Exciting Disappointment

Every entrepreneur will experience disappointment at one time or another – that’s a fact. We tend to be optimistic and visualize very positive outcomes. Of course not every outcome is realized exactly the way we anticipate. To succeed we need to have a heavy dose of resilience. But there’s more to it than just the ability to bounce back.

We had a really big deal blow up recently. It involved the sale of several apartment properties and would have resulted in a very large financial gain after holding these properties for nearly 20 years. The buyer had made a preliminary inspection of the properties, and a purchase and sale agreement had been executed by both parties. Then the buyer claims that our broker misrepresented an element of the transaction that would ultimately result in a substantial reduction in the price – something we were unwilling to accept. We believe that the buyer never intended to pay the agreed-upon price and was starting the process of “chiseling” once the documents were signed.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had a deal blow up and it certainly won’t be the last. And it isn’t the first time that a buyer acted less than honorably – nor will it likely be the last. Our initial reaction was one of disappointment. It would have been wonderful to monetize an investment that was many years in the making, and we would have disposed of some smaller assets that no longer fit our strategy going forward. Naturally, resilience kicked in and we didn’t shed any tears over this situation. The broker went back to the drawing board and worked to find another buyer. Here’s what may be a surprise to you though – our mindset in the moment.

After I understood the transaction wasn’t moving forward, I actually became excited in a positive way. Why? Because I tend to look at situations like this as a sign that “something better is in store!” Yes, we would have had a very favorable result had we closed the deal. But I’m convinced that there’s something much bigger and better to come from this.

Some may snicker and laugh when they hear this. They might say that this is simply naïve and wishful thinking. I would tell them that I’ve been living my life this way for 40+ years and more often than not, I’m right. Here’s why. By knowing and believing that something better is in store, I’m telling my creative juices to kick into overdrive. In the case of this apartment sale, our broker might come up with another buyer. Yet I have an idea that will require a bit more innovation and take a bit more time, but the end result could be even more profitable than originally planned. And it jazzes me to develop and execute the strategy necessary to make this happen.

A more conventional approach might be to lament the loss of the original buyer. It might be to play the victim and become angry that the original buyer was less than honorable in his dealings with us. We could be mad at the broker for his misstep in the way he worded the offering document that purportedly caused the issue in the first place. But what purpose is served with all of the negativity? The fact still remains that the buyer backed out. The choice is ours as to which fork in the road we take. The one that leads to an even greater success or the one that leaves us wallowing in misery and limited thinking.

When we realize that our entrepreneurial lives are continually unfolding as a series of opportunities, we never look at unexpected outcomes as setbacks. Instead they give us a chance to use our skills, our resilience, our experience and our creativity to achieve even better results than we initially sought. Allowing negative thoughts and emotions enables limitations on our creativity. What might otherwise be viewed as a disappointment is simply a nudge to adjust, modify and tweak in such a way as to eventually win a better prize.

Entrepreneurs need a baseline level of resilience to survive. Seeing greater opportunity in what others might term as failure is a step beyond resilience. And knowing and believing that something better is in store enables us to thrive in amazing ways.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 73 – The 1,057 Point Swing.

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.

A Dirty Word

What two words in the English language couldn’t be further apart in their meaning, but are often intertwined for entrepreneurs? The first word by itself is part of the everyday life of an entrepreneur – and every other person in the world as well. This word is relatively innocuous. But when connected with the second word it’s like adding the primer to dynamite. The resulting explosion can have all sorts of detrimental effects on our lives.

That first word is “failure.” Many entrepreneurs (and others) fear failure. But successful entrepreneurs have almost always experienced failure in different ways and multiple times. They use their failure to recalibrate or pivot, and find a new way to make something work. David H. McConnell was a door-to-door book salesman who offered a little gift of perfume to female customers. Selling the books didn’t work out so well, but there was great demand for the perfume. So McConnell ditched the books and turned the perfume concept into what is now known as Avon. Ever heard of Traf-O-Data? It was a partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen for the purpose of developing reports from traffic counters for traffic engineers. Needless to say the business was not a success. But Gates went on to launch another venture called . . . Microsoft. And then there’s the famous story about a man named Fred Smith who wrote a paper for his Yale University economics class involving overnight parcel deliveries. The professor wasn’t impressed and gave him what Smith recalls was a C. Undaunted, Smith pursued the idea which today is known as Federal Express.

