Sometimes, Experience Can Hold You Back

When working in a business with people, you have two options:

1. Become bitter as you experience people, life, and issues.
2. Grow from experiencing people, life, and issues.

I’m not proud to say it, but I realize now that when I started my business and had bad experiences, I would run to option #1 and start building a wall between people and myself. Every difficult situation would bring me to my wall, and I’d add another row of bricks.

It happens. People take advantage of us, our expectations are completely dashed and unmet, we lose money, our ego is crushed, etc.

Oftentimes, money was never the issue for me, but it was more a matter of emotional heartache and inconvenience. 

A quick example: In the early stages of starting our family business, I had a commercial customer where I was installing air conditioners within cell phone tower equipment rooms. Every job made money, but frustration would build with last-minute changes on their part. We’d make special trips to get different supplies to help meet their demands, and I sensed in myself that I was building my wall higher and having thoughts like: “I will not work on these types of jobs in the future.”

I see now that I was putting an emotional limit on myself and was simply unwilling to grow.

Instead of focusing on the fact that I had an opportunity to expand and broaden my experience and customer base, I was shrinking my horizon by committing to approach only things that I was comfortable with and things that I naturally enjoyed doing.

While I didn’t give up entirely on insane projects, I would often be heard saying to a customer, “We aren’t taking on that type of project at this time,” or I’d tell the office personnel, “Nope, I’m not going to deal with the difficulty of that type of customer.”

Somehow, I felt I was being a strong leader by being willing to “just say no.” 

I was fooling myself. Instead of allowing circumstances to be an opportunity to grow, I was allowing circumstances to control my behavior.

What changed for me was realizing that I spent too much time judging motives and allowing the behavior of others to affect how I looked at my business and purpose.

As time passed, I realized that I could keep on the way I was going, but I wanted more. I wanted to expand myself. I wanted to see that others’ crazy wasn’t so terrible after all. In fact, I also have a form of crazy; it just looks different than someone else’s.

Why not choose to work together and support one another instead of creating walls of indifference? Find enough common ground to make it a win/win situation.

While I would still say there are times to say “no” to a job or a potential customer, it’s based on different reasons than what I had before. It might be “No, I can’t make money on this job,” or “My employees just don’t have the skills and/or equipment to handle this problem,” or “The scope of work is way too vague for me to bid on this,” instead of the old “This is new and unfamiliar. I’m not doing this!”

In summary:

  • Find opportunities in difficulties
  • Shed fears and embrace new things
  • Find common ground with others and don’t judge their motives
  • People are crazy, and so are you
  • Valuing others will genuinely grow you as an individual and as a business

What is an experience where you’ve had to deal with heartache but can still see it as an area of growth?

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