Ok, so it’s been a while, I know. Some of you may have even missed me!
These past few months have been grueling, as you will soon understand. Not that I’m making excuses or anything, but this blog was something I started to do as an outlet for my creativity and to call people out on their bullshit, as well as a desire to help whoever will listen to what I have to say. And while, for the most part, I would tout my ability to balance work and home and the stress of life, these past few months have tested my resolve for anything and everything.
While no one thing has been more than a typical business owner should be able to manage, it was the onslaught of obstacle after obstacle which brought the rest of my life to a screeching halt. If there is one thing I have learned about business, it is that when the shit hits the fan you have to pay attention to it. Take all the time you need to assess the damage of the situation, plan for clean-up and disposal, resolve any logistical issues which may prevent a positive outcome, put the plan in motion, and then monitor constantly for hiccups and deviations.
But more than any of that you know what the most important thing is for the business owner to do? To determine the real shit from the bull-shit, and to ultimately learn to let some shit go.
Some things you can control, others you can’t. The difference between successfully navigating the mine-field of business and getting your ass kicked is being able to discern the difference: to fight hard and fast when you can, and to swallow the changes as a lesson in patience and understanding when you can’t.
Since my last posting almost five months ago:
- I’ve had the building I have built a million dollar clinic with put up for sale as “will build to suit,”
- hired a full time employee to replace some of what I do,
- combined my business with another partner effectively giving up my personal income and development in hopes of growing something larger,
- and discovered that I am months from officially becoming a grandfather.
All of this led me to some sort of crisis of faith. Not a faith of ethereal, soul-bending ideals, mind you, but in believing in myself.
Trust me… if ever I’ve felt like I was stuck in a foxhole without a grenade, much less an exit strategy, this was it.
So if any of you ever find yourself faced with multiple challenges, a burdensome dilemma, or just too much shit on your plate, here is how I faced it all, escaped from my pit, and am back on track.
Eric’s Five Steps for Getting Out of the Trenches Alive and Intact
Step one: write it all down.
I don’t care how great your brain is, when you’re knee deep in grenade pins you’re going to start losing sight of all the facts. Write it all down; every bit of what’s bothering you and disturbing your calm, whether it is just a stressor in your life or something on your to-do list. You may surprise yourself as your list grows from “my building is up for sale” to “I’m not focusing on the prize anymore.”
Until you know all of the details of what might be harshing your buzz it will be very difficult to make a plan of attack.
Up until a week ago the top three things on my initial list were:
- My building is for sale
- Write something for EricSays
- Need marketing material that grabs people
Step two: separate and segregate.
Now that you have everything where you can manage it, the next most important step is to determine a couple of key factors:
- Want versus need; I consider this the best first pass through the list because most times it is very easy to make this decision. You may want a new refrigerator but you need tires on your car, for example. For my list, I put a plus sign (+) by everything I considered a want, and an asterisk (*) by things I felt were a need.
- Legal versus financial obligations; Going back through my list I decided to re-evaluate each line based on either a financial or legal requirement. For instance, things like file paperwork with the State would be a “legal requirement”, while something like drop off rent check would fall under “financial burden”. For this step I chose to mark my to-do list with ‘L’ for legal, and ‘F’ for financial. There may be some items, such as make tax payment, that you will want marked with both an F and L!
- Urgent versus non-urgent; Finally, before going on to the next step it is crucial that you determine anything on your list that is due right now, tomorrow, this week, sometime in the future, or has no deadline whatsoever. I decided to mark my list with the numbers 1-4 to indicate time sensitivity as follows:
- get it done by tomorrow,
- this needs to be done ASAFP,
- focus on this the moment you have time,
- some time in the future you will need to do this
Once the list is appropriately marked up, it’s time to move on to rule number three.
Step three: organize and prioritize.
It’s time to clean up your work space. Looking back over the mess you just made you will determine that there are a few things that don’t belong here anymore. For me it was interesting to note that while my top two stressors for the past months has been the eminent sale and destruction of my building and what to say about it, they were not high on my list of shit that I need to be worrying about.
In order to focus on the key, most important and pressing stressors and tasks I decided to re-write my lists. In other words, I organized and prioritized.
- List one: anything that contained an asterisk (*), and the number one (1).
- List two: anything that was marked with either a plus (+) or asterisk (*), and the numbers two (2) and three (3).
- List three: anything that I decided was purely a want (+), had no legal or financial markings, and the number 4.
Notice that I left the F and L markings alone in my determination of which page to place things on? I did this because I feel equally about both of these items. They are both the same priority level for me, and so I decided to use them on each of my pages to help prioritize which things I would address first, but not which things were of a more time sensitive or need basis.
Step four: take action.
Now that you have your priorities straight it’s time to do something about it. Set aside lists two and three and focus on number one. This is what is bothering you the most and has to get done right now.
Much of taking action can be addressed by you yourself, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family, and co-workers. If you’re the boss, don’t hesitate to delegate some of this crap to someone else, but always be aware that ultimately it is your responsibility to make sure it is done, done right, and done on time.
If something on your list is bigger than a bread-box, like maybe your website blows monkey ass and you just have to get one overnight – hire someone. There is a time and a place to do things yourself. The rest of the time you’ll end up saving valuable time and possibly some money by hiring a professional.
Whatever you do, take action. Take that first list and start tackling your issues head on. As you master each hurdle make sure to scratch it out nice and deep… let it know that you just kicked its ass and feel awesome about it!
Once you smash through your first list, the things that are of the most importance, you can either move straight on to list number two, or go through the exercise over again. You may once again be surprised what starts out at the top of your initial list!
Step five: learn to let some shit go.
Finally, let’s take a moment to talk about list three here. Remember that this is the list which contained nothing of priority, was more of a want than a need, and really had no financial or legal obligation. You know what this list is? It’s the shit that’s been weighing you down!
My third list had two things on it:
- My building is for sale
- Write something for EricSays
And you know what I’ve done with this list? I set it on fire!
This is NOT on my priority spectrum. None one of the items here are anything I should be stressing or worrying about. Yet oddly enough they were the things occupying the predominance of my time. I mulled, worried, and stressed. I’ve slept for shit, lost my focus, and stopped believing in myself all because of something that I could not control, had zero impact on my life, and came along with only self-imposed deadlines.
In other words, I did this to myself. I’ve been out of the game for a while and my health has suffered because of it. My blood pressure has been through the roof, my pulse shot to 102 when walking into my office, and to be honest nothing has been fun for a while.
And then I made my lists. Suddenly I don’t feel so overwhelmed. For the first time in months I can take a full breath and don’t feel the weight of the world crushing down upon me… and all because I finally let the bullshit go.
In closing: Throughout this post I had full intentions of posting the pictures of the actual lists that I was working with. And even though I know I am both human and fallible, very few people know much about the real me… who I am at home, in quiet moments, and with my closest friends. I don’t mind telling you that stupid shit stresses me out, but to share the absolute intimacy and details of that part of life, well, that takes more soul bearing than I think anyone out there would be willing to undergo. But know that I thought about it.
So now tell me… what was the highest thing on your list before? And is it still there now?