The Warm Blanket Entrepreneur

I was waiting for a flight and a lady came to the ticket counter from an adjoining gate and asked the attendant if an announcement could be made about the status of the flight from that gate. Apparently, it was past the departure time; the monitor revealed nothing, and there was no airline person at the gate. A few minutes later an announcement about the delay was made, but not after several moments of irritation on the part of the passengers waiting for that flight.

Why is it that so many companies communicate so poorly with their customers – especially when things are not going quite right? Common sense tells us that communications should be amplified in such instances. And yet it seems that there is a bit of a “run and hide” mentality when the train runs off the tracks. Airlines may be the worst where this is concerned – we all have more airline stories than we can remember. But this malady is shared across the business spectrum. While visiting a resort community in California, I walked past a grocery store that had a sign on the door at midday saying, “Closed – Computers Down.” Customers were trying to open the locked door and shook their heads after reading the sign. What a missed opportunity!

There are a couple of reasons why this happens, neither of which are good. The first is a cultural issue. If a company adopts the philosophy that the customer comes first, then its response to anything going awry impacting the customer will be immediate, complete, and ongoing communications. Anything less is contrary to a customer-first culture. We entrepreneurs must decide if we are going to embrace such a culture and if so, determine the steps that we are going to take to ensure that come hell or high water the customer will always be wrapped in a warm blanket. Which brings us to the second reason why many companies fail at communicating effectively when things go wrong.

A company may have every intention of effectively communicating with its customers through thick and thin. But unless there is a clearly defined strategy that translates into actionable steps for every member of the team, there is no way that successful implementation can happen. Take the airlines for instance. I have trouble believing that they do not have great customer service as an intention. However, there is no other explanation than there is a disconnect somewhere between their strategy and putting it into practice.

In our respective organizations, we can make certain that our strategy and implementation are seamless through simulation. This involves identifying every possible mishap that could occur, causing issues for our customers. Next, we can create a step-by-step process for dealing with these problems while maintaining a constant focus on how we smooth the way for our customers. It will require a combination of urgency, honesty, straightforwardness, empathy, clarity, and frequency. In other words, we are going to quickly tell our customers what has happened in clear and concise terms. We are not going to lie – if the airplane is broken, we will tell them that the airplane is broken and not make up some other excuse. We will apologize for any inconvenience and take the necessary steps to make things as painless for the customer as possible – even if it costs us some money. And we will continue to communicate early and often until the situation is resolved. Every member of our team will know exactly how they are supposed to make this happen and we will practice, practice, and practice some more.

If we truly care about our customers, our bottom line will be the better for it. Thus, we should do everything in our power to make sure that the customer has a positive experience even when we have trouble delivering our products or services.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Inspirational Entrepreneur

“. . . we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’.” Winston Churchill uttered these words during World War II and led Great Britain through one of its darkest periods in history.

“. . . I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King made this proclamation at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, witnessed by 250,000 civil rights supporters.    

Have you ever heard of Patrick Henry Hughes? He is an amazing story. Born without eyes and a congenital birth defect that prevented him from straightening his arms and legs, Patrick became an accomplished vocalist as well as playing the piano and trumpet. He even became a member of the University of Louisville Marching and Pep Bands, and a UP Premiere movie, “I Am Potential,” is based upon his life and success.

What is the common theme for these three individuals? Inarguably each is an inspiration. Churchill inspired his countrymen to stand strong during the difficult days when Britain was under siege. King inspired millions seeking equality in their everyday lives. Patrick Henry Hughes as served as an inspiration for everyone who has encountered a challenge – and haven’t we all?

As entrepreneurs we want to be inspirational leaders. We want to lead inspirational organizations. We want our mission and vision to be inspirational. But sometimes the notion of inspiration can be confusing and even elusive. Exactly how do we inspire? I have looked high and low and there is no handbook. There are as many definitions as there are inspirational quotes – the quantities are massive. Here is an equation that I have developed over the years that I believe stimulates inspiration.

