Kent Sterling Fired – Chapter Five; Happy Birthday to Me

by Kent Sterling

There is a great scene at the end of the film “Charlie Wilson’s War” where Phillip Seymour Hoffman explains to Tom Hanks how good and bad fortune isn’t always good and bad.  There aren’t many of us who want to be fired.  I sure as hell didn’t.  Both of the radio stations for which I was responsible were succeeding by every metric available.  I was working my ass off, and so were the two staffs.  Good right? 

No.  My wife was miserable.  I was too concerned with work to know it.  There were issues at work that caused doubt in the staff, and so my work had more to do with circumventing internal issues as we tried to maintain positive momentum in all departments, so my focus was on trying to patch the emotional holes so our ship could keep moving.  All of that work kept me from listening to my wife when I got home.  I got fired.  Bad, right?

No.  That’s no way to live life, and definitely not a course for long-term success in marriage.  Okay, that’s the backstory for those who haven’t seen the first four installments of my post-Emmis life.

It is much more interesting and rewarding to build from scratch than it is to try to manage by committee.  I’m not against authority necessarily unless they are difficult to convince when I know that I’m right.  Here as I write, there is no one to convince of anything.  Rob Nichols is a very reasonable and smart man, so the business we are starting to help kids find the right college is fun and will be ultimately profitable.  This blog is nothing but fun.  Readership is three times greater this month that last, and with a little wind behind us we should exceed a threshold beyond which we will likely have to rent our own server space – a nice problem to have.

Distance from talk radio has provided perspective that I will either use in trying to correct the current evolution of a still very effective medium in conveying a client’s message, or utilize in building my own brands.

The internet is such an immediate and easily accessed conveyance of ideas that the parallels between it and talk radio are many and obvious.  The challenge with both is in aggregation of eyes and ears, and the solutions are very similar.

One of the interesting elements of the support I continue to get from people in radio and at Emmis is a continued expression of pity for my situation, as though getting fired is ultimately bad.  If I were less secure, I would be insulted.  There are a million little clichés about how life isn’t about getting knocked down, but how you get up.  To me, it’s much simpler than that.  You can’t be knocked down if you don’t fall.  Take the passion and intellect employed where you worked for others, and apply it to something else.  I’m not in the office anymore, but I’m out here working at something I’m proud of and enjoying life.  Not only am I not dead, sad, morose, emotionally paralyzed, filled with self-loathing and hate for those who made this change; I’m happy, challenged, and as emotionally right as I’ve  been in 15 years.

Keep the faith.  Believe in your talents, and support those around you.  Know that you define your workplace – your job does not define you.  Treat people well.  Have some fun everyday.

Today is my birthday, and that’s a pretty good day to be reflective as a friend suggested this morning.  This birthday, I feel better about life than I have in many birthdays.  I’m wiser, more supportive and emotionally available.  Last year to the day I was in Mexico with two friends.  I was laughing – really laughing – for the first time in so long I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed.  This year, I can remember the last time I laughed.

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