When I launched my business and it didn’t go as planned, I was thrown for a loop. How can I get to point D, when my bridge at point C collapsed?!
I’m the type of person who always has the next 10 steps in life planned. I have a goal, I plan for it, and I achieve it. I’m always looking at the bigger picture.
When my 10 year plan didn’t come to fruition I found myself lost, more lost than I’d ever been in my entire life. I was exhausted, drained of all emotional energy, and lacking the brainpower to reasonably logic through my next step. This wasn’t the type of drained where you sleep it off for a day then you’re magically ready to take on the world. This was a mid-life crisis drained that was going to take months of self-reflection and work to get to my next step.
I was very lucky to have a business mentor, Damon D’Amore, enter my life when I needed it most. Someone who has been through the wringer himself to help guide the process of figuring out my next step. He led me to many amazing resources that I’d like to share with anyone who needs it! If you like any of these, you can subscribe to Damon’s blog, he shares new articles every week.
Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, was the first reading Damon recommended. The main takeaways that helped me were the following:
Live by design, not by default – I realized at the time that I was living by default. I was in the middle of all the grueling parts of closing a business. Facing debtors I could not pay, angry landlords, and had to figure out what to do with all of my business assets as a one- man show because I had no money to pay anyone to help me. I just closed my eyes, grit my teeth, and spent 12-15 hour days in pure hell. No weekends, no reprieve, just get out of this mess like a zombie soldier. I kept thinking there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel kept extending as I moved through it. This was the moment I realized I needed to start living my life by design. Only focusing on the shitty parts of my life hoping to get through it and get to a better place was crushing me in the present. I needed to design my life with the most essential items for my well being.
Either hell yea or no – I was struggling to figure out what I was supposed to do next. I needed income, I needed my next career, there was no time to wait! I didn’t know if I wanted to leverage my experience to continue on the entrepreneur’s route, go back to my long time career as head of analytics, or pivot entirely into non-profit. My business coach hooked me up with informational meetings with various C-suite executives in each category to help me figure it out. Through this process, I realized I wasn’t hell yea for non-profit and therefore it was a no. Life is so easy when the rules are defined for you! The other two options were both hell yea and took further analysis to suss out how to proceed with the rest of my life. Using this principle was a north store every step along the way.
Routine is necessary – I was an overachiever for most of my life, I played competitive soccer, participated in piano competitions, and was top of my class. After high school when I experienced independence, routine was less and less appealing to me. I wanted to do whatever I wanted! So I did. Over time, this led me to ditching workouts, ditching responsibility, and making poor food choices. I was great at one thing and one thing only, my career. As long as I had that, I was good. Once I went out on a limb to start my business and it came to an end, I was left with no routine and no healthy habits. I fell into depression and lacked the motivation to do things that would make me feel better. Suddenly, I wished I had not ditched all routine over the last 10 years. That’s when the real work began. I focused on healthy food choices, fitness, and fun for the next 3 months. I gave myself triggers to start my habits. Making the bed, led to putting on my workout clothes, which led to working out, which led to drinking a protein shake and not wanting to ruin my calorie deficit. It took 6 months to really nail these things down and I became much happier because of it. It allowed me to have a clear head and process what makes me happy in life, which ultimately led me back to my career in analytics.
The second reading Damon recommended was “Scarcity” by Josh Brown. These were the takeaways that helped me regain my life:
I’m only going to do things where I can add value and derive some value back. When I was lost on what to do and I was taking business meetings, this phrase kept running through my head. The thought crept into my mind to make a nice living doing work that was below my skill level. But when I read this article, I realized, that’s not what I want. I can add value to any company I join, but where I’m truly going to be happy is when I’m getting some value back. This was a guiding principle for me during interviews to figure out the right fit for my life.
What of my resources is limited? Focus more time and attention on those things. When I truly broke this question down of what is scarce in my life that I couldn’t live without, I came up with 3 things: family, friends, and fun. There’s such limited time with family in a lifetime especially when they are spread out across the country. I need to focus more of my time to maximize my enjoyment with them. Friends and fun are things I blatantly ignored for a few years while I was rising up the ranks as an executive and launching my own business. Once I picked my head up out of the madness, I realized I hadn’t seen most people in 2 years. Friends and fun make me happy. Life is too short to be unhappy. Thinking about scarcity in my life refocused my core values as a human being.
Scarcity and Essentialism were the core foundation that helped guide me to my next step in life. Granted, it took a heck of a lot of work, reflection, and time to execute these steps, but they were well worth it. I am infinitely wiser than I was just 3 years ago from my experiences along with time to reflect and refocus.