Curious

Crucial Conversations – Maintaining Your Honor Through Difficult Times

Crucial Conversations – Maintaining Your Honor Through Difficult Times

Last time, I wrote about honor and its importance. In a world where shallow self-centeredness and broken promises are commonplace, those who manage to act with honor will shine through; especially if they can maintain that honor through difficult circumstances long-term. I have had reason to think on this recently, due to an unconscious breach of my own honor. A promise I had made was forgotten, and through that neglect I caused a significant amount of strife.

It is inevitable that we will break promises, miss deadlines, and fail to meet expectations 100% of the time. Nobody is perfect. So, how do we maintain our honor in such circumstances?

In the past, I have found helpful advice in a lovely little book by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler called Crucial Conversations. The book talks about what a crucial conversation is and provides some methods for handling them well. Per the definition in the book:

Crucial Conversation – A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

Many of us dislike confrontation in any form, especially if the confrontation occurs between us and someone we hold a high opinion of. But truly impactful conversations often tend to happen in concordance with an element of confrontation. In these situations, we all have our own coping mechanisms: the silent treatment, sarcasm, anger, etc. But really, everyone involved in the conversation has a desire to be heard, not attacked, for their differing opinions. If we utilize some simple tools (and a whole lot of patience and empathy), everybody can walk away from a crucial conversation better off.

A central concept of the book is called the “Pool of Shared Meaning,” which contains the ideas, theories, feelings, thoughts, and opinions that have been openly shared. The more people contribute to the pool, the more information there is to work with, which can lead to new insights. As you can guess, these insights can be much more useful in finding a well-rounded and effective solution than by jumping to conclusions. The more time we take to add to the pool, the better the result for everyone involved.

Next, we need to ask ourselves what we really want. Taking a moment to pause and reflect on why we feel hurt or disappointed (or otherwise) can be very enlightening as we hone in on specifics that will be our guide throughout a conversation. Once we have a “North star,” so to speak, we can keep our proverbial eye on that as the discussion progresses and more information gets added to the Pool of Shared Meaning.

The last element I will mention here is safety. How many times have you been in a dialogue where you felt attacked, belittled, or otherwise put out? There are two elements that need to be universally established in any crucial conversation in order for it to bear good results: mutual respect and caring. Once everyone feels respected and that their best interests are at the heart of others in the conversations, the tension in the room will go down drastically. Then we can actually have a good conversation!

If you start your tough conversations with these elements, you will be well along the path to a successful resolution to whatever conflict that has cast its shadow on your life. There are only a handful more concepts outlined in the book that further enhance the foundation I have provided for you here. If you would like to understand a bit more before picking up the book, you can read an excellent summary on Wikisummaries.org.

And, as always, we here at Protagonist are dedicated to helping you through difficult life circumstances. If you should ever desire our assistance our simply need someone to listen, let us know at hello(at)protagonist.life

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Modern Knight: It is Your Duty to Have Honor

Modern Knight: It is Your Duty to Have Honor

There is considerably less honor in the world now than in ages past. The other day I mentioned to Calligraphie that I sometimes feel like I was born in the wrong time period. I am drawn to tales of knights and chivalry like a moth to flame. Now, I’m not talking about the misconstrued concept of chivalry that some people think means “women are lesser than men.” Heavens, no! I am talking about chivalry as a code of honor, as in the definition from the Oxford dictionary:

The combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, namely courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.

I think those virtues are the basics of how to lead a good life and how to be an overall good person. The world does not give much credence to honor anymore, which is a shame. We get buried in legal documents and jargon (that few ever bother to read) and rarely ever take anyone at their word. I mean, what have I ever done to the people with whom I conduct business? I’m don’t mean the big corporations that never give you an individual to talk to; there is good reason for the legal jargon in their case. The folks who interact with you face-to-face, however, are a different story.

Society has instilled within us an innate distrust of humanity.

This is why I wanted to touch on honor, and specifically the need to have one’s own code. As I have mentioned before, doing anything without some kind of organization or goal in mind leads to less than desirable results. Think of your code of honor as a foundation for how you view and react to the outside world. For example, a code of honor could be something short and to the point like the Cadet Code of Honor from the US Military Academy: “A Cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” Otherwise, if you have more specific points to cover, it could be as long as you like (for a very in-depth example, check out this article by Tori, a Washington & Lee University grad).

