“This isn’t fun!”
Life – including the mundane moments, unmet expectations, and plain old enduring – seems like a drag to many people. To others, these challenges are the spices of life. This last group are quite often entrepreneurs.
Perspective Can Be a Drag
Perspective is the key to survival, growth and success. This starts with a realistic perspective on what life is, and is not.
According to Jenkins Lloyd, a Unitarian minister, “Anyone who imagines that life is bliss is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old-time rail journey – delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
In the twenty-first century, this perspective is too often warped by mass social media. It is easy to start believing that everyone else’s life is wonderful. Such “social comparisons” can generate depressed and negative feelings when in fact your reality is little different than everyone else’s. Their kids are not doing better than your kids, their spouse is no better than your spouse, their job is no better than your job. Teddy Roosevelt was right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
This applies to business as well, and entrepreneurs in particular. Focusing on irrelevant issues and comparisons creates drag, making you move slower, making life as the boss positively dreadful. But it shouldn’t be dreadful, and for all the same reasons.
The Five Steps to Overcoming
A realistic perspective is not based on irrelevant comparisons, but in your focus about what you are doing and why it is good. The steps to reach an enduringly positive perspective are deceptively simple, yet complex in their results.
The grizzled old musician Ray Hubbard once said, “The days my gratitude is higher than my expectations, those are really good days.” Psychology Professor Robert Emmons amplifies this insight by noting, “Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness… It allows individuals to celebrate the present and be an active participant in their own lives… it focuses the mind on what an individual already has rather than something that’s absent…”
The fact is, you have much to be grateful for. You are your own boss; you have a vision worth chasing; and you are creating products people want, hiring people who need work, and achieving things quietly desperate people won’t. Call it “counting your blessings” if you like, but when you do, you cannot help but be more positive in your outlook, and that makes all inconveniences seem petty.
Optimism comes from believing in the possible. As an entrepreneur, you have learned that what is possible is directly related to how you break down problems, how creative you are with solutions, and how hard you work toward reaching a goal. You have what it takes, so you should be optimistic about your success.
My marketing director coined the line, “The unexpected is the essence of adventure.” Adventure is what life and business are about, so the roadblocks you encounter are part of the adventure. Put on your pith helmet and think of problems as vistas to cross, mountains to climb and wild rivers to swim.
Great entrepreneurs are voracious students. They learn through experience. Each problem they face is a puzzle that brings them more knowledge. Face each challenge as an opportunity to learn, and every challenge becomes a gain for you. You rack up more experience points and solve dilemmas faster when you confront issues knowing you will immediately benefit by learning from them.
Keep in mind you are not here for long. Life is too short, and the time we spend here too valuable, to not enjoy the ride. Songwriter Warren Zevon, facing down terminal cancer, said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” Your business is a wild ride like a rollercoaster, and you should enjoy every dip, lift, turn, flip and spin.
Originally published at Entrepreneur.com as “5 Steps to Overcoming the Entrepreneurial Blues”