favorite authors of all time. Should be an impressive read.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Thanks for the suggestion of the book.  I am adding it to my ‘to-read’ list.

  • Gina Holmes

    Great post, Mike. Thanks for being transparent. It’s so easy for us to look at someone more successful than ourselves and think that fortune just happened to shine on them a little brighter, but there was a ladder involved, hard lessons learned. The smart folks learn from the negative and are better for it, the rest get stuck in broken record syndrome, never quite getting what it was they needed to learn. 

  • Anonymous

    I have learned not to hold on so tight. Every adversity lies the seeds of equal or greater benefit. Each new adventure has given me the gift of knowledge, experience and wisdom.

    • Jim Hardy

      Thank you for sharing your site. Some very good information. I will share it with others.


      • Anonymous

        Thanks Jim, I appreciate it.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      “Each new adventure has given me the gift of knowledge, experience and wisdom. ” – I think that’s why our is so thrilling and adventurous.

  • Anonymous

    I’m still learning to adjust my style to fit the needs & expectations of my management. I tend to assume that since they’re “the boss,” they should accommodate my style and my needs. It doesn’t work that way. Once, I was working on a VP’s staff and I was miserable. He ignored me, cut me off during meetings, dismissed my ideas, etc. I escalated my unhappiness to my boss’s boss, who spoke with my boss, then came back to me, telling me “I was annoying my boss with all of my interruptions during staff meetings.” I realized the more he had ignored me the harder I had tried to get noticed and receive his approval. Although I was extremely extroverted, I learned to act more like an introvert (i.e. sit quietly and think before speaking). I found a mentor and soon came to appreciate that everyone needs a good mentor!

    Although I wasn’t fired for this, I believe it affected my career. 

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      “everyone needs a good mentor!” — Blessed are the ones who find good mentors.

  • Kelly King

    I was working for temp agency during the summer after my freshman year of college. When an immoral boss was unhappy with my work, I was told my service was no longer needed. The man who hired me directly was kind and even gave me an extra $100 the morning I left. I went straight to my temp agency and within an hour I was at work at another company. I learned never to waiver in your convictions and to honor the Lord by following His standards. Glad I learned that lesson 27 years ago! 

  • Cyberquill

    I’ve been fired 12 (twelve) times so far. The lesson I hope I’ve learned is to never ever again apply for another restaurant job. 

    How else to make money I’ve yet to figure out, though. Speaking of having moved back across the Atlantic to be fed and sheltered by my mom on account of her son’s financial ineptitude, the book Jesus, my Father, the CIA, and Me you mailed in TN on July 24th has arrived in our home in Austria earlier today. That’s why it’s called snail mail. Thank you very much!

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome. I hope you enjoy the book.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      “You’ve been fired 12 (twelve) times so far” — That’s a great resilience from your part.

      • Cyberquill

        One employer fired me three times over the course of several years. That was great resilience on their part.

  • Ashleyscwalls

    I was fired a few months and what I truly learned is to be thankful when removed from a situation that is not healthy for you. I also learned to document everything and be willing to look back at the notes when the time is right. This truly helped me recover because I realized that I was doing the things that was being asked of me, and I understood how things were looked, after reviewing the revealing paper trail.

    The lesson learned for me was about healing….

  • W. Mark Thompson

    Crazy! And really valuable experiences. Thanks for sharing. I bet you’re glad that faxes are pretty much phased out nowadays.  :)

    I’ve learned a lot from my experiences as well. But it’s nice to see how someone as successful as you handles “humiliation”. Even if we take a hit in our credibility, we can come back stronger… if we own our mistakes in the light of lessons and not participate in the blame game.

    • Michael Hyatt

      So true, Mark. It’s hard to move past failure if we don’t own it.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t been fired…yet.  But there were probably some times that I probably should have been.

    Thanks for your transparency.  The biggest takeaway for me was your point #1.  It actually applies to everything that is important to us.  Thanks for this reminder.

