Entrepreneurs are driven, ambitious, do-it-yourself overachievers. Relying on others to get done what we perceive as our job is not only counter-intuitive, it’s often damn difficult to do.
But sometimes we actually need to let go.
I’m not a religious person. While I appreciate my own faith, particularly the cultural and family aspects, I’m more spiritual than religious. I believe there is something—some force-- bigger than us that we have no control over. I also believe that force has some control over what happens to us. It’s a force that guides us and connects us all in some way.
Over the past few months, my faith and spirituality have been tested over and over, both in business and in my personal life. Until this week, I had been neglecting my faith and instead tirelessly tried to ‘manage’ through some challenging times on my own. Even as I write this, I’m struggling with it somewhat. This all got me thinking about how letting go and combining a strong sense of faith with deliberate action is the key to success, both in business and in life. Looking back, this approach not only has worked, but it helped me achieve more than I dreamed I could.
Let's go back in time and share with you how I even got to this point in the first place. It was early June in the year 2002. I was 26 years old, working on Wall Street, making more money than I ever expected to be making at such a young age, living in New York City and living completely on my own for the first time ever. I felt on top of the world. I was working for Goldman Sachs, was working harder than I had ever expected to in my life, had just been promoted to associate and was about to be promoted to NYSE floor broker as one of the youngest women to secure that position in the floor’s history. We had just experienced one of the most tragic and life-altering times in New York and American history just eight months earlier, but I was managing and controlling my own life because if I was going to spend the majority of my life working, I was going to be unbelievably successful. And I would do whatever was necessary (but legal) to control my career and achieve my goals.
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Then personal tragedy struck. I received a call just before midnight on June 6 from my mother and sister to let me know that my father, the man that I had idolized, even worshiped, and loved unconditionally since birth, was suddenly dead. In an instant, my world was turned upside down. No longer did my career and all of the things that I had valued prior to that moment matter anymore. That’s when I realized how little control I actually had. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t control a situation and fix the problem or make it better because my dad was gone and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to bring him back.
When you are an entrepreneur, or a driven person, it is a horrible feeling at first to realize you are not in control. Nothing made sense anymore. I always thought if I worked hard enough, I could turn around any situation. But I never considered what I would do if I had no control. Not knowing what else to do, I set out on a journey searching for answers. I found myself looking both internally and externally. In the end, I decided to let go. For the first time in my life I felt that the only thing I could do was consider the possibility that there really is something bigger than me or anyone on earth watching over us all, and guiding us through this uncertain journey we call life. At that point, I could actually feel it. I had been raised to "believe" in G-d but never really understood in my soul what that meant. At the time actually, I was calling it a higher power or "the universe."
Fast-forward to October 2012 when Superstorm Sandy was building strength and heading for the northeast coast. I had recently launched my business as an executive and career coach and decided to ride out the storm at my mother’s house on Long Island, where it was predicted that my two dogs and I would be safe. I spent much of that time in a room by myself with my computer trying to figure out how to kick-start my lagging business through marketing and branding, something I hadn’t yet dedicated too much of my time. As this massive storm was ripping through the northeast, causing unprecedented destruction to shorelines, homes, and taking many lives, I was grateful to be seemingly safe and sound with my family in an offshore location. The enormity of this storm was greater than anything anyone had ever seen in our lifetime. It’s power was so destructive that even those dedicated to providing tools and resources for controlling and overcoming fierce weather patterns were unable to do anything to prevent monstrosity of a weather pattern from leaving a lasting, life-changing and devastating mark. We had no choice but to let go, ride it out and find some faith that everything will be ok, eventually. In truth no one in Sandy’s path had control here.
While that was going on, I was busy at work. I started out working in my usual way: challenging myself to think harder, plan smarter and strategize more. I was in fix-it, problem-solving mode. I worked on creating new services and ways to serve my clients. After some time, I took a break and spent a few moments connecting to my spirituality by praying for all the people who could be trapped in their flooded homes and prayed for all the lives in Sandy’s way.
As I turned my attention back to my work, I started to find myself stuck and frustrated. Given my newly found spirituality, I decided to stop trying so hard for a few minutes, let go and leave some of the work I was doing to G-d to guide me toward what I was supposed to do. I decided to let my higher power use me as a vehicle for delivering what I was put on this earth to contribute through my business and then something amazing happened before my eyes. A whole new concept for my business as well as a new name and marketing strategy came to me out of nowhere! It was amazing and exciting and something I couldn’t wait to share with the world.
You see, what I learned from my life experience to date is that as an entrepreneur, I’m driven, ambitious and full of ideas that I want to bring to market and share with the world. I’m also someone who believes in “if I want something done right, do it myself,” which naturally puts a lot of pressure on me to control situations, have the answers and make the right decisions. There comes a point in time, though, where that approach can be to the detriment of myself and my business, especially when I’m feeling stuck or when my approach is not creating the results I want. These are times when it’s important to let go and have faith in something bigger than myself even if it’s counter-intuitive to do so.
I think it’s a concept in business that many know but few discuss and definitely worth addressing. Sure, it can be hard to let go and have faith, especially for us driven types. It’s more instinctive to try to control situations, or to continue planning, strategizing and finding creative ways out of challenging situations.
But what I’ve come to realize is that this approach not only sends a message to my higher power that I’m closed off to the answers, and in truth, even if the solutions appear, I won’t be open to seeing them. However, when you take a deep breath and tap into the faith that is within you, it’s amazing the answers, the ideas and the solutions that show up and allow you to continue on better equipped and more prepared for the next road block.
Don’t wait for a tragedy to hit your life before you try this out. By then it could be too late for your business.