At the end of the day, your code of honor should define your values, what you stand for, and possibly how you intend to move forward in life. As I work on building (or, rather, re-building) my code of honor, I would love to hear about yours. How do you intend to live with honor?

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Ikigai in Action: Using Talent in Meaningful Ways

Ikigai in Action: Using Talent in Meaningful Ways

In pursuit of my own ikigai and happiness, I spent some time doing the work that requires. Over the course of that process, I managed to come up with an approach to distilling down my ikigai, which ended up looking like four lists:

So, where do these intersect? Let’s take a quick look. Speaking and facilitation seem to be at the heart of many things on my four lists. Teaching, coaching, consulting, selling—they all revolve around the ability to connect with others and have meaningful conversations. Of course, listening and analysis can be just as important to those conversations as the speaking parts!

Now, bear in mind that these lists do have some similarities between them. That’s kind of the idea! If you’ve been paying any attention at all to my posts describing the facets of ikigai, the point is to find where those intersect. Once you know that, then you can focus on that intersection.

How the heck does this mesh with “what the world needs,” though? Obviously, that list is largely based on my opinions. I feel that in this day and age, we are all too distracted, disorganized and frenetic. The problem with those things is that many people don’t see them as bad things, or, at least, not bad enough to take any kind of lasting action.

How, then, can I use my talents in ways that are meaningful to me?

It looks like I am going to have to roll up my sleeves, put on my “Hat o’ Patience” and attempt to find the folks who do care enough to try tackling those issues. Companies thrive on efficiency and tactics, and many of us are looking for the right reasons to really spur lasting, positive change.

With that said, I intend to try an experiment. I will provide email coaching for five people over the course of three months on a pay-what-you-want model. This means you have no obligation to pay me anything if you don’t want to. I am truly looking to help people who are feeling stuck in a rut or tired of their job, or who are looking for an edge as they start a business or side hustle.

This is first come, first served, so drop me a line at curious@protagonist.life if you want in! Spots will go quickly, so stop being frustrated and take action! There is literally no risk to you.

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Profession: Free Yourself and Get Paid to Do What You Love

Profession: Free Yourself and Get Paid to Do What You Love

As we wrap up our examination of the facets surrounding the concept of Ikigai, we come to the fourth and final element: Profession. This word is a bit loaded these days, and thinking about it kind of makes my head hurt, but this concept is important to examine. According to the article I have repeatedly cited, Profession sits at the intersection of “what you are good at” and “what you can be paid for.” Now, those two often do not intersect for many people. Lots of folks work jobs they despise or otherwise feel “meh” about because they either feel they cannot get paid to do what they enjoy or they have yet to land such an opportunity.

I want to touch again on personal awareness. Without an understanding of ourselves, it is impossible to know where to begin when pursuing one’s Ikigai. All sorts of questions pop up: “What am I good at? What do I love? Does the world actually need this?” followed by “If I have no clue how to answer those questions, how the heck can I get paid for it?” To even begin to discover your Ikigai, you must learn more about yourself. I’m not talking about online pop-culture quizzes that tell you about your personality based on what kind of potato you are. I’m talking about introspection.

Who are you? Why are you the way you are? What experiences have shaped you over the course of your life?

Of course, those questions don’t directly relate to either “what you’re good at” or “what you can be paid for,” but stay with me here. The more you understand yourself and why you are the way you are, the easier it becomes to understand your strengths. Say you’re actually really good at underwater basket weaving. Can get paid for that? Maybe! That takes some research and probably a bit of courage. If nobody has successfully made a profession of it yet, then maybe you can be the first! Long story short, you see the world differently than pretty much everyone, and can apply the talents and skills you have in ways that make sense to you—whenever you decide to apply them.

That decision is totally up to you.

Let it be terrifying. Let it be freeing. It’s your call. At the end of the day, Ikigai is a path you can choose to take, or not. But remember, the journey of a thousand miles can only begin with the first step.

Be sure to keep an eye out for my next post, where I detail my own personal exploration of Ikigai. I have decided to take my usual analytical approach, and will attempt to break it down into something understandable while (hopefully) gaining some personal insight of my own. And remember, until next time—stay curious, my friends!

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Vocation: Get Paid to Give the World What It Needs

Vocation: Get Paid to Give the World What It Needs

So far we have discussed three elements within the concept of Ikigai: what you are good at, what you love, and what the world needs. This time around, let’s take a look into the intersection of what you can be paid for and what the world needs: vocation.

