This article is for small business owners, leaders, and anyone who's facing fear and uncertainty about their future. Everything I'm about to share comes from the heart based on decades of leadership experience through some of the toughest times we've faced as a nation. The good news is, we'll get through this by following courageous and virtuous leaders like my father and millions of others.
When I was only 13, I watched what happened when my father lost almost all of his hotel and restaurant customers, his cash flow, the ability to service the small mountain of debt he and his partners used to develop the Shangri-La Motor Inn into Brickyard Mountain Inn in 1974. It was the first economic disaster I'd face, but not the last, during my lifetime.
Since then, I've built and sold two small service businesses. I've lost it all following a financial, mental health, and business meltdown in 2002. Everything I learned from my parents came in handy, but it was the transformation of my head, heart, and soul that really mattered for me as a leader.
How do fearless leaders face losing everything we worked our butts off to build? We practice by being on the front line and learning to be better leaders each and every day. We learn to more self-aware, mindful, and to practice better habits as we grow wiser.
If you're like my father and mother, you do your best not to "alarm the children" or others who follow you during tough times. We have to "dig deep" and be strong. It's a mindset thing.
If you're a business owner or leader or anyone who's taking a massive financial hit during the COVID-19 storm, know this; kids, humans, we feel everything. So when disaster hits any business, community, or home, there are several essential lessons for leaders during tough times. We all have a choice in how we work through anything challenging, especially the unexpected.
After the OPEC oil embargo wiped out my dad's hotel, my younger sister, brother, and I got to watch our parents reinvent themselves. Yes, they were broke. It was 1974 and I'm not quite sure how dad pulled off starting Old Mill Properties in Meredith, New Hampshire. But he did, and I'll never forget our mother teaching us how to do our own laundry because "Mother is getting her real estate license so she can help your father build the new residential real estate business."
The first thing I did after my father died was conjuring up a heart-healing, cross-country motorcycle trip all the way from Scottsdale, Arizona to Laconia, New Hampshire. Next to Laconia lies Meredith, and that's where I go to roll by and see dad and mom's first office building they built. The gravel parking lot was the same, but the building itself, an A-framed wood structure suited for New England winters looked much smaller than I recall as a boy.
I cried when I saw the Old Mill property signs planted on the summer lawns all around the Lakes Region where I grew up. I am eternally grateful to my parents for teaching me how to be a better leader. If only I had learned these lessons sooner!
My father had this logo designed in 1974.
If you're a business owner or leader who's facing hard times right now, I hope what you're about to read will help you.
If you're beating yourself up during this, just like I once did, please read and do your best to practice all of the suggestions I offer.
I'm the guy who got sent to anger management classes once upon a time because I got so out of my mind when the business of life overwhelmed me. Talk about a humbling experience as a younger leader, husband, and dad.
Nothing is more important than our "Inner Game" and mindset as leaders. What you see on the outside is merely a reflection of what lives within your head, heart, and soul. The good news is, humans can change the mindset any time we are willing to do what it takes to change from the inside out.
Practice any of my suggestions as you're willing. If you're like me, and you give the "Inner Game" enough attention and time, you will be a better leader.
I'm grateful for everything now that I've weathered more than one storm. Stormy weather isn't as scary when you've lived a rich life, starting more than one business while raising a family. Looking back on my failures, nothing seems to daunt me like it used to. Trust me when I tell you that during the darkest of times on Earth, we look to the elders for peace, wisdom, and comfort. Now is no different.
If you're like most leaders who take a big hit, you'll face tremendous fear, self-doubt, maybe even shame, and guilt. That's because if you're like me and others who put it all on the line to start businesses with the intention of building companies and providing many jobs, you are the hardest on yourself. That's part of the "Inner Game" of the peak leadership mindset I coach and teach. I learned what I teach from my elders, and coaches, the people who teach me.
When we do all of these things and more as virtuous leaders, we set the tone for goodness. Evil, bad stuff, is simply the temporary absence of goodness.
Be goodness today. Be a great leader people will be inspired to follow, and the world will be a better place.
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