It has been said that one of the most important personality characteristics of an entrepreneur is the understanding that failure is part of the game, and going to work anyway. Among some of the other commonly shared traits of successful businesspeople, labeled by Entrepreneur magazine as the “Seven Traits of Entrepreneurs,” are tenacity, the willingness
to start from square one (without being compelled to jump off a bridge), passion, vision, self-belief, tolerance for ambiguity, and confidence.1 Quite lofty attributes, no doubt, especially all at once, but that’s the goal. How do we acquire these traits? What drives them? How are they nurtured, and, even more difficult, how can they be sustained? Anyone who has been in business in one form or another has questioned the presence of these characteristics, doubted themselves, and cursed their ideas. But then they move on, they persist and pursue, and that resilience, that kind of strength, is the quality I personally appreciate most and why I love working with businesspeople as much as I do. It is what makes entrepreneurs both enigmatic and familiar.
There were times when I questioned my ability to continue, when I became so tired emotionally and physically from the ever-present feeling of defeat that I thought perhaps all of my qualities that helped me build my business were a figment of my imagination.
When my mom needed care and was dying, my priorities and commitments clearly had to shift. I had been a long- distance caregiver for my mother for seven years, but when she took a turn for the worse, my presence became necessary, and off I went to Las Vegas. I had a hard time keeping up with my work commitments, family ties, and the extremely fatiguing and frustrating process of navigating the medical and insurance red tape. I was worried and scared on all fronts—for my mother, for my livelihood, for my clients, and for my personal relationships. I remember one particular moment driving my mother around in my rental car, which would not cool off in the 110-degree desert heat, no matter how high I blasted the AC. My mother had recently suffered a diabetic seizure and was not in the best of moods, and I was in search of a higher level of care for her needs. My mind was reeling.
I didn’t know what I was going to do. Crying, I called my partner Steve and lost it.
We all have similar stories. One day we are up on our feet, standing strong, invincible, and energized, and then…life hap- pens. Every day life happens, filled with triumphs and tragedies, sick parents and needy children, cash flow problems, product recalls, cancelled orders, dried-up business—it’s a ubiquitous wave, and we either ride it or we wipe out.
After I threw my fear-ridden tantrum, I hung up the phone and surprisingly found myself already recovering, looking up at the crest of the wave and deciding I wanted back up. You see, I come from a long line of worriers. It’s in my DNA to worry about things that I can’t control, and to focus on the future so much that I miss out on the happy little moments of the present. I recognized early enough in my career that if I wanted to succeed in business (and frankly, in life), my worry- wart disease needed to be inoculated. With what? Positivity.
And as it turned out, the hard work of finding positivity and keeping it constant in my life also enabled me to em- bolden the seven other necessary characteristics mentioned by Entrepreneur magazine. I knew that without staying positive, I wouldn’t have the wherewithal to continue, to press on, to engage and think, create, and believe in myself and my clients. I needed an attitude adjustment and decided to turn the notch up all the way up to positive. Having a positive attitude doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s a choice I make, and a commitment I keep to myself because I have seen its magic in action. In the introduction of this book I shared my story of being bedridden and the kindness my coach showed me. When you witness that kind of loving-kindness, that kind of connection with another human being, it is impossible not to be shot with a healthy dose of positivity. And once I experienced that high, I wanted more, and now I am addicted to that kind of positivity. It had changed my life once, for the better, showing me the silver lining when it was raining down self-pity. With my mother’s life on the brink, I remembered that I had been blown over before, so I trusted I could bounce back yet again. Today, practicing that type of positivity continues to shape my life in forms that I could never imagine.
Admittedly during my brief lapse into panic mode in Las Vegas, I had veered a little from my commitment of positivity, but just like any good habit, it came right back to me. Be positive! We are going to create a solution for this, I thought. This proactive mindset has been my biggest reward from positivity. Being positive takes me out of reactivity and into productiv- ity. We are going to create a solution for this. This becomes so empirically evident to me, once I conjure up my positivity, I feel empowered.
When we worry and feel the fear of not being in control, we react. It’s a biological urge that is fueled by hormones. Fight or flight are two reactions, and let’s face it: We are toe- ing that fine line on a daily basis in business. Ironically, the rush of adrenaline is part of what we crave, but if we let it take us over, we lose productivity along with all the other qualities we need to keep consistent in our life. Really, being reactive does nothing.
Reactivity is what led me to scream over the phone to Steve. It’s what made me have words with my mother and siblings. It is what made me feel as if I should shut down my business after my legs were broken. Reactivity is a cancer to communication, connection, compassion, flexibility, gratitude, and generosity. Reactivity eats away at kindness, and in order to counteract its insidiousness, we must be positive.
Yes, easier said than done, but truly it all begins with just a thought. As I remained sweaty and tired in the car with my mother, I changed my thoughts: I am going to get more clients, my cash flow will come back, Mom is going to be okay, the air conditioning will start cooling down this car. Strangely, it did cool down because I had cooled down.