The Entrepreneur Journal #3: When Shit Hits the Fan

Shit hits the fan when we least expect it. That's just how life is. It takes you by surprise and the only way to overcome it is to find a way to deal with it. And try to stay positive when everything around you seems to be going down in flames.

For the perfectionist, this is the ultimate challenge. For the control freak, this could just be insurmountable. For the solo entrepreneur, it might mean the end. 

Over the past two years, ever since I got back in the freelancing game and solo entrepreneurship, setbacks felt a lot more intense, apocalyptic and nerve-racking.

The first time that happened, it felt like the world would end. I had this big plan, I was so proud of myself for finally acting upon it and envisioning the future results. When shit happened, I went through all the stages of fear, panic, confusion, despair, anger, blame and eventually, acceptance. 

I lost money, time, confidence and vision.

When I eventually calmed down I realized: mistakes, setbacks, unexpected events will happen. In fact, for growth and progress, you actually need them to take you out of your day-to-day routine and force you to think out of the box. These events teach you to make backup plans, to change the way you see life and how you react to the bad parts.

The only secret to recover when shit happens is having a positive mindset. And a backup plan. I learned that the hard way.

Here's the thing: stress comes and goes. Shit happens, but it is not permanent.

Shit happens every single day to million of persons worldwide, yet the sun rises and shines day after day.

The moment something bad happens, it might make you feel sick to your stomach. It might feel like there's nothing you can do to fix the issue, or recover something.

When you calm yourself down, you suddenly realize you do have options.

The issue with things that take you by surprise is that they cause a fight-or-flight response which actually impacts your body and mind. When you feel fear, despair, your nervous system releases stress hormones and you are not thinking clear. 

As much as I hate not being able to fix an issue right on the spot, when shit happens, I have to calm myself down and try to find a solution with a clear mind. And yes, that's not an easy thing to do.

Here's what helps me cope:

  • Counting down from 30 to 0 and putting away the laptop, phone. Basically, I'm taking time to take a deep breath and avoid acting on impulse.

  • Taking a couple of minutes to simply explore what I'm feeling and remind myself that I'm not the only person in the world that this has happened to. Others have experienced it and most likely found ways to cope with it.

  • If emotions run high, I just cry it out. Others might find it helpful to beat the crap out of a pillow.

  • Working out. In most cases, 5 minutes of yoga is enough. When that doesn't work, I burn it all in a 15 minutes intense core exercise workout. It's a mind-overriding trick. During exercise, the body releases endorphines which send happy, positive feelings to the brain. It's basically a reset of the brain, by flushing its receptors with positive signals, instead of stress signals. And I repeat every time I feel the bad feelings might be coming back.

  • If by this point, I can't think clear, I take paper and pen and make a list of negative and positive things coming from that issue. I also start making a list of potential solutions, both ideally and both practical. When I have that ready, I start thinking of people that might be able to help.

  • By this point, I usually realize that it's not impossible to overcome, that it wasn't that bad. Part of that it's internal justification (like me not expanding my lavender field in 2016 was a good thing after all, since I didn't have the time to care for it. My plan was to buy the terrain next to my crop, and by the time the terrain owner changed his mind and decided not to sell after all, I had already purchased 2000 young plants).

  • Trying to find the lesson behind the mishap.

  • Leaving it in the past. What's in the past, is in the past. As long as I burned those feelings, learned my lesson, I should be ready to move on.

Mistakes are part of the entrepreneurial game. Setbacks will happen. Sometimes these things are out of your control, sometimes it's just something you messed up.

Yes, life will constantly throw curve balls our way. Every situation is different, but the only thing that remains true in overcoming shitty situations is how strong your mind is, how positive you are. The good news is that this is something you can teach yourself.

Life, bring it on! I'm ready for you!

Life, bring it on! I'm ready for you!

Take the bull by the horns, take a deep breath, calm down and start thinking of solutions. And most importantly, ask for help. 

Finally, it's not easy to cope with situations when shit just happens. If you're going through this, stop the blaming game and know that you will get through it. Don't get stuck with running the scenario in your mind over and over again. Man up and accept that's just how life works. Its challenges give us opportunities to grow.