Most of the time, small business owners are optimistic creatures. We like to look forward. We look at what isn’t working in our businesses and decide to change things around or quit doing the thing that isn’t doing well. We enjoy our customers and clients and look forward to serving them. We have contingency plans in place for replacing staff, for increasing sales when we need more cash flow, for replacing equipment that wears out or is dated. Self-employed business owners learn to prepare and roll with the punches.
But every now and then something comes along that stops us dead in our tracks. Something unthinkable. Something mystifying. Something that makes no logical sense to us at all. It can come into our personal or business life (there really is not much separation) so quickly and sharply that it literally takes our breath away, causes us to shake our heads in denial and disbelief, leads us to waste a lot of time saying things like, “if only…..why in the world….I can’t believe this is happening….I want a do-over.” It’s those times that test our resiliency, our ability to lean into the horror and dismay, to find a place to stand that gives us space to respond rather than react.
Something devastating happened to me this week. I didn’t expect to write my blog post from a hospital bed, but I am. After only 7 weeks past a major surgery that gave me a new knee and realigned my right leg so that I could walk on it well again, the unthinkable happened. I stood up from a chair on our 3rd night at our condo in Florida and felt and heard a horrible ripping sound. After an ambulance ride (my first ever) to the local hospital I was told that the patella tendon in my brand new knee had ruptured. I could not move my leg without assistance, and I needed emergency surgery. The surgeon had to rip open the 9 inch brand new scar and dig into the knee that was just 7 weeks old. I now have to spent 8 to 10 weeks with my leg straight out in front of me, never bend it, never let it bear any weight. All the movement I had worked so hard to gain in my right leg is gone, and I was told that I might never be able to bend the leg again very much, if at all. I was told I might not walk again.
Of course, there is a part of me that wants to find fault, scream at fate, hide my head under the covers in my hospital bed and cry buckets. It isn’t fair. I’ve been through a lot and worked very hard. I expect things to turn out the way I want them to turn out. They haven’t. And I don’t have any clue what the next few months will bring. One of the most famous quotes of the Buddha is “attachment is the root of suffering.” I am attached to being able to walk and bend my leg again. And therein lies the misery and suffering.
So far as I can see, if we have a devastating event happen in our business or in our life, we can help ourselves be resilient about it in three ways:
- Let go of expectation about how the situation will end. We don’t know and it wastes a huge amount of energy to constantly wish for a certain end or try to guess what will happen.
- Stay completely in the present moment. Worrying about how you are going to handle things next week or even tomorrow is energy that can be better put toward what you can do that is positive right now, in the next 5 minutes. The more we can let go of worrying, the better we will feel and respond.
- Gather your best supporters and thinkers around you. When I work with a small business owner to support them in their business, I require that they list at least 3 people in their business plan who will have their back through thick and thin. And one of the reasons someone hires me is so that I will have their back, too. Inform your supporters and thinkers about the situation and listen to their advice. Identify the types of help you need to respond to the awful thing that has happened and ask them to help you find the best team members. Let them carry you a little bit. If you try to do it all alone, you’ll not do the best job and you will wear yourself out.
The longer we are in business the more apt we’ll have a time when the worst happens. Something in business or in our personal life happens, and it stops us in our tracks. Having resiliency means we’ll learn from this worst thing and respond in positive ways that don’t worsen the situation. We need to train ourselves to have the right mindset and a team to help us respond to anything that comes our way. Our businesses and our personal lives will benefit.