  • Todd B. Freese

    What a great post. I was taken by not taking your job for granted.  I am in a job, teaching, now that I do not like very much, but am very good at it.  It would be easy to take it for granted, but I know to do so would dishonor God by not giving my best.  Thanks for a “refresher” on focusing your efforts on the right things and having the right attidude, especially before school begins.

    • Jim Hardy


      thank you for sharing you site. I will add it to my list.


  • FemmeFuel

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Michael. I think we look at you and see your success, and often forget about the journey and life-lessons that have brought you to where you are today. It’s nice to know you’re human like the rest of us, and not just born with all of this wisdom. ;)


    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m learning that old fashioned way: failing my way to success. ;-)

  • Lynne Holder

    Thanks for sharing those painful experiences and the lessons you learned from them. I love reading people’s stories and finding the common threads in them–that life is often unfair, and that failure often precedes success. God makes beautiful things out of us, wouldn’t you agree?

  • Jack Lynady

    These were great. Here’s one I learned: Guilt by Association. I got fired once because I was associated with others that were slacking on the job. Why? Because employers don’t have time to play detective. In hindsight, I should have been more proactive in reporting and distancing myself from a group like this. Furthermore, I learned to start associating myself with the right people.

  • Elizabeth Sanders

    I have definitely learned not to take your job, no matter what the job is, forgranted. Those that get noticed are the ones that are enthusiastic and do a standup job, even with the simplest task.

    • Elizabeth Sanders

      I’m glad I learned this early on. I just turned 24 on Friday, and see so many people my age throwing that principle, along with many other key principles to the wayside. I know I’m not perfect, but I have come a long way.

      On a sidenote, I really enjoy reading your blog. It’s the first blog I’ve kept up with, and it’s been enlightening for me. I’m “up and coming” so to speak in the corporate world, fresh out of college with my marketing degree, and feel like a lost sheep at times despite my drive to be a leader. On top of that, I’m also a runner running my first half in October. :-) So thank you for the insightful/motivational posts!

      • Davidjjamess

        I am looking
        forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yep, enthusiasm and a positive spirit make up for a lot.

  • Chris Walker

    I have been fired twice in my life. In both cases I learned about the types of work environments that I want to avoid working in. I was let go during a review after my boss told me I was doing a great job, but upper management had decided to terminate my position. The second time my manager strong armed me into changing to a position that would take me a long time to learn so that he didn’t have to fire someone else. Soon after that, management changed and my new manager let me go because I was not able to perform as well as my experienced coworkers. Still looking for a job that has more meaning than the bottom line.

  • Cynthia Herron

    I’ve never been fired, but I’ve made mistakes aplenty. I’ve found that the best lessons learned are from my worst mistakes made. Thankfully, the Lord allows us to remain on that learning curve until the day He calls us home…

  • Bill Kraski

    Great points and some excellent additions in the comments.  I’ve been fired a couple of times.  Once it was the wrong job for me.  Or I was the wrong person for the job.  The other was right job, wrong boss.  That taught me that I need to pay attention to who I’m going to be working for/with before I accept a job.  You’re going to spend a lot of hours together.  If you conflict or his/her management style wears you down, work can be miserable.  Life’s too short to spend 30+ hours a week in misery.

    • Michael Hyatt

      There really does have to be a fit with your boss. This is crucial. That’s what I have always seen an interview as bi-lateral. They may be interviewing me, but I am interviewing them, too.

  • Paul Loyless, d2design

    Always appreciate the humility and authenticity of your posts.

    How about a post on “Lessons I Have Learned Firing Team Members” and maybe a post on the “Best Steps for Firing Team Members”?

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s actually a great idea. Unfortunately, I have had a lot of experience, especially during this most recent recession. I’ll give it some thought.

  • Tom

    You need to earn the respect and right to be heard when you are a brand new subordinate. I was working on a project that was nose diving. I was convinced I knew what the problem was and how to correct it. So I boldly shared my thoughts and was subsequently slapped back into place and removed from the project. Not much later the project tanked and it came out into the open as to why. Most of the same reasons I had brought up. I learned that how you deliver a message especially before you have earned the trust of those you work with is critical.