Passion + Authenticity + Conviction = Inspiration

This formula can be measured by the likes of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Patrick Henry Hughes. Is there any question that each had incredible passion for their cause? And is there any doubt as to their authenticity? Think about it. How could anyone play-act the power and impact that each had on society? Finally, they never wavered. They never quit. They stood by their beliefs no matter what. When we genuinely have a deep and lasting positive passion; demonstrate it in authentic ways, and are steadfast in maintaining this passion, we cannot help but inspire others. People are not inspired by wishy-washy. People are not inspired by fake. And people are not inspired by quitters.

Inspirational intelligence exists in great leaders. By emulating the inspirational formula, Passion + Authenticity + Conviction, we too can motivate others to join with us in doing great things.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Entrepreneur Communicator

In today’s business world there is a constant drumbeat for clear communications. And without a doubt, we will find a lack of clear communication at the root of many of the issues that we have with each other. OK, I get it. We need to communicate clearly. But here is something you will not hear as often. There is also a need to simplify our communications. Sometimes we may think we are communicating clearly when in fact the message we are conveying is so convoluted and complicated that our audience gets lost.

I am involved with a venture capital business that screens large numbers of start-up companies in the biotech space as we look for potential investments. One company stands out from the rest – not because of the product it was developing, but because its pitch was so impossible to understand. We have some technical people on our board as well as advisors with whom we work, and no one understood what the pitch was all about. This company used highly technical terminology and language that no one ever hears in day-to-day conversation. I suppose that it is possible that the product could have been an amazing breakthrough in its field. But we will never know because we declined to invest for the simple reason that we could not understand the pitch. Here is an excerpt from the pitch summary.

(XYZ) technology allows RNA to be manufactured using well proven large scale fermentation processes. Prior to (XYZ) manufacturing innovations these large scale fermentation processes were not viable because of the ubiquitous and unavoidable presence of RNAses (enzymes that break down RNA) in the fermentation process environment. (XYZ) technology sequesters, inside a protein capsid, the RNA as it is produced thus protecting it from RNAse degradation. This protein capsid protects the RNA allowing subsequent isolation and purification. There is also a high level of interest in using the protein encapsidated RNA as a delivery mechanism.

The preceding is an extreme illustration of overly complicated communications. But there are countless examples that occur daily to a lesser degree. I moderate panel discussions at several apartment industry conferences each year. We talk about many aspects of the business including debt, equity, construction, and operations. Often, we have audience members who are new to the industry. While the subject matter can be complex at times, the bigger problem is all the acronyms that are the plague on our house.

It does not matter whether the communication is written or verbal, we must redouble our efforts to simplify, simplify, simplify. When we write like we speak, we tend to accomplish this objective. And if we think before we speak, it is likely our communication will be understood. Guarding against ego-creep is also in our best interest. We have all seen the pontificators who like to show everyone how smart they are by spouting a bunch of intellectual-sounding mumbo jumbo. Staying humble and being respectful of the audience’s desire to understand what we are communicating should be our guiding principle.

A man or woman of few(er) words conquers rambling purveyors of verbosity every time. Striving for clarity and simplicity in our communications will ensure that we are persuasive and convincing.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Anti-Gotcha Entrepreneur

I purchased a couple of new beds for our home at a national mattress store. One was a fancy model that is adjustable, vibrates and has other bells and whistles. I would normally pay for such a purchase outright, but the mattress store was offering free financing for a year. I thought, “what the heck, why not?” So, I paid the monthly principal amounts over the course of 12 months like clockwork. Toward the end of this one-year period I started looking for a payoff balance to show up on the monthly statement, but it never did. Then I received a statement showing a large amount of “deferred interest” that when calculated produced an exceptionally high interest rate.

In looking back at the previous month’s statement (four pages of legal-size paper), I found a single sentence in small print advising me to look elsewhere in the statement for an acceleration amount. I finally found the payoff figure – again in small print. Unfortunately, I had missed the deadline by ten days and now owed over $3,000 in interest charges. I called the national bank that had purchased the paper from the mattress company and pointed out what my intentions had been from the outset and that the small print notice was deceptive and easily overlooked. I spoke with a supervisor and then a manager who ultimately cut my interest cost by 75%. I still contend that the interest should have been fully waived.

