I felt like Christian Bale’s Batman when he is in the hole of a prison, “The Pit”. My world was falling apart and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
I was defeated.
Gotham wasn’t at stake in my case, it was just me and a few scraped together hopes and dreams.
I was emotionally wrecked and my inner critic was having a field day. I was drowning in guilt. My relationship was on the edge, my business was in the gutter and I was going to have to go back to the 9–5 cubicle life.
I was in my black pit of a prison.
Batman had a clear goal in mind — heal, crawl out, save the city (and later disappear into obscurity). But first he had toface a universal truth: If you don’t take care of yourself, you leave nothing for anyone else.
I didn’t plan on saving the city (saving myself would be good enough) and I only had the vaguest idea of how that would work. But I had to start in the same place.
So I started.
These are the tactics that took 20% of effort that got me 80% of my results. If you are feeling overwhelmed, just choose one of those tactics and practice it.
5 + 1 Step Formula for Climbing out of “The Pit”
1. Quit & Feel Crappy.
You need to quit your dreams. Not forever, but take some time to look after yourself.
It is going to feel bad, like you are back-tracking, like you are a big failure. But you probably already feel horrible with your failing business/blog/project/relationship/idea. Admitting defeat puts you out of your misery quicker and gets you on the path to feeling strong and capable again.
The one thing I did that made the biggest difference: I got a job. In my spare-time, I had fun instead of worrying about my business.
The first step to getting over failure is admitting defeat and then taking time to let it pass through you. If you don’t take a step away, then you are slowly going to chip away at your energy, resources and relationships until there is nothing left.You need to take the time to reflect or risk making the same mistakes again and again.
I picked up squash, rock-climbing and gave myself 6 months to recover financially and emotionally before thinking about it again.
Quit. Give yourself some time to feel absolutely crappy. Take care of yourself. Then get busy with things that make you feel good.
2. Get A Handle On Your Emotions
Your emotions will run away with you. It is important to understand them and not be tossed about by them for too long.
The 20% of effort that made the biggest difference : changing my vocabulary.
IE — I am frustrated vs. I feel frustrated.
These statements are often used interchangeably but have very different meanings.
When I feel frustrated, frustration is an emotion that arises from an experience. It is a physical sensation like hunger or pain and directed towards some kind of object (real or imaginary). Feelings can be managed. Feeling Hungry? Eat something.
Feelings are transient and you have some measure of control over them.
But when I am frustrated, frustration is no longer an emotion, it is a trait. It is not a feeling or mood. It has become a part of your disposition and entwined with your character.
Traits are a part of who you are and define your behaviour.
When you feel something instead of becoming something you can control it instead of it controlling you. Changing your vocabulary signals to your mind that you can decide what your reaction will be and change your environment to manage your emotions.
Resource: Although it can be a bit challenging to get into, I would advise exploring Neel Burton’s work on the subject Heaven & Hell: The Psychology of Emotions. His ability to sum up an emotion in a succinct sentence is powerful. It gives you insight into what emotions you are feeling (digs down into 29 different emotions) and gives you the words to speak about them.
3. Start Taking Responsibility
We fail because of actions we take (or don’t take). It wasn’t because this online course sucked or someone didn’t help when needed. There is no one to blame but yourself.
It is easy to say that ‘I am responsible for my actions’ or that ‘it is important to take responsibility’, but what does that mean? We can quickly point out when someone else doesn’t do their part (IE — getting stuck with the check at the end of the night). But how do you know if you are carrying your own weight?
Someone introduced me to an interesting mind-hack that helped me understand this space better.
The best 20% of my effort resided inside of 6 words: What if everything was my fault?
With this one little sentence I was able to start really looking at my fails and foibles and what went wrong objectively. The “what if” portion gave me enough distance from the problem to prevent my inner critic from waking up and I was able to grasp what taking responsibility really meant.
Take back your power. Once you start owning your decisions then you are empowered to fix it. Taking responsibility is the tool for detecting the best way for to fix the problem.
