How do you move forward after a devastating loss?

Call it what you will. Hitting the wall. Crashing into a ceiling. Having the bottom fall out from under you. It doesn’t matter what direction it comes from, failing is a painful, devastating experience. For entrepreneurs who often have their lives wrapped up personally and financially in their businesses, failure can be difficult to overcome.

On one level or another, failure is certain. Yet everyone deals with defeat differently. And some find it very hard to move on.

If you have found it tough to gain forward momentum after a reversal, what is stopping you? Here are a few ideas on what might be happening and how to get back on track.

Hitting the Books

Have you been so focused on day-to-day activities that you haven’t kept up with industry knowledge? Is there a weakness in your foundational understanding? One great idea is to go back to the books and resources that are the bedrock of your expertise. Are they still relevant? If so, re-examine them, and, like watching a great movie a second time, allow new ideas to surface. Also, if you sense those resources are no longer applicable, seek out new ones to fill the gaps.

Another way forward, especially when you have hit bottom, is to reset your goals. Working without overall personal and business objectives is like being adrift on the open sea. You might end up on a beautiful island, but you’re likelier to have wind and current leave you in the doldrums. Take the time to become very clear on where you are going and how you plan to get there.

Going it alone is a possible downfall for anyone, especially entrepreneurs used to shouldering the responsibility for their organizations. It may be time to return to a mentor, someone who inspired and taught you along the way. Don’t let fear of admitting defeat stop you from contacting an important resource. If they are a true mentor, they will have themselves tumbled down mountains and have astute observations to help you climb back up.

Give Yourself the Gift of Time

You may also have to review your time management. The only person who can give you the time you need to succeed is you. For some, that might mean cutting back on personal time-wasting habits such as social media or television bingeing. For others, it may mean making difficult decisions to create revitalizing personal time such as exercise or meditation. The Dalai Lama wakes at 3:00 am for two hours of meditation each day before his day begins. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, famously gets up at 3:45 for personal time. The idea is that taking time to rebuild and reset is absolutely essential for getting your career back on track.

Once you begin taking these steps, you will find that the setback has made you stronger and more knowledgeable. Of course, when you are down it is hard to imagine, or hear someone tell you, that it is all going to be okay. That is why it is important to begin by taking practical, steadying steps as you begin moving forward again.

 

 

Universities incentivize student and faculty on-campus entrepreneurship

Have you noticed that many innovators leave college early? Or, they begin making their groundbreaking innovations after graduation? Colleges have noted this, too.

The Morrill Act of 1862 granted land and resources for higher educational institutions focused on agricultural and technical studies. These public and land-grant colleges include leading universities focused on research, including the University of California and Pennsylvania State University. In a recently released position paper, these colleges attempt to contribute and remain engaged in a fast-paced economy.  Though their approaches are different, one element that is crucial is supporting university-based innovation and entrepreneurship.

Show Me the Money

Many schools already have policies to pay faculty or students when they make a research breakthrough that is commercialized. Yale, for instance pays 10 percent to inventors after a number of expenses are deducted. One of the main ways to spur entrepreneurial growth in universities is to evaluate these royalty split policies. University innovators are likely to hide key findings when universities take most or all of the royalties from innovations. Low or no royalties cause innovators to either leave their institution or give up their ambitions entirely. By more generously sharing revenues, universities can spur innovation and create a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit.

Similarly, entrepreneurial growth is slowed by traditional “walls” built between departments and even individual professors. One way to break down these walls is the establishment of technology transfer offices. These offices increase institutional capacity to turn discoveries into market-ready products. They can also make donors aware of university opportunities for product commercialization, startups, and venture formation. Opening communication within the entire higher educational environment— alumni, management, faculty, and students—encourages cutting edge innovation.

In response to student loan debt, another recommendation is to establish scholarships and financial aid opportunities for student innovators. This will inspire students, who are increasingly aware of the long-term negative effects of student loan debt, to stay in school and innovate. The study also proposes developing internal prizes and endowments to encourage faculty entrepreneurial education and activities. Additionally, universities can incentivize faculty innovation by connecting their accomplishments to promotion and tenure.

Incubate or Perish

Research-focused university campuses should be highly productive incubators for business development resources, according to the paper. It is imperative for universities, which house state of the art research facilities and attract the brightest students and faculty, to be engaged in entrepreneurial efforts to stay relevant and to continue to contribute to the national and global economy.

Turning a university into a makerspace, in which people with shared interests and ambitions work on innovative projects, is necessary as we step forward in the 21st century. Figuring out ways to encourage students, faculty and alumni to work together is the way to build these spaces.  

Should businesses stay out of politics?

