My Rock Bottom and Rewiring: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Positive Mindset
It’s easy to associate life’s pivotal experiences with momentous events. Births, deaths, and story-worthy “aha” realizations seem to be the fuel that propels us in one direction or the other. But, for me, the moment I hit rock bottom was about as anticlimactic as it could be.
It was just another day and another conversation with my business partner. Or so I thought.
As he gently called me out being rough around the edges and not fun to be around, it became clear to me just how low I had been feeling. I was unfocused, which is a problem when your strength is implementing the company vision. Getting things done the right way requires clarity.
I was already in a negative place leading up to this time. Cloud EPC, our software business wasn’t taking off the way we had originally planned. I wasn’t sleeping at night and was all consumed with how to “save it.” I migrated into a place of negativity and loneliness. It felt like the business was crumbling—it was not—and I was falling with it into a deep, dark hole.
At the same time, Nexus PMG, our infrastructure development and advisory company was starting to really gain its sea legs and the trajectory of inbound leads was becoming overwhelming. I was struggling to see all of the amazing things happening across the company. Any business has ups and downs. That’s why it’s important to find the positives. But the cloud that surrounded me and my perceived failure of Cloud EPC was so thick, any silver linings were invisible to me.
As I spiraled downward, my struggles only compounded. I gained weight, lost focus, and ultimately lost control of my time and energy.
In retrospect, I see that the software business was doing fine at that time. My arbitrary targets for it were hindering my ability to see what the overall venture inclusive of Nexus PMG could become.
That conversation with my business partner helped me realize the fundamental issue at the time was my mindset. I’m an ENTJ—the Fieldmarshal and driven to get things done. I’m a true believer that to build something amazing, a level of sacrifice and passion to execute your business idea is the single most important differentiator. That’s why I’m always all-in.
But the Fieldmarshal mindset can really fog up the bigger picture when it’s out of control. We get lost in focusing on the mission, we lose sight of the war sometimes. This is a common struggle for entrepreneurs in general. The entrepreneur’s journey is lonely, burnout is real, and the impact on your personal and professional relationships sometimes reaches a point where return to normality seems impossible.
“Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair–times when it seemed everything might crumble.”
Jessica Bruder, The Psychology of Entrepreneurship
My partners were instrumental in helping me create a roadmap that helped me structure a clear mindset change. The biggest realization was that Nexus PMG was growing. In the next 12 months, we would need more internal tools to manage that growth and to operate in a more streamlined methodology.
Once rewired, as a Fieldmarshal, we reset the objects and planned for the long term. We began to implement the system into more of our own work processes, developed new internal tools, and utilized the existing development team to help streamline our initiatives and work processes.
I let go of focusing on growing a large customer base and shifted focus to our existing clients, which affords us the flexibility to choose which customers we want to work with going forward. It also allows me to allocate my time elsewhere in the business and focus on our larger mission and values. But even more importantly, we have created an internal tool to streamline Nexus PMG operations to create a unique value proposition to our clients.
Redefining values, mission statements, and goals is something I go deep on in the Strategy and Action podcast. I’ve found a version of a healthy balance that still leans towards a hustle and grind mode of operation, but pulled back to a tolerable level. The single most important change in this was rewiring my mindset.
When I reflect on who I was and who I have become during this rewiring process, I always come back to three main concepts: people, time, and clarity.
A Strong Network: People
No one likes working with a Debbie Downer. When I was miserable to work with, that caused my closest friends and business partners to pull away for a period of time.
This is a natural occurrence. Positive people struggle to interact with negative people. Positive minded people always try to interact and help folks in a negative place. But when people are struggling, if they aren’t ready for change this can lead to a potential fall-out.
The good news is that when you’re ready—or when you hit rock bottom—whichever comes first, those same folks you didn’t want poking around will be the ones who help you out of the hole. Giving me room to crash then stepping in to help me out was everything on this journey, and I’ll always be grateful for business partners’ intervention and support.
Prioritization Is Critical: Time
It’s so hard for me to think about how unproductive I had become when I was in that unbalanced period. I was all-consumed about financial and client metrics in the short term. I lost the ability to focus on important problems that needed attention both professionally and personally.
Time is one resource we just cannot get back. I lost a lot of time thinking about my immediate problems that were arbitrary in nature when my time could have been better spent in other places. The people in my life helped me realize this, but in retrospect, this is time I cannot get back. I value time much more now.
In those darker months, we achieved a third of what we have done in the last 18 months. I truly attribute that to taking workload better suited to my strengths off of my partners and focusing where I spend my time.
Being Able to Think Is Critical: Clarity
My stress was out of control and it carried into my personal life. I gained 40 pounds, which I still haven’t lost. I’ve also always been a jovial asshole and I lost that part of me. But most importantly, I lost my ability to think clearly because I was overwhelmed by one thing: Cloud EPC growth. I became a victim of my own negative mindset.
On a journey to try and shave some of my stress weight, I’ve implemented morning exercise time that creates a few hours a day for thinking and learning through podcasts and audiobooks. This space has given me room for clarity and room for my imagination to run wild again.
When you have clarity you can think big, be creative and prioritize your time.
I’m learning how to execute with a positive mindset every day. As the company grows, the problems are just getting bigger and harder. The difference is that now, I know how to manage my time, make space for thinking and learning, and lean on others. I’m also lucky enough to have business partners and a significant other who understands my personal quirks and when to step in and help. My mindset still leans toward the hustle and grind mode of operation, but pulled back to a tolerable level.
As an entrepreneur, hard work is inevitable if you want to succeed. So are challenges. That’s why leaning into your support network and taking care of yourself is a requirement. Call up the people who have been poking at you. Take a vacation if you need the headspace. Your vision doesn’t exist if you don’t have clarity.