All my financial goals and strategies were worthless when compared to what truly mattered – the life of someone whose existence defines mine.
A self-made professional, I’ve spent the majority of my working years tallying the measure of my success by how much money I made, what degree(s) I graduated with, what publications ran my headline. Workaholism – hours upon hours of “building the dream” - had characterized my life to date.
But my “just power through” Trooper Tude didn’t fly when an atomic bomb of “out-of-my-control” hit my life.
Popular entrepreneurial attitudes and publications rarely shed any light on how to adjust your business to highly demanding, and unanticipated personal life events, so here's my attempt...
Here are three lessons I am (begrudgingly) learning through this topsy-turvy, life falling apart experience:
Prepare for the Worst
We don’t control cosmic forces, and even the best laid plans will be subject to the unforeseen. Health, loss of life, natural disasters – all these things fall outside of even the most egomaniac entrepreneur’s control.
As a business owner, we push through difficulty after difficulty to get our brain child off the ground, and turn an abstract idea into a functioning organization that feeds our family. We defy the odds, prove the critics wrong, and crush competition. Through our journey, we begin to think we can take anything, but falling into such faulty thinking can spell disaster for an unprepared entrepreneur faced with the unpleasant and uncontrollable aspects of life.
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst” is a guiding adage for any entrepreneur.
Here are some ways we can prepare:
Don’t wait for life shattering events to happen and bring your business to its knees – prepare for the worst and the worst won’t happen.
Take Care of YOURSELF
I love to run; I have ever since I was eleven years old. A quick sprinter, I thrive on 5ks and 10ks – rarely running the same route twice. Along with working, running has always served as a stabilizing force in my life.
Weeks after my life shattering event, I dusted off my running shoes and hit the trails, just like I had thousands of times. Half a mile into my run, I – at twenty seven years old – was brought to my knees with searing chest pains and a numb left arm. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see, and I was as dazed as a fainting goat.
What the hell…?
Turns out I should’ve listened to the hospital social workers cautioning me to “take care of myself”. Instead of heading their advice, I’d responded with an extreme workaholic response of, “I don’t have time for that – I’ve got a business to run.” Well, apparently our body will override all badass business delusions of “powering through”.
Contrary to popular entrepreneur culture, your clients are NOT the biggest asset to your business – YOU are. Take care of yourself – especially during seasons of stress. For me, this meant sleeping and meditating more, scheduling walks with my dog, eliminating frustrating clients, and posting reminders to “breathe” every half hour.
Your "Best" as a Dynamic Mark
Don Miquel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements changed my life.
Originally skeptical of the New York Times’ best seller’s Toltec wisdom theories, the powerful principles gave me a new take on work, relationships, and success.
A self-identified “perfectionistic overachiever” of all things beyond grammar, I’ve lived a life characterized by completing the goal regardless of the cost to my person or my family. A writing deadline creeping up? No problem – I’ll power through the next four nights. Overbooked for speaking engagements? No problem – I’ll present all day and travel all night for two weeks. A client requesting expedited turn around on project during the holidays? No problem – I’ll skip Thanksgiving dinner and get the job done.
The work is always done on time, always done well, but always at my expense.
In Chapter Five, Miquel Ruiz states, “Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next.”
Things happen in life – people die, projects fail, disaster strikes – and contrary to the Superman theory, you can’t – and shouldn’t - always “power through” towards perfection. What your best is during one season in life, may not be the same in another and that’s okay.
Recognize doing your best as a dynamic, fluid mark vs. a rigidly stoic standard laid forth by a masochistic overachiever.
I’m striving to sleep, exercise, and meditate more (Sleep Revolution, anyone?).
Some days it happens and I feel better.
Other days I’m frustrated by pretty much everything and have to be reminded self-management is not another metric on which on measure my daily productivity progression.
Recognizing my own mortality, and dispelling long held mistruths regarding fate and work has characterized the past few months as I try to piece my life (and my business) back together.
By accepting my best as my best, prioritizing self-care, and restructuring my company to better withstand future blows, I am beginning to see this chapter in life as more than tragedy, but as a much needed transformation.
About the Author - Hannah Becker
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