Keeping up with the news means sometimes seeing articles about what companies have donated to, and some people taking that personally. Some vocal people say that businesses should keep their noses out of politics, but in reality, that is up for the business to decide.

Depending upon the size of the company, there are various things to consider. If it’s big enough to have shareholders, it means having to consider what they think before donating. If the company is smaller, there may not be a whole lot to donate in the first place. And even if a donation is made, it likely won’t make front page news anywhere. But in the smaller company, employees might take it more personally if business profits are given to a cause they feel strongly against.

Outside of the business, going back to the idea of current and potential customers not liking any sort of political involvement, that idea seems to mostly come from older crowds. There’s a newer idea, at least being vocalized more, that consumers are okay with businesses donating to causes that align with their ideals, because then the consumer can choose either to support that business or not.

There’s another bit of truth that businesses can’t entirely avoid politics, even if they aren’t actively donating to a cause. Business practices like deciding who to hire or what regulations are enforced more strictly than others can be seen as political statements by consumers. At that point, it becomes a matter of deciding what principals they want to back, to stand firm by those values, whether they’re called political or not.

Caucasian man standing in front of other business people in wood paneled room, giving a presentation.

The great balancing act of being a business owner has a lot of factors to it. One of the most important balances is making a business functional, and still keeping the workforce happy. With how many people it often takes to keep a business running, it also tends to mean there’s no one right answer to keeping people happy. But there are some basic ideas that business owners can try out as a starting point.

Try thinking first of what you always hated having happened at work before you became your own boss. Sometimes, less than desirable events have to happen for the sake of the business, but maybe they don’t have to be as awful. Maybe there’s easy access to refreshments when employees have to work late. Or, perhaps if employees from one department have to do work for another department that is less desirable or extends for a longer period of time than what would be expected, think of ways to show their effort is appreciated. Maybe once the special project is complete, let everyone involved have a small break. Yourself included, because being in charge isn’t easy.

As a business owner, it’s important to remember that you’re not the sole member of the team. Making an environment positive enough to bring out maximum productivity often means listening to others. It helps to encourage employees to bring problems to either a manager’s or your attention. That way they’ll likely feel more comfortable with bringing problems for consideration early on, rather than waiting for it to become intolerable. Communication in general is a great way to keep cohesion in a workplace, even if the subjects aren’t always pleasant.

There’s always something that has to be added to the mix of keeping a functioning and thriving workplace. Ask what your employees think, and try some new things. The next best idea may just be waiting for someone to speak up.

Business woman standing on log that's breaking- The Most Valuable Lessons CEOs Can Learn From Failure

Being a CEO isn’t an easy job; as the highest ranking executive in a company, they have to wear many hats at once. A CEO may spend their day handling employee concerns, managing the executive team, developing company strategy, and making major corporate decisions. With so much responsibility, it’s little wonder that some of them may worry about failure — there’s a lot riding on their shoulders! The good news is everyone fails sometimes, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the most successful CEOs have experienced failure and proven that there are lessons to learn from it.

1. Embrace Failure as an Innovation Tool

Striving for perfection prevents risk-taking, and often risks are needed to make a business stand out from the crowd. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has had a number of failures over the years (the Fire Phone, Amazon Destinations, and Amazon Auctions) and has joked that failure feels like “a root canal without anesthesia.” Despite this, he’s learned to embrace failure as a tool to create successful endeavors. “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon,” he’s said. “If you decide you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table.” Some of Bezos’s experiments have become huge successes, such as Prime, Marketplace, and Amazon Web Services; Amazon Web Services alone brought in over $5.4 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2018.

2. Learning From Your Mistakes Can Be More Valuable Than Success

It’s not enough to embrace your failures; you have to be able to learn from them. Failure can teach you a lot about how to improve an idea or give you valuable hindsight. Bill Gates, principal founder of Microsoft and former CEO, has had many pitfalls over the years that he was able to learn from. From his ill-fated first company Traf-O-Data to his failure to recognize internet opportunities, Gates has been candid about some of the lessons he’s learned from failures. While discussing how Microsoft missed the boat when they failed to develop a search engine, he said, “success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” He’s also admitted that Microsoft made missteps in the mobile arena. As Gates has said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

 3. Don’t Give Up

Persistence can pay off. Elon Musk, entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX, has had repeated failures over the years. One of those failures that turned to success is SpaceX. He founded SpaceX in 2002, with the purpose of less expensive transportation to space, and had nothing but a string of roadblocks. At the start of the company’s launch, they had trouble hiring anyone who had experience building rockets. Musk has said, “And the reason that I ended up being the chief engineer or chief designer, was not because I want to, it’s because I couldn’t hire anyone. Nobody good would join. So I ended up being that by default.” The first three launches failed, and the company almost went bankrupt. Having only enough money for one more launch, they tried again, to great success; not only did the rocket launch, the company received a $1.6 billion contract from NASA. “Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up,” Musk stated. “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

Radical Vulnerability: Small surfer on a giant wave

What is vulnerability? Though it can mean different things to different people, it essentially comes down to being brave enough to be yourself. And that means being your whole self, including weaknesses and strengths. All the energy you spend projecting an image of strength and invulnerability becomes a mask that insulates you from the real world.

