How to Right Your Ship When Things Go Wrong

I had dinner last night with an entrepreneur friend. This friend, a real estate entrepreneur, had a business that was flying high just a year or two ago. Over the past 12 months he and his business have hit rock bottom. The meal was supposed to be somewhat of an intervention, with me doing a lot of listening and asking good questions. The conversation was not easy. There were moments of pain and agony for my mealtime companion. He sobbed many times. Our talk however was necessary and healthy. It needed to be had…and up to this point, he simply hadn’t faced the facts.

While the entire evening was entirely about him, as I reflect, I realize there were a number of lessons that I took away from the night as well. The life of an entrepreneur has many peaks and valleys. Early into 2009 (and mid-way into a global recession) there are many entrepreneurs who are stuck in the valley. A few thoughts…

First and foremost, give thanks for what you have. When you reach a valley, or hit bottom, it becomes very easy to think that you have nothing positive in your life. Because you are constantly hearing bad news, you forget about any good. In my friend’s case, he has a family that loves him, he has friends and business associates that care about him, and most importantly, he has more real estate knowledge than anyone I know. You may be financially bankrupt or overdrawn, but you are not mentally. As entrepreneurs, the greatest gift we have is what we know and the tenacity to fight back. With your knowledge, you can always get back up, pick up the pieces, and claw your way back to the top.

Secondly, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Easy to say, not easy to do. That being said, there is no journey that you face that has not been conquered by others before you. In real estate, look at Trump, a man who has twice been bankrupt and worked his way back to the top. There are dozens of other examples in all fields and industries. More importantly however, each human being only has so much energy in a given day. Happiness requires energy. Sadness requires energy. If you are going to right the ship and turn your life and business around, it will require enormous amounts of energy. Spending precious energy on sadness and self pity doesn’t get you closer to your goals.

Finally, you must get back to basics, and by that I mean developing good habits and eliminating bad habits. Nido Qubein said “Good habits are hard to develop, but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to develop, but hard to live with.” So true. My entrepreneur friend had developed a lot of bad habits over the past year. He had taken his eye off the ball, and now he was badly bruised lying in the tumbleweeds. Being a real estate man, I knew that my friend would relate to the “broken windows” theory. As soon as a window is broken in a vacant house, you must immediately fix it, otherwise all of the other windows will soon be broken too as it indicates that no one cares about the home. My friend had a lot of broken windows because he had not eliminated the bad habits as soon as they entered his life. Now, he had a house full of bad habits. To fix this requires immense discipline. Every entrepreneur I have ever met with sustained success exhibits significant amounts of self discipline that go above and beyond most other people.

Should you find yourself in a similar place as my entrepreneur friend mentioned above, I hope these words will help you begin to turn your ship around. Remember, this will take time. The journey of 1,000 miles however must begin with a first step.