It’s been a CRAZY few weeks. I’ve had a blast speaking to the good people at the University of Tennessee MBA program, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation with Three Roots Capital’s “Rise and Grind” event, the AIA of East Tennessee’s “Design Slam” and the Knoxville Chamber’s Bright Ideas series. There’s a whole lot to talk about from each of these events, and I’ve got a whole lot to share, so let’s start with my last interactive session with the Knoxville Chamber…”Nobody Cares and We’re All Going to Die, An Entrepreneur’s Lament in Seven Stages.” We had a couple dozen folks ranging from first-time business people to seasoned veterans looking for a new perspective. We went through the seven stages, based on the “Seven Stages of Grief,” with everyone writing their own responses to the stages and sharing with the group. Very Kumbaya, but with more cussing. Also, there were sandwiches. Lets get to it.
STAGE 1: SHOCK & DENIAL
This is what I call the “3am oh s**t everything is awful” wakeup call…or “nobody cares and we’re all going to die.”
My 3am wakeup call is failure, or feeeeear of failure, and this was the number one takeaway from the crowd as well. The worst thing that could happen is that no one shows up to the party, and I’d rather have someone throw tomatoes than not react at all.
STAGE 2: PAIN & GUILT
Life is chaotic. Remorse over bad decisions sticks with me FOREVER, from business to design and especially personal; it’s the ultimate in horrible instant replay. It’s like I’m Jimmy Stewart on the bridge in “It’s a Wonderful Life” over and over, or I imagine my own clickbait headline…something like “local man steps in dog shit, but then…” Honestly, I’m still pissed that I traded a Walter Payton rookie card in 1990 for a box of Fleer mini cards. FLEER MINI CARDS. It still sounds ridiculous almost 30 years later. Everyone talked a TON about the guilt for not spending time with family and/or the “is this worth it” internal monologue that plagues us all.
STAGE 3: ANGER & BARGAINING
It’s time for pointing fingers and laying blame – Who is REALLY responsible for this predicament? It CAN’T be me, and, this wouldn’t be happening if we were on SnapChat more. Whyyyyy me? I really get angry at situations/people who do not have the best interests of others first. Then it’s inanimate objects. I once threw an electric grill off a porch. At the beach. I’ve had better days. So, make a promise, keep a promise. and screw Comcast. This stage came down to trust – I heard over and over that once a trust is broken, it’s hard or impossible to repair.
STAGE 4: DEPRESSION, REFLECTION, LONELINESS
For anyone who has ever tried to do anything (from business, to sports, to running for class president) – this is where you become a professional at second guessing yourself. Maybe mom WAS right…I should’ve been a dentist. Or a lawyer. Or a ditch digger (which I have done. Oddly enough, a great job that paid for college. Go figure). So this is everyone’s “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” Coolio moment. The prevailing thought here was all about responsibility. How many business owners, large and small, have stared down payroll like the OK corral? It’s tough to be responsible for yourself and your family, but what happens when you’re responsible for employees and their families as well?
How many business owners, large and small, have stared down payroll like the OK corral?
STAGE 5: THE UPWARD TURN
It’s time to remember things you’ve learned from wins AND losses. And, as it turns out, someone HAS dealt with this before, and they’re willing to talk about it. It took me a while, but I realize that admitting you have an issue isn’t weakness when you’re looking to SOLVE a problem. It’s like working out, or reading, or ninja fighting – you gotta practice. I reach out to friends and mentors like Billy Fulghum. He always puts things in perspective and reminds me about the important stuff, like practicing gratitude. This is also where I’ll look and listen for people who do things better and take the dogs for a walk. Podcasts are my friend: Chase Jarvis, Tim Ferriss, Debbie Millman, Mike Rowe, Nerdist, Chris Shiflett, and WTF with Marc Maron.
STAGE 6: RECONSTRUCTION & WORK THROUGH
Positivity will yield creative solutions and breakthroughs, so what are some concrete steps you can take to DEAL. Design and business begin with big ideas, but when the rubber hits the road, it’s ALL ABOUT EXECUTION. Best Behavior (much like Voltron, we function as a powerful robot when together) realized that we weren’t living up to our own standards when it came to sharing original content and getting our name out there the way we wanted to, so we created #21daysofbestbehavior – blogs, graphics, videos, and podcasts as far as the eye can see. And now, the aforementioned speaking gigs, of which there have been many and more on the way, have been killer. We’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback and positive growth from our efforts, and we got to do some really fun, creative work, so as you might learn in business school, it’s been a real “win-win” for everyone. One of my favorite quotes from Debbie Millman fits well here and reminds me how much I like trying new things and reenergizing the creativity of our team: “Courage is more important than confidence.”
STAGE 7: ACCEPTANCE AND HOPE
This is when everyone in the session talked about goals and figuring out “what’s his/her next adventure?” From a real estate agent to a mechanic shop owner, everyone was able to commit to a specific long-term goal. I’m not perfect, but I like to think my best is pretty damn good, and I’m going to keep working to make it even better. My team and I are always on the hunt for a new adventure; and I think that’s one of the things that makes our work what it is. We never settle, and are always open to new ideas, and new ways of doing things.
Founder, Best Behavior Creative Club