It was November 2010, I was living in Silicon Valley with my wife and children when I lost it all.
I had to let go of all of my employees, 20 of them across Australia and the US.
I lost the multimillion dollars worth of angel and venture capital investments I had secured.
I lost all my life savings which I had used as startup capital to bankroll the business before raising external funding.
I lost my job as the CEO of my company and my only source of income.
I lost the family home back in Australia as I couldn’t afford to keep paying rent in Palo Alto USA and mortgage repayments back in Australia.
Oh and our youngest of 3 children was just 30 days old and we had 10 days to pack and leave the US because my work visa was conditional on my business and a few weeks later I found out an immediate family member was diagnosed with cancer.
Many people have asked me how do you recover from something like that?
That was almost 10 years ago and I don’t have all the answers but I know this, what seemed like the end was only the beginning of my personal and professional growth.
It’s easy to say now but without a doubt it was the best thing that happened to me.
There are many of you hurting right now.
In a blink the world has turned upside down. You may have lost your job. You may have lost your business. You're having to physically isolate yourself from your loved ones. Your relationships may be strained. You may have lost someone dear to you due to the virus.
You’ll be questioning everything and mostly you’ll be questioning yourself. How on earth did you get into this and how on earth do you get out of it.
My short message, from having been there before is... You’re going to be ok.
For my longer message keep reading below where I share 5 things that worked for me in bouncing back.
I could have spent years, decades or forever wanting to blame others for my situation. I could have blamed the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) for drying up VC funding, I could have blamed my team for not finishing our product, I could have blamed my investors for not providing top up funding, I could have blamed my tenant for breaking lease leaving my home without rental income and the list can go on.
What I did instead, in a split second decision I decided that this entire situation was my doing and I owned it 100%. Not in a feel sorry for myself way, but in an empowering way. I recognised with every success comes some setbacks. If the success was due to my smarts, tenacity and a bit of luck, then my failure was also due to my smarts, tenacity and a bit of luck.
Mentally and emotionally if I owned my past, I could own my future.
Tip: Just decide right here and now that you completely own where you are in your life, work and business and that you will empower yourself to lead yourself to a better version of yourself and create a better future.
My entire existence was literally flipped upside down. It wasn’t just one part of my life that was in freefall, it was everything.
So my response was I will use this as a trigger to review and adapt everything in my life:
It was also about the 'one thing' because I did not wait to have all the perfect answers on everything before I took action. Each day I took at least one step towards my reinvention and my comeback.
Tip: spend time to review everything in your life. Not in a morbid, negative way, but in an exciting way. If you are at rock bottom, it is only up from here. At the same time promise yourself each day you will take at least one step towards your desired future. Don’t wait for all the answers. Don’t wait for perfection.
I needed to put food on the table for my family, I needed to pay rent, I needed create a sense of safety and hope for all the people looking to me for leadership (ex employees, immediate family, other entrepreneurs who I mentored).
I didn’t have time to get fancy or let my ego get the better of me.
So I decided to double down on my strengths and leverage what I had achieved which I regard as my homeground advantage.
My strengths were people skills, enterprise sales and coaching founders.
I had many achievements. I had created and launched new products to market, raised money, sold to enterprise clients, hired, fired, closed partnerships, been covered by major technology news outlets and blogs and entered the US market.
So in the short term I leveraged my homeground advantage to become a consultant and coach to international founders who were trying to break into the US market with sales. I worked with companies from Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Cech Republic, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Singapore
In the medium term after returning to Australia - I continued the theme of ‘homeground advantage’ when I decided for my next business I would leverage my people and sales skills but would not carry technology risk (given I don’t code). I built a data analytics consulting and managed services business where we partnered with leading global technology vendors (Cloudera, AWS) to deliver solutions for Asia Pacific customers.
Tip: Focus on what you have and how you can make the most of it now.
While I made a split second decision that I would ‘own’ this there was a lot I had to work through in my mind and in my heart to get over it.
What worked for me was being transparent and sharing with anyone who cared to ask.
I shared what happened, how severe it was, how painful it was, what I learned, how I feel now, how I am coping, what I am doing now and what I want to do next.
Yes it was painful retelling my story and many people offered help and support but in the end it was me that helped me the most.
Telling my story was therapeutic and along with complete ownership and a healthy level of optimism about the future - it helped me learn more about me and solidify who I was choosing to become.
What was completely unexpected was the number of people who immediately shared a painful story with me right after I had told them mine. Stories about divorce, estrangement from family, business failure, investment losses, getting fired, cheating or being cheated on their partner etc and they would then say they had never shared that with anyone else.
My big takeaway was everyone has a story and it’s beneficial to share.
Tip: Talk to someone. Even better, tell everyone. Rely on yourself to help you the most.
An extension to the ‘do just one thing’ everyday concept is being mindful of creating momentum.
For me I found being mindful of creating momentum in my work, life and play helped with my mental and emotional state as it gave the perception that I was moving on from my past (failed) state. Yes, sometimes you have to hack (trick) your own brain.
It helped me progress. I did not get stuck in a rut. One step in the right direction allowed me to take the next step in the right direction.
Whether it was time with my kids, helping others, working on my next client, working on my mindfulness or my health etc - I was mindful to have momentum.
Tip: Be mindful of your momentum
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