Rebuilding after Crisis

There’s nothing more devastating than putting your life into an entrepreneurial endeavor only to have it go belly up. All those hours – sometimes years – of blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, money issues, and personal sacrifice suffered through only to discover that upon birth, your brainchild is stillborn. Or more heart-wrenching…it shows promise in the early years, only to slowly wither and die over time. Coming to the realization that it’s time to let it go is like being doused with a bucket of cold water. It gives you the chills right down to your bone marrow. I know. I’ve been there. Flat broke, both financially and emotionally.


But here’s what I’ve learned. Going through hardship builds character. It sounds cliche, but it’s true just the same. It teaches lessons that can’t be learned in a business school classroom, lessons that are only available to those who are forced to search for solutions. I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs who have visible battle scars. I know they’ve weathered it all – organizational growing pains, payroll hiccups, lost contracts, missed quotas, missed development opportunities, failed businesses and investments – and lived to tell the story. Rather than seeing these people as losers, I see them as winners. They’ve had learning experiences that are priceless. They’re the people I want to learn from, the ones who are wise beyond their years.


It’s tough to rebuild after an extreme loss or setback. It’s tempting to hide in a corner and lick your wounds. Shut the world out. Throw in the towel and call it quits.


But here’s what else I’ve learned, from personal experience. It is possible to rebuild and create even greater success. The key is maintaining a positive mental attitude.


Staying too long in the cave isn’t productive. Yes, it’s a necessary part of the grieving process but eventually, it turns from catharsis to wallowing. At that point, it’s time to exit the cave and get moving.


Maintaining a positive mental attitude, even in the face of debilitating setbacks, leads eventually to forward motion. And forward motion is what’s needed to turn things around. Find something you’re passionate about. Anything. It doesn’t have to be big. If it’s a business idea, start doing research on the competitive landscape. If it’s gardening, go out and plant flowers in a corner of the yard. If it’s art, spend an afternoon at the Nelson. Taking one small step helps break the cycle of mental and emotional paralysis.


As I go through this heart surgery, I find myself with lots of time to think about the direction my life has taken. Sure, I could get stuck in asking the obvious: “Why me?” Instead, I’m brushing the dust off, moving forward, and focusing on what I want my life to look like post-op. I’m resetting goals for my businesses. I’m working on strengthening relationships with my family and friends. I know that I’ll come out of this experience a stronger person. I’m betting my life on it.