Self Employed, Unemployed or Leading Others…you better be resilient

Posted April 25, 2016 in Latest News & Insights, Resilience

One of the hardest things about self-employment is dealing with the never-ending, ongoing rollercoaster of highs and lows that come with building a business. Being able to manage the ride is something that I’m perpetually working on. One of the things I’ve learned about entrepreneurship is that it’s exactly like job hunting or leading teams in tough times. People often ask me for my tips to staying resilient as an entrepreneur… I think the strategies I use are equally applicable for people who are job hunting or trying to turn around a volatile situation at work. Take a look…

I’ve had my own business now for just over 9 years. From the outside, I get lots of accolades for what we’ve achieved. What people don’t see is what happens behind the curtain. Here’s a taste:

  • My 3 biggest clients all imploded over the span of 3 months…right after I’d expanded the business;
  • My new hire quit after 4 months… I saw it coming but refused to pay attention to the signs;
  • I spent last week drowning in parts of the business that don’t play to my strengths and it made me wonder if getting a steady pay cheque wouldn’t be easier;
  • My new client keeps moving back our project launch meetings and money that I thought I could count on this month may not show up for another 6 months.

Get the picture?

As a job hunter, you probably face similar highs and lows… you go the interview! You didn’t get the job. You were called by a headhunter! The guy who offered to intro you to the HR VP has to bump your meeting.

Leadership can be a constant stream of highs and lows… you sell your new idea successfully to the senior team! Your top employee disagrees with the direction and decides to jump ship. You finally backfill a key position! The candidate calls to say they have accepted another offer.

So, what have I learned about staying sane?.. here are some tips that I think are useful whether your self-employed, unemployed or a leader under siege in an organization (and isn’t just about every leader under siege these days??):

  1. Meditate… this has literally transformed my life. Instead of worrying about what ‘might’ happen, I stay focused in the now and what ‘is’ happening. Worrying has a spectacular way of grinding momentum to a halt.
  2. Be grateful…man… what a privilege it is to live in Canada and do work like this. If I find myself throwing a pity party, I just think about people in Syria or other places who would trade this world with me in a nano second. Doing a daily gratitude list – as hokey as that sounds – is incredibly grounding.
  3. Energy yourself up…Know what juices you. Smart people who love what they do give me energy. Learning gives me energy. Nature gives me energy. Speaking gives me energy. Knowing what gives you energy is key to building resilience. If you don’t know what gives you energy or how to figure that out, hire a coach or buy a self-help book. It’s important that you know this.
  4. Manage your week… and on the topic of energy, don’t just let it happen by accident. Last week, I had way too many draining activities that involved accounting, taxes and administrivia. This week, I’ve got a better balance with client brainstorming, thinking time and public speaking in between some sales followups, offer letter writing and tax filing. As much as possible, I try to balance my weeks with things that energize me vs. drain me. Know what gives you ‘juice’ and try to build at least a few of those activities into your day to maintain your passion.
  5. Gather your tribe…entrepreneurs are generally pretty supportive types. When I’m really feeling beaten up, I’ll call one of my entrepreneurial friends who will quickly remind me that I’ve lived through these highs and lows before and will make it through to the other side. Who’s in your tribe? Reach out and ask for help (and feel free to join our tribe at if you’re looking for a peer group of leaders).

Many people will tell me that they ‘could never do what you do’. I fully disagree with that. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy but neither is looking for a new job… or leading a team through a really difficult transition for that matter. If you’ve every persisted in finding a new position after being unemployed, or managed to stay sane while leading others through a difficult situation…believe’d probably survive just fine as an entrepreneur.

It’s all about building your resilience and playing the long game; not getting caught up in the quick win.

Happy leading!

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