This brings us to the second word. The word is toxic to entrepreneurs for it can easily become a mindset. The word . . . “defeat.” Failure is part of a process of experimentation and discovery. Defeat is the end. Once defeat is admitted, there’s nothing more to be done. I knew a man who worked for someone else for several decades. Then he decided to spread his entrepreneurial wings and bought a business. He labored mightily but eventually had to close his doors. But rather than lean into the experience and use it as a stepping stone to success, he withdrew. His confidence was shaken and he began making unhealthy choices. He tried working for someone else again but eventually ended up driving a taxi. Now there’s nothing wrong with driving a taxi if it’s for the right reason. But in this case it was his way of curling up in the fetal position and saying, “I can’t.”

I think that it boils down to whether or not we have a “die trying” mentality. It boils down to whether or not we have a positive image of ourselves. It boils down to moving as fast as we can to kill our own bad ideas so we can make room for the good ones! When we are afraid to fail, we are setting ourselves up for defeat. One of the most important things about failure is making certain that it’s not so monumental that we can’t right our ship. A mindset of defeat occurs when we are convinced we’ve lost it all – forever.

Here’s what I’ve learned. I don’t set out to fail at anything but accept the fact that I will and I must, if only to find the good ideas that work. I always make sure there’s enough of a margin of safety that my failures aren’t going to “kill” me. This leaves room for a pivot or a more significant shift. Regardless of my failures I will always remain positive and optimistic. Sometimes this can be very hard but it’s fundamental to avoiding defeat. When I do fail I look for what can be salvaged from the experience to bolt onto the next iteration of whatever I’m doing. And finally, I know that I’m a step closer to success by eliminating a step in the process that didn’t work.

Failure and defeat are not connected in any way, shape or form. Great opportunity and great success can rise from failure. Nothing good comes from defeat.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 57 – Headwinds

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.

Pluses and Minuses

There’s one thing of which I’m certain . . . I think. Have you ever had this kind of feeling? We entrepreneurs are a pretty confident lot. We are scrappy and tough. There’s nothing we can’t do including leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. Throw us a challenge and we’ll whip it with one hand tied behind our back and blindfolded to boot. Right? Well, maybe. And most of the time.

Entrepreneurs have several “thought enemies,” one of them being gnawing and nagging doubts. Here’s a not-so-fictional example. Let’s say that things have been going pretty well in our business and we’ve had some nice wins along the way. Then we hit a little speed bump – perhaps a contract doesn’t get signed that we thought we had in the bag. Or an important customer stops doing business with us. In other words, we get knocked off our game a bit. That part we can handle with aplomb as we go on to sign another contract or we fix the problem with our important customer. It’s what happens next that can be perplexing.

After we’ve been bucked off the horse so to speak, we begin to have feelings of doubt. For example, we are ready to introduce a new product or service, but we wonder if it might flop. In the past, we would have launched without any trepidation, but now it feels different. Could something else go wrong that that might cause everything to come unraveled? We know that these gnawing and nagging doubts aren’t healthy and could become self-fulfilling prophecies. Yet still they are there and hard to push out of our mind.

Why is our confidence shaken, and doubts have entered the picture? I’ve thought about all of the times this has happened in my life and believe it centers on a rather recent failure in the past. The earlier example that I gave where the contract or customer was lost illustrates this notion. Coming off of a failure makes us wary and more sensitive. As entrepreneurs we have winning in our DNA. Failure is for losers. And yet we do fail and we do lose. Sure we’re resilient, but we can’t ignore what it felt like to fail and lose and we don’t want to experience it again. And so we’re vulnerable to doubt and uncertainty. Subconsciously we’re thinking, “I’m sure what I’m doing now is going to work, but if it doesn’t, I don’t want to be hurt again.” We find ourselves moving forward but wondering . . . always wondering when the other shoe will drop.

