How To Face Adversity, and Grow Stronger
Like most things an idea can often at times be completely different to reality. Think about a course you have done, you probably studied a lot of theory and had an idea of what it would be like. Then came time for work experience and you had to put it into practice.
I remember when I was studying psychology my first role in the industry was Youth Work to get my foot in the door. I thought it was all sunshine and roses and I would be able to make a positive difference instantly. The reality was I was doing shift work so I was physically exhausted, young people were going AWOL, I was often doing Missing Persons Reports and often times I was viewed as a person of authority rather than someone who genuinely wanted to be a positive role model. What I thought I was getting myself into was completely different to reality.
The idea of being a founder of a startup is no different. It may to an extent be glamorised particularly when you see headlines such as “overnight success” or Snapchat Founders worth $5 Billion each when in reality we know that the average ‘overnight success’ was working out of their parents garage and average between 6 - 12 years and let’s face it, it’s a really hard slog.
We start to formulate ideas of what it must be like but upon further inspection and better yet when one embarks on the startup journey, the realities become more apparent. We seem to live in a society of instant gratification and when our rewards aren’t received in a timely manner things start to go downhill. How do I know this? I’ve been there. Of course everyone’s journey is different and we all handle things in our own way but it doesn’t hurt to start the conversation because I guarantee there’ll be at least a handful of people within your network that is experiencing or has experienced what you are going through.
Our ability to handle adversity varies greatly and contributing factors include our family upbringing, learned behaviours, environment, past experiences, our support network, communication abilities and self awareness just to name a few.
As a Founder, the pressure can feel enormous and things tend to happen rather quickly. One minute you’re building your MVP, then approaching investors, hiring your champion team, doing the leg work to get your first customers. As your company grows you’ve then somehow got to fast track your people management skills, financial management and boost your marketing. Having a team is like having a mortgage and mouths to feed and all at the same time trying to stay composed, maintain momentum and keep your relationship alive. I’m sure most if not all of founders reading this right now can relate to some degree. If you’re a newbie, these are some of the realistic challenges ahead.
What we need to consider is how we respond to the situation, the saying goes “respond don’t react”. I’m sure we’ve all had knee-jerk reactions and in hindsight would have preferred to have responded much differently. In life there’s always going to be things that happen outside of our control. What we need to focus on is things we can control and that begins internally, that begins with you. With that comes a lot of self awareness and reflection. What can I do to change the situation? How do I best respond in this instance? What are the pros and cons?
When difficulties arise what is your automatic response? The typical fight or flight situation. Do you run or do you face the challenge head on? It is often encouraged to face challenges head on as things have a way of catching up to us. Perhaps it’s something we’ve been avoiding but we find the pattern or situation keeps reoccurring even in different environments until we face things head on and learn the lesson. Only then we can we truly feel free and move on.
Here are some key tips when faced with adversity:
1. Identify the problem, identify concerns or fears, explore possible solutions and outcomes. Worst case scenario what could happen? What are possible solutions?
2. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re thinking is becoming jumbled and distorted, write down how you are feeling. Then list alternative positive responses, explore all avenues.
3. Have a sounding board - who can you talk to that can provide you an objective perspective?
4. Breathe - meditation and breathing exercises can help relax the body and mind. Headspace is a great app for this and all is needed is 10 minutes per session. Excellent for the busy entrepreneur.
5. Work out specific action plans for solutions to the problem
6. Self reflection - What is working for you? What isn’t? What could you do differently?
7. Gratitude, with every experience whether good or bad there is a lesson learned. Sometimes we focus on what we don’t have and that hunger seems never ending and unfulfilled. Stop for a moment and write down 5 things you are grateful for. This one works well for me personally.
8. Mentors can be an invaluable resource of knowledge and support.
9. Upskill - this helps build confidence.
10. Outsource and delegate, take some of the weight off your shoulders.
11. Exercise, eat well and sleep. An incredibly cost effective form of “therapy” or taking care of yourself. We all function better when we get adequate sleep, we’re more productive, we feel less lethargic when we eat healthily. It’s a no brainer but are we practicing what we preach? What are you waiting for :)
You will find as you build up the courage to face adversity and work out constructive ways to handle them head on, you find that your resilience grows as well as your coping skills. Being open to communication and having a support network are key things to maintaining a healthy mind.
For those experiencing more severe mental health symptoms where challenges are starting to impact quality of life, it is recommended that you seek professional assistance. The sooner the issue can be addressed the sooner things can get better and always remember you are not alone. We are here to support each other on this incredible startup journey.
More about Lan Nguyen:
Lan Nguyen has a Bachelor of Psychology and Masters in Counselling from Monash University and has worked for NGO’s across South Australia and in private practice. Her experience ranges from Comorbidity Project Officer (dual diagnosis for mental health and AOD), Counsellor for children and adults, Case Management and as Applied Behavioural Analysis Therapist working with children with autism in early intervention.
Lan is passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation and recognised a gap in the industry in terms of a support network for founders facing adversities and challenges of a startup business. Having pursued her own ventures, Lan understands the many highs and lows founders experience. Her goal is to create a safe space for founders to start the conversation, share invaluable tools and resources to better equip founders when challenges arise.
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