Last week I was in Atlanta working with Paul B Evans (Nicheology) and Carrier Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) for a few days. One evening when I finally made it to my room I happened to catch part of a documentary about the Secret Service agents who were detailing Kennedy the day of his assasination. The program really grabbed my attention – at first because, even though I was very young, I clearly remember that day. But what got to me as I watched was the profound, long-lasting, life-changing effects that Kennedy's death had on each and every one of those men. As they talked it was clear that the sense of shock, dismay, grief, and trauma haunts them still (one of the men secluded himself for almost 30 years afterward). In effect, these men hit a wall that prevented them carrying on with life as they had dreamed it to be.
The thing is, if we live very long we have life events that cause shock, dismay, grief and trauma. As I watched these men talk about the effects on their own lives, I flashed back to many people I've worked with over the years who have similarly hit a wall after a life event. We sometimes get stuck in ways that we don't even realize, avoiding the limelight, or avoiding risk – thinking that if we avoid these we will do two things:
- Avoid something else hard from happening.
- Avoid reminding ourselves of the pain we are in from the thing that already happened.
This year has been a hard year for many entrepreneurs. In my own case, I've seen a few very sharp, talented people who wanted to make a go of their business get very scared about their cash flow, leaving their work with me abruptly and in ways that didn't feel either professional or personally very good to me at all. Their lack of confidence in themselves and the hard times they found themselves in (which were very temporary) essentially stopped their work on life as they dreamed it to be.
I have three tips for getting past hard times in your business that are guaranteed to help you get past fear and avoidance.
- When you are scared and doubtful that you can make a go of it, force yourself to meet and talk with others. When we feel scared, shaken, and doubtful we tend to hide out, ashamed that things aren't well. Hiding out only generates more fear, more doubt, and less potential to get yourself out of the hard times. I recommend to my clients that they write into their business plan 3 people to call when times feel hard. Ask those people if they will be available, and commit to calling or visiting in person when you first start feeling fear or doubt.
- Schedule 30 minutes to complete a “what I've gotten done lately” review. Sit down with no interruptions and a piece of paper (or your computer screen) and your calendar for the last six months. Start reviewing your calendar and giving thought to what you have created for yourself or for others in just the last six months. When we are in hard times we begin to belittle what we have done, thinking none of it is enough, or is not very good. Forcing ourselves to actually list all that we've done in the past months we help shake our “unworthy” feeling. I recommend to my clients that they do this exercise at least quarterly, anyway. It helps us praise ourselves, which most of us find hard to do.
- Realize that most of us who have an entrepreneurial spirit judge ourselves far more harshly than others do. The Secret Service men who detailed Kennedy have spent much of their remaining time going over and over the details and wondering if they could have done anything differently. We all tend to do the same thing, working and re-working a situation over and over again. But here's the thing – as we spend hours beating on ourselves for not doing better we keep ourselves from letting go of the hard time and moving forward. Give yourself a full 15 minutes to call yourself anything you want – stupid, dumb, no good, naive, whatever you like. But at the end of it, STOP. Take a deep breath, resolve you have punished yourself enough, and move on.
I don't know about you, but I think 30 years in seclusion for a Secret Service guy is plenty. As hard as times may be, you make them harder by staying stuck in the doubt, shame, and fear. You feel awful and your business stays stuck. Much better to use these three tips and get it going again!