Here’s what I’ve learned about myself when these insidious doubts start creeping into my consciousness. I step back and take inventory of all of the positive successes that I know lay in front of me. I may have just lost a deal, but there are ten more that I believe with all my heart will succeed. Now here’s the key – even if only half of the ten deals actually succeed, I’m still way, way ahead. In other words, I’m not looking at the glass half full, but I’m looking at multiple glasses and every one of them is overflowing. Immediately my mindset changes and all is right with my world again. I’ve accepted the fact that I had a prior setback. I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll have more setbacks in the future. But I know that the pluses will always far outweigh the minuses and the winning score will be in my favor – overwhelmingly!

Gnawing and nagging doubts are usually a product of a recent failure. We get past such feelings by looking at the scoreboard and realizing that we are way ahead in the game. Ultimately this makes us unbeatable.

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.

water glasses

Bridge Building

Recently I was in a meeting with a group of entrepreneurs. One of them has been struggling to get traction with his entrepreneurial venture. His stress level was quite high and he indicated that he was under severe financial pressure. And to cap it off, his spouse was suffering with some anxiety issues that rendered her unable to care for their children at times. This all was adding up to a perfect storm of events that was creating considerable negative energy in his life.

This individual wants his entrepreneurial idea to work in the worst way. Obviously that is adding to the pressure. But he must clear up the various issues he’s dealing with in order to achieve the success that he desires. I suggested that he initially do only three things. First he needs to put his idea on the shelf for the time being – simply let it go. This doesn’t mean that he abandons it permanently but simply takes a breather with it. Second, I told him he needs to get a job so that he can provide for his family and relieve the financial pressure he is experiencing. I recommended that he live as frugally as possible and try and save some money that can be utilized when he resumes the pursuit of his entrepreneurial venture. Finally, I advised him to make a consistent practice of meditation – finding a quiet time each day to clear his mind and work on deep breathing. The purpose here is for him to become centered and release his negative energy.

Another entrepreneurial friend had been trying for quite some time to raise money for her venture and was having no success. She was extremely frustrated and was very emotionally invested in her idea. I had been following her situation for quite some time and suggested that she move on and do something else. She went home and took everything related to the idea; put those items in a clear plastic tub and stashed them in her attic. She had completely released her idea at that point. Within days she received a call from another investor asking her to reconsider. She revived her idea at that point by pivoting and re-tooling her concept. Today she is well on her way to raising the necessary funds for her revamped business concept.

I liken the steps I recommended to my friends as bridge building. When we are pursuing success it doesn’t just happen instantly. There often are obstacles that we must face, some of which can create significant adversity. Sometimes our instinct is to continue “fighting the fight.” By trying to muscle through, we constrict our flow of positive energy and end up wallowing in our circumstances. And when this happens we remain stuck on the wrong side of the river.

To cross the river we must build a bridge. That requires that we take the necessary steps to restore positive energy and an optimistic outlook. One of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do is to let go of his or her idea – even if it’s just momentary. But we know that when we continue to try and hammer, hammer and hammer – we’re not actually building the bridge. Instead we’re just stuck in the mud.

The entrepreneurial journey will periodically require the building of bridges to reach our success. To build the bridge we need to pause for a moment and identify forward-moving actions that will eventually ensure that we succeed.

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.

Bridge Building

Visually Unimpaired

What does success look like for you? Is it something material? Is it a relationship or something intangible? What are you doing to achieve this success? How strongly do you believe that you can achieve it? How badly do you want it? What would you say if I told you that you can absolutely stack the deck in your favor? If it sounds like I’m selling swampland think again.

