Self 01 December 2016
Being kind, charming and generous is easy for most of us when life is good. If time is abundant and there is plenty of money – if we're loved, connected and have a purpose, most of us can bring our A-game. It's not so easy when times are tough.
If we choose to be present in life, to be open to love and to strive for the things we want, we are going to meet disappointment – probably many times. And it can leave us feeling pain, sometimes physical – almost airless.
This may apply to you now – or in times ahead: as low as we can feel, this place down here on our knees is where we all learn who we really are. In the belly of disappointment, if you sit with your pain you'll discover resilience and courage quietly waiting there for you to rise again.
The greatest amongst us have failed and failed again; muscle fibre must be ripped to be rebuilt stronger – and so must you. You can choose victim or warrior, the choice is yours and will define how you face the days to come. Here, some ideas on handling disappointment and rising again.
Be Curious About Your Feelings
First thing's first. Get past the big three: blame, anger and righteousness, which we use to deflect pain like Wonder Woman's golden wristbands. Underneath those red hot emotions used to protect yourself, sits your warrior heart, tender – exposed and strong. Examine your feelings of shame, fear, rejection and despair; where do they come from? They hurt like hell, but they won't kill you. Unpack them, feel them; a lot of the sting will pass when you have examined the worst.
We put so much energy into not feeling raw and painful emotions, yet the quickest way to let them go is to stop resisting them.
This is not about dwelling in a dark place; this is about facing your fear and seeing it for what it is; the sooner you do, the sooner you'll take flight again.
Give Yourself A Reality Check
Drop the story and drama and look at the situation, devoid of your hot and heavy emotions. What has really happened? What is the real cost physically, emotionally, socially and financially? Get some distance from yourself and look at the situation objectively; you may not be able to see it yet, but good will come of this if you do not create a victim story.
Be really brave and write a benefit list; a list of 20+ benefits that will come from your experience. I know it sucks, I've done it myself, thrashing about yelling, “There is NO benefit!" Then I get over myself and often this one simple task is a turning point.
Vulnerability Is Strength
I don't see vulnerability as weakness; I see it as an extraordinary strength. When we accept and love ourselves – broken and flawed, big-hearted and hopeful – nothing can harm us. If you are feeling smashed and broken, open yourself to the warrior within – your strong heart is right there, fuel it with self-love. We all mess up – every single one of us, over and over again. The moment we stop trying to hide our mistakes we are free; it is the pretending that is exhausting. Take responsibility for every choice and every step you have made, do not choose victim.
When pain is known and self-love present, we can stand in the storm of anything. Vulnerability is strength, authenticity impenetrable.
Focus On The Silver Lining
Creativity and clarity are two benefits that come from failure and loss. If your back is against the wall and your resources and options limited, let go of panic and fear, focus on solutions and outcomes. Take your foot off the brake which is driven by fear, allow your clever, conscious brain to swing into action and start finding creative solutions. Your conscious brain is the happiest when it is problem-solving, but you must give it the space and oxygen to be brilliant. You must focus on what you want, not what you don't want.
You must focus on what you want, not what you don't want. Walk, dance, scream, cry – turn the music up and breathe in possibilities; the solutions are right there to be uncovered. Remember, clarity is a beautiful benefit that comes when we have screwed up or are in the rawness of loss. We stop caring what others think; there is a clarity that reminds us what is important and what is not.
By shedding the need to be presentable, right or perfect we discover what we want, who we are and what our purpose is, we realize that hitting rock bottom can be the greatest gift you'll ever receive. Easy is boring; the richness of life is felt when we experience it all. Exquisite joy, lust and love, the lonely depths of failure, the sickening feeling of regret and the soaring heights of success.
Choose warrior and out of the ashes you will rise: stronger, wiser, broken and beautiful.
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.