The national bank involved in this incident was clearly playing a “gotcha game.” There is no doubt in my mind that they intentionally used fine print and required the customer to hunt through the bill to find the amount owed. This is despicable behavior and does nothing to help the cause of entrepreneurship. I am not a fan of a lot of government regulation, but it is situations like this that trigger calls for more regulation in the first place. 

As entrepreneurs we should look at our business practices to see if we too are playing the “gotcha game.” Are the documents we use with our customers very clear relative to what is owed as well as the terms and conditions for payment? Or are we using fine print, misdirection, and incomprehensible language to obfuscate and confuse the customer? And if we are doing this, what is our end game . . . to shake down the customer for extra dollars?

Companies that are winning in today’s environment are focused on culture, product, and the customer. Profitability at any cost is not part of this calculus. Businesses that gouge their customers like the national bank with which I dealt, will ultimately suffer through new regulatory initiatives and/or customer abandonment. We entrepreneurs have a golden opportunity to identify competition that is perpetrating such behavior and differentiate ourselves in striking fashion. With the right messaging, winning customers from the bad actors should be relatively easy.

The integrity we maintain with our customers is one of the most valuable assets we possess. Playing the “gotcha game” can quickly turn that asset into a liability.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Dumpster Fire Entrepreneur

Dumpster fires are tricky devils. They usually start out as nothing. Just a bunch of trash sitting in a big metal bin . . . and then someone flicks a cigarette butt or empties hot coals from a grill and the smoldering starts. Who knows what is really inside the container? It could be aerosol cans, used motor oil, acetone, automotive batteries, paint thinner and a host of other accelerants. After smoldering for a while, the fire gets hotter and hotter until it becomes a raging inferno. If the dumpster is too close to a building, the entire structure could ignite and burn to the ground. Discovered early enough, a simple fire extinguisher could put out the blaze in a matter of seconds. But once it is out of control the fire department may have a battle on its hands for hours.

There is an obvious parallel between dumpster fires and the minor irritating problems that entrepreneurs encounter every day. We all experience situations that we tend to ignore. Perhaps there is a petty conflict between two members of our team. Maybe it is a nagging customer service issue or a piece of equipment in the plant that is not functioning properly. We know the problem is there, but we simply choose not to address it wishing and hoping that it will just go away. After all, we have bigger crises to deal with. Right?

But we all know what eventually happens. The conflict between team members blows up big time and someone quits or is be fired. Other team members are dragged into the drama which impacts productivity and damages our culture. The customer service issue results in the loss of a customer and perhaps a nasty post in the social media world hurting our brand in a much broader way. Now we are in damage control mode involving multiple members of our team who are trying to restore our reputation. And that piece of equipment in the plant that was not functioning properly? It finally breaks completely, shutting down the entire production line in the process. Oh, and one of our team members was injured when the machine finally died.

Each of these situations began as a small smoldering dumpster fire. Immediate attention (the fire extinguisher) would have resulted in a solution that put out the fire. The wider ranging consequences of inaction would have been avoided. This leads us to conclude that we need to look for small problems every day and intentionally take the necessary steps to fix them. I know that I have small festering issues that need my attention. But sometimes I just do not want to face them right now. So, I give myself a 24-hour pass and make sure they pop-up the next day on my task list. I have learned that it takes discipline to handle the small stuff or else I will eventually have to spend a whole lot more time and money untangling things later. I have found that the 24-hour pass approach works well for me. And I may even find myself thinking about what the solution will be before the end of my self-imposed deadline. Unfortunately, there is no other trick to it other than “just do it.”

Small seemingly inconsequential problems can explode into dumpster fires that consume our lives. It is better to take small incremental steps to solve the problems as they arise and then we will not have to call the fire department because our house is burning down.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Mistake-Admitting Entrepreneur

Crows are remarkably intelligent and can live 20 years. They typically have a wingspan of more than three feet and weigh nearly three pounds. A crow can fly up to 60 miles per hour and have been found as high as 14,000 feet in mountain ranges. Being smart, fast, and able to fly to great heights make them particularly hard to catch. A few years ago I had to catch one so I could eat it . . . metaphorically speaking of course.  