  • Grace Lin Lee

    Thanks so much for posting this! As someone in my 20s, I’ve always had the perception that everyone around me, especially those in executive positions, have everything together and aren’t constantly struggling with their mistakes like me. As much as I know that’s not true, it’s still how I most often feel, so I really appreciate you putting your mistakes out there!

    One recent lesson I learned from the annual fundraising dinner that I’ve planned for the last few years is to never take anything for granted. Never assume that speakers don’t need time cards, that someone doesn’t need any help or guidance on their talk just because they seem to be successful in their day job, that just because you have a few sound professionals in the room   doesn’t mean you can lighten up on ensuring that everything will run as planned (it didn’t, and that’s what most people remembered).

  • Sundi Jo Graham

    Your comment on expectations is right on. I’m struggling through that right now as a matter of fact. I didn’t get her expectations and I didn’t clearly define mine. I’ve been praying for God’s wisdom on this and where to go from here. We have a meeting today and I plan to walk away with clearer communication and expectations in writing. Thanks for the encouragement to keep going. 

  • Rob Sorbo

    I’ve never been officially fired, but one time my supervisor and I mutually decided that it was best for me to move on. I had a two month unemployment after that, but it was during that unemployment that I looked closely at what I was doing as an employee and I realized that I really deserved to be fired. As hard as that unemployment was, I’m positive that it shaped me into a much better employee for future jobs.

  • Keith Jennings

    A big mistake I’ve made in my past was going to work for a family member.  I would warn others to be extremely cautious and careful in any business dealings or business relationships with family members. 

    Even if everything is above board and checks-and-balances are solidly in place, perception is reality.  And, more often than not (in my experience), people are rightfully suspicious and will devalue a family member’s competence/credibility, making it extremely difficult for you to succeed.

    Really enjoyed this post and your insights!  Thank you.

  • JD Eddins

    Thanks for being so open and sharing the mistakes and lessons with us.  It is always a great idea to learn from another’s mistake than having to make it yourself.  I have been fortunate that I have never been fired from from job, but part of me wonders if at least one reason for that may be that  I didn’t push myself in to situations where that might be a risk.

  • levittmike

    Another great post.  I’ve been relieved from employment before, and each time taught new lessons.  First, don’t let it beat  you down, which it can do.

    Second, take a vacation shortly after being terminated.  It gets you away from the situation, to hopefully clear your head.

    Reflect on what happened, and strive to learn what you can about the process.

    Many times, the writing is on the wall, and you can predict your removal.  

    Sometimes politics is involved, and those experiences I’ve found were the hardest to deal with.

    When you start your new job, it’s crucial to find out exactly what your boss expects, and lay out your expectations as well.

    Communication is always the key.

    Blessings and prayers for all that have lost their jobs, and are looking for the next adventure!

  • Derek Johnson

    My mistake recently has been with regard to communication.  Not enough of it and not facilitated in the right manner in my previous career.  After I resigned I thought I would be well-thought-of but it did not happen.  Negativity ruled. 

  • TNeal

    Mike, I appreciate the window you opened and let us look into. From your article, I learned that you haven’t always been so sharp and wise, yet you’ve developed both through your failures. Thanks for the openness and the honesty.–Tom

    • Michael Hyatt

      Failure is truly the best teacher. I wish there were an easier way!

      • TNeal

        I would have to say the test I flat out failed in graduate school is the one I remember best and learned from the most. From that one test, I learned grace (my professor dropped that test score from his grade book and doubled the score on my final) plus this simple truth. A half effort leads to a complete failure.–Tom

  • Jason E

    Great post, but I can’t help but wonder, did the singer ever reach her goal of be owing famous?

    • Jason E

      Oops. Autocorrect strikes again. “becoming famous,” not “owing famous”

      • Michael Hyatt

        No, not really. But she burned up several people trying.

