Imagine thinking that you will become the CEO of a multinational retail corporation only to realise you weren’t fit for the job. The same happened with Mike Smith, the co-founder and General Partner at Footwork, a venture capital firm focusing on early-stage start-ups when he anticipated that he would fill in the shoes of Walmart US' CEO but was rejected for the role by his then boss. Mike recounted the incident and what he learnt from it in a recent LinkedIn post.
Smith wrote, “Being passed over for the CEO role at Walmart.com (Walmart US) was maybe one of the best things that happened in my career. Here’s why…. It was the summer of 2011, I was COO of Walmart.com after rising up the ranks over 8 years. I had been told by my boss that I would likely become the next CEO, when he announced his resignation.”
He further noted that his boss asked him to meet him in his office the next morning and act surprised. The Footwork co-founder recollected, “In the Tuesday meeting, my boss and his boss were both there. My boss started by saying, “I’ve decided to leave Walmart.com.” Cue my Academy Award-worthy performance…but then my boss said, “I’m leaving too. And you will not be the next CEO.” I was shocked and no longer needed to act. It was devastating. But it wasn’t soul crushing.”
He added this rejection by his outgoing boss was not “soul crushing” because his skills and talents were in good demand at the time. Smith furthermore stated that this event prompted him to take stock of his strengths and weaknesses, sources where he got energy from and the situations or type of people that made him lose energy.
Smith mentioned that due to this incident, he discovered that he’s “not a big company person” and felt that the speed of a hyper-growth company would stretch him to the limits intellectually. Smith also said that he learnt that careers are very rarely linear and that failures can give you the best chances to learn about yourself.
Towards the ends of his post, he wrote, “Go crush the next opportunity you get and, hopefully, with a healthy chip on your shoulder.”
Users hailed Smith for his optimism and the Pity City analogy in his post. A user noted, “Great post and the pity city analogy is so spot on. Every so-called setback or lost opportunity I’ve had in my professional career, in hindsight, has been nothing but a success and the very reason for me being currently where I am. People often loathe in self-misery instead of picking themselves up and realising their own worth, uniqueness and strengths.”
Another user wrote, “Love the perspective. I have a rule that allows a 24 hour stop at Pity City when stuff like this happens. It’s unreasonable not to be upset in the moment, but I give myself 24 hours to be upset, mad, disappointed or frustrated. Then it’s time to decide what direction you’re taking to the next town. It’s hard to see the destination during a long road trip, and some towns suck more than others. The drive can make the destination much more enjoyable in the end.”
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