To be a successful entrepreneur we must have an acquired taste for crow. We have all heard the saying “to eat crow” which connotes humiliation and having to admit the making of a mistake. Sometimes our ego gets in the way and we do everything we can to avoid admitting that we made a mistake. We may point the finger at others. Or we may try and cover up the mistake hoping that its results will somehow vanish into thin air. I can tell you that all these tendencies are mistakes.  

One of our companies is involved in acquiring apartment properties across the country. We sold two such assets within a much shorter holding period than we had initially projected because of an opportunity to generate substantial profits. Members of our team prepared a detailed spreadsheet that showed how the sale proceeds would be distributed. These were large and complicated transactions with several tranches of equity provided by different investors. I was pleased to call two such investors to deliver the good news that they would be receiving a significant multiple of their original investment. Needless to say, they were thrilled.

Within days, I received a call from my partner who oversees our apartment acquisition business unit. Apparently, there was a bust in the calculations and these two investors would be receiving less than what I had told them. They were still receiving a substantial gain on the sale, but not quite as much as the expectation I had set. The mistake was honest and unfortunate, but it still had to be acknowledged. Thus, I went about the task of eating crow.

I called both investors and said the following, “I’m sorry to tell you that the distribution figure I provided the other day was erroneous. We made a mistake in calculating the sale proceeds and your new amount is $X. Happily your profit is still much greater than we projected when you made your investment three-and-a-half years ago. I wanted to get back to you as soon as I learned of the error and I hope that you will still be interested in looking at future investments with us.”

Because we are a team, I did not point a finger at the person who was responsible for the calculation. Instead, I said that “we” made a mistake. I did not make up an excuse for what had happened. Simple but painful. The result was an expression of understanding on the part of both investors. I am sure they were disappointed but there were no angry words and in both cases an indication of interest in looking at the next deal.

Relationships are built on trust and can be strengthened in situations where things do not go as planned. But this happens only when honesty and transparency are the top priority.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Sustainable Entrepreneur

This topic may be uncomfortable for some, but it is a very necessary discussion to have. What happens to your organization if you die tomorrow? Would it be a loss so catastrophic that the company fails? Or have you created a sustainable business that can survive and thrive without you? Many entrepreneurs neglect this subject – after all we think we have a lot of good years left. And besides, it is a real downer to think about dying.

One of my most important objectives is to make sure that each of the various companies with which I am involved is sustainable for the long haul. I care deeply for the hundreds of families that depend upon us for their livelihood. Even if your company only has six employees, they likely have families too that are counting on you. So, we need to take the steps necessary to ensure sustainability. Let us examine the different components of a sustainability plan.

Growing future leaders is critical to sustainability. And avoiding a power struggle is equally critical. Who is your heir apparent? I do not believe that it is healthy for any leadership team to wonder at any point in time who will step in to lead in the event of the demise of the leader at any level. If your potential successor is not yet apparent, perhaps someone you know very well, and trust could be designated to step in on an interim basis. There is no doubt that identifying such a person may be tough, but this is tough stuff, and your team deserves to know who is going to succeed you. Focusing on sustainability always forces us to make leadership development a top priority. A quarterly review of a hypothetical organizational chart is a good approach to spotting the gaps and filling them promptly.

If we are the majority owner of our company, what will happen to the ownership going forward? Will it be left to one or more family members? If so, what will they plan to do with the business? Many heirs are not prepared to own a company and all that is entailed. It is crucial to have a conversation with family members and offer them a clear understanding about what will happen to the ownership if we die suddenly. What if there are multiple owners? Buy/sell agreements are an excellent tool for situations like this and can be funded by insurance. Such agreements should be precise on exactly how a deceased owner’s interest is to be valued.