If you are an entrepreneur, you don’t want anything getting between you and the real world. That’s where all the solutions are.

The Emotional Impact of Being Authentic

Being authentic is what helps you connect emotionally with your team. Truth and authenticity are at the foundation of vulnerability. If you show your team your humanity, your genuine heart, they will know that you trust yourself and that they can trust the organization.  

One way to do this is to illuminate your flaws rather than try to hide them away. Be willing to admit mistakes. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and be willing to get support where you need it. This means, instead of projecting confidence, being confident enough to be uncomfortable.

It also means having the ability to be self-aware. Often, the people and situations that bother you the most, the ones that really electrify the negative feedback loop in your brain with repetitive thinking, are places you need the most work. For example, maybe you label someone as a bullshitter. That person really bugs you, and you hate doing business with him. If you look inside, maybe you will see there is a part of yourself that is willing to be less than honest in certain high pressure situations. Maybe you’re the bullshitter! If you take steps to deal with that then you won’t have to plug in and give energy to every dishonest person you run into.

Shame Is an Organizational Virus

When you are willing to look at your own flaws, your team can admit their own mistakes. Everyone makes errors. Why not let them live in the open where they can be learned from? Shame is a terrible organizational virus that mutes voices, making team members less bold and less able to suggest big ideas.

Of course, you work in a demanding environment, and being vulnerable and willing to accept who you truly are does not mean you are willing to accept mediocrity. In fact, it’s the opposite. When you challenge yourself and your team to be fully vulnerable and driven while building solutions for clients, you build an organization that has the best chance of dynamically moving forward. Being a radically vulnerable leader is the optimal strategy to becoming a successful business leader.

Four photos show a woman reading, a mother hugging her child, a successful business meeting and a man working out. These are all ways to connect the dots.

Fortune magazine released their 40 Under 40 list recently with a diverse list ranging in race, gender, nationality, and industry. Notable influencers that were given the honor include filmmakers like Jordan Peele, who was the first black screenwriter to win an Oscar in the screenplay category in 2018, and Executives like Dhivya Suryadevara, 39, who was the first female Chief Financial Officer of GM. What makes these visionaries amazing isn’t their skin color or gender. Instead, they are being celebrated for the obstacles they have had to overcome. Below is wisdom from another thought leader, who has empowered over 50 million people from 100 countries through his work. Tony Robbins has a roadmap to almost every subject area relevant to CEOs, artists, executives, and more. Below are pieces of advice from Tony that could help inspire you to become as influential as Jordan Peele or Dhivya Suryadevara in your circles.

Take Care of Your Body and Mind

Tony recommends reading 30 minutes a day to boost mental growth. But he doesn’t suggest reading only your favorite graphic novel or romantic fiction. Instead, he wants you to read something that will make you think critically. In his own words, “Scrolling through social media doesn’t count.”

Don’t just exercise your brain. Get your heart pumping, too! He suggests, at a minimum, exercising 5 days a week with your heart racing for 10 minutes. What you do to get your body moving is up to you, and be sure to consult with a doctor if you have any health concerns. Combining physical and mental exercise will go hand in hand in your personal development.

Expand Your Sphere

You may find yourself tempted to lower your self-worth by associating with people you think are at your level or lower because they are comfortable to you. But this won’t help you grow. Find people who have what you want, and associate with them. It’s up to you whether this means a casual “hello” and slowly building up to more small talk, or straight up asking them for their advice on your mutual fields. As Tony says, “if you play someone at your level or below, you never stretch yourself. No stretch, no improvement….Yes, staying in an environment where you feel like you’re not good enough can be tough, but hold on – it’ll pay off in the long run.”

In Giving We Receive

Try to help someone every week for 2–3 minutes, or break it into 10 minutes per month. It’s that simple. Tony recommends providing food, conversation, or your problem-solving skills. You could also try to be kind when you’re stuck in traffic. For example, let cars into your lane when they need to change lanes. Or return the grocery cart for the elderly person who cannot return it. Tony’s “secret to living is giving. It’s truly the secret for how to feel happy.”

