I couldn’t compete with Bernie Madoff. And, because of that, I owe him a huge “thank you”.
I was raising money for my fund.
My neighbour said, “My boss will give you money. Come into work with me.” So we went into his work. His boss was super nice. I wanted him to be my daddy. We sat down to talk.
He said, “James, I like you. If you want to work here, we’ll give you a job. But I can’t invest in your fund.”
I felt crushed. I felt like a loser. If he liked me, why not invest?
“First off,” he said, “My returns are better than yours. So it doesn’t make sense. But more importantly,” he said, “I have no idea what you are investing in!
“The last thing we need is to see the name, ‘Bernard Madoff Securities’ on the front page of The Wall Street Journal if you get into any kind of trouble.”
And with that, Bernie Madoff rejected investing with me.
I left his office and was really depressed.
How can I compete? How was I going to make any money in this industry against legends like Bernie Madoff?
I was never going to make my mark. I was never going to be a titan like my heroes. Would I even be able to support my family?
I gave up.
I began the process of shutting down my fund. What was I going to do with my life?
I felt lost and in pain. Like the world rejected me. And then I rebuilt.
Getting rejected or fired has been so painful for me.
I was rejected by Madoff and many others. I was fired by TheStreet.com. I’ve been fired from many other jobs over the past 2 decades. I let so many others control my happiness I forgot how to take control of it myself.
When I am fired or rejected I always feel like nothing good will ever happen to me. That my life is about to spiral down into hopelessness.
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I am the deer in headlights.
One time a bunch of friends of mine were laid off from the same company. I felt really bad for them.
I wrote them a letter with a checklist. “This is what you should do. This is what I do now whenever I get rejected or “fired” from an opportunity.”
The attached graphic is the checklist. It works.
I forgot one thing. Most important.
The other day someone came up to me at an event and shook my hand and said, “You saved my life.”
I asked, “How?”
He said, “I was fired a few months ago from my job and I took your advice.”
I said, “Tell it to me so I can take my advice also.” I always forget my own advice.
He said, “They said, ‘We are letting you go.’
“I said, ‘No’. They were in shock! How can he do that?
“Your advice was to say ‘No’ and negotiate. I got an extra three months’ salary. Now I have a new job and I’m still getting money from the old job. So thanks!”
Rule#1 When Fired: Say “NO” and NEGOTIATE!
“No” = “Negotiation.”
They have no idea why you are saying ‘No’. They just want you out of there. You have all the leverage.
Ask for what you want. Ask for big and small. Give up on the small.
Firings forced me to look at my life situation, take a bigger picture than I was taking, and figure out the new slices of life I can now taste. Being rejected is an invitation to sample more from life.
And having a checklist helped me ignore all the bad chemicals that were trying to bring me down.
Madoff forced me to look at my life with a bigger lens.
I started new businesses. I channelled my frustration into more networking, into ideas, into experimenting with my creativity to try new careers.
I do the items on this checklist almost every day.
Thank you Bernie Madoff. You did very bad things. And I met you when I was lost in my life. This is not about you. Or about me.
It’s what you and I did together.
Here they are…
10 things you need to do if you were fired yesterday:
Make a list of places or people you might want to work with. Then come up with a list of 10 ideas for each of them that can make them money. This way you keep your idea muscle intact. Then pitch your ideas to each. If you can’t, move onto the next one. This technique works.
Schedule a lunch with someone you haven’t seen in three years. Could be anyone. But it has to be someone you haven’t seen in at least three years. This injects new blood into the system. You need a total transfusion to get rid of the infected old blood.
Make a list of the people you’ve worked with over the past ten years that you are grateful you worked with. Email them and tell them why you were grateful you worked with them. Ask them sincerely how they are doing. This is one of the most important things on the list.
Write a book in the next three days. You can write a 30-page book called “100 things To Do The Day After You Are Fired.” Make it funny. Time to dominate the publishing industry while you are unemployed! Make a list of the possible 30-page books you can do. Then tomorrow start one of the books.
Lunch – Part II
Have lunch with one person in your industry. Have your ideas ready for that person. Have him critique your ideas. Learn.
You are going to feel like the people at your old job wronged you. But they are just trying to survive also. Make a list of all the good qualities that person has and send them an email why you think they are good at what they do.
Go completely in a different direction. What other industry can you work in! What other location can you live in? Make up the wildest fantasies about what you can do. Keep going until there is on possible direction you can execute on today. Brainstorm for an hour and some little slice of reality might peek through.
Wake up early, exercise, take a shower, wear a suit, go into the city, and walk around. Smell that freshness on you. It makes you feel as if you are ready for anything. And you are. That’s all you need to do that day. Heck, go to a museum. You won’t have this opportunity for freedom forever.
Make a list of all expenses you can slash. Make your runway as long as possible. There are plenty of sites to advise how to do this. Picture your worst- worst case scenario. It’s never as bad as you think. Write it down. Write down the plan for the worst-case scenario. Then take a nap. You just had a bad day. You need to rest.
Contact other people who used to work at your old company. Maybe they even worked there ten years ago. Reconnect. Come up with ideas for them.
[This post by James Altucher first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]