Let us talk money. The death of an entrepreneur can have far-reaching consequences financially. There may be covenants that accelerate loans. Perhaps the entrepreneur has been self-funding a certain project or expansion of the business. It is also possible that without the entrepreneur’s balance sheet, credit facilities may dry up creating varying degrees of hardship. Again, insurance can help but may not be the long-term solution. It may be prudent to identify a potential financial partner that could be called upon to help. Of course, there is a price to pay for this kind of support – an ownership stake or a percentage of the profits – but such an arrangement may be necessary for sustainability. Now is the time to figure this out while we are still alive to do so.

Finally, we need to contemplate how our vision and the culture we have created can be preserved. This is the trickiest and most intangible task that we will face in planning for sustainability. Have we sufficiently communicated our vision; reinforced it repeatedly, and is it shared by all? Many leaders are so consumed by tactical decisions that the vision for their organization is muddled. And it goes without saying that our culture is built around our vision. Maintaining a vibrant culture can only be accomplished if it is front and center every day. Do we have core values? Are we truly living them?

Creating a sustainable organization that will survive us requires intense planning and tough decision making. Doing so is the greatest gift we can give to our team members.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Square Peg, Round Hole Entrepreneur

Is trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole a cliché or what? Just for grins, I tried to do this once and had no problem. Of course, the hole was a heck of a lot bigger than the peg. But that is not the point. The more we try to force things that are not meant to be, the more likely we are to become frustrated and fail. This I do know from lots of experience.

Here is an example. In the old days I might have interviewed a great candidate for a position we had open. This individual had all the right qualities, the right experience and seemed enthusiastic about joining our firm. We would extend a job offer and perhaps there would have been some back-and-forth dialogue over the terms, salary, etc. But then the candidate went dark and stopped responding. My tendency was for my sales instincts to kick into overdrive and really put the hard press on this person. Often the person might eventually come to work for us. But it usually was not a happy marriage and ultimately ended in divorce. What did I learn? If we have to “chase” someone and “sell” them on joining our company, then they probably are not the right fit in the first place.

Here is another example. I have a big decision to make. I am trying my darnedest to find complete clarity in this situation. I list all the pros and cons, but the answer still is not there for me. I talk to other people whom I trust, but no one grabs me by the hand and opens the door for me. I continue to press for a revelation, but none comes to me. The frustration mounts and I feel stress because the decision must be made immediately. The stupid peg just will not go into the hole! What did I learn? Complete clarity is often elusive and most of the time we must make the best decision we can after considering all the facts. And we need to trust our gut to some extent.

Here is the final example. Several years ago, there was an investor who owned a large apartment complex that our firm wanted to manage. I cultivated a relationship with this investor and met with him regularly. I tried everything I could think of to convince him to retain our services. He was self-managing the property and I just knew we could improve his bottom line. All my creative marketing and sales methods were for naught. We never were able to win the business. I hammered and hammered and hammered, and the square peg never made it into the round hole. What did I learn? We are not going to win 100% of the time. If we are paying attention to the basics and fundamentals mixed with a sufficient dose of creativity, we have done what should be done. Sometimes we will succeed and sometimes we won’t. Trying to force success is a pathway to being demoralized.

When we force things and try to muscle through, we often flounder and fail. When we relax, pay attention to the details, and trust our instincts, we improve the probability that things will fall into place. And if they do not, we simply stop hammering and move on.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Visionary Entrepreneur

Here is a fundamental question for all entrepreneurs. Are you a visionary? Being a visionary and having a corporate vision are two different things, so take care not to confuse the two. For a company, a non-profit or any other organization to thrive and succeed over a long period of time, visionary leadership is paramount. And unfortunately, many companies stagnate and die when the visionary leader moves on for whatever reason. That is why it is crucial for a company to continuously develop visionaries across generations that will help to sustain the organization in the future.

It is not hard to think about individuals who exemplify the term “visionary.” Steve Jobs comes to my mind before anyone else. He was a rebel and an unconventional thinker who was not afraid to take risks. Similarly, Bill Gates was a visionary who became the richest man in the world because of his ability to understand and shape the future. What comes to mind when you hear these names – Henry Ford, Wilbur and Orville Wright, John D.  Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Sam Walton, Sergey Brin and Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg? Each was a phenomenal innovator. Each had an uncanny sense of where the world was going. Each had dreams but was also a doer.

