Failure

4 Steps to Reinventing Yourself After Hitting Rock Bottom

Failure is the unpleasant beginning of being reborn as an entrepreneur.
4 Steps to Reinventing Yourself After Hitting Rock Bottom
Image credit: Johnny Greig | Getty Images

Hitting rock bottom -- as energetic, smart and business-savvy entrepreneurial -- types, this dreadful phrase is simply not in our vocabularies.

But it happens -- even to the best of us who think we are completely prepared for this roller coaster ride in the pursuit of success. And if you don’t want to commit career suicide by going back to that nine-to-five job that made you jump into entrepreneurship in the first place -- you must navigate through the tough times. So, how do you do that? Where do you turn when you’re awash in the confusion, anxiety, self-doubt and worry of “rock bottom?”

David Schloss, now co-founder and CEO of digital-marketing company rampify.com and one of the most respected names when it comes to Facebook advertising, can tell you how to navigate through that unwanted world -- because in 2014, he hit rock bottom himself. He had just been “going through the motions,” he recalled. He had no real goal in mind. “I simply had no direction,” he said. “I felt totally lost.”

Related: How Entrepreneurs Benefit From 3 Types of Failure

On Halloween that year, David had $0 in his bank account. He was only 72 hours away from either coming up with his rent payment or getting kicked out. His car was two weeks away from getting impounded. It felt like walls were closing in. His business was crumbling -- and he was very close to throwing in the towel and going back to working a day job.

Thankfully, David was able to turn things around. He didn’t go back to being an employee and instead created his own thriving marketing company. Here are four tips from David that will help you through the tough times, get back on track and rise up in the business you were meant for:

1. Let yourself be vulnerable.

Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. We hit walls. Sometimes we lose. We struggle. Too often as entrepreneurs, we hide those struggles. The problem is, if you don’t let yourself be real and vulnerable when you’re struggling, then it will actually hold you back from progressing through the tough time.

In David’s period of uncertainty, he did something that proved to be a powerful key in his turnaround -- he let himself be vulnerable. David had hundreds of business friends on Facebook. Realizing he needed help, David reached out to every last one of them for advice and guidance. Two things happened.

“First, I discovered I wasn’t alone,” he said. “Other entrepreneurs had gone through similar things.” Knowing that other people had made it through, too, helped David develop confidence that he could also get through it. “Second, they were able to give me actionable advice to get on the right track.” It was that advice that got him moving in the right direction.

Related: 18 Ways to Bounce Back from Failure

Had David stayed “closed up,” he wouldn’t have had the support he needed from others to help him move forward. When you’re in a tough spot, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sharing the struggle is the bravest thing you can do. Being vulnerable isn’t a sign of weakness -- it’s a sign of strength.

2. Develop a vision.

It’s difficult to know if you’re progressing when you don’t know where you’re going. In "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey talks about beginning with the end in mind. Know where you want to end up at the beginning of the trip -- it’s your guiding north star. In David’s comeback, asking himself, “What do I want to create?” proved to be powerful.

“Asking that question,” he said, “is what helped me develop a vision for the future I wanted.”

David used the advice from his colleagues to help him get super clear on the vision and direction he wanted to go. It’s that vision that helped him get out of bed in the morning and get to work.

Vision is critical. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

3. Create an action plan.

Vision is knowing where you’re going. Action is how you’ll get there. You’ve heard “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” While that’s true, there’s an important distinction to be made -- your plan must be based on “action” instead of based on “results.”

In my first book, "Fish Out of Water," I explain how successful people focus on what’s inside their control, versus outside their control. While the result is not always directly within your control, action is.  

Related: 8 Ways Intelligent People Use Failure to Their Advantage

David got clear on where he wanted to go, and then he made a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly plan of action of how he was going to get there. To him, his success wasn’t based on the amount of money he made -- it was based on the actions he took to make that money. He set time aside to focus on personal development. He committed to contacting at least three people every day to create a conversation without pitching or selling anything. He created two training videos every week to provide value to his audience. David believed that if he took the right actions, results would come as a byproduct of those actions -- and they did.

4. Persist.

It’s no surprise that things don’t always go the way you planned. Persistence is a decision to keep moving towards the vision no matter the hiccups along the way. It’s not just doing what it takes -- it’s doing whatever it takes. It’s falling down and getting up again anyway, as David did.

“Anytime I hit into a wall,” David said, “I reminded myself why I was doing what I was doing. I connected to my vision. And I realized that no matter the hiccups along the way, it was still way better than committing ‘career suicide’ and going back to being an employee. It was not an option.”

Planning is what gets you moving toward your vision, but persistence is what keeps you going.

Entrepreneurship is a fulfilling journey, not just a satisfying destination. It’s not just about where we are going -- but who we become. Throughout the process of crawling up and out of the dreaded rock bottom, David began to realize he wasn’t even the same person anymore. So just remember, when you’re in a tough spot as an entrepreneur, it just means you’re being reborn into the new you. Embrace the new you.