What does the word vocation mean to you? For me, the word vocation conjures thoughts of long-term professional choices—in some ways, a career. If you take the time to look up the word you may find a definition like this:

Vocation:

  1. A summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action; especially a divine call to the religious life
  2. An entry into the priesthood or a religious order
  3. The work in which a person is employed : occupation
  4. The persons engaged in a particular occupation
  5. The special function of an individual or group

So, in some respects, my definition is not far off. In past posts I have mentioned the balance that must exist in order to realize one’s Ikigai. Just like the last two, this is part of the balance. Think of the balance here as less of a two-ended scale and more of a gyroscope. There are layers here that all play off of each other to keep your Ikigai stable and standing.

How, then, does one find a vocation that meets the definition sought by Ikigai—something you can be paid for that the world really and truly needs? Again, it is a case by case situation. The world needs lots of things, and many of them are subtle. I want to reiterate that as grand as the phrase “what the world needs” sounds, it only has to be as grand as you desire to make it. Some people have the gumption to do something on a large scale, while many others only have the ability and desire to do small, specific things. How we do those things long term is the key when it comes to the vocation element.

A quick story about my thoughts on vocation. Lately I have been spending time and effort to simplify my life. I’ve done away with all sorts of not only excess possessions, but also excess actions. Each week I have been paying attention to the things I like in my day to day life and job and each week I learn something small. Things about myself, mostly, that I feel are getting me closer to a vocation that I truly want to do. Oddly enough, signs continue to point me in the direction of the coaching and consulting that I am building Protagonist to provide. For example, I really enjoy working with people to solve problems. Speculating and making informed suggestions is something I enjoy and can provide as a service.

Long story short, finding your Ikigai is not an overnight deal. It is very much a long-term investment and certainly one that will pay huge dividends. How would you go about finding your Ikigai? What methods would you employ? How close do you think you are?

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Mission: the Intersection of What You Love and What the World Needs

Mission: the Intersection of What You Love and What the World Needs

The word mission can hold a variety of different meanings depending on its context. It can have personal, political, or business connotations, to name a few. Within the context of Ikigai, however, it means the intersection of what you love and what the world needs. Keep in mind that mission is only the second of the four elements that make up one’s Ikigai—one’s reason for being. And this element is what I will explore here.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/life/relationships/2016/09/06/why-north-americans-should-consider-dumping-age-old-retirement-pasricha.html

Source: Toronto Star

One part of the Ikigai meaning of mission is “love.” The things we love say a lot about us as individuals. Personally, I revel in process, good stories, and various types of improvement. If left to my own devices, I can be found working on finding a better way to do something, reading a good fantasy book, or playing a game with a good storyline. Obviously, there are other things I enjoy, but for the sake of this post we will keep it simple! The activities and experiences that we love give us energy and fulfill us. They help make life on this spinning rock more enjoyable and worthwhile, regardless of whether they better the rest of the world or not. In and of themselves, they are good.

Now, how does love factor into mission? Love provides fuel for the other half of mission: “what the world needs.” Before you feel tempted to get all up in arms about service and “but what has the world done for me lately?” let’s take a look at the meaning behind the idea. What the world needs can be just about anything: a product, a service, or even a simple kindness. It doesn’t have to be servitude or the grand things we always hear about on the news. A phrase comes to mind: “to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” When we talk about what the world needs, it does not need to be earth-shattering; it can be as simple as helping a single person.

Combining love and “what the world needs” to create a mission is an important facet to the jewel of Ikigai. In the diagram and article linked above, the intersection of mission and passion is noted with the phrase “delight and fullness, but no wealth.” Obviously, wealth plays a big part in most people’s happiness and fulfillment because it allows us to afford to do more, with less effort. We will cover the monetary piece in later posts, along with the other half of the diagram. As you may realize, each of these parts have their own balance of elements that in turn balance the other pieces of the Ikigai puzzle.

What do you love? What do you think the world needs? What thoughts do you have on the concept of mission? We here at Protagonist would love to hear your thoughts. Drop us a line at hello@protagonist.life!

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Why Being Passionate About What You Do Can Change Your Life

Why Being Passionate About What You Do Can Change Your Life

Lately I have discovered Ikigai, a Japanese concept for one’s “purpose in life,” which argues that having the four elements of passion, mission, vocation, and profession in balance will lead to fulfillment and possibly even longer life. I will touch on each of these in a four-part series of posts in the coming months. First, let’s begin with passion.