Being a visionary is partially innate and partially learned. So, what can we do to develop our visionary leadership skills? How curious are you? Do you read everything you can get your hands on? Visionaries are expansive readers and are curious about everything. Curiosity stimulates the imagination and helps bring forth new ideas manifesting in a high degree of creativity. How persevering are you? The next time you are ready to throw in the towel remember that visionaries have a stick-to-it attitude. They are highly resilient and believe they can solve any problem. Visionaries love discussion and debate. Some may see this as confrontational, but it really is not. Instead, a visionary listens to differing points of view even when it gets a bit lively.

What other ways can we model visionary behavior? Do you embrace change or are you more comfortable living with doing things the same way? Visionaries are change agents. They like to teach and are focused on doing the right thing. Integrity ranks high on their list of values. Do you have high expectations for your team? Sometimes the line between high vs. unreasonable expectations can blur a bit. But do not expect a visionary to set a low bar. Visionaries tend to be eternal optimists and cannot see a glass half empty – it is always half full or even more. And visionaries are some of the most passionate people you will ever meet. Finally, visionaries do not live in the details – they are quintessential delegators.

A visionary has a knack for looking at a collection of data and telling the future. He or she sees things that others do not and is not the least bit concerned if his or her ideas are pooh-poohed. In fact, visionaries will work hard to persuade others to buy into what they believe because they have a supreme degree of self-confidence.

By emulating their behaviors, traits, and tendencies, we too can become visionaries. Our value to our organization increases exponentially when we provide visionary leadership.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Default Thinking Entrepreneur

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see these statements?

  • The dog ran away.
  • We did not get the Smith contract.
  • Our star salesperson just gave notice.
  • It may rain and keep us from teeing off at 4:00.
  • Your daughter just wrecked the car.

Your initial reaction to each of this less-than-stellar-pieces-of-news is your default thoughts. As humans, it is natural for us to have an emotional response to many of the things we hear throughout the day. There may be moments of displeasure, irritation, dread, fear and even panic. We also have emotional responses to the positive things we are told or read. Many people experience highs and lows each day in this regard. And yet, it takes considerable energy to swing from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could re-pattern our default thinking on the downside? Well, we can but there are a couple of requisites. First, we must truly desire to change our default thinking, for without a compelling reason we will fall back into the default mode in short order. Second, we must be willing to take the steps necessary to make this change.

For me, the desire to change my default thinking centered on my understanding of positive and negative energy flows. I have written many times about the fact that negative energy creates a blockage for creativity and our ability to solve problems. Also, negative energy just plain does not feel good. It is kind of like burning the roof of my mouth on a piece of hot food – the sensation is not very pleasant. I realized that metaphorically burning the roof of my mouth several times each day just did not make any sense.

This led me to accept that I needed to take actionable steps to effect change. What worked for me was to intentionally spend a day taking inventory of the various negative reactions that I held. I wrote them down for further analysis at the end of the day. I did not try to change any of my thoughts during that day – I simply tried to be as normal with my thought process as possible. Upon review, I was able to see thought patterns emerging and could then identify alternative reactions for the future when faced with similar challenges.

I am at the point now where I may still have a fleeting burst of negativity when I encounter a situation that is not favorable. But I quickly recognize it and replace it with a much more positive reaction. For example, suppose I learned that a particular investor I was counting on had decided not to invest in one of our deals. The initial quick reaction might be, “Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming. We’re now under the gun to find the money.” This might be accompanied by a surge of adrenaline. But literally within seconds, I shift my thinking to, “But it’s OK because I have three other investors who have said they want to be in our deals. I know I’ll get one of them to sign on.” And a feeling of calm occurs at that point.

Quickly shifting out of default thinking in negative situations puts us on the road to solving problems and avoiding the emotional lows that we may experience. There is no question that our lives are richer and fuller when we maintain positive thoughts. 

This blog is written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.