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 Also, if you sense those resources are no longer applicable, seek out new ones to fill the gaps.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.

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.

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.

Sleep is good for everyone, CEO and baby too

Brandon Frere famously made himself a promise that when he ran his own business he would never set an alarm clock. How did he know that getting enough sleep was a wholly rational decision that was both good for him, and—because he is responsible for hundreds of employees and thousands of clients—good for those around him?

Feeling Lonely and Isolated? Take a Nap

Recent research from UC Berkeley shows that sleep deprived people feel lonelier and less inclined to social engagement. Unrested people live with the same sort of isolation as those with social anxiety. Even worse, well-rested people feel lonely after a brief encounter with a sleep deprived person. This creates a sort of social isolating virus that infects wider and wider circles.

Another study by the Rand Corporation quantified the loss to the American economy due to sleep deprivation at $411 billion per year. This is counted in terms of 1.23 million lost working days. Only Japan has worse per capita numbers. Even more serious, those who slept less than six hours per night were 10 percent more likely to die than those who slept between seven and nine hours.

There are many reasons why some people sleep less than others:

  • Age: Brain function responsible for regulating sleep begins to decline as early as 35 years of age
  • Genetics: A gene called “CRY1” regulates circadian rhythms. One variation of it causes longer circadian cycles, leading to less sleep
  • Career: Night and swing shifts are extremely harmful to healthy rest
  • Weekends: Sleeping late on the weekend can cause disrupted sleeping the rest of the week.
  • Relationships: Those in committed relationships are 20 percent more likely than single people to sleep seven hours or more per night.
  • Education: The higher level of educational attainment, the more you sleep. Over 70 percent of those with a college degree or higher sleep at least seven hours per night.

Why We Sleep

In Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, neuroscientist Matt Walker argues that lack of sleep takes a toll on everyone, from military fighters and first responders to airline pilots and truckers. It is also associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, obesity, stroke, chronic pain, diabetes, heart attacks and more.

As a sleep consultant to the NFL, NBA, and numerous Fortune 500 enterprises, Walker is certain of the links between a good night’s sleep and optimal performance, on the playing field and in the conference room.

All of these studies seem to point to something that Frere knows intuitively: that allowing the body to get the sleep it needs is essential to how we operate and interact in the world, that a good night of sleep is one of the healthiest therapies we can give ourselves.

Sleeping until your body says it’s time to wake up is good for the body and good for business. It also saves you all that time hitting the snooze button.

ikigai concept to show purpose

Many entrepreneurs want to find their work’s purpose but don’t know how to describe it. The concept of ikigai, may be an elegant way of expressing what people look for when they want “purpose.” Ikigai can also be used as a planning tool to find the motivations of different goals or entire businesses. Ikigai is composed of four questions, are you doing what you love? Are you doing what the world needs? Are you doing what you can be paid for? Are you doing what you are good at?

What You Love

An entrepreneur may want to start at the top of the circle and consider what they love to do. Entrepreneurs don’t need to produce something that is loved, but the act of producing should be something they are passionate about. If a person is doing something that they love then they may be able to take on harder challenges. The more an entrepreneur cares about the business, the more they’ll be able to learn and persevere from those challenges. When work isn’t so trying, passion can make every day a little better.

What the World Needs

Fulfilling customer needs is at the heart of a business, but fulfilling employee, and personal needs are just as important. When a business tries to fulfill a need, It needs to make a strong argument on how it fills that need. Once an argument is strong, it should be obvious. Discovering how to make a business strong and obvious may reveal ways that the business can be improved. When a business is stronger and more obvious it is more likely it will fulfill the need it was created for.

What You Can Be Paid For

After being certain a business fills a need, an entrepreneur should sure people cares enough to buy what their business is selling. Money is a necessary system at the heart of a business, and most businesses won’t function without a good monetary plan. If someone loves the business but isn’t willing to pay, then the business may not be worth pursuing. Some turn their business into a hobby until it can make money. By using a little creativity, most endeavors can find a market.

What You Are Good At

Finally, a person should do what they are confident in doing. This shouldn’t stop someone from trying new things. It may be wise for an entrepreneur to perform tasks that are outside of their comfort zone. An entrepreneur may want to spend more time measuring whether a new task is possible, and deciding what skills are required. By measuring, it becomes possible to find out just how good a person needs to be to solve difficult tasks. If an entrepreneur needs to try something they are bad at but gets better through attempting the challenge, then that may be best of all.

Thinking with ikigai may be a good way to measure a business’ emotional value. By thinking with ikigai entrepreneurs may be able to figure out what causes people to care about their work.

Small businesses might not be as small as you think.

A business may feel large or small, depending on factors like building size, customer to employee ratios, and so on. Actually being defined as a small business in a legal sense, though, has more defined parameters. Deciding to stay a small business or working toward growing into a big business — that all comes down to the personal choice of a business owner.

The legal definition of a small business would likely surprise many readers. A business that has $7 million in annual generated revenue and 500 employees, depending on the industry, could still count as a small business. The numbers can go even higher for industries such as railroads and certain food services. When talking about small business, that’s not going to be what the average person thinks of. Most often, they’re imaging a small store with an employee count that doesn’t hit double digits and brings in a moderate amount of money. A business owner might have a different perspective on these numbers, but for the 95 percent of business owners that make up small businesses, they might still seem odd.

However, when thinking about how large certain businesses and industries are in America, those businesses can certainly seem small in comparison. Wal-Mart Stores was reported to have generated over $350 million in revenue; a big enough difference to bring to light what kind of scale is in effect here.

Growing to become a big business may take much more time and effort than a business owner was originally anticipating. But for some, the challenge may be worth it. For others, the business may expand over time, but the owner will have no problem remaining in the rather large parameters of a small business.