Having you ever met a small business owner who lost his mind, health, and spirit? I have and I'm here to tell you the power of prayer and many other healthy habits can change your life from the inside out.
This article is for other leaders who want to further develop your "Inner Game" of being the best leader you can be at work, at home, and everywhere in between. I pray because when I fell down hard, I needed a higher power to guide me to clarity.
I grew up learning fear by watching what happened to my father's hotel and restaurant business when it collapsed and he lost almost everything. That's why the fear of failure failed me. Love, trust, and giving fear no counsel is the better way to go for all leaders. When I chose fear over love, I got in over my head.
Unlike me, my father kept his cool instead of losing his mind. Perhaps he was better at concealing his torment than I. After he failed, I watched him launch a small real estate company as he emerged from the ashes. My mother helped by becoming a real estate agent and going to work every day. That explains why and how I've been doing my own laundry since I was 14.
I've been a small business owner for almost thirty years. This means 100% of my income came from finding and keeping customers for the two businesses I've built and sold since 1991 when I quit my last "day job." Along the way, I lost it all including my physical and mental health. It is not fair to say I lost all of my faith during this dark time. It is better to tell you that I found "Clarity" in the depths of the dark places I found.
I prayed because I was terrified. When praying and other healthy habits began to work within me, people who love me most noticed a difference. But my transformation over the last fifteen years has been the most powerful because after losing my business in different ways than my father had, I too, was able to bounce back quickly, start another business, and sell it over a decade later.
Now, I pray all the time.
When you are in business for yourself, it's pretty easy to figure out how little control you have. When I was younger, I vastly overestimated my ability and underestimated risk. I was too cocky and overly-optimistic at times. The consequences were server and that's how I learned to pray differently than when I was trained as a Catholic altar boy who never fit in.
Look at the examples of the people we follow and love the most. Chances are they are mindful and prayerful. The leaders I learned to love and follow focus on making a bigger difference everywhere they go more than making more money, buying more stuff, and making a bigger name for themselves. I followed their lead and watched them pray. Just like in any sport I seek to master, I seek to emulate the best of the best.
How much control do you think you have if you have yet to be run over by a Black Swan that took you down? For example, write your five-year strategic action plan if you're among the minority of people who will do so. What are the chances 10,000 things will change along the way? You don't have to be statistics major to know everything will change especially if you are a younger, newer, less experienced leader.
Most small business owners and leaders of teams perform five or more jobs. For me, this looks like being the creative director, sales manager, project manager, accounting manager who sends invoices, the collection agent who pretty much goofs off all the time, the computer tech guy, and the garbage man.
If you have more than one job chances are you are going to need a much higher power to sustain and guide you. If you have no job at all, or one that's sucking the life out of you, your job is to get a new job and change your life.
It dawned on me that I made the business of life harder on myself than I needed. But when I learned not to regret the past, and accept all that is with grace, my "Inner Game" shifted into a higher gear. It wasn't long before my Chevy Vega turned into a race car.
I became a better leader over lots of hard work and hours doing more than one job. In fact, I made a business out of helping other business owners succeed. As if it's not hard enough to build one business, I made a business out serving other businesses.
Looking back on what I've done, it does occur to me I could have been fine owning and operating the best donut shop or yoga center in town.
As if it isn't hard enough to do what I do for one business, I decided to make it even harder to become a trusted business advisor, strategic planner, coach, and trainer for people like me who put it all on the line to feed themselves, their families, and keep their employees productive, happy, and healthy for as long as possible considering the massive war and shortage of true talent.
I pray because when I failed I got lost in very dark places. In fact, when I was in my early forties, I lost all of my wealth after selling my first business to a major Wall Street investment company and bank. That crushed me in ways I can't describe in this post. Anyone who knew me then will tell you I have been vastly humbled.
In other words, when I lost myself, I needed to find a God I could understand and have a daily, loving relationship with because I have been my worst enemy. Think about how you or I treat ourselves when things go terribly wrong. The best leaders take losing very hard. Sometimes, we focus on things that take us far off course, and we wonder why people can't or won't follow us.
I pray because I want to be a better man at work and in life. Our sons are grown and it's clear my wife and I did many things well as parents. Being a parent when I was only a boy of 24 was another powerful way to know there is something much bigger at work around me, and that if I wanted to tap into this massive power, I had to change my "Inner Game."
Praying is the first way I transformed my former fears, anger, and occasional rage into a higher purpose and passion that serves others based on the gifts I receive. My purpose as a professional is to learn what I can and serve others who want to go where I have been before.
I pray to stay humble. I pray to repent my sins. Sinning is "missing the mark." When I miss any mark, I stop, get still, and pray in gratitude for the lesson to be learned.
Praying helped me quit drinking alcohol over a decade ago. I got rid of fear, impatience, anger, and most of the lower emotions and energy by giving it all up to the God I understand today. The transformation for me has been profound. Sometimes, it's hard not to regret the past, but when I learned to pray in the way I do now, love took over.
I learned to pray all day by practicing. I created new habits like journaling, fasting, contemplating the spiritual realm, and mindful, daily, ongoing meditation.
Here's another example of how praying changed me from the inside out. I pray when you cut me off in traffic. Instead of wanting to five finger death punch, I now pray for you as if you could be God. If you're an anger management class candidate, practice this habit over and over and see what happens.
Praying is a process like breathing. Do you think often about breathing? After all, it's the breath of life, right? But most of us don't train ourselves to breathe consciously all day long like a modern-day, working monk.
The same is true for praying or doing anything else you choose to make a healthy habit. You must practice all day long. Simple, not easy. Why? Because of your monkey mind. We all have that monkey on our shoulder. It's the stupid, mean, critical, condescending, judging voice that learns to give it all up to the God of your understanding.
How do you start this transformation for yourself, if you buy anything I've shared so far? First, focus on learning and practicing the virtues. Even Aristotle was pounding the table on the importance of virtues for a rich, happy, human life. Check out this article from Stanford. You'll see the similarities of the virtues found in the Bible.
As a leader, you commit to being better. You decide to choose better habits and practices. You understand change is a process powered by purpose and intention.
Choose to learn, know, and practice the virtues all day long. Do the same by being prayerful in your natural way of doing so.
If you don't know what the Seven Heavenly Virtues are, here's the list and link so you can do more homework.
Now you know more about why and how I learned to pray all day. Even if it seems weird I'd write about the topic of prayer on a business blog, the power of spirit at work changed my life. I had to write about it today.
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