Dumpster Fires

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’s 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’s out of control the fire department may have a battle on its hands for hours.

There’s 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’s a nagging customer service issue or a piece of equipment in the plant that isn’t 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 has to 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’re 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 wasn’t 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 don’t want to face them at the moment. So I give myself a 24-hour pass and make sure they pop-up the next day on my task list. I’ve learned that it takes discipline to handle the small stuff or else I’ll eventually have to spend a whole lot more time and money untangling things later. I’ve 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’s better to take small incremental steps to solve the problems as they arise and then we won’t 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.

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False Choices

It’s 3:00 AM. You’ve just awakened with a start. Your heart is racing – not pounding, just a generally anxious sort of feeling. You aren’t sure why this is happening. There’s no sound of an intruder and everything externally seems to be in order. Then you lay there struggling to return to your slumber. You know you have to get up in two or three hours, and you know you desperately need to finish getting your rest. But there’s one BIG problem. Your mind won’t let you.

I’ve never figured out exactly what causes this. There’s obviously something churning around in our subconscious. And it’s frustrating beyond belief to wake up this way, not know why, and then try to drift back to the Land of Nod. And I can attest to what happens next. I will allow my mind to conjure up False Choices. Perhaps I’ve been in the middle of a complicated real estate deal that has a lot of “hair” on it – that is, many moving parts that aren’t all moving as planned. At this point the game begins. Here’s the dialogue that occurs.

What if the appraisal for the apartment complex comes back at slightly less than is needed? Then the loan amount will be less and the equity requirement will be more. But wait a minute – I only have an equity commitment for the exact requirement and I don’t have time to raise the extra amount that will be needed! Oh my (or some other less printable phrase) – we won’t be able to close this deal!! If this happens we’ll lose the earnest money that is now totally at-risk; we’ll lose all of our credibility within the industry; we’ll never be able to do another deal again; I’ll go broke and have to live under a bridge!!!!!!

OK, the bridge part may be a little dramatic, but you get the idea. The point is that in this state of semi-consciousness it’s very easy for our mind to magnify our concerns and create wild scenarios that are disconcerting. Often, logic is totally absent in these moments, and because of this the False Choices become overwhelming. Fortunately I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely experience this anymore. But I can tell you that in years past I’ve gotten so worked up that I had to get out of bed and become totally awake to bring my full faculties to bear and find the solution. Kind of blows the opportunity to get any more sleep completely out of the water . . . right?

Rather than trying to figure out what triggers this kind of response, I’ve learned how to avoid letting my mind run away in this manner. If I do wake up with that general feeling of unease or even if something specific looms in my mind’s-eye, I immediately deny it. That’s it. I refuse to allow the monsters in my brain to come to the surface and get any satisfaction whatsoever. It’s my belief that we are extremely vulnerable when we are half-awake and half-asleep, and trying to resolve any sort of issue is futile and dangerous. If we let down our guard, invariably we end up in False Choices.

Learning how to deny these thoughts will not be easy at first. It will take a lot of practice. What I do is quickly translate the issue that is bubbling up into a visual image – perhaps it’s a dragon from a fantasy world. Then I take out my might dragon slaying sword and thrust it deeply into the dragon’s chest at which point it melts away and I fall asleep again. Thus, I’ve taken the horrible problem that somehow has invaded my sleep; turned it into a dragon; killed it instantly, and gone back to sawing logs. While this might sound corny, I can tell you that with practice it works. It doesn’t matter what the outer issue is, I simply turn it into a dragon and eliminate it.

We must avoid the False Choices that may be presented while we sleep. Denying them before they have a chance to take hold of our minds will allow us to deal with them in a rational fashion when we are awake.

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.

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Oh Those Surly Bonds

I’m proud to say that I’m an entrepreneur in a state of denial. And I suggest that you too should be in a similar state of denial. Why you ask, would an entrepreneur want to be in denial? After all, we’re eternal optimists and have a never-say-die approach to everything . . . right? Here’s what I’m in denial about.

I deny fear. I realize that fear freezes me into a state of inertia, or causes me to make irrational decisions. Fear saps my energy and causes me to ride an emotional roller-coaster. Fear robs me of my creativity and my initiative. I will not be afraid.

I deny all thoughts of self-doubt. Self-doubt is my mortal enemy. It causes me to question my instincts and clouds my intuition. I become tentative and worry about making mistakes. Self-doubt destroys my confidence and causes me to question my abilities. I will not allow self-doubt to manifest in my life.

I deny any belief that I’m a victim. There may be times when I feel that I’ve been wronged or believe someone has done something that prevents my success. I realize that when I feel victimized I’m giving away my power to someone else. Playing the victim fills me with negative energy. I will not be a victim to anyone for anything.

I deny all thoughts of lack and limitation. I stop myself when I start to utter phrases such as, “I can’t because,” “I’m not able,” and “if only.” My entrepreneurial spirit is dulled when I think that I am limited in some way. I realize that the only limitations I have are those that I place upon myself. I will not allow thoughts of lack and limitation to creep into my consciousness.

Being in denial about fear, self-doubt, beliefs of victimization, and thoughts of lack and limitation is only the first of two critical steps. It’s not enough to simply deny these negative factors. We must replace them with positive action-oriented affirmations. I deny fear and embrace faith. I deny self-doubt and have total confidence in who I am and what I’m doing. I deny any belief that I’m a victim and take full responsibility for my actions. I deny all thoughts of lack and limitation and know that my opportunities have no bounds.

Denying that which will inhibit me and affirming the positive direction I will take, allows me to release the surly bonds that hold me. And then I can soar to new heights.

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.

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