Success is not so much an end result as it is a constant state of mind. When we see success as an end result we may have a tendency to believe that we are less than successful during the time we’re working toward the end result. Think about it this way. Suppose we want to close a really significant transaction and it takes a long time to do so. Perhaps there are a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the way. A natural human reaction might be, “I know this transaction is going to be hard and I’ll make large sacrifices to complete it. But in the end, all the pain and suffering will be worth it.” There is an implication in this statement that we won’t be successful until the transaction is closed. I submit that this does not have to be the case.

We can visualize our success from the outset. Visualization is another form of affirmation and you’ve heard me talk before about how powerful positive affirmations can be. So how does it work? Let’s use the example of a significant transaction described in the preceding paragraph. We begin by sitting quietly and formulating exactly what the desired end result will be. It’s important that we be as specific and detailed as possible. Where will the closing take place? Will other people be there? Is there a specific date and day of the week that this will occur? Once all the details are discovered we are then in a position to begin the visualization process.

“Today, Tuesday, July 22nd, begins with a clear blue sky and bright sunshine. A closing meeting with the buyer is scheduled for 11:00 AM. I am wearing my black pin-striped suit with a purple tie. As I walk into the boardroom I am greeted by James, my attorney; Todd, the attorney for the buyer; Susan, the buyer; Fred, the buyer’s banker; Linda, my banker, and John who is a consultant I work with. All parties have big smiles on their faces. A three-inch pile of documents is neatly stacked on the highly-polished mahogany conference table. We make short work of signing the documents at which point Fred hands me a cashier’s check in the amount of $2,500,000. I hold the check for a moment before sliding it across the table to Linda to deposit in my account. We all shake hands and then depart to the Capitol Grille for a celebratory luncheon.”

By visualizing our success in such vivid detail, we are setting the stage for it to become reality. Before we go to sleep at night, we allow this visualization to permeate our mind and being. When we awaken, we see the same vision. This becomes a pattern that allows us to celebrate our impending success every single day. We feel the joy of closing the transaction a multitude of times – to the point that it is a fait accompli. No longer do we have any doubts about whether it will happen for we’ve already seen it over and over. I challenge you to try this. You can’t stick a toe in the water. You must jump in cannonball-style. Do it with your clothes on! Visualize with abandon and the results will be spectacular.

We are destined to succeed if we believe without condition. And we can believe without condition when we see our success being repeated in our mind’s eye.

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.

goggles

The “F” Word

Question: Recently I’ve been unsuccessful with several things in my life including a relationship, a business initiative and with an attempt to buy a house. How do I stop feeling like such a loser?

Answer: You are referring to a concept that most of us call failure. And you can take comfort in knowing that all of us encounter it periodically. Everyone. How each of us deals with failure is another matter. In my book, An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By, I wrote a chapter in which I say that “Mistakes are simply unfinished experiments in the laboratory of life.” I believe that the same statement can be made about failure.

If we look at failure as a finite experience it can be profoundly negative. But if we see failure as merely a step in a process, then there is hope. And hope is generally a positive emotion. It all boils down to how we choose to view what the world might typically deem a failure. The process of failure is actually a process of elimination . . . what works and what doesn’t. We tend to get caught up in the emotions surrounding failure and may be unable to see the good that can come from it. These emotions run the gamut from frustration, embarrassment and inadequacy to anger, despair and blame.

We owe Thomas A. Edison a huge debt of gratitude (as well as a number of other inventors over the centuries). He made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts to invent the light bulb but when asked about this by a reporter, he responded, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Imagine the emotional control he must have had. But rather than giving up and accepting each “step” as a failure, he learned how to make little tweaks that eventually led to success.

Perhaps if we look at our failures in a more scientific manner – as part of a discovery process – we can overcome the negative emotion that often is associated with apparent setbacks. This along with a good dose of perseverance, resilience, a positive mindset and coupled with an expectation of good results, can propel us to the success we seek. This is a powerful recipe that all boils down to how we choose to think.

When we choose to learn from our experiences the “steps” toward success are infinitely good. As entrepreneurs and human beings we can then embrace this process as part of the richness and fullness of life.

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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