Are you fueled by passion for what you do? Do you wake up excited for the day and full of energy, or groggy and hankering for your first full pot of espresso? I’ve been on both sides of that equation (sans espresso; I prefer to enjoy a cup of coffee now and again, rather than relying on it to live) and the groggy side kinda sucks, doesn’t it? Up until the last year or two, I regularly woke up in various states of exhaustion and dread. And for what? Supposedly, because I was building a business I felt passionately about. In February of 2017 I sold that five-year-old IT business…

…and after all was said and done, I felt happier than I had in a long time.

Let me touch on a bit of the history of that turning point. I started my previous business in 2012 after having spent a couple years working in a corporate IT role which was merely “okay.” It provided a regular paycheck, but also brought me stress at the cost of freedom. I didn’t realize that fact until I left the job to go full time in my business, at which point I felt the rush of possibilities and the true flexibility that I would never have had in an office. (Disclaimer: this is not a push to get you to start your own business, simply a recap of my own path. It is a big decision that I will leave up to you to make.) Fast forward five years, and I was even more stressed than I had felt while working my office job. Go figure! In my efforts to build a business, I had built myself into a corner. I barely had enough money coming in and I didn’t use my time wisely because I was so frantic. In short, I was a mess.

At that point, a colleague urged me to take a trip out of town to disconnect and breathe, even if only for a couple days. So, the next week, I threw together a suitcase and took a road trip up to Duluth for a few days. I didn’t check my email, didn’t answer my phone, didn’t correspond at all outside of some texts with a friend who lived up there to coordinate a meetup. I truly removed myself from my life for almost three days and discovered I was not as passionate about technology as I thought. Yeah, I can troubleshoot and configure technology better than most, but it had become a chore to keep up with the skills and smarts needed to to the job. I learned an important lesson in passion.

We can force ourselves to do things we find uncomfortable, but if we have an imbalance in our lives, or in our Ikigai, ultimately something is going to give. Recently I listened to a Success podcast about the effects of gratitude. According to research, our emotions and psychological outlook can have long term physiological effects. The longer you feel stressed, the longer your body stays in ‘fight or flight’ mode; the longer you feel content and happy, the more endorphins and good hormones populate your system. I don’t have a doctorate in science, but those concepts make sense to me.

Long story short: now that I am more aligned with my passion of guiding others, I more frequently do wake up excited for the day. I sleep much better and I am able to function more capably in everything I do. Now, that’s not to say I have “found my center,” as so many Hollywood zen master types would say, but I do feel a lot closer to it. And being in that space makes a huge difference.

Think on those questions from the second paragraph. Try to understand the reasons behind your answers and do some reflection. Then give yourself a pat on the back, because you’ve already started down the road to your own Ikigai.

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How Your Intuition Can Guide Your Life

How Your Intuition Can Guide Your Life

In this day and age, intuition does not get the recognition and use that it deserves. We seem to revel in logic and routine, our lives on autopilot. Intuition is our soul’s way of telling us something is right or wrong. For example, have you ever felt really strongly about something, but were unable to explain why? That’s intuition. We all have it, but do we have mastery of it? I argue that we don’t; “mastery” is not a word one often uses with intuition, because intuition is more or less a supernatural force.

Now, before you jump all over me about spirituality and religion, let me preface my thoughts with this—I am not a religious person. I was raised Lutheran and am familiar with Christian practices to a degree, but my beliefs do not presently lie with any deities, titans, figures, or otherwise. However, I do believe there are forces at play in the universe that are beyond our understanding. And at the risk of sounding like some sort of voodoo, hippie spiritualist, I will continue.

In my experience, especially in recent years, I have enjoyed the benefits of listening to my intuition. It’s what led to me selling my last business—it just seemed like the best thing to do. I have all sort of reasons why, but at the time I made the decision entirely based on how I felt. Listening to my intuition and whatever drives it led me to feel happier than I have in years. That said, listening to one’s intuition often seems easier said than done. Some of us are so stuck on autopilot that we find it hard to change our course or method. Because of our routines, we either ignore or forget to listen for new things. On the other hand, some of us are such strong empaths that we can’t distinguish one feeling from another. To this, I like to quote a friend who once said, “The universe will keep teaching you the same lesson until you get it.” That, to me, means that if you feel stuck or stagnant, there is a lesson to learn that you just aren’t getting.