The power of now when overwhelmed in business and life

At some point or another, most people have felt completely overwhelmed in their business and personal lives. It is completely normal and human to feel disoriented and completely alone in the face of a setback, yet it remains uniquely devastating for each individual who faces failure and loss. Even though you know everyone goes through similar challenges, for you it is happening on a grand stage and is monumental in scope and duration.

It will not take much imagination to think back to a time you felt this way. For most people, it is something that can be recalled in vivid detail, as if a camera has recorded every nuance of light and language. Though it can’t possibly be true, it seems like it often happens on a dark, rainy day. Or maybe that’s just how the soul feels.

Taking Personal Inventory

There are, of course, dozens of ways to respond to business and personal destruction and trauma. One imperative step to take is to take a personal inventory. Where has your energy been leading up to the failure? Have you been grasping at things you can’t change such as rethinking the past or putting all your energy into some future hope or goal? Maybe you are not being present enough in your business efforts or your personal relationships? Maybe both.

Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” talks about committing to the present moment, to spend less time looking back and projecting forward. The author urges you to commit to the moment that is in front of you.

For those in business, there are opportunities lost by not being present. Every time you are lost in a past conversation or challenge other than the one that is right in front of you, there is a possibility you are going to miss something important. You need to have keen, piercing vision, and every single piece of missed information, or dropped data, is going to weaken your vision. Anything that goes unseen might just make it impossible to succeed.

Getting punched in the face is part of what happens when you take on big challenges, but you would never walk into a boxing ring thinking about your last failure. You have to be totally present and alive to see the punches coming in order to know when to defend and when to strike.

What Does It Mean To Be a Human Being?

Think about what it means to be a human being. You come into this world naked with nothing, and you leave it the same way. Tolle says the secret of life is to “die before you die.” 

It is imperative to become aware of who you are in any given moment. You have to awaken to your subconscious responses to any given situation, and then to let go of them. When you become aware of your emotional responses, you acknowledge them without letting them make decisions for you. You miss critical things when you don’t.

“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place,” says Tolle. Even if it is raining outside, it doesn’t have to cloud your mind, your soul and your decisions.

The way to be a true entrepreneur is to be open, honest, and vulnerable in the moment right in front of you. Energized, aware, and alive, you live in the moment, in the now. Then, all of your personal and business growth can happen organically, steadily and slowly from that place.

So be humble and open to learning every day. Surround yourself with people willing to be challenged, who are authentic and open and alive. And build ways to make the lives of your clients, employees, friends, and family better. Step into the now.

Labor day celebrates workers end of summer

For most Americans, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. Parents send their kids back to school and stow the camping gear away. Everyone knows that autumn is on the way.


But Labor Day, the first Monday in September, was not a three day weekend when President Grover Cleveland signed the holiday into law in 1894. It marked the culmination of a contentious, blood stained struggle between a railroad owner and his unionized employees.

The Pullman Strike

Though the history is somewhat unclear, it appears Americans first celebrated Labor Day in New York City in 1882. Workers held a parade, of sorts, marching through lower Manhattan along Broadway. Two hundred members of the Jewelers Union started a trickle that became a deluge of between 10,000 and 20,000 working men and women. They marched to Reservoir Park. Instead of going back to work, as planned, they proceeded to have a party. Reservoir Park overflowed with 25,000 people and “beer kegs mounted in every conceivable place.”

By the end of the decade, nine states had joined the party and established Labor Day as a celebration of the working class. Unfortunately, a  disastrous economic depression hit the country in 1890, hitting the Pullman Company, maker of luxurious rail cars, as hard as anyone. Pullman lowered the wages it paid its workers by 30 percent.

According a recent Business Insider article, the workers lived in company-owned buildings, and shopped at company-owned stores. Industrialist George Pullman felt like he gave his workers a sanitary, safe place to live and would not, despite the pay reduction, lower the rent or decrease the prices of goods in his stores. This incensed the workers.

In May of 1894, the workers went on strike and, though it appears that the public was moved in sympathy of the strikers, Pullman was not. Instead of meeting to negotiate, he hired strikebreakers. The strike spread to include all Chicago trains, virtually stopping train traffic. The government sent in soldiers and the violence escalated. The final toll: millions of dollars in damage and 30 lives lost.

Cleveland crushes strike, celebrates Labor Day

President Cleveland “signed the bill into law just days after federal troops brought down the bloody Pullman strike.” It may have been a public relations move meant to appease Cleveland’s constituents. Cleveland, a Democrat, was supposedly a representative of labor. According to many, he badly mishandled the situation by authorizing federal military action that made the violent struggle bloodier.

As you can see, at first Labor Day was a party. Then it was a bloody struggle. And, finally, now, it is the muted last fling of summer, a day with a great deal of history but little fanfare.