Paul Teutul: My ‘American Chopper’ firing was one of the best things that happened to me

My father did me a big favor: He fired me.

On Sept. 28, 2008, in a scene that millions of viewers of the “American Chopper” reality TV show watched on Discovery Channel, my father booted me from the Orange County Choppers custom motorcycle-building company, of which I was part-owner.

We had plenty of blowups during filming – and, truthfully, for years before Discovery placed our combustible, dysfunctional relationship on television for the world to see. That day might not have even been our biggest argument. But it was the most significant.

And that turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me at the time. It just took a while to realize that.

Not until I got out from under my dad’s controlling nature and formed my own company – Paul Jr. Designs – could I see how oppressive of an environment I worked in with my dad.

Not until I got out from under my dad’s controlling nature and formed my own company – Paul Jr. Designs – could I see how oppressive of an environment I worked in with my dad.

I was almost 34 years old when he fired me. Ultimately, I think my father canned me for financial reasons. I had recently become part-owner of Orange County Choppers with a growing percentage of the company coming my way. I am convinced that my father wanted me to come back for less money. But I wouldn’t.

By contract, I could not build motorcycles for one year after we separated. Still, I was able to start Paul Jr. Designs and provide design services for different companies.

Creating my own business and venturing into new areas of design was scary. I had been one of the two main faces of Orange County Choppers, along with my father. Then one shouting match and a couple of slammed doors later, that association was gone. I entered into one of the most uncertain times in my life.

The year away from building bikes helped me. Working with my father had become such a negative – it was a toxic environment – that I lost the joy of building motorcycles.

Filming “American Chopper” had grown tiresome. But leaving Orange County Choppers allowed me to create my own positive environment. My level of creativity took off. I matured as a man. For the first time, I could see what others had tried to tell me: My relationship with my father was unhealthy.

“American Chopper” became fun again. My passion for designing motorcycles resurfaced. And when I returned to building bikes after the one-year non-compete agreement had expired, I started producing some of the best bikes I’ve ever made.

I still hope my father and I can enjoy a normal father-son relationship, and we are giving “American Chopper” another spin for a return to Discovery. I hope it enables us to reconcile our relationship. We both want to make it work.

I love my father. I always have. The business risks he took created the path for me to discover my God-given gift of custom-building cool motorcycles. I owe much of my success to that opportunity he gave me before the world discovered Orange County Choppers – and, without doubt, his firing me.

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