Support Systems: What To Do When Things Seem To Be Going Out Of Control
Don't be afraid to ask for help- it will only ever do you good.
One of the recurring themes in the conversations I have had lately with people in the MENA entrepreneurial ecosystem is about how we often shy away from admitting to or publicly talking about the days when everything seems to be going, well, belly up in our respective startup enterprises.
It’s something we at Entrepreneur have noticed quite a few times as well- in interviews, when we ask entrepreneurs to tell us about the challenging times they have faced while building up their businesses, there have been cases where there was either a flat-out refusal to talk about such episodes, or just a vague allusion to the hurdles faced, without going into the depths of how these happened, or how they got past it.
But this kind of behavior from those of us who work in startups is completely understandable, of course- nobody really ever wants to talk about the times they were “losing it” at a fledgling enterprise; breakdowns and meltdowns are things that all of us are only too glad to sweep under the carpet anyway. But shouldn’t such discussions be a part of the larger discourse on entrepreneurship today?
It is thus in the spirit of sharing that I figured I will, well, walk the talk, and use this note to go into a particularly tortuous week at work recently, when I seemed to be, in the words of a one observer, “falling apart.” What happened was this: a project that I was managing had been hit by a series of unexpected impediments, which resulted in it descending into what I perceived as a complete mess that I was both unprepared for and overwhelmed by. Panic reigned supreme in my head, and that anxiety was further crippling my attempts to pull myself out of this situation. Despite this, I kept a stiff upper lip and tried my best to go about business as usual- which, in hindsight, was definitely a mistake, as by pretending that there wasn’t a problem, I was essentially exacerbating the issue for myself at work. Redemption came, perhaps ironically, when I finally broke, and let people around me know that I was in this apparently dire state of affairs. Friends rallied around me, and my team too- I was especially gratified to see people who were out on holiday still take the time out to offer both support and solutions to the conundrum I was in.
With the various sets of advice now at my disposal, I forced myself to take a break from all of the tasks on my plate, and a rethink of the situation then followed- delegation became the order of the day, as opposed to trying to fix everything by myself. Once I realized that there were people out there who I could depend on and actually had my back, things began to look a lot better- sure, it was still not the best of times, but it was no longer the worst of times either. The ultimate boost came during a meeting later with my project’s stakeholders, when I realized that despite all of the hurdles along the way, things were actually still under control, and not as bad as I had perceived it to be.
All said and done, I came out of this episode with this lesson: when you think you’re “losing it,” make sure you let someone around you know about it as soon as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help- it will only ever do you good.
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.