  • Sean Palmer

    Thanks for this!

  • Jim Seybert

    “Jim, you’re a great guy. Smart, dedicated, hard-working — and I’m doing you a favor by letting you go because managing people is not something you’re very good at.”

    OUCH – that was 30+ years ago, and the guy was 100% correct. He had hired me to be a store manager in a rapidly growing fast food chain — a talent that was clearly not in my bag of tricks. 

    Problem – I didn’t actually LEARN anything from the experience until many years later when I finally realized that you can take classes in management and develop some skills but to really succeed, you need to have an appetite for managing. I didn’t and still don’t.

    From personal experience I can say that it takes a while after you’ve been fired for the lessons to sink in. And that’s OK. The pain of being sacked is – unfortunately – part of the learning process. I tried my hand at managing many more times before coming to grips with the reality that I stink as a manager.

    I’ve been self-employed for ten years now and I tell people that my boss is a jerk. 

    • Anonymous

      Love the last line.  

    • Michael Hyatt

      You’re last line is hilarious. What role do you think they language we use about our performance and the story we tell ourselves about our performance plays in impacting our performance?

      • Jim Seybert

        Mike – self talk is HUGE. And although the things we tell ourselves quite often drag us down (I’m dumb, I’m no good at math, I make stupid choices) there are times when our self talk is delusional in the other direction.

        It’s just as harmful to tell yourself you can fly (when you can’t) than it is to tell yourself you can’t walk (if you can). We’ve  all worked with or for someone who believes their own press releases.

        I know, without question, that managing people drains me. I can stand in front and get them on my side, but setting their agendas, evaluating their performance, finding replacements when they call in sick – all of that – I loathe.

        On point – I’m thinking that the majority of times I’ve been fired – or quit in the nick of time – were jobs where I was trying to paste wings on a cow. 

        • allanwhite

          There’s a difference between managing and leading. A great leader may be a lousy manager (& vv).

          That last line is another winner. You finish well!

    • TNeal


      The last line made me laugh (I’m sure everyone who’s read it laughed as well). The sting of failure hurts, so you’re right about the lesson tends to sink in much later after the initial ouch. It takes time and reflection to actually learn the tough lessons. Some miss the opportunity because they stick with the pain and don’t take the time to reflect.–Tom

  • Jeff Randleman

    Great information.  #2 hits especially close to home.  I’ve been there as well.  Thanks!

  • Roger

    I’ve been fired several times, but not from my own doing.

    1) I asked for the weekend off to go to California and the boss said “It’s either California or the job.”  The job meant a lot to me and so I said, “The job.” To which he replied, “You’re fired.” He misunderstood my answer and as I attempted to clarify it, he said it again, “You’re fired. Get out of here!”

    2) In this case, the boss wanted to hire one of his buddies and fired me, and then had the gall to ask me to train this guy! Seriously.

    3) Another company fired me because the new boss was building his own team and, yes, wanted to bring in one of his former colleagues. Out I went. Two years later, I ran into the #2 guy in the department and he admitted that the company was wrong in letting me go. Oh yeah, my replacement was eventually fired!

    4) I was one of six let go in a downsizing. During my talk with another new boss, I mentioned my background at this particular company and he turned to my immediate supervisor and commented, “Are we doing something wrong here?” My supervisor said, “Yes!” I was still sent packing because the corporate machine was already in gear.

    5) Worked 5 1/2 years at a company with great staff interaction, great customer feedback, no drama, no negatives (financial or otherwise), and then a phone call came–this was my last day here. The firm wanted to go “in another direction.” What, no memo? No feedback? No help to fine-tune along the way?

    Getting fired makes you weary, wiser and wary. In many cases, it also spurs one to step up their game ten-fold, in effect, to ‘prove ‘em wrong.’ However, at my present place of employment, even that hasn’t done the trick.  And in this economy and unknown future, options are few and jumping ship can be perilous.

