Before I was 20 years old, I started multiple businesses, from selling Star Wars collections on eBay while in high school, to peddling BlackBerries, to launching a dorm room cleaning company for college kids. While most people kept clothes in their drawers, I kept a stocked inventory of BlackBerries and first-generation iPhones ready to be shipped.
A few years after graduation, I landed a job as a regional operation manager at Startup Weekend, helping people go from idea to startup in 54 hours. Here I was, teaching and learning amidst like-minded people who shared my values of hard work and embracing wild ideas.
Then, on a typical Wednesday afternoon, a meeting invite popped up in my calendar. I hadn’t recalled hearing the need for such a meeting, so two thoughts ran through my mind: Either I’m doing such a great job that a VP wants to task me with an important initiative, or I’m doing such a poor job that a VP needs to let me go.
This call ended up being an invaluable pivot point in my life as an entrepreneur. Below I share key takeaways for you to consider the next time life seems to be kicking you in the rear.
Note the events that cause you to take stock of who you are. As a remote employee, I took that meeting over the phone. When everyone was on the call, the VP took the lead. “We’ve decided to terminate your employment with us effective immed…” He spoke a while longer, but my ears had stopped working. When he paused, I picked up on the silence and sputtered, “Thank you for the opportunity.”
No matter what situation you’re in, you could be in the midst of a defining moment. Like so many startups, I was there and then I was gone. I quickly took stock: 26 years old, little cash, significant credit card debt, close to $20,000 in student loan debt. I thought I was in major trouble at first, but it out to be the beginning of a new chapter.
Honor the questions that arise for you. Naturally, you’ll have a lot of thoughts racing through your mind. For days I wandered about aimlessly between anger and despair. Wasn’t I perfect for my role? I had built a software application for them without being asked. Should I have moved out to Seattle? Did they know about my side project, and was it affecting my work?
No matter how painful, you need to pay attention to these questions. They’ll carve a path to the big question you need to answer. All mine had me believing I wasn’t cut out for the startup world — I had no idea what my next move might be. But, I wondered if everyone had dreams of owning their own business and asked myself where that left me.
When you find the BIG question, answer it. Before that job, entrepreneurship came easily to me. But all of my early companies were side businesses. They were easy and fun, but I never actually made the leap to seriously grow a business. It was time to ask myself why. That’s when I found the answer: Not going in 100% meant I could never fail 100%. What is your big question? Answering it will open a new possibility in your life and set you on a mission.
Leap into new risk. When an opportunity presents itself, you might think, “This sounds risky.” But it could also be your chance to experience going “all in” on something. Ask yourself it’s time to take a leap.
For me, this opportunity came when my friends Will and Josh approached me about starting a new company together. Josh was a technical contractor at The Startup America Partnership (one of my previous jobs), and Will was the VP of Interactive Strategy at The Case Foundation — a founding partner of The Startup America Partnership and a driving force behind Startup Weekend. Will, Josh and I had a great rapport. When they heard I had been let go, they asked me to help launch Creative Science Labs. I couldn’t have made a better decision to join.
Keep an eye out for the lesson. There’s one in everything, whether it’s to find what you were meant to do or to feel gratitude. I only started to feel fulfillment from helping our first client, The Case Foundation, after six months. Creative Science Labs was generating decent cash flow, and because there were only three of us, I could see the direct results of my efforts.
Then I realized that Startup Weekend wasn’t telling me I wasn’t good enough when they let me go — they were telling me I needed to find what I was made to do. When you love what you do, work no longer feels like a job.
Appreciate the gift. Being fired was one of the greatest gifts I’ve received because it set fire to my plan. It forced me to take stock of who I am, ask lots of questions, zero in on the big question, take the leap and find the lesson.
Next time life turns you upside down or inside out, I hope you can find the gift in your experience. And if you happen to be working for someone else while dreaming of working for yourself, it is with all sincerity that I also tell you this: I hope you get fired.
Until next time,
The original version of this article can be found on Forbes.com.