Navigating the setbacks

The entrepreneurial journey is like swimming in the ocean during a storm. Your world is often flipped upside down. There are extreme highs followed by extreme lows and you’re constantly having to iterate and adapt if you’re going to continue navigating the ups and downs without drowning. Bootstrapping amplifies everything by at least 10x. The minor setbacks are commonplace and get easier as you go. The major setbacks though — the big ones that completely derail your plan A and force you to re-work your entire direction — and how you choose to handle those situations when they arise (and they are pretty much guaranteed to pop up unexpectedly) are what really let you know whether you have the entrepreneurial DNA and the right north star that it takes to be successful. The process of building a company teaches you which things are really important.

Compartmentalization. To be honest, I don’t know if this is actually a good thing from a psychiatric perspective, and I know some people that I just don’t think are capable of this, but it seems to have helped me significantly along the way. I typically deal with my personal or professional problems when they come unexpectedly by compartmentalizing them and not allowing my emotions to override my actions. I have the ability to put my feelings in a box and continue with my day if necessary until I’m able to deal with them. Now don’t get me wrong, if I don’t deal with them they will all add up and I’ll crash and burn. When some unexpected curve-ball punches you in the face and you decide to put something aside for the moment, be sure to make time as soon as possible to come back and actually do something about it. If it was a big enough problem to shake you up, chances are lack of action will be doing more damage. Once you’re ready, solve it.

Check yourself before you wreck your company. First thing you need to do is figure out what went wrong, what was the root cause, and steps you are going to take to ensure you don’t repeat the same mistakes. If you’re the CEO, never ever ever allow yourself to blame others for what happened. The buck stops with you. It is your company and you are responsible for every team member that’s a part of it and every bit of effort that any of them put toward building your vision. Accept that any failures are ultimately your job to prevent and resolve, often stemming from lack communication. Quickly resolve them, and get back to building your business.

Find the opportunity. Everything you run into is either going to be the thing that killed you or the thing you overcame to grow and get to the next level. It’s your choice. You can either find the opportunity and use that failure to spring forward, addressing the issues that slowed you down so that you can now move faster, or you can give up. Negativity or self-pity will destroy you. Never fall prey to this. Ever. Period. Always use every failure to your advantage. If you do, the more you fail the better you’ll be lining yourself up for future success. Then it’s just a numbers game: how many swings will it take you to hit a home run? By the way, you have as many “at bats” as you’re willing to take.

Never stop moving. The faster you’re moving, the quicker you can get past the down points and back to the progress and evolution that every true entrepreneur lives for. If you get tripped up, quickly make sure the important things you’re doing right are still on track, then try to determine the top 3 things that are holding you back or slowing you down. Fix them and then re-evaluate to determine the next 3. If something keeps showing up on your list, you definitely need to do a root cause analysis and look for more creative solutions. Very often, previous solutions didn’t fix it because you’re looking at a symptom instead of the real problem that needs addressing. Talk to other people if you’re struggling to find creative solutions, be resourceful, gather the data, and adapt.

Care. This is by far the biggest thing that keeps me from getting derailed completely and gets me back to running and pushing ahead. When I’m at the roughest points, I look to the people that I have with me. Care about solving important problems for the few customers you do have. Care about your team and their hopes, dreams, and progression. Care about how you get there and the path you take. Care about your legacy and the impact you will leave. Care about yourself and what you really want long-term. Care about the price you’re willing to pay to get there, and know that if you really want it bad enough, it’s worth it.

Get back to hustling. At the end of the day, building a successful company is a climb, and you never really know when you’re going to finally have that break-through that gets you there. As long as you’re hustling your face off every day, pushing to gain as much ground as possible, it’s just a matter of time. Make progress every day on the things that will get you closer to your goal. Put in the work. Effort is the great equalizer.

That’s what works for me. Thanks for reading. If you have any other things that have helped you a long the way, leave a comment. I’m very interested to hear what works for others.