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.

Armor Plated

Question: I have worked for years with a particular client and he never shows me one single sign of appreciation. The results I have produced for this client have been terrific by any standard. Why won’t he recognize my efforts?

Answer: I’ve certainly experienced the same thing over the course of my career. And I’ve learned several things that may be helpful in understanding this sort of situation. First, some people are just not wired to show appreciation to others. Second, there may be the belief that we are being paid for the services we provide and that is enough of a demonstration of appreciation. Third, if the business arrangement is recurring and requires the renewal of a contract the client may feel that the continuation of the relationship is sufficient proof of appreciation. Fourth, some people may believe that showing appreciation is reserved for personal relationships and not business situations. And finally, it’s possible that a client doesn’t express appreciation because he isn’t satisfied with the product or service being provided.

I’ve come to realize that none of these reasons is necessarily right or wrong. What’s more important is how we feel and react. We have no control over how others act but we do make a choice as to how we respond. Do we allow ourselves to feel hurt and victimized? Do we choose to become resentful and irritated?

Feeling unappreciated can actually be turned into a positive experience. We can make the choice not to allow how we are treated by others to affect the way we see ourselves. This is akin to developing a suit of armor that enables us not to even give a second thought to what may be perceived or real sleights on the part of others. But the bigger win is to observe what we consider to be the less desirable traits and tendencies of others and do just the opposite. If someone is not showing appreciation, rather than allowing this to upset us we can make an extra effort to show appreciation to others.

Life is full of opportunity. Almost every situation that we might consider negative has a positive side. The choices we make will determine whether or not we live a happy and vibrant life. How others act toward us need not have any bearing on this truth.

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.