4. Use Gratitude.
After I was able to get control of myself and look objectively at the past, it was time to start looking forward. Learning to practice gratitude gave me a better perspective on the past and more hope for the future.
Gratitude shifts the focus from “I just got beat up in the ring” to “I had the opportunity to try and learned this valuable lesson when I did”. Beyond changing perspective on past events, it creates an abundance mindset by bringing your awareness to the present. When you are present you can begin seeing opportunities that you can capitalize on.
I struggled with cultivating gratitude again in my life for a long time. In the end it was something that seemed unrelated that actually led to gratitude blossoming in my life. Something I stumbled across quite by accident.
I started learning more about love, namely practicing self-love.
Suddenly I was able to look at my life more objectively than ever and from a place of peace, understanding and compassion. The result was I was more present, more in awe and more grateful then I ever had been… and it was easy.
I used a simple hack to make self-love a habit: I repeated “I love myself” over and over again in my head like a broken record. I practiced feeling the words until I believed it and then I continued to say it again and again.
You can’t be in awe of the world and grateful for your place in it, if you can’t see it in yourself first. Spend time learning to love yourself and from that place look out and see the opportunity around you.
Resources: Read Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant. The tactic I used comes directly from his very short and inexpensive book. Everything he covers can be implemented in your life immediately and with amazing results.
5. Develop Your Lever Skills
I knew when I restarted my blog that I was still not going to know anything about the technical aspects of building websites. It was only a matter of time before these skills would become pain points for me and potentially make me freeze on the project again.
I couldn’t learn every single skill I would need before I starting my project. So I focused on the skills that I could leverage for the biggest gains or “lever skills”. This is the embodiment of the 80/20 principle or Pareto’s Principle.
Figure out which “Lever Skills” to obtain and then practice them thoughtfully with your goal in mind.
In my case I knew I needed some kind of basic technical knowledge so that I could ‘speak the language’. I needed to learn quickly so that I could maintain momentum and not become discouraged.
Do not avoid the things that brought you the most pain the first time. Hone in on these things, deconstruct the skillset and practice. Make learning a new skill a catalyst for your project and a means to build momentum.
Resources: For more detail on how to identify key skills and learn them fast I highly recommend Joshua Kaufman’s The First 20 Hours — How to learn anything Fast.
+1%. Get Back In The Ring
I couldn’t let everything that I had learned when I failed the first time go to waste. With time and perspective I understood what it would take to get my blog launched.
When the pressure was off for a few months. I started feeling recharged and excited at the prospect of entrepreneurship again in a whole new way. I wasn’t going to quit my job and I wasn’t going to start off trying to make money. I was going to start with learning the basic skills and I was going to start with a blog.
The 20% effort that got me the best results: I focused on getting 1% better a day.
I felt bruised when I started again — so I went SLOW. It wasn’t an all or nothing moment — I built my momentum incrementally and learn to trust the process.
It provided a way for me to get my idea and project off the shelf before I was “ready”.
Be gentle on yourself to start. Choose one aspect, in one corner of your life, add that 1% for the day, then do a happy dance. Celebrate getting started again with the little things that start building momentum.
Resources: James Altucher turned me onto this “Daily Practice” first through his blog and later when I invested in his bookChoose Yourself.
That’s all folks!
These were the 5 steps + the 1% that got me back in the ring after the failure of my business and my blog.
Incremental improvement happened over months and there was no magic switch that got life back on track again.
Big failures take time to recover from. But that time can be shortened with practice. And the shorter that time, the quicker you can get back to pursuing big dreams.
It took me almost a year between admitting defeat and pressing publish on my blog again. Hopefully it won’t take you as long.
Have you been through this? Let me know. And if you enjoyed it, click the recommend button below. It would mean a lot.
This story was originally published on Deconstructing Sucking Blog. You can sign up for the monthly(ish) newsletter and get practical advice on how to hack failure, figure out success and drive towards your goals delivered right to your inbox.