Any battle-hardened individual will talk about the darkness before the dawn—those make-or-break moments when they could have quit but held on with stunning success. Here are nine ways to stay optimistic when your life hits a speed bump.
1. Know that you’re probably about to succeed.
Years ago, I read this Chinese saying, “The temptation to give up is the greatest right before you’re about to succeed.”
There’s something magical about the saying. I don’t know if something deep in our subconscious mind realizes we’re about to succeed. But the 11th hour is when the pressure builds and things seem to go wrong; once you hit midnight, things start to go well.
Remember this dichotomy: When you don’t feel much pressure, you’re often not close to success. Feeling despondent is a sign you’ve made it all the way to 11 p.m. When you feel kind of jolly, you’re probably further back at 2 p.m., with a long way to go. It’s almost a double-edged sword.
2. Keep a calm head.
I’ve had many dark moments over the years; everyone has. The key is understanding these are essential for building yourself or something significant, like a business.
Nothing grows without a make-or-break moment. Understanding that challenges are part of growth gives you the calmness to handle what might normally be a very stressful time. When problems arise, assemble your dream team of experts to look at the problem and work together to find a solution.
Go after solving the problem with the same tenacity, vision and effort that you used to build yourself and the business. Then move on in a positive way.
3. Weather the storm.
I’ve experienced many failures, including once being $750,000 in debt.
- First, realize that “this too shall pass.” The tides will rise eventually.
- Then surround yourself with friends, mentors, coaches and people who tell you how it is. Be open to criticism; it’s the only way to develop.
- Build your emotional immune system. Get used to extreme highs and lows. Don’t freak out during a “low low” or overcompensate (i.e. party like it’s Friday) during a “high high.”
- Visualize your ideal day and life. Every night, I visualize my life. Every morning, I visualize my entire day in the shower for five minutes, including what I’ll say and how I’ll react. It’s super-powerful.
- By default, humans want to keep everyone around them but cut the energy vampires. Some people will never serve you, regardless of how much you serve them. They’ll suck your ideas, strength and enthusiasm when you need it most.
- Finally, don’t take yourself seriously. Always ask: “Are you doing something to impact and serve others or serve your own emotions and ego?” It’s harder to quit when people are counting on you.
4. Get over the fear.
Everyone has moments of doubt, fear and anxiety that are usually associated with a big decision: Do I keep going? What I’m doing isn’t working. What if I quit? These questions and feelings are par for the course.
Having built two successful companies in highly competitive markets, I’ve been there more than once. But these three questions have helped me and countless others:
- What’s the worst-case scenario if X happens?
- What’s the most likely scenario if I do X?
- What’s the best-case scenario if I do X?
By answering these questions, you quickly understand the “worst-case” scenario (usually death) is highly unlikely. And if the worst case is starting over, know that sometimes you need to fail a few times before you succeed. The most likely scenario is usually the one you have to accept. If you can accept it, take action.
But you’re not in this for things to be just fine. It’s important to identify the best-case scenario, for example, winning the gold medal or championship. Focus on that and go for it. That’s why you got into this game. Get over the fear and get into action.
5. Crunch your numbers.
When things start going south, detach emotionally. For example, if you’re struggling financially, examine your finances like a cold assassin.
My company needs $230,000 to $250,000 weekly revenue to break even. If revenue drops or we hit an unexpectedly slow patch, I have a worksheet of things I can cut immediately and additionally over 30 days—consultants, marketing, travel and trade shows, for example.
The next step is to grow revenue ASAP by increasing sales, revising compensation plans, negotiating every expense and contract, and only paying the essential bills. It’s not ideal, but we’ve never not paid a bill. Instead, we’ve worked with partners in creative ways to ensure survival. Do whatever it takes to stay afloat, even if you have to rework profits and losses until your brain bleeds.
Soon you’ll realize something: In every crisis, there’s opportunity. Keep your eyes peeled on the positives you can control. Maybe there’s a benefit you can leverage to your advantage; for example, a client might owe you thousands in unpaid invoices but leave you with people or inventory to work with.
There’s a lesson in growth to be found amidst all the number-crunching. Use that lesson to move yourself to the next level.
Being a cheerleader during thriving times is easy. But staying optimistic and finding small wins to celebrate during struggling periods is both vital and valuable.
Don’t pretend everything is fine. People are smart. They know when you’re not winning. In my business, we communicate strategy and team goals more than ever during tough times—holding a monthly company-wide meeting, for example. We celebrate small wins along the way and take ownership of mistakes. Finally, expect the old saying to be true: “Success has a thousand fathers, while failure is an orphan.”
7. Put things into perspective.
In our wealthy industrialized nation of tremendous freedom and privilege, we often forget that our biggest challenges are First World problems. I’ve faced many moments that were overwhelming at the time: IRS audits, legal lawsuits, negative cash flow, key employees who quit or threats of my property being seized. I certainly don’t make light of these situations; nevertheless, it’s important to realize that they’re not the end of the world.
Seventy-one percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. When I consider facts like this, it provides perspective and allows me to appreciate the challenges before me with a sense of gratitude. This levity and thankfulness has a way of leading me to empowering outcomes and solutions.
8. Use grace under pressure.
At a crossroads in life, I invested in some very expensive mastermind training. I knew that I had to either grow or go into debt, but if I was willing to do more than the guy next to me, I could make it. With a young family depending on me, I knew it was a make-or-break moment and that I had to make it, despite the risk. Having that accountability made quitting not an option—the stakes were too high.
When you have to jump into the unknown, you tend to make it. The people who don’t make it usually fail because they’ve got too much of a safety net.
9. Stay true to the vision.
Undeniable certainty in your vision and purpose is the only way you will break through those difficult, overwhelming, desperate times.
If what you see for yourself is stronger than what’s really happening out there (the outer vision), you’ll succeed. If what you say to yourself is stronger than what people are saying about you (the outer voices), you’ll overcome the difficult times.
Remember: Anything that happens to you is not in your way, it’s on your way…
The Oracles is an invitation-only brain trust comprising the world’s leading entrepreneurs who share their top advice and success strategies to help others grow their business, live a better life, and achieve success faster.