When I Got Fired From My Own Company
I can’t believe it’s been a year.
I can still remember the last Board call like it was yesterday. For the first time in my life I was out of options. There was nothing left to try. No person to reach out to. No ideas available.
It was the end of my journey and I knew it.
We were short two million dollars and the choices on the table were between awful and shitty.
Awful would have meant reducing the size of the company, immediately, and working hard to keep both our bank and suppliers on board as we forced ourselves to be profitable overnight. Shitty was accepting terms that basically sold control of the company for $2M.
Sitting on that call, I didn’t actually know what to do. Say yes, let the team fight another day, and move on. Say no, risk destroying the deal, and get removed anyway.
I said yes.
The call ended. I packed my bag and walked out the door to a crisp, sunny Seattle day. My day was done and my time at Contour was over.
When a relationship ends it’s so matter of fact. There isn’t a gradual ending, it just stops. There are no more emails, no more late night text messages, no more phone calls. No more collaborating on hard problems, stressing about tough decisions, or excitement from success. Like traveling alone on a dark night in a foreign country, nobody cares who you are. Nobody even asks.
It has taken me a long time to reflect on what happened that day. The following weeks were filled with emotion: Anger, disbelief, frustration, and longing. I was beyond exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. My heart hurt while my mind kept replaying every wrong turn we took along the way.
I was lost.
The last time I felt this was when my mom passed away. Even though I watched her battled cancer for 15 years it was still incredibly hard to deal with her loss. She was always there, until she wasn’t.
I had so many chances to say goodbye, but I never did. As if I didn’t want her to know I had given up the fight, I never said I will miss you.
I wish I had.
Walking back into Contour several weeks later to say goodbye, was one of the hardest moments of my life.
After nine years, my ending was reduced to a rushed company meeting. Paying to park on the street like every other visitor, even the new admin at the front door didn’t know who I was. There would be no party and no celebration. There wouldn’t even be a sincere thank you.
All I was provided was a few minutes with the team, to say goodbye.
Holding back the tears I slowly told them the story about Contour, how proud I was of our accomplishments, and how thankful I was to everyone involved. The team in front of me was an incredible group of people, many of which I would never see again. In a few minutes I tried to express what the last nine years had meant.
Twelve months later I realize that being fired from Contour was one of the best things that could have ever happened. It forced me to end a relationship that I didn’t want to end, and with it, taught me incredible lessons I never would have learned.
Have a Purpose
I realize now that I didn’t have a clear purpose in starting Contour. I replaced my quest for being a professional soccer player with the emotional demands of being an entrepreneur. I wasn’t passionate about making videos. Instead, I became incredibly passionate about building a company.
Aligning the problems I want to solve with what I love to do is how I will start every company going forward. Life is too short to be solving problems I don’t care about.
Enjoy the Journey
I missed the ride. I spent my 20s behind a laptop so focused on the end that I missed everything in between.
Learning to surf has reminded me of what I missed at Contour. The struggle to get better is the journey. There is no trophy at the end, just a collection of memories.
I always led with passion and although it can inspire people around you, it’s not the same thing as being vulnerable. Opening your heart to tell people what you believe in is way harder. Because having your beliefs rejected takes a lot more determination than hearing that your ideas suck.
If you are willing to share what you believe in you will find others who see life the same way. It won’t happen overnight, but slowly you will find a group of people you connect with. A year later I have a closer group around me than at any point in my nine years at Contour.
People talk about “work-life” balance. I still think that is a terrible way of saying what I think they mean to say, which is that life doesn’t have borders. There is no “work” and “life,” it’s all life.
You choose to start a company or take a job. You choose to prioritize emails over family time. You choose to miss your friends events for company assignments. You choose to skip vacations. You choose not to be present.
I made a lot of choices during my time at Contour that prioritized the work over everything else. I can’t say I won’t make these same choices in the future, but this time I will deeply understand that they are choices I am making.
Make choices that make you happy in life and the rest will work itself out.
It’s Not About You
It wasn’t until the music stopped that I fully understood that the success of Contour wasn’t about me. It was about a collection of people who poured their heart and soul into a company they believed in.
Don’t underestimate the people around you. If you don’t give them a chance to rise to the occasion, they never will.
A Year Later
I am incredibly happy.
I have an amazing wife whose unwavering love inspires me to be the best husband I can be. We have a beautiful baby boy whose ability to forget the past, constantly reminds you about the present. And we have a family of people who love and support us with every decision we make.
As an entrepreneur I get to start over. With a clean sheet of paper I get to take everything I learned in my nine years and make the world a better place.
Contour changed my life. And being fired will never let me forget what’s most important: Being happy.
This is my last post about Contour. Over the last year I’ve tried to share what I learned and going forward I will be writing about what is happening in the present, not the past. Thanks for reading.