When Disaster Strikes (Hard), Perception Is Everything
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
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For those of you who go through every line in a business contract, the force majeure clause that’s often included as standard in such documents shouldn’t be hard to miss: it is the provision that exempts the contracting parties from fulfilling their respective obligations due to circumstances that are beyond their reasonable control- these can range from unexpected natural disasters to unanticipated governmental directives that cripple or destroy the business activity that was agreed upon.
Now, there are, of course, actual events in the world that fit the literal meaning of force majeure (which is Latin for “a superior force”) and occur –thankfully- not on a regular basis. But if one were to consider only the devastating effects these kinds of unforeseen events have on people and businesses, then I’m going to wager that it wouldn’t be so hard to find parallels of that happening around us on a day-to-day basis.
For instance, there are those who get suddenly laid off from jobs they’ve had (and, by all accounts, performed well in) for quite a while. Regardless of the reasons for their dismissal, it’s always disconcerting to see how such people’s lives are thrown into complete disarray owing to reasons that they often simply don’t understand or comprehend.
In the world of entrepreneurship, similar scenarios can be seen to arise rather regularly. It could be the last-minute loss of a deal on which a startup was pinning all of its hopes on, owing to someone else’s stronger clout (wasta, as the Arab world would call it), or the crumbling of what was once a perfect relationship between co-founders at an enterprise.
In the past month, I’ve been personally witness to quite a few of these kind of unexpected situations: there was a friend who got abruptly fired from an enterprise he had been working for about a decade, the break-up of a couple that literally no one in their social circle saw coming, and an entrepreneurial venture, which was once a business to watch out for, now suddenly finding itself in the doldrums, thanks to a slew of bad decisions.
It is, of course, distressing to see such things happen to people you actually know- but the way some of them react to such curveballs can be rather instructive and inspirational as well. When faced with such situations, one should be allowed (heck, encouraged even) to buckle down and grieve for what has been lost, but wallowing in self-pity shouldn’t be the only order of the day, there also has to be a game plan to get back up after a fall. As debilitating as such occurrences may seem, it is in getting past them that will define us- not these failures themselves.
Indeed, we at Entrepreneur Middle East have often seen that the toughest hurdles that happen along an entrepreneur’s lifecycle are what contribute to their greatest strengths and successes in the long-term. And that’s something all of us should take to heart when faced with our own versions of force majeure events: these don’t have to be the end- perhaps it’s just time for a new beginning.