Managing Life’s Roller Coasters…..a Lesson for All Entrepreneurs



Life’s Roller Coasters

We have all heard the saying that “life is a rollercoaster”.  I may have touched on this topic in a past blog.  However, last week I needed a reminder and I thought the topic was sufficiently prevalent that a reminder for everyone may be in order.  The topic?  Stress and how best to deal with it.  Several days ago I did something really stupid and wound up with an ear infection.  I refuse to go into any further details because I believe if you are reading this you have some level of respect for me and I don’t really want to diminish that any further than making that statement already has.

When I first realized what I did I was pretty angry with myself and as the week rolled on and I was mostly unable to work my anger manifested itself into stress and ultimately a little depression.  We entrepreneurs can not afford to be ill, and we don’t let something like a little ear infection get in our way.  My wife kept telling me that I was sick and should let myself be sick so I could get better, but that just motivated me more to fight….and ultimately feel worse.  I was on a downward sloped life rollercoaster and it was plunging to the bottom of a slope quickly. 

But one thing I realized a long time ago was that life is not a single rollercoaster.  You have your work rollercoaster, your family rollercoaster, your health rollercoaster, etc.  Each of these actually are made up of several smaller rollercoasters themselves.  Your work rollercoaster may be broken up into a shareholder or partner rollercoaster, employee rollercoaster, vendor rollercoaster and customer rollercoaster.  Your family rollercoaster may be broken down into your parent rollercoaster, your spouse rollercoaster, etc.  So what is the point?

Learning to Manage Your Roller Coasters

There are two points I want to make.  The first is if you recognize your life as being made up of several rollercoasters, each time one of them starts to take a plunge the probability of at least one other rollercoaster going the opposite way at the same time is pretty high.  Take a minute, take a deep breath and think about those upward sloping coasters, especially those that are waaaay up high.  For me those are often my kid and family rollercoasters.  So each time I started to get upset with my situation last week I forced myself to sit back and think about how great my son is doing, and then my daughter and wife.   Things are pretty good with and for them, and the thoughts immediately lifted my spirits and got me off the negativity slope. 

The second point, I believe, is more important for entrepreneurs to internalize.  The entrepreneurial rollercoaster has big highs and major lows.  The changes can occur daily, often within a day.  You win a huge contract, then find out someone did something stupid that just cost you a bunch on another project and you are going to lose money on it now.  You get a huge discount from a vendor only to find out your #1 employee just quit.  It is these severe swings that can be the biggest bane for any entrepreneur.  Understanding the rollercoasters can be a big help, but the real key is managing how low the lows go before they impact your productivity. 

The answer?  Learn to manage the highs first.  Teach yourself not to get too excited about that big contract you just landed, or the awesome results of that project you just completed.  I am not saying do not celebrate positive results.  Rather what I am suggesting is that you learn to mitigate your well-being and good feelings from the highlights of business.  By doing so you can teach yourself to better manage your emotions in general.  The result will be the ability to manage yourself much better when the downslopes start to pick up steam and multiple rollercoasters start heading downward at the same time.  Doing so will help you stop a second and think about those upward sloping rollercoasters and, like me last week, take stock of what is really happening and do the right thing!

I was mostly miserable because I could not hear out of one ear and it was causing me regular vertigo.  We had paid for tickets to an awesome holiday concert (the Transiberian Orchestra) and one of my biggest fears was that I would be unable to attend the event due to my ear.  The concert was last night.  Yesterday was the first day my ear was clear all day (7 days).  The concert was wonderful and lifted my spirits very high.  But what got me to the concert was knowing that I really only had one rollercoaster plunging to earth last week.  It was my other rollercoasters that lifted my spirits, got me to rest, and helped me through the week. 

Try it out some time.  Riding rollercoasters can be great fun, but some of the best can also have some very scary downward slopes along the way!