“I was a very public failure.”
It takes a lot to admit when we’ve done something wrong—or simply failed to succeed. It’s even harder when you’re 30, a billionaire, and have just been booted from the company you founded.
Yet that’s where Steve Jobs found himself in 1985. Kicked out of Apple (AAPL), he spent his time kicking around before buying a smaller company – Pixar—and building it into a powerhouse of its own, eventually acquired by Disney (DIS).
Apple, however, struggled to gain market share as a computer company. And nearly went bankrupt. As part of an anti-trust settlement deal, Apple ended up getting a cash infusion from Microsoft (MSFT).
While Jobs would eventually come back and craft ideas like the iPod, iPad and iPhone, and while he still had that cocky ego, he was at least more responsive to shifts in the market and the need to keep shareholders happy. And while the company has failed to innovate any new product under CEO Tim Cook, it has continued to update its existing line of products and keep customers coming in droves.
Sometimes to grow, we have to take what seems like a step back—or a wrong step. It’s often an embarrassing one, but for most people it’s not a large, public one.
In today’s modern economy, getting fired is a far more common occurrence than a generation ago. It has little to do with things like a unionized workforce.
It has far more to do with the destructive nature of capitalism. New ideas and innovations shake up the old ways of doing business. The past decade has quietly seen the destruction of a centuries-old government-private sector local monopoly in the taxi business be replaced by Uber. And the hotel industry now needs to compete with Airbnb.
It’s not on par with the productivity gains of the internet, but it goes to show that no industry is safe. Read any of the first generation of books venerating the wisdom of Warren Buffett, and you’ll get pages and pages of how great the newspaper industry is for having a local monopoly on advertising. That was true before the Internet, where Google (GOOG) now dominates the space.
In your personal career, chances are you’ll end up fired at some point or another. While it’s better to be able to go out at the time of your choosing, and have a new job lined up, the fact of the matter is getting fired no longer has the stigma of being a failure to it. It may simply be that your industry is contracting. Or that the specific job you were performing there isn’t needed. Or that your company as a whole just can’t cut it against competitors in this day and age.
That’s why one of the most important investments you can make is in yourself. It’s up to you to learn new skills secondary or tangential to your job to stay relevant. It’s why, as an investor, I like to have an “all of the above” approach rather than just focus on one asset class like stocks, bonds, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and so on.
Of course, sometimes you just have to fire someone for poor performance. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently had to give up his chairman post at the car company. While he’s still keeping the title of CEO, and still owns a large chunk of the company in its entirety, his recent behavior and playing fast and loose with the rules brought the SEC on him for a valid reason. Whether he uses the opportunity to learn from it or continues to engage in his eccentric ways (his net worth is still a few billion dollars above crazy, after all), remains to be seen.
And if developments like Uber and Airbnb teach us anything, it’s that nearly any skill or asset you own can be used to make money. You may not need to be dependent on any one job in the coming years. Indeed, with the rise of increased automation in many industries, it’s better to invest in robotics companies and skills that robots can’t replace.
I’m not saying you should try to get fired, but you should have a plan in place for if (more likely when) you do. By having a plan in place, you can feel like a failure for a day or two, then bounce back, move on, and work on your plan to find new opportunities and a chance to move onward and upward.
Andrew Packer is a Senior Financial Editor with Newsmax Media. He currently writes the Insider Hotline investment advisory, serves as investment director for the Financial Braintrust, and writes the monthly newsletter Crisis Point Investor.
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