A reader sent me a message today asking if I’d write about dealing with—and I quote— the heartbreak of starting a business. Would I! And I’d start by dumping the word heartbreak. Let’s tone it down a bit and call it by its proper name, disappointment. There’s a subtle, but important difference there. Heartbreak stops us in our tracks; disappointment is a setback that invites us to rethink our plans and actions.
As the writer so aptly suggests, we do need tools for dealing with disappointment or it will get the upper hand. So let me begin with a personal experience.
After years of being self-employed, I thought I’d gotten used to dealing with the ups and downs that are part of it. Then a big project was rejected and it caught me completely by surprise. I had been calmly confident that the project would be sold and was stunned when it was turned down. My first shocked response was, “How could he be so stupid?” A couple of hours later I was enraged. I wallowed. I wept. I wanted revenge. It had been years since I’d felt so hurt and for the first twenty-four hours I felt utterly powerless.
Amazingly, within a matter of a few short days, I was on the road to recovery determined that this would merely be a delay, not a defeat. Since disappointment is sometimes part of the territory for any risk taking entrepreneur, I looked back at what I had done that helped me pass through it with such speed. The next time you receive a blow, try these proactive ideas for getting back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Allow Yourself Time to Feel Bad
There’s no point in pretending that you aren’t disappointed when you are. Cry, scream, yell if that’s what you feel like doing. Take to your bed if you’re really upset. Rant and rave. Avoid anyone who will try to cheer you up before you’re ready to be cheered. Do not remain in this state one minute longer than necessary.
Call on Trusted Friends
I let several people know that I wanted and needed sympathy. They were all wonderfully empathetic and assured me that I was terrific and my rejector was obviously a creep that didn’t deserve to work with me. They each loyally took my side and let me know that they believed that my project was valid and would find a happier home elsewhere. My spirits began to lift immediately.
I assume you realize that all of my supporters were also joyfully jobless and experienced at dealing with disappointment themselves.
Feed Your Soul
I came across a quote from Edmund Burke that fit my needs: “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skills. Our antagonist is our helper.” I tried to visualize myself thanking my rejector.
I found I didn’t have enough imagination to stretch that far, but I could visualize him (after my inevitable and very public success) slapping his forehead and saying, “How could I have been so stupid?” The very thought of that happening accelerated my recovery.
Choose Something Better
Shakti Gawain said that whenever something didn’t work out as she had planned she immediately affirmed that something better would take its place—and it usually did. I have had plenty of personal experience where my initial disappointment was overshadowed by something grander, something I would have missed if I had had my first choice.
As I began to get specific about what it would take to have an even better achievement than my initial goal, I started to relax and get excited at the new possibilities. With that in mind, another round of unexpected events began to occur. This time, however, they were more appropriate than my original plan. I even began to feel gratitude for the original disappointment.
Don’t Forget This
Imagine a novel or movie which goes like this: once upon a time, someone started a business. It was an immediate success. They lived happily ever after.
That’s a story that would be boring to read and just as boring to live.