Take an ounce of advice from a guy who has tried things that he never thought he would try—listen to your intuition more!

There are different ways to tune in to your intuition, and everyone is a bit different. I recommend meditation and finding a personal place to be still, both physically and mentally. I can’t claim a whole lot of expertise with this yet, as I only meditate (without much direction) every morning for about fifteen minutes. As I begin to work with a new coach myself, that is one space I am looking forward to exploring. As of this post, he has been able to get me to tap into an inner stillness that I have only experienced once before. Until you can find a practice or a coach that works best for you, do some Google searching or download an app. (I use Insight Timer. The Calm app is another good one!)

Take some time to listen more deeply, and you may be surprised where your intuition leads you. The universal forces that drive it want the best for you (just take my word for it) and will not lead you astray.

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Kind of Crazy or Kind of Scared?

Kind of Crazy or Kind of Scared?

Have you ever heard or said the phrase, “They’re my kind of crazy”? For some reason, my brain has fixated on this phrase for the last week and, as such, I have felt driven to write in order to examine it. What the heck does it mean? Is the person clinically insane, or just strange or weird in some agreeable way? Perhaps they maintain a collection of exotic butters?

To put the phrase in my own context: I typically say it to a close friend while having a great time with others, or while watching a video or performance that is perhaps just on the edge of being socially acceptable. You know—one of those “hilarious, but not something I’d ever show my parents” kind of things. “They’re my kind of crazy,” to me, means someone has a similar mindset and is just one or two steps ahead of me, either in terms of thought process or of courage. I want to be like them because of the abilities they have or way they think.

It is so easy to admire others…or even be jealous of what they have that we don’t, and I have spent so much time training myself to not be jealous, but to funnel that energy towards attaining the things I admire in others. For the skeptics among my readers, I will tell you a little story about how I got to that point. In my early college years, I was a lump. Not because I stayed indoors without human interaction, playing video games (although that’s mainly what I did), but because I didn’t do anything to try to improve my life and be happier. I should have been as green as the wicked witch from all the envy I had for the “normal humans” who seemed to effortlessly enjoy life, but I never took the time to find out why they enjoyed life. I never even took the time to figure out why my life sucked in the first place! I refused to.

It was not something I wanted to deal with.

Long story short, my life reached a rock-bottom point where I was forced to look at myself and the pit I had dug. And yes, in my case, the pit was dug by yours truly; I didn’t just fall into it, because it was the culmination of a lot of complicated things I could have influenced. At that point, I realized that I didn’t have a kind of crazy to be drawn to, I was crazy. Crazy enough to let myself slip to that point.

We all have our skeletons—some scarier than others, and some less controllable than others. In any case, a bit of observation and retrospection can lead to some life changing-epiphanies. I encourage you to find a journal or legal pad or some writing surface (yes, I mean writing by hand, because writing engages the brain in ways a computer can’t) and just write out a list of what’s on your mind – good or bad. Did a coworker annoy you today? Write it down. Was your lunch extra tasty? Write it down. Worst or best day of your week, month, year? Write it down. Has something been nagging at your brain for weeks? Yup, you guessed it! That’s it. That’s the whole exercise. You don’t have to do anything else unless you feel like it.

The act of writing thoughts down gets our brain to engage with them, both consciously and subconsciously, which sets gears in motion to move you from wherever you are to a better place. Our subconscious developed to keep us safe, and when you take even the tiny moments to recognize things that are bad, it will start to take notice. Now, I’m not saying that this exercise will change your life overnight. Few things, short of winning the lottery or getting hit by a bus, will do something that drastic. However, if you do this with some regularity, you may start to notice small things changing for the better. In my humble opinion, small, incremental changes, whether good or bad, lead to far less chaos and far more stability than big, abrupt changes.

For those of you that want faster change or are just over-achievers, here’s your extra credit: once you’ve written your list (or word cloud—it doesn’t have to be neat and orderly as long as things are on paper), pick one or two thoughts from the page and spend some more time on them. Think about how those things affect you and, in turn, how you can affect them. Then start doing something about it! Few things change the way we want them to without our direct interaction.

So. What’s your kind of crazy?

