The corporate world regularly rejects people who later achieve fame, wealth and greatness. Corporate America may nurture talent, but only talent that plays by their rules. Gifted, non-conformists must succeed on their grit, wit and talent.
You may have been laid off by your employer or may just resent the ties that bind. Either way, build your confidence by reading the stories of the misfits who made it big.
Immerse yourself in the biographies of some of these rebels and misfits who were either rejected or were cast off by traditional employers. Their stories will help you through these hard times.
Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter Thompson left this world on his own terms. He lived his life the same way. Still inspiring new generations, Thompson fuels their little flames of rebellion, sparks that usually extinguish themselves as real-life responsibilities set in.
Thompson channeled his rambunctious delinquency, his intellect and his vast capacity for partying into a raucous journalism career.
In 1958, the Air Force heaved a collective sigh of relief at Thompson’s departure. Later, Time Magazine fired him as a copy boy. Thompson lived hand-to-mouth for much of his career but he managed to live well.
He created Gonzo Journalism, where getting the story becomes the story. The writer and his venomous opinions became the central character of his books and articles.
Thompson rode with the Hell’s Angels for a year to get source material for his breakthrough book and for the fun of it. His second book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with one of the most memorable opening lines ever written, is a tale of drug-fueled trips to Las Vegas.
Thompson turned the phrase “fear and loathing” into a franchise. His articles turned Rolling Stone magazine into a political force.
Outlaw Journalist (2008 biography by William McKeen)
Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1966, nonfiction)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972, novel)
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 (1974, nonfiction)
Don van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart
Captain Beefheart started his singing career in a conventional way as a white blues singer who could channel Howlin’ Wolf, a valuable trait in the 1960′s blues-based rock world.
After a minor hit single, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band were dropped by A&M Records. They released their 1967 debut album, Safe As Milk, on Buddah Records. Finally, the band seemed on their way.
But a week before the Monterey Pop Festival, their guitarist quit and the band had to drop out of the influential festival. Commercially, this was disastrous to the group.
Don and the Magic Band retreated to the Mojave desert in search of “tension and discipline,” recording their second album, Strictly Personal. But Don felt that the producer’s attempt to make the album sound more psychedelic by adding “groovy” sound effects ruined the album.
Making even more of a commercial retreat, Don moved the band to a house where, under his strict musical tutelage, he whipped the band into creating Trout Mask Replica, the first album in which Don was given free reign by producer Frank Zappa. The album is a milestone in pop music history.
In 1982, Don turned his back on the music industry to become a successful painter and sculptor.
Trout Mask Replica (1969 album)
Doc at the Radar Station (1980 album)
Clear Spot (1973 album)
After his death, the world’s greatest genius, Albert Einstein, had his brain frozen and stored in a jar for study by future scientists. But did his peers, schoolmasters and employers recognize the genius of young Einstein? Not back then.
Little Albert didn’t speak until he was three years old. As a youngster, he hated school and learned more studying on his own. Einstein failed the entrance exam for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He graduated from the Institute of Technology in Zurich with an undistinguished record.
After graduation, Albert Einstein failed to find a teaching job, though many of his friends had. He got by on temporary teaching and tutoring gigs while finishing his dissertation. Einstein had moments when he questioned his choice of becoming a physicist and he felt like a burden to his family.
He finally got a job in the Swiss Patent Office with a friend’s influence. In the patent office, Einstein finished his work so quickly he had time to work on his personal scientific projects.
Einstein’s superior intellect did not get him a job, did not make him fit in socially and did not make it easy for him to succeed. But Time Magazine named Albert Einstein “Person of the Century“.
Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007 biography by Walter Isaacson)
Albert Einstein, A Life of Genius (2003 biography by Elizabeth MacLeod)
The World as I See It (2006, nonfiction)
Relativity: The Special and General Theory (1921, nonfiction)
“Do you want to spend your life selling sugared water to children, or do you want to change the world?”
–Steve Jobs to John Scully of Coca-Cola
Steve Jobs, temperamental co-founder of Apple Computer, dropped out of college after one semester in favor of a Buddhist life. He decided to travel to India for spiritual study.
To fund the trip, he started a project that evolved into Apple Computer. Jobs’ company revolutionized personal computers, turning them into an appliance with warm fuzzy mass appeal.
Today, Apple Computer’s stock price rises and falls on rumors of Steve Jobs’ health. But in 1985, Apple’s Board of Directors, his own Frankenstein, ousted Jobs from the company. That’s a fine thank you for visionary leadership.
Lesson: a kick in the pants from those you serve can happen at any time in your career.
After being dumped, Jobs didn’t sit around and contemplate his navel while living on accumulated wealth. He launched Pixar Animation and NeXT, a computer platform development company.
Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after Apple acquired NeXT. Soon, Jobs was leading his old company again. In the new Jobs era, Apple pulled out of its doldrums and created the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone.
You can change the world more than once, Jobs proved.
Insanely Great (1994, nonfiction by Steven Levy)
Macintosh Introduction (1984 Super Bowl commercial)
It’s easy to imagine someone fired from a $125,000 a year job making comments like “It makes you feel like you lost your identity to some extent.” You might hear a rebel say, “I never sucked up.”
Surprisingly, these comments came from Liz Smith, New York’s 86-year-old gossip columnist. The Diva of Dish was let go by the New York Post recently. Smith feels like many of us commoners and she is speaking publicly about her firing. I’m sure The Post loves that.
Smith hit town in 1949 from Texas with 50 bucks in her pocketbook. For the last 33 years, her gossip column appeared in New York newspapers.
Smith could retire, but she loves what she does too much—even now.
She is not letting her layoff set her back. Smith had already sown the seeds of her rebirth, as one of the founders of www.wowowow.com, a consortium of women on the web. She writes five times a week for the site and continues to be published in syndication.
I predict Liz, through her moxie and uncommon durability, will remain a voice of the New York scene long after newspaper printing presses shut down.
Natural Blonde (2001 memoir)