    • TNeal

      I can relate to your first example. With a coaching change over the summer, I got dropped from the staff and replaced with someone the new coach already had in mind. Despite the AD’s recommendation to do otherwise, the coach replaced me. From that experience, I learned my enthusiasm needed to be tempered with caution. Why? Because, not expecting to be fired, I let enthusiasm dictate my answers where prudence might have altered how I approached the interview. I assumed too much. Another lesson that needed to be learned (i.e. don’t assume).

  • Jdladiesonly

    I was being downsized, again.  The company I worked for not to long after 9-11 was dealing with a challenging market and was asking me to step down in position yet again for the 3rd time.  I quit.  But really had to take into consideration something that my manager told me about myself and skills.  I would never be any better than a phone sales person.  He meant it harshly, but after much pondering at it I realized a great truth.  I am good on the phone and less distracted than in person.  So now with purpose and passion I do a better job.

  • Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Michael, One thing I particularly appreciate about you is your honesty, transparency, and vulnerability. You are willing to reveal the human side of you. If you had made it here without ever facing struggles, I think you would have had less credibility. It would also not have inspired the rest of us nearly as much.
    I have come to accept the wisdom of this quote: “The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” Don Williams Jr.

    P.S. Someone else may have mentioned it already. There is a typo at the beginning of the second paragraph. (“I’m didn’t…)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Theresa. I appreciate that. Great quote, too.

      Someone else mentioned the typo via Twitter, and it is ow fixed. Thanks again.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Theresa. I appreciate that. Great quote, too.

      Someone else mentioned the typo via Twitter, and it is ow fixed. Thanks again.

  • Brenda Welc

    I have learned many things about the mistakes I have made in the last couple of years since separating from my husband of 18 years due to his drug addiction.  I learned to stop putting everyone’s needs before mine.  I have value and I did not see this because I became so wrapped up in just keeping things moving.  Not that it is all about me, that’s not what I mean, but to acknowledge that I have a needs too.  Secondly, I learned that in certain situations, if I make a mistake, it can really have a HUGE ripple affect on those close to the situation.  This applies not only to family situations, but to work as well when you are the manager.  Thus, my lesson learned in all of this is to take time to analyze things before making choices for yourself.  Quit trying to keep up with the world’s exceptions for you and start following after the things which really matter.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve learned that mistakes don’t mean the end– but an opportunity for something better.

    Even in the unfortunate ‘getting fired’ experience, I believe God taught me my worth. It was a time when I felt the lowest. I was let go from my job in Atlanta about a week after getting news that I didn’t make it into the Central Intelligence Agency. Eight months of extensive interviewing, polygraphs, thorough background investigations, headquarters in Virginia…I passed every test and yet, received that dreaded phone call. Talk about a double-whammy! I was sinking quickly.. but God not only showed me my potential. He also encouraged me with just the simple fact that he has a plan. I couldn’t see it then. A great big lesson I learned from that rejection.

  • Mike Salisbury

    That reminds me of one of my favorite Mad Men quotes: “The moment you sign a client is the moment you begin to lose them.”

    Good stuff, Michael. 

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  • Nikole Hahn

    My big mistake: My first paycheck was spent and so was the next within five minutes of getting it. For the first time, I had money and I could buy whatever I wanted; instead, I ended up not learning how to be wise with it. I’ve never been fired, but I’ve walked close to it due to my lateness.  Every job no matter the pay should be treated as a CEO job.

  • Sduffer1

    GREAT Blog post.  I will say it reminded me of my one and only time I was fired—from Baskin & Robbins—for unplugging the “Ice Cream Cake Freezer” instead of the cash register one Friday night.  :)   What did I learn?  It’s important to not only know WHEN to pull the plug, but WHICH plug to  pull!!

  • Karen Jordan

    I keep thinking that I’ve learned to never make decisions or commitments when I’m emotional. Then, I get angry or excited, and I forget everything I’ve learned! That can really get you into trouble Aaugh!!!