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Why Your Mindset Is Killing Your Dreams

Why Your Mindset Is Killing Your Dreams

What kind of crap do you put up with? As an entrepreneur, I used to put up with all sorts. I’d let customers trample all over me in the effort to make a sale or close a deal. It was exhausting!

With that said, it makes me so sad to see all the people in my Facebook feed who hate their jobs (or lives). It’s a weird juxtaposition between half of my friends and the other half – one half, mostly entrepreneurs, love what they do and keep forging ahead regardless of how challenging life may be in the moment. The other half–let’s call them ‘9-5ers’–complain regularly about their jobs, lives, or situations. For a good long while now, this dichotomy has fascinated me and, quite possibly, contributed greatly to my list of reasons why I started Protagonist.

What is the difference here? Do half of my friends know some sort of black magic the other half doesn’t?

Let’s take a look at one of the mindset differences: outlook. My entrepreneur friends generally see the world through lenses of endless opportunity. To them, there is nothing that can’t be done; one just needs to spend the appropriate amount of time or find the right resources. On the other end of the spectrum, the 9-5ers seem to have this lens that casts their world into the shadow of passive hostility and a lack of control. To them, many problems are insurmountable because of the obstacles in their way.

Let’s take a quick peek at another element – control. What do you have control over? I promise you if you start asking yourself that question and giving it some honest, objective thought, the answers may surprise you in a good way. Entrepreneurs seem to be masters of their lives. Want to know why? I’d argue that they started asking a question like that early on and began finding answers. Creative or not, they found out that they could exercise control, or at least influence, much more than they were led to believe by society, their parents, company management, etc., and decided to do something with it. Do you ever feel more at ease when you feel you have things under control? I do.

These mindsets can come from a variety of different places. Everyone has their own catalyst, and there doesn’t necessarily need to be a ‘stars aligning’ moment to get there. It’s a lifelong journey that brought each of us to where we are today. The ‘stars aligning’ moment is generally what is needed to get one onto a different track, though. Unfortunately. And most of the time this moment cannot be ‘manufactured’ in the sense that a given individual, say a therapist or coach, guides you to it. There’s a certain magic when deep down you decide you’ve had enough and need a change. Call it chemical reactions, spiritual awakening, decisiveness… There’s a certain resonance that happens that seems to give us permission to do what we need in order to make changes. And it can only happen inside you.

Now, I’m not discounting the elements of depression or anxiety or any other psychological ailments. These play a huge part in one’s mindset to be sure! As a friend of mine once put it,

“When you have depression, you may be overwhelmed with sadness for no reason at all. Logic plays no part in it – regardless of how you try to logic yourself out of it, you get to be so sad that you don’t want to do anything. Congratulations.”

This illogical beast that can strike from the shadows is something more people deal with than you might think. The 9-5ers aren’t alone in that! Elon Musk (Tesla) is a perfect example of an entrepreneur who dealt/is dealing with with depression. According to one study done by Michael Freeman M.D., about a third of the 242 entrepreneurs he tested reported having depression. If that’s any representation of the group as a whole, that’s a lot of people!

One question I have been asked (and one that I have asked others) is ‘how do you get through the tough times?’ I know we’ve all asked that question at one point or another and the answer is different for everyone, everywhere. In my opinion our upbringing plays a large part in not only how we see the world, but how we deal with the dark times. If you were always told to ‘suck it up’ as a kid, chances are you’ve been doing that for years (which may or may not have anything to do with depression/anxiety/etc.). On the flip-side though, if your parents acknowledged the pain you were feeling and helped you through it, you probably have some personal methods and tools for coping when the going gets tough. For me, the best way to get through tough times is to talk. I hop on a call with a friend or ask them to go for a walk with me so I can unravel the tangle in my head. Not only do I feel better because I’ve been able to bring what’s inside out, but my monologuing (let’s face it, it’s usually not a discussion but me talking to myself in the presence of another) helps me understand the angles of the situation. It may even turn on a light that allows me to think differently and more positively.

So what the heck is one to do when life doesn’t just give you lemons, but starts cramming them down your throat?

I will be up front and say that I don’t have a perfect answer. There is no cure-all that will magically make your troubles disappear. Find a place to yell and scream and tear at things. Write. Exercise. Find a happy place, either alone or with someone you really care about who understands. Regardless of how illogically our brains may work or how tough life may be, we always have a choice in how we respond. That is where we can take a stand and make sure our needs get met.

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