Pure Poison

I met a guy who presents an interesting case study for entrepreneurs – we’ll call him Seth, though that’s not his real name. Earlier in life, he was a successful entrepreneur running his own company. He had a wife and kids and money in the bank. Then everything blew up. His wife divorced him and took a substantial amount of their assets including the dream house that they had built. Unfortunately this is a story that plays out every single day across America. There are a myriad of causes for such break-ups – infidelity, money issues, alcoholism and drug use, physical abuse and general incompatibility, are just a few of the more common reasons. Generally speaking, divorce is often a major life setback for most of those involved. But this blog isn’t about divorce, it’s about what happens next when a major negative life-changing experience occurs.

Seth became despondent and bitter. He felt that his marital problems were the fault of his ex-wife who in his opinion had become mentally unstable. He spent three years fighting her in court and when he lost, he appealed the decision. Seth spent a fortune on legal fees only to lose again and ended up paying her more than if he had accepted the original decree. He was convinced that he got a raw deal and day-by-day his obsession with his plight grew to massive proportions. When he was with his friends, all he could talk about was how badly he had been screwed by his ex and the court. Seth was consumed with his bitterness and hatred. At one point, he purchased the lot next door to his ex-wife’s house and planned to build an even larger “dream house” as an “in-your-face” gesture.

What did all of this accomplish for Seth? He lost his business and contracted cancer which fortunately he beat, but not after many rounds of chemotherapy and painful surgeries. He developed debilitating back issues and suffered with chronic ear and eye problems. For Seth, his life pretty much ended up in the toilet. While it’s not my intent to judge him, I think Seth’s hard road can serve as a wake-up call for entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs alike. It’s my belief that wallowing in negative energy for days, months and years, attracts negative experiences to our lives. There is scientific evidence that such negativity has an adverse impact on our immune systems and is akin to drinking pure poison.

Adversity is a fact of life. Sometimes it may be more significant than at other times. But when we choose to focus on it; obsess over it; and keep replaying it in an endless loop, we generate more adversity and negativity. Breaking out of this cycle is absolutely imperative. One of the key elements to avoiding this trap in the first place is to understand and practice forgiveness. Merriam-Webster defines forgiveness as: “to cease to feel resentment against an offender; to pardon.”

It’s quite possible that Seth could have avoided many of his problems by committing to the act of forgiveness when it was clear that his wife wanted a divorce. He would have avoided spending large amounts of money on lawyers and would have had to pay her less at the end of the day. He may have been able to avoid many (or all) of his health challenges. Had he moved on and focused positive energy on building his business, he may have been able to prosper rather than losing the company that he started years earlier. The forgiveness to which I refer was not just for the ex-wife – but also for Seth himself. Somewhere in his subconscious mind, Seth likely knows that he contributed to the demise of their marriage. While the anger and bitterness that he exhibited appeared to be directed at her, in all likelihood he was acting out some of his own guilt as well. When we forgive someone else, we may want to forgive ourselves too, for it usually takes two to tango as the saying goes.

Bitterness, anger and hatred are the equivalent of drinking pure poison. The antidote is the act of forgiveness of others and ourselves.

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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.

Evening the Score

Question: I was royally screwed over in a business transaction. I want to get even. How should I do this?

Answer: You can’t. Revenge is a tricky business and can backfire in so many different ways. Of course you can always turn to the courts if you’ve truly been damaged, but that avenue is also fraught with pitfalls. Over the course of my nearly four decade career, I’ve been a party to a number of legal proceedings. And even in victory there was no real sense of vindication. Litigation typically drags on interminably; it costs a fortune; it’s a time-waster when it comes to legal discovery and trial preparation, and there’s something even more critical. Negative energy. Lawsuits are full of negative energy, creating serious barriers to creative productivity.

I’m not saying that legal action shouldn’t be pursued when warranted – but if getting even is the principal motive – beware. It’s human nature to feel angry when someone takes unfair advantage of us. We can then move down one of two paths. The first and easiest is that of victimhood. We’ve been wronged because someone did something unjust to us. We’re entitled to feel outraged and we spend time telling others about our experience. Been there – done that. I’ve also been heard to say, “Don’t get mad, get even.” But when I put it all in perspective, I realize that I’m giving someone else the power when I play the victim. So I ask myself, “Why as a successful entrepreneur would I want to give someone else negative power over me?”

This self-conversation leads me down the second path, a path that is much more difficult. The path is called, forgiveness. My approach to forgiveness does not condone the unjust act but rather the doer of that act. I have come to understand that not everyone subscribes to the same ethics and standards as do I. But I’ve decided that’s their problem, not mine. When I become the forgiver, I do not give someone else power over me. And I also get the benefit of staying in a positive energy flow through the process. I might not do business with that person again, and if asked, I would decline to provide an endorsement or referral. In the end, I’m able to move through the situation quickly and get on with pursuing my passion.

Life is way too short for grudges and the plotting of revenge. Being a victim is poison to the entrepreneurial spirit. It takes much more strength of character to forgive than to wallow in self-pity. As entrepreneurs we have much more important work to do.

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.