Have you ever looked at your overbooked calendar and thought, “I have to fire my assistant”? And that would be a reasonable solution—if you actually had an assistant.
Since I launched my own business in 2008, I’ve had countless moments where I’ve been certain that I’m losing my mind. If you handed me the following checklist of feelings on any of my near-losing-it occasions:
- Don’t know which way is up
I’d have happily checked each one off. And if I had, I'd at least have felt like I’d gotten something done that day. Maybe you know the feeling.
Well, I’m here to tell you that the next time you feel like losing your mind … you should. And you just might discover exactly what you need in the process.
Why We Refuse To Lose Our Minds
The hard truth is that people don’t hire me because I'm a raging wreck on the verge of losing my mind. Granted, that’s not my general state of mind, but when I'm on the verge of losing it, I’ve discovered a knack for covering it all up in a protective outer coating of "Hey, I’m cool! Let’s get stuff done!"
We’re completely resistant to losing our minds because we’re the ones who are supposed to have it together. We’re experts and authorities, thought leaders (ugh) and visionaries (double ugh). We are the people that other people turn to when they have things that need fixing.
And we can’t very well do that if we’re straight-up losing our minds, can we?
Since hanging out my shingle five years ago, I’ve lined up apocalyptic moments like stuffed animals on display at a traveling carnival ring toss game. Most of those moments have been hidden from the public eye—from being flat-out broke with cash flow that resembled a faucet rusted in the off position to the day my boyfriend suddenly died.
But not so long ago, I stood on stage at a conference in Boston and went about the business of losing my mind openly, quite publicly and honestly. And my honesty had some startling rewards.
The Benefits Of Losing It
I gave an 18-minute talk called “The Not-So-Fine Art of Losing Your S***.” I was in a packed room with more than 400 people, and during that talk, I was completely honest. I was fed up with my life and my business. Everything I had was wonderful, and I should have been happy. But I wasn’t, and it was because I was afraid to say the one thing that needed saying: I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
I had no idea how the talk would go—would I be booed off stage or get fruit thrown at me? But I discovered, in very short order, that I was in a room full of people who either felt or had felt the exact same way. So if you’ve ever been afraid to publicly lose it, here’s what you just might find on the other side:
- Understanding. When you’re the person who’s always supposed to have it together, letting it all go makes you human. By sharing my frustrations (the ones I had with myself and about my self-inflicted situation), I had a line of people out the door who were ready to share their stories—about losing it or wanting to lose it—with another human being they knew would understand.
- Clarity. In business, we often carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. From invoicing and making payroll to every client deadline, we lose sight of what’s most important because we’re trapped underneath the weight of the worlds we create. It’s incredible how clear your business (and life) becomes when you let yourself lose it and admit what you’ve been fighting. I emerged from that talk with better and more meaningful goals than I’d had in a very long time. I felt like I could see in the dark.
- Instant weight loss. For once, this phrase isn’t a scam. As I mentioned in the bullet point above, business is heavy. That is, if we make it heavy. When I allowed myself to lose it, I found myself instantly feeling lighter. I no longer had to carry around the types of work I didn’t want to be doing, relationships I’d felt obligated to maintain and goals that weren’t mine. Weight Watchers has nothing on the not-so-fine-art of losing it when it comes to making you lighter and more nimble in your business. So stop carrying around the weight, goals and obligations that aren’t yours, and run the business you've always wanted to run.
- Relationships. There’s an incredible bonding power that comes with losing it—if you don’t go off on some hateful rant that pushes people away instead of showing you’re human and drawing them in. The biggest benefit I reaped from losing it is still happening today. I get at least one to two emails a day in my inbox or through LinkedIn from people who saw my talk and thanked me for giving it. Through that talk, they discovered my blog, my columns, my books and, most importantly, a kindred spirit whom they’re inclined to follow. Who knew all of that could come from losing it? Maybe I should lose it more often.
Tips For Losing It
Let me share with you the same tips I shared with that audience in Boston not too long ago that can help you turn the act of losing it into a winning proposition:
1. Create an environment where you feel “scary safe.” What the heck is scary safe? For me, it’s how I feel in the company of my trusted friends and mentors. Surround yourself with a set of people with whom you can share everything—hopes, dreams, fears, failures and successes. When you feel yourself getting ready to lose it, these are the people who will let you lose it (and it won’t even have to be pretty). It’s scary to share that we don’t have everything figured out. Give yourself a safe place to feel that way and share those feelings.
2. Stop attacking others for sharing their truths. I don’t delude myself into thinking that everyone in that conference hall appreciated my message. And the truth is, I probably wouldn’t appreciate many of the messages that were important to those people had they shared them with me. That doesn’t mean, however, that each of our messages doesn’t have value. We see it every day on Facebook and in blog comments—people who attack others for thinking and feeling what they do. This change has to start with us, because if we attack others and their businesses for showing that they’re human, how can we expect others to understand when we’re being human? End the attacks, say one thing less than you normally would, and understand that there are just some real jerks in this world who will never appreciate what you or your business bring to the conversation.
3. Create one story. We lose it because we create what I call the "story gap." That’s where the story we tell ourselves and the story we tell others don’t match up. But we can only keep up that charade for so long. In truth, one story is all we need, and that one story is the one where we’re being honest with ourselves and those who matter most to us—our customers, clients, employees and loved ones.
It’s exhausting to lie, whether we’re lying to ourselves or others. Businesses thrive because we find the one story that powers us toward the goals that matter most. Believe me, I understand how hard it is to bring those two stories together. My business (and my life) have never been more successful than when I lost it, and with it, all those stories that were lies about what I wanted my business to become. One story is all we ever need. In fact, it’s the most powerful story we can ever have backing up this thing called business.
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