Dealing With Setbacks
Last Friday my business took what looked like a major, blindside hit. Revenue dropped about 30% overnight, mostly due to loss of search traffic on dozens of Internet properties. 30% is a manageable but substantial amount. The whole thing feels sort of like being up 35-14 in the early 4th quarter and giving up a touchdown to move the score to 35-21. Still a strong lead in the game. But also a swing in momentum… a leaky defense that failed to get the necessary stop to seal the game.
The setback wasn’t so much the drop in revenue. It was the feeling of uncertainty: what happened? how can we fix it? how can we turn things around? are things going to get worse? are we doing everything wrong? do we need to change paradigms? change growth strategies? pursue different tactics?
The feeling of uncertainty in life… of not quite knowing what to do… of feeling helpless… is perhaps the worst feeling a person can experience. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that it’s this very feeling of helplessness that magnifies our sadness at the loss of a loved one. In that case, we quite literally can do nothing to change reality. There is no course of action to bring back the loved one. Our only option is to mourn and then move forward with our own lives.
Back to my current business setback… the nice thing is that in my line of business, which depends a lot on Internet dynamics, it is often the case that when one person or business faces a setback, others are experiencing the same thing, for the same reasons. So pretty quickly there is a meeting of minds… an establishment of theory… a general understanding of the issues. And the collective development of options for an action plan. Of course, everyone responds differently to the same information. Some go into defense mode and exert all their energy trying to put out fires. Others let the house burn down and start building a new one immediately. I tend to put the majority of effort into positive production (build new stuff) so long as I have a plan that makes sense of the situation, and use any extra time trying to fix the things that are broken, but with minimal expectation.
I think the key to dealing with any setback in life is to deal with it aggressively by following a positive, sustainable action plan that’s grounded in reality. To keep moving forward. To be driven by a vision. To establish a response plan that you believe in, and then start acting on it.
The worst thing to do in the face of setbacks is to withdraw into the self. To surrender to circumstances. To become depressed. To become inactive. To become paralyzed.
Several readers of PhaseFrame have written to me indicating that they are on the verge of divorce. Or that they are stuck in marriages where there is no passion. In both of these instances, the best advice I can give is to not settle. Fight for what you want in life and be willing to let go of the things that are broken beyond repair. Don’t let yourself sink into the bottomless pit of trying to save something that is unsalvable. Don’t run in place. You’ll burn yourself out. Know what you want. Develop a positive action plan. Have real, viable options. Do what you can do to change the situation. Be driven by a long term vision. And start doing the little things that you need to get there.
When the house burns down, you don’t sit in the ashes hoping the house will rebuild itself. You start building a new house.