“Life is hard and then you die.” Uplifting, right? I’ve had the opportunity to observe many religions, cultures, and people from every social and economic class all over the world. Some people choose to live happy lives while others choose to live by a code of hate and fear. Most of us know someone who seeks out strife, always somehow finding their lives in a difficult position. There is no mistaking that this world can be a cruel place.
Cruelty can be difficult to accept. When I see people mistreating others, I feel a personal connection to them. I was bullied as a kid in public school. I have felt stupid when I didn’t know the answer to a question a teacher thought was obvious. In my awkward youth, complete with Coke-bottle glasses and big metal braces with headgear, I was rejected more than once by the cute girl next door. But I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. Living through the painful parts of being human is what makes us… human.
We all struggle at one point or another in our lives. Sometimes life feels like a constant struggle. Sometimes building a business feels like a constant struggle. We wait for the time when there will be no more worries, and that time never comes. Struggle is an integral part of life, and try as we might, we won’t find eternal peace until we’re pushing daisies.
If life is so hard, why is it you can walk through the poorest town in the dustiest part of Africa and see a village of smiles? Why is it you can cry your eyes out after losing someone close to you, and smile because your friends and family are with you? Why is it we can have a hard day and scratch our dog behind the ears and suddenly feel it all melt away?
Life IS hard. The struggle IS real. But so is love. And that’s what I feel like writing about. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but maybe some experience with running my business can shed some light on some things, or at the very least, we can commiserate a little.
When I talk about love, I don’t necessarily mean romantic love, though that plays a big part in this. I mean the honest, genuine caring for your fellow human or pets. It isn’t about gender preference, orientation, income, education, or anything we can quantify. It’s about feeling supported, through good times and difficult times.
Love What You Do
We spend much of our lives working, and it’s a little cliche when you hear people ask “do you love what you do?” But it’s a valid question. Do you? If not, why not? Why have you chosen something you don’t love? Can you change it?
There are whole cottage industries of life coaches, spiritual guides, and business consultants that march to that drum. “If you don’t like your life, change it.” (oh, and don’t forget to pay your favorite source of inspiration $500/hour for access to that gem) Don’t get me started on that “The Secret” movie. Here’s a secret – that isn’t a secret. It’s just that most of us are afraid of the effort and aftermath of what happens when we start making changes.
I don’t want to say anything too bad about business or life coaches. I have one, and he’s awesome. I have friends who do that, and they are both wise and inspiring. Sometimes we need a push to break the mold we have put around our lives. That mold can be our friends, family, habits, finances – all things we construct in some perceived safety net around us.
When we surround ourselves with good, positive, inspiring people, everything is more fun. We don’t walk on eggshells, afraid to be ourselves. We don’t fear how someone will react to our successes or failures.
Unfortunately, most of us have at least a person or two in our lives who we do tiptoe around, who we tell little white lies to in hopes to not disappoint or disrupt. Every time we do, we get in our own way. Sometimes we can live with it, sometimes the frustration boils over into other parts of our lives.
It is as important to surround ourselves with people who love what we do nearly as much as we do. The support that receive (or don’t receive) when we are under pressure can make or break us. Ask yourself about the people you have in your life. If they don’t love what you do, and if they don’t support you, can you live without them and their toxic influence in your life?
What happens when things go wrong?
Life is far from perfect. As a business owner, you’re subjected to forces beyond what non-business-owners understand. Will I make payroll? Will I pay off my loans on time? Are my customers happy? Are my loved ones proud of me? Questions like this can haunt you if you let them, and they’re much harder if you don’t have someone to lean on when times are tough.
This is where our tribe becomes most important.
Most of us have experienced toxic people in our lives. We have felt what it means to have a friend not be there when we needed him or her. Who are your good friends? Who do you turn to when the pressure is on? I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing people. Our team at GreenRope has been pulled together by personal relationships, and every single person is the kind of person you’d want to be stuck on a deserted island with. They are caring, giving, kind-hearted, emotionally intelligent people. Yes, we all make mistakes, but we support each other because that’s what a team does.
What does love mean to you?
Again, I’m not necessarily talking about romantic love here. The love we have for our friends and co-workers, the desire to see them succeed and find happiness is a very real and tangible thing. It makes all the difference between a soulless work environment, where your boss is asking for the next round of TPS reports, and an environment where you can be yourself and work hard because you actually want to.
When someone is having a hard day, there are a few things you can do to help. If you see someone you care about struggling, don’t jump to the conclusion that he or she wants you to solve their problems. Instead, try these:
1. Ask how you can help. Maybe all they need is the light turned on, or for quiet, or a perspective on a problem.
2. Listen when they complain. Show empathy, and actually listen.
3. Bring them food or drink. Red Vines and kettle corn are my comfort foods.
4. Encourage short breaks. Taking a short walk to help clear the mind often results in unblocking stuck thinking processes
5. Celebrate with them when they succeed. Maybe it’s going out to a nice dinner, or on a picnic, or to a movie. Do something not related to work as a reward for both of you.
Next time you have the chance to show love and support to someone who you care about, think about the ideas above and make a difference.
And now the business side
As the owner or a manager in business, you can do a few things to help create an environment where this is possible.
1. Encourage communication between departments. Cut the adversarial crap. There’s team building, where everyone in a department works together, but don’t do that by making enemies out of the rest of the company. The more you encourage people to work and socialize with people outside their departments, the more comfortable they will be working together to solve problems that affect different parts of the company.
2. Speaking of team building, do it. Have days where your team gets together and has fun. Building experiences with others is the best way to form a bond between people. It’s true in dating, and it’s true in work life.
3. When someone makes a mistake, counsel them in private. Everyone makes mistakes, and no one wants to be publicly shamed every time they do. Find the root cause of the problem, and address that. Sometimes the mistakes people make aren’t entirely their fault.
4. When someone deserves praise, do it in public. People like to be recognized when they do something awesome, so let everyone know about their awesomeness. Not just for the person’s ego, but also as an example for the rest of the team to follow.
Who’s in your Tribe?
When you decide who is in your tribe, think of the people who show you the kind of support you want. If they don’t demonstrate support in the way you want, communicate that simply. “I would feel better if you _____” or “Help me understand why you did _____”. If they don’t change their behavior, then it is up to you to distance that person from you.
You built your tribe. Your tribe is a reflection of who you are. Make it clear what you need, and bring those in who are deserving of your love and attention. Remove those who threaten your happiness and stability. You deserve to have the best around you. Don’t settle for anything less.