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 Also, if you sense those resources are no longer applicable, seek out new ones to fill the gaps.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

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.

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.

We are what we do - Aristotle quote on a slate blackboard against red barn wood - building habits for success

Success, regardless of whether it’s at work, school, or our personal lives, often depends on being highly disciplined. Discipline seems to come easily for some. Others… well, it can be more of a struggle. The good news is that discipline can be developed and part of that can be achieved by actively working on routines that can turn into habits. Habits work by actually changing the pathways in your brain. The more often you do something, the less effort and thought it requires, eventually becoming a subconscious behavior. Successful people tend to share many of the same habits, and they aren’t difficult or daunting to develop. Spend a little time each day working on them, and before you know it, these little routines will become habitual.

1. Start the Day With a Positive Mindset

Start your day invested in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals. Push down any negative self-talk you might have, and instead focus on gratitude, growth, and enthusiasm for the possibilities of a new day not yet lived. Think about what you’d like to improve upon today, and set that as a mini goal to achieve; understand that nothing in the universe is fixed, yourself included.

2. Embrace A Health Conscious Lifestyle

We all know that we should eat healthily and exercise, but actually doing that on a daily basis can be difficult. Regardless, it can become a habit like anything else. Fueling yourself with nutritious food and exercising first thing in the morning awakens both the body and mind and provides energy for both to get through the day. Rest and relaxation is also part of being healthy; we all need this to recharge the body and mind. Being health conscious is all about balancing physical and mental needs.

3. Adhere to Your Core Values

What’s most important to you in life? Spend time thinking about this, and write them down. Once you’ve identified your core values, remind yourself of them daily and make sure you’re adhering to them with whatever actions you’re taking. Let them guide your goals. If and when you find yourself feeling lost or discouraged, return to your list and read through them to remind yourself of who you are and what you stand for.

4. Be Goal-Oriented

Habitually set goals; successful people know what they want and have a plan on how to accomplish it. They work on their plans, review them daily, and set deadlines for when they’d like to have their goal accomplished by. Those who are goal-oriented don’t let setbacks hold them back or persuade them to give up; they always keep their eye on the prize.

5. Spend Time in Reflection

How often do you just sit quietly and reflect? Our lives are often fast-paced; our days are overwhelmed with decisions and emotions that require quick reactions, rather than careful thought. Taking 15 to 30 minutes out of the day to disconnect from technology and sit silently thinking about goals, your day, and your plans can bring about wisdom and clarity.

6. Read Daily

Reading is a pastime that has multiple benefits. Research has shown that it can reduce both physical and mental symptoms of stress. It’s also a source of entertainment that exercises the brain; unlike movies or television, the brain has to work to convert words into meaning. Reading also is a way to build more empathy and understanding of the world around us.

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.

Entrepreneur at home office

Starting up a business takes money, a plan, and a fair amount of courage. Many of the people who start up a business would call themselves entrepreneurs, and some of them would be right. However, Brandon Frere, CEO and President of Frere Enterprises, would argue that not all people who start a business are entrepreneurs.

“Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Some of those people are what I call ‘technicians suffering from entrepreneurial seizures,” said Frere. Please be aware that’s not meant to be disparaging or say that people who may not specifically be entrepreneurs can’t be successful. Being an entrepreneur requires much more than people often realize: (1) customer service; (2) networking; (3) management on most levels; and (4) a solid understanding of how the business functions. The list of things a true entrepreneur needs to not just handle, but handle well can go on forever. A technician of a specific occupation might be the most amazing in a specific field, but if they can’t handle the rest of the requirements that it takes to successfully run a business, such as marketing tactics, they may not entirely be an entrepreneur according to Frere.

Being successful in a business may depend on many more factors than the ones that are plainly obvious. Being a successful entrepreneur is similar. Perhaps a professional in a field is looking to start their own business so that they can be in control of themselves. “(Someone) may find it much more difficult than they were thinking or just not what they really wanted. For some people, though, it may be just the kick they need to really become an entrepreneur,” said Frere.