Enduring the toughest times in your work life

The wild ride of running a design firm for 15 years.

At this point, I’ve run my own design firm for around 15 years. It’s been a wild ride and I’ve experienced many highlights & lowlights!

I wanted to share a few thoughts on how to endure the toughest times.

Consolation

Firstly, know that every single successful person I’ve spent time with has experienced genuinely hard times in their career. From wealthy tech entrepreneurs to veteran creative pros, we all go through it. Often it’s at the start of the journey, but there is no pattern and it can catch people completely off guard when things go wrong or spiral down fast.

Hope: Embrace this hardship as an expected rite of passage. Remind yourself: “I’m experiencing The Struggle just like all these other successful people I admire did.” You always knew there would be tough times, you chose this path, this is the hard part.

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.” – M Jordan

Surrender

Accept that you can only control so much, and there is a higher wisdom beyond ourselves. There is a creative source in the universe that has nurtured and protected you since you were a baby. Having this faith and reliance upon God (tawakul) will give you tremendous endurance in the face of any uncertainty.

Breathe: Get away from the source of stress right now. Walking, reflecting upon nature, change your environment. You need to get out of those harmful thought loops that take you nowhere. Go deeper with your spiritual practice. Meditate, pray, make dhikr (have remembrance of God).

“Only you can take inner freedom away from yourself, or give it to yourself. Nobody else can.” – Singer

Context

Open the news. Look at how much struggle and pain is in the world at this very moment. Imagine your daily grind was just to get water for your kids. Or risking your life to move out of war zone. Your business or professional challenge is the mildest of tests.

Ask: “How few things went wrong this week compared to last week’s disasters?”

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” – Twain.

Refocus

Go back to where it all began. What inspired you? Why is this journey so important to you? Am I still passionate about this cause? Has the vision changed? Do I still feel that burning connection to solve this problem? If the answer is yes, know that success requires your unrelenting personal grit to make it happen.

Find: Rediscover your earliest notes, first sketches, prototypes and ideas. Think about the start of that process and how far you’ve come. This hardship is temporary and soon you’ll be back on the path again. Imagine where you will be in 6 months with this issue long past you.

“… the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.” – Jobs

Companionship

This is essential. Having startup founder friends and mentorship from older professionals got me through some tough times. They can relate and give you both a friendly listening ear for your rant, and practical wisdoms that will help. I have weekly contact with various friends and founders, they have been an immense support in my life.

Help: Reach out for help, be humble and sincere, then people will rush to help. Find mastermind groups, online platforms if you need (I run one called Like-Hearted for this purpose) . I also recommend journaling with pen & paper. Clearing your thoughts each morning into pages of private paragraphs is a simple but incredibly effective. Look for ’The Artists Way’ workbook – that process has transformed the lives of many people including myself.

“Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.” – J Cameron

Final Advice

Hang in there, you got this! May 2019 be an awesome chapter in your journey.

Recommended Reading

The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz