Client letter: Bad Month

Dear Clients and Colleagues:

Every business that doesn’t have scale or leverage goes through the same thing eventually: A bad month, quarter or longer stretch of under-performance. When things go bad, the traps are many: Fall into a hole, hide in a corner or assume the fetal position. All of which, by the way, have been done by yours truly. If it weren’t for faith, friends and role models, returning to those positions may still be an option. But none of those still hold appeal. Here’s why:

First, my long view says being persistent pays. And that may be the only piece of conventional wisdom that still holds true. You big firm, corporate types who want to argue the 80-20 rule, be my guest. Persistence may not always translate into payment twice a month, but it will eventually produce reward, assuming other factors (hard work, inputs vs. outputs, economics) are equal.

Second, life is too short to let days pass sucking eggs. Middle age has a way of teaching, sometimes with a hammer, that life is fleeting, uncertain and that nothing is promised for tomorrow. So get busy doing what you love today and find some intersections with what the world needs. Oh, and be sure others with fresh faces know what you do — or at least have enough wits to form their own opinion. It helps, too if that same crowd has money or access. If they don’t, keep moving until you find a few that do.

Third, the longer you stay in the hole, the harder it becomes to turn away from sayings like, “this, too, shall pass,” or my new least favorite: “Just put this behind you and move one.” A good friend/former client shared that one recently following news of a lost bid on a consulting assignment where a key advocate chose to recuse without explanation. When you experience loss of any kind, the just get past it response is unacceptable. The friend offering comfort was well intended, but he would have been better off saying nothing before attempting to equate my loss to his own frustrations with not winning more business. In other words…Dude, next time just bring a casserole and keep your mouth shut. Or study up on St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel, and when necessary, use words.”

The truth is losses are set aside, not immediately left behind. It’s kind of like when you’re on a jam packed flight and you have to move past others to reach a window seat. The goal should always be to move up one row at a time while setting aside what occupied the previous seat. Forgive but never forget. If that doesn’t work for you, stay in the aisle seat and let us pass.

Enjoy the new month. I know I will. It has to be better than the previous one. 

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