No Entrepreneurs journey would be complete without an emotional meltdown, the kind that leaves grown men sitting alone in the dark, drowning their sorrows in an Americano coffee, while Adele blares in the background. While the moments of luxury and comfort may change throughout a persons life, rock bottom always feels the same.
For me, rock bottom came on the heels of a major win. Just after I completed my degree, a company I founded in Geneva, Switzerland had just signed a major financial contract with a well known Middle Eastern steel company, and I was working hard on new contract by travelling a lot and trying to convince the banks to support my new deal.
I have convinced my 8-person team to support the deal. Many had to leave their schools, significant others and higher-paying jobs, but I took their sacrifices as a vote of confidence in our team and what we were creating. 13 months later, the deal fell apart, and I lost the company I had built. I was devastated. It took three months of emotional detox before I could think clearly about the future.
After the initial tidal wave of emotion had passed, I invited my close friend to my house. We ordered food, hung out and talked about what I wanted to do. We were in agreement: the last thing I wanted to do was to pack up and move back home. Then, we spent some time hammering out what motivated and inspired us, and I started to develop an action plan to find a new venture. That discussion led to us finding my new home in the UK.
Major losses force entrepreneurs to make hard decisions. These decisions almost always move your life towards a new chapter, where the stakes are higher and the wins are bigger. To navigate this journey, I use an exercise that helps me discharge the emotion from the tough situation, to review the facts, learn some lessons and ultimately make a good decision on how to move forward.
To complete the exercise yourself, you’ll need a piece of paper divided into three sections horizontally (hamburger style, not hotdog style, lol).
You’re a human, not a robot, so deal with your emotions first. Relive the situation — emotions and all. Monitor how you’re feeling at different points of the experience. Think about the overall state of mind this puts you in.
Now, let’s handle the first section of your paper. Describe your situation the way a journalist would. Report the facts with no emotional charge. Write what happened and why — avoiding adverbs and loaded language. No need to think about what your decision will be at this point, just explain what’s happened so far.
Our brains are wired to dwell on negative experiences, so why not put that mental energy to use? Even in the worst situations, there are always lessons to be gleaned. Jot these down in the second section. Identify small changes you can make to avoid similar situations. It might seem elementary, but it gives you a sense of control, which psychologists have identified as the number-one contributor to happiness.
Now, you’re in a good state of mind to develop an action plan. First, jot down some options in the third section. Then, select your plan and define it step by step. Next, read it to ensure each item is driven by facts from the second step.
After almost 12 years, I have followed the same rules for myself and used this method to succeed. Also, it has helped transform emotionally-charged situations into opportunities for growth and to find peace in, and even gratitude for, the dark experiences that brought me to a new level of potential.
When something goes wrong, it’s easy to let emotions run the show. But don’t drown in the swamp – grab a piece of paper and get it all out. Once you do, you can examine the situation objectively, reframe it as a lesson for growth, and allow facts to guide your choices. It has worked for me for so many years, and I am confident it will work for you just the same.