My business coach Michael Smith of iMentorLeaders.com says, “Anger and frustration come from unmet expectations.”
It’s solid truth to know as you start or grow a business.
Ever since I heard that truth and as I’ve gotten angry or frustrated with something in our business (or heck, my personal life for that matter), I’ve thought back about what expectations I had that weren’t met by another party. And it has helped me figure out how to bridge that gap of communication with others or reset my expectations.
I’ve realized I’m only angry because they did something I didn’t expect or desire. I’m only frustrated because they are not continuing to do what I expect from the relationship or agreement.
This advice came to mind when I was on vacation last week and a friend of mine sent me an email asking if I had heard about a 17-minute angry rant to employees by the president of an Oklahoma City book publisher, which was recorded by an employee and then posted online by a local business journal … and the subsequent tidal wave of uproar and conversation from that event (and the firing of 25 people afterward).
(I’d highly suggest you take 17 minutes and listen to it before proceeding.)
After I listened to it myself, and read all I could of the event, as well as ask around if anyone knew him or people who worked there, I started to ask myself:
“What could ever possibly cause me to get to this point?”
For the first couple minutes of the recording, I really wanted to sympathize with the president. I admit I’ve been pretty angry at points in my startup’s history. I’ve been so frustrated that my blood boiled. I’ve vented to my wife and others.
But thankfully, I’ve never done anything like that to employees (he not only lied but called them “morons” and “idiots”).
I even mentioned to my wife that if I ever got to that point I hoped someone would tackle me. (She promised, “Don’t worry, we would!”)
But it caused me to really reflect on the anger and frustration you will certainly face as an entrepreneur. No one is immune to it. When you’re dealing with people (clients, employees, partners, etc), expectations almost NEVER match up.
Anger and frustration is a fact of doing business. Ignore them at your own risk.
In fact, as an entrepreneur, you should be watching your anger and bitterness levels closely, like a gauge on your life’s instrumental panel .
In my 4-plus years of running a startup, here are 6 ways that I have found helpful in keeping track of my anger and bitterness levels … and I wonder if it would have helped this president before these untimely events:
1. Take time to rest and recharge. Entrepreneurs simply don’t do this. It’s one of our biggest liabilities though. You are focused and obsessed with getting your business off the ground, or up to cruising elevation and the last thing you think you can afford to do is actually take a break. But rest is the BEST thing for your business, I promise. I say that simultaneously while being in your shoes and thinking, “You’re crazy. If I’m not there, things will implode or explode.”
I know with all of my being as an entrepreneur this advice is absolute fact. When I rest and recharge, I come back so much better and with a healthier perspective (and even insights into how to grow or improve our business in some remarkable way).
It does good for your soul … and your business.
To combat this anti-time off mentality, my wife and I seek to do 3 and 4-day weekend trips every other month (or more). And are now scheduling vacation out (even while we were on one recently).
2. Remember it’s really NOT the end of the world. You will hold on too tight. You will think that this event or crisis or whatever is that the future of the entire world and mankind rests upon it. It doesn’t. Unless you have a finger on the nukes, just take a step back and realize the balance of peace and war do not hang in the balance.
Often when I’m hanging on too tight or just way to wound up in the business, I’ll hear news or see something that just devastates my needless worry and puts life in perspective. Sadly, this has often come in the form of personal and human tragedy of some sort (someone dies, marriages break up, or you see someone a lot less fortunate than you walking down the street).
Regular humbling and perspective wrecking like that, I’ve found, are pretty dang healthy actually.
3. Prepare yourself for disappointment via unmet expectations each day. Admit and remind yourself that your expectations will not match up with those on your team or customers. One often cited unmet expectations is that employees do not love or care about your business as much as you do. Accepting that now, ahead of time, will help your blood pressure down the road.
I love seeing potential in people. I love seeing people reach higher and go farther than I thought they would. I’ve seen many many people do so. But I also know that ultimately if I put my expectations IN people (and not in my own life which I can control) that they will disappoint you.
Control is a big thing for entrepreneurs. I often reset my expectations to things I alone can control. For the rest, I must somehow find a way to let it go.
4. Find activities that are your ‘stress relief valve.’ For me, my Entrepreneurs’ Organization monthly forum is an amazing pressure relief valve. Being with a group of fellow entreprenreuers who know exactly what it feels like to be in your lonely shoes. But it might also come in the form of exercise (I’d be a hypocrite to tell you I do this regularly but the science proves it helps), or a hobby or entertainment. For me, it’s reading books and being in silence (working from home even). It’s also just going out to dinner with friends or to a disappearing via a movie marathon with my wife and laughing and eating expensive popcorn.
Whatever your stress relief valve is … do it.
5. Have accountability partners. You need people who care enough about you to watch AND alert you to times when you’re maxed out and need to back off. These aren’t people who will simply say what you want to hear. These are people who will in fact get up in your grill and let you know you’re being an asshole.
You won’t like it. But you need it like water in a desert. I have hated it. My employees have done it. My wife has done it. And every time it sucks and stings, but they were right.
Accountability partners like that have the hardest job ever. They must love you enough to care about you while simultaneously telling you what you don’t want to hear and accepting the wrath of your defensiveness. God bless those people.
6. Ignore the noise. Stupid people don’t matter anyway. This is a daily mantra of mine. Each day I have to reset and remind myself of this advice (given to me by my dear friend Lisa Sabin-Wilson). No matter what you do, there will be a slim minority of people who hate or criticize every single damn thing you do.
The faster you put them into the “Stupid Noisy People” category and mute them the better and healthier your life will be.
The best leaders, the best products and the best companies in the world still have critics. Even if hypothetically you could be perfect … people will hate you for being perfect.
Stepping out and doing something as bold as starting a business will attract detractors.
The cliche that you cannot please everybody is cliche because it’s just truth. But we all still try to please everybody.
I realized after the first couple of years in business that only a couple of groups of people actually mattered to me … those on our team, those who love and support our team (their families and loved ones), those happily willing to pay us money in exchange for our products (uh, yeah, our awesome customers), those who started the business with me (my partners) and … me.
Yes, you and your health matter … if you aren’t healthy as an entrepreneur, the other groups won’t be, or will suffer because of it.
Remarkably, when I focused on those, my life and health and happiness increased. When I focused on those outside of those groups, I became bitter and angry.
Yes, even though I seek to do these things, I still find myself at times dealing with anger and bitterness.
But when I come back to these facts and practices, it helps calm down the lava temperature and flow … and take a step back and see life for what it is …. way too damn short to let anger and bitterness dominate what time, energy and love I have to give others while I’m on earth!