  • Jane Crosbie

    Hi Michael I love your blog.  Look forward to reading it every time it comes in.  Mistakes – yes I can imagine what Thomas Edison would say about those – that 99 percent of his invention came through discovery, through making mistakes – big whopping mistakes.  Louis Pasteur and Penicillin – if he had not have made the mistake of leaving the lid off his petri dish the penicillin bacteria in the air could not have grown on his cultureand he would not have discovered that wonder drug penicillin –  the list goes on.!  I guess the billions of mistakes I have made in my life – I’m an artist – mistakes are important to me – serendipity plays a huge role in creating brilliant works of art as opposed to producing mediocrity – is to learn how valuable they can be.  Yes we get imprisoned in our own mindset at times – sometimes we need to be released – a really good whopping mistake can free us – get us looking at a better way – mistakes are good teachers – and failure – brutal as it is – can be an even better teacher.  Michael I have blogs too – people often ask me how do you cope with rejection as an artist – how about a post on rejection.  Would love to hear your words of wisdom on that one, and the comments from your readers too.

  • Jim Hardy


    you  bring up a good point. I have seen many careers get destroyed because they could not separate business and home. Many marriages also.


  • Ruby Brown

    Great advice, even in church work.  Thank you for all your posts.  I’m learning a lot from all of them. 

  • Jo-Anne Russell

    What I’ve learned the most over the years, is that 1. There is ALWAYS more to learn when you think you have a handle on something. 2. No matter what your profession, don’t be afraid or feel embarrassed to ask for help – it is the most efficient means to get from a – b, and 3. Always do your own research – even if it is just to confirm what someone has tried to teach you in good faith. We are all human, we make mistakes and we can all grow and learn from them if we only try.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Sounds like you’ve learned some great lessons Michael from your mistakes!

    One of the lessons I’ve learned from my mistakes is to not let it keep you down. You have to move on and move forward.

  • Muhammad Kamran

    enjoyed reading it …learned a lot..though i am no professional i am just a student but every one makes mistakes to learn from them ehh? … My mistake was not sure if i should do it (something) or not..but eventually by not doing it i learned i should have done it.. and i learned that you must be sure about what you truly want to do and then just do it

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for your transparency, I truly appreciate you sharing this part of your journey. I wasn’t a good team fit, I got overwhelmed, dug a hole and  was let go and it was a very demoralizing and humiliating experience that I have healed from. On top of what you’ve mentioned, the lesson I learned from that experience was to never allow a job or a person define me, make me feel like I am less than or that can’t perform. I have really learned the value of not relying on my own meager abilities but allowing the Lord to use me as a vessel and do everything in excellence and for His glory.  I also learned to never give up on me and always believe in what God has placed in me!

  • Anonymous

    In my professional experience I have learned to never let a job or person define my abilities. I also learned not to rely on my abilities alone but to always believe God and His ability to use me in any workplace assignment. I truly strive to glorify God in my work and I want to be sure that I make Him look good.

  • stephsday

    Thanks for sharing your failures/mistakes/tough times…in addition to your successes. 

  • Susan

    It’s quite refreshing to read about someone admitting what he did wrong in previous jobs :D Not many people are willing to admit that they must have made a misstep in previous dealings with clients and bosses. I have to say that I’ve had my fair share of mistakes as well, one of those being an inability to communicate with my boss. Of course, I was pretty young then and it was my first job, but I kept any negative feedback to myself and ended up resenting the job and my boss when things got really tough. Silly, really.

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    Lesson #1: Don’t take your job for granted. — Many times we fail in this front. We fail to exercise our gratitude muscle. We tend to be negligent in our life. I think, we as human beings are more vulnerable to this mistake. It takes discernement from our end to overcome this danger in our life.

  • Tamara Vann

    This is outstanding advice! Interestingly, it applies well to businesses and their customers, too. As this video shows, alignment of efforts matter. Your points about clarifying and not taking things for granted really fit here.

  • Stephen Lynch

    Next week marks the one month mark since leaving my previous job. These guidelines are great tools during the job search; I certainly don’t take my current job for granted, I set clear expectations of my schedule availability for my current employer, and I’m also still pursuing other, better long-term solutions while maintaining great communication with my current employer.

    My learning tip is that saying yes creates more opportunity, while saying no creates less. Sounds simple enough, but as a freelancer, knowing where you stand can greatly shape the outlook of your career.

  • Hamza_19us

    Thanks to post your story about  the Job. I am from London and my Boss fired me because of my punctuality. Today I was late and then he didn’t say much about any thing and no more question. He just fired me straight away.”You may go home”.  :(
    And that was really horrible time for me. When I got fired. Well ! Thank you very much about your  story. Now I can see that I am not only one who got fired. I have learn lots of things from this story. Now I want to know that if you could help me about to write a letter of apologize to give me again this Job. I totally hope that he will accept me . I just need a bit help from you that how can I write a letter to my boss.  Kindly get back to me on my Email ..

  • Anonymous

    Today, finding a
    high quality article is really difficult. I’d like also to thank my friend
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  • Ruth

    I can really relate to not being able to please someone no matter what.  That’s the situation I find myself in.  I should rephrase that.  That’s the situation I am choosing to stay in until my resignation becomes effective. 

    I think, as an employee, I’ve put all my eggs in one basket.  Bosses have so much power to crush careers.  I want to be self employed and spread the risk over multiple clients while having at least the potential to receive bigger rewards. 

  • Alex Mwega

    Hi Michael,

    I enjoy your articles…very insightful indeed. I especially love this reflection at the end of the article

    You also can’t assume that today’s victories will be remembered. You have to keep raising the bar. 


  • Mackie Timus

    I have just been fired by my manager who I think is not taking the company anywhere. Moreover he does not believe in transparency beyond his level and any attempt to bypass him in order to let seniors know the truth ends up with getting the sack. He is the top man of the company and I was a senior manager. The humiliation sent me into depression and the only feelings I have are of vindictiveness and revenge. However my better half tells me that I should take this as a positive move as I myself didn’t want to stay so what’s the big deal. Even then though today I have 4-5 offers from large companies but I cannot do away with the feeling of humiliation.

    I think the two main reasons that precipitated the sacking were:
    – A colleague and I voted pretty negatively for him on the 360 degree evaluation that the company runs globally which all employees are supposed to carry out frankly.He got the HR head to extract the info for him and this resulted into two sackings the same day. Lesson: Do not be so frank in a company, do not be more loyal than the kind and do not think the company is owned by my dad.
    – I was seemingly failing on bottomline results though the failures were the doing of the past management. He needed a scapegoat and an yes-man, both of which I didn’t want to be.
    Lesson: Be more vigilant and clever when in the office and point out problems in the beginning. Keep my senses open to see which way things are going and prepare to move on before getting the sack, if the doing is not mine.

  • Sudhir Suvarna

    Hi Mike…This is so inspiring. I wonder why we ponder so much about being fired. I take employment as a business relationship. It should work both ways. If I am not treated well and my talent is not exploited, there is no point in working for managers who are insecure of you. They will try their level best to stop your growth. Best is to start on your own and we know it is not easy. One must note, that being fired is rarely related to performance. Most times, it is your bully boss or unrealistic targets, toxic workplace or just the blame culture. I have been following your articles for quite some time.

    I quit my 17-year career in I.T. and the last employer was a toxic workplace…Glad I choose to be start out on my own …Will launch my own stock photography website in a month’s time

    Thanks for your inspirational post and wish you great success !

    • Sudhir Suvarna

      Also, I view failure from a different perspective. Getting fired from a job is not a failure just like keeping your job by passing blame on other’s for what you are supposed to do is not success. Hence, my view is all those people who have a job out there are not success. They are just having a job.

    • nicknirm

      I have the exact same attitude towards jobs. Exact. I have been fired, laid off or forced to leave almost 10 times. I sometimes ponder about it only because I am reminded about it at times when I find myself doing well/great at a similar job somewhere else.