THE BLOG

Post-Firing Advice for Larry Summers

05/25/2011 11:50 am ET
  • Annabelle Gurwitch New York Times Bestselling author of "I See You Made an Effort: compliments, indignities and survival stories from the edge of 50"

Dear Larry: Having read about your departure from Harvard I thought I'd inquire as to how you are holding up. I myself was once fired by Woody Allen who is considered by many to be the premiere American comedian and with Harvard being the premiere American educational institution I think I can empathize with how you may be feeling.

When I was told Mr. Allen wanted to "go in a different direction" I knew that this was show business speak for "you're fired" and yes, although I know you "resigned", lets face it, Harvard wants to go in a different direction and you were canned too. It sucks to be decruited from someone or someplace so prestigious. Perhaps it will help put things in perspective to be reminded that Vincent van Gogh was made redundant from an art gallery, Ezra Pound was outplaced from Wabash College in Indiana (sure, Wabash isn't Harvard, but still...), why last year Pierce Brosnan was discharged of his duties as 007, and he was my favorite Bond ever.

Of course, having followed your career, I'm inspired and impressed that you haven't gotten the boot sooner! I remember reading an internal memo attributed to you when you were the chief economist of the World Bank which announced, "The economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to it." I thought that pronouncement was pretty funny, in fact, maybe I should have suggested that to Woody Allen and I wouldn't have gotten fired!

I would like to offer you some advice about how to cope with your experience.

First of all, recent studies suggest the unemployed are remaining jobless fifty percent longer than they did as recently as the seventies so I recommend getting back on your feet and out the job market as quickly as possible and I have a few suggestions as to how to do that. My biggest concern upon my ousting was my professional reputation and my ego which was bruised and I fear you might share this concern. One of things I have discovered is that misery does in deed love company -- I always recommend people try to get others fired along with them, it helps lessen the blow when fired en mass then individually, plus although schadenfreude is a cheap and perhaps unattractive pursuit, it is often wildly entertaining. You might consider publishing something and bringing some one else in the administration down too!

Now, I don't recommend the drinking binge that can often follow a dismissal but I do recommend chocolate . It helps raise those endorphin levels and can be a great pick me up particularly after an ousting like you and I have experienced. In fact, I always carry chocolate with me now in case of a random firing.

Speaking of Freud, Freud said, and I paraphrase, that humor is a high order coping mechanism that one can employ when facing a loss. Larry, I put job loss right up there with divorce, moving, death of a pet and laser hair removal- believe me, you have no idea how painful it is to say goodbye to your hair follicles. Humor helps speed the healing process, listen, when Woody deemed my performance "retarded" I was crushed, but now, it just seems kind of hilarious. So give me a call, let's bat your story around and in no time at all you'll see your firing in perspective and even see the humor in it- to put another well known aphorism to work, "tragedy plus time equals comedy".

In closing, let me add that I am troubled by your situation as I am personally a proponent of freedom of speech, however, every working person knows all too well that the ill considered comment often leads to a termination . In the words of Albert Einstein: if A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. If work is x, y is play, and z is keeping your mouth shut. ( I'm not sure I agree with that, but being a man he had a natural aptitude for science, so perhaps his advice carries more weight for you than my own. )