I never have liked to ride on roller coasters. The feeling where my heart ends up in my stomach is not what I consider to be a pleasant experience. When I was learning to fly airplanes my flight instructor would tell me to close my eyes and put my head in my lap. He would then undertake some radical maneuvers – up and down at random – then he’d say, “You have the airplane.” It was my responsibility at that moment to figure out what was going on and take the necessary corrective action to get the airplane straight and level without crashing! This involved several hundred feet at over a hundred miles an hour. Talk about a roller coaster ride on steroids – yeow!
Entrepreneurial endeavors are much like a roller coaster ride and sometimes like my flight training. There is one difference with the flight training however – we practiced the wacky maneuvers at an altitude of 5,000 feet or more. As entrepreneurs we often fly metaphorically at 50 feet or even less providing little room for error. So, how does the roller coaster ride manifest? Here’s a typical set of scenarios.
We get up in the morning and work out at the gym then go for a run. Usually we feel pretty “up” afterwards – a great way to start the day. The roller coaster is flat and level and just picking up speed. We have breakfast with a client who tells us she is going to place a substantial order for our product. Woohoo! The roller coaster is on the first vertical climb. Then on to the office where the minute we hit the door we find out that one of our top product people has given two weeks-notice and is going to work for a competitor. Oops, the roller coaster is moving fast downhill now. A couple of hours later our breakfast client called to tell us that she has decided not to place the substantial order after all – the roller coaster now takes a couple of barrel rolls before heading into a terrifying dive. Then out-of-the-blue we get a call from our corporate counsel informing us that a class action suit for which we’ve been a part has been settled and we’ll be receiving a healthy check (after deducting legal fees, of course). Now the roller coaster is soaring up into the clear blue sky blue again. And so it goes for the rest of the day.
Does this sound familiar? If it does, welcome to the wonderful world of entrepreneurship. You are not alone. We all know this is going to be the life we live. It’s the life we’ve chosen. The challenge is how we successfully deal with the ups and downs without letting the roller coaster get the best of us. So what to do? Here’s something I learned a long time ago. We entrepreneurs can have a tendency to magnify whatever is in front of us. If it’s something positive we can see it as the greatest accomplishment for which we’ve ever been a part. And if it’s a negative experience, we can’t imagine that it could have been worse for anyone else. As a result, we can experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I have resolved that I’m not going to take any of this too seriously and you might take this approach too. Most of the time nothing is as good or as bad as it may seem to be at the moment. Once we realize this to be the case, we can go about our business with less emotion.
The NFL football players of today are into celebrations – big time. When they score touchdowns they “perform” in the end zone. Many of them do the same when they a part of a big play on offense or defense. I remember a player named Marcus Allen who scored a lot of touchdowns for the Oakland Raiders and later, the Kansas City Chiefs. When Allen scored, he handed the ball to the official. There was no display of emotion – no end zone antics. Instead, he showed true professionalism and acted like he had been there before (which he had, over and over and over). When we can focus on a professional approach to our entrepreneurial endeavors and avoid the emotion, we can avoid the roller coaster ride. No, this doesn’t mean we are void of emotion altogether. It’s fine to celebrate when truly major good fortune has been realized. But we don’t need to jump on the roller coaster for everything that happens during the day.
Realizing that nothing is really as great as it seems or as bad as it seems can help us moderate our emotions. We can then function like the professionals that we are and avoid the roller coaster ride.
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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.