How a personal crisis shaped my business

I don’t typically write about personal “stuff” on the SEO copywriting blog. Marty Weintraub’s post, “Manage Like You’re Dying: A Humbled Entrepreneur’s Reflections” inspired me. Thank you, Marty, for sharing your story so others can do the same.

I’m going to tell you a story not many people know.

Eleven years ago, my then-husband committed suicide. Saying that I was “devastated” doesn’t come close to describing how I was feeling. I don’t remember much about that time. That’s probably a blessing.

At the time, SuccessWorks was barely two years old. SEO copywriting was a brand new concept. I was still very much in start up, with less than two nickels to rub together. Suddenly, I found myself grieving, damn near psychologically comatose and in an incredible amount of personal debt. But if I wanted to stay afloat, I had to suck it up and keep my business running.

That dreadful experience shaped my business more than any book, conversation, or mentor. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • Life is short – enjoy what you do. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few buyout offers and job opportunities. I would be a much richer woman had I taken advantage of even one of those opportunities. I couldn’t – and didn’t – because I wouldn’t love what I did anymore. I wouldn’t have my self-employed freedom.  If you’re in a job you hate – or working with clients that make you twitch every time they call – consider if it’s really worth it. The answer: Probably not.
  • Believe in your vision – even if others can’t see it. There were times that I wanted to roll up in a fetal position and stay there. I’d look at the debt and the bank balance and wonder WTF I was thinking. At the same time, I was blessed with incredible focus. I choose to not think about the “bad stuff” and turned my attention to what was working. That minor attitude shift made all the difference.
  • Asking “why me” does nothing but zap your energy. If you’re going through crisis, by all means, grieve. Rant. Cry. But know that it’s not personal. You were not singled out for this experience. We all have dark nights of the soul. It’s part of the experience.
  • Treat your supporters like gold. I learned who my friends really were during that time, and I love them with all my heart. Today, I’m blessed with a number of cool confidants who let me be my weird, neurotic self and don’t judge me. They help keep me sane, and I would do anything for them. At the same time, I also learned to…
  • Cut loose anything that emotionally drains you. There are “emotional vampires” who suck your energy. Let them go. Others may be nice to your face, and drive the knife in the second your back is turned. Be kind and be compassionate, but don’t engage. Still others face draining situations or jobs. Determine how to find peace, or learn to walk away. It makes life much happier.
  • Trust your instincts. I found myself “managing by my gut” when I had no other frame of reference. If it felt good – I’d do it. If it didn’t – I wouldn’t. That’s helped me steer clear of some mighty bad business situations – and succeed in situations others thought I was insane to try.
  • Be clear about what’s fear-based behavior, and what’s real. If you’re in crisis mode, everything and everyone feels like a threat. You start to contract. Suddenly, you’re afraid to do things (expand your business, try public speaking, work with bigger clients) because you’re “not ready.” Examine your real motivations and take many calculated risks.
  • Believe in your abilities. Always. My experience 11 years ago helped me psychologically survive the worst of the recession and keep kicking. I may not have been in the best mood some days (major understatement.) But I’m still here and stronger for it.
  • Give back. Always. It blows me away to remember how many people have helped me throughout my life and career. Back in the dark days, complete strangers donated money so I could go on a mini-cruise with my friends. My mechanic worked on my car for free. It was incredible. Because of that experience, I make it a point to give back to my friends, my community and my industry. Everything and everyone is connected. It’s the least I can do.

Life has certainly changed since then. In fact, today is my two-year anniversary with my wonderful husband. SuccessWorks weathered the recession, survived and thrived. And, because of that experience 11 years ago,  I have a perspective that I never would have had.  In the words of Winston Churchill (one of my personal heroes,) “Never, never, never give up.”

Those are wonderful words to live by.