I was told that within one day I was going to lose all of my money. It was a complete surprise.
I got a phone call for an emergency board meeting. “Maybe good news!” I thought.
Leaving out the details, I’ll just go straight to what the CEO said, “We broke one of the rules in our loan with the bank, so they are coming and shutting us down.”
I am paraphrasing. They had one billion in revenues. I owned a decent chunk of the company.
I tried to come up with solutions. I offered to buy the company. My plan was to sell off the pieces that that would pay for the costs to buy the company and leave me with a profit.
I got off the phone. I was in shock. This was my money. This was retirement money for me. This was money for my kids.
In four days…zero. Nothing I could do.
I was afraid. How would I come up with that kind of money again?
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I was afraid. What was I going to dream about that night? I knew I would wake up at 3 in the morning anxious and scared and panicking.
I was afraid of being afraid. Fear makes me sick. Makes me sad. Makes me anxious. Makes me not love people or like people. Makes me feel small.
How would I laugh when people told a joke. How would I interact like a normal human being.
I was out in a parking lot to take the board call. How could I go back in the building.
Maybe I could jump. Jump high in front of the oncoming car. Let it hit me. Solve my problems.
No matter where I’ve been in life – happy, success, sad, or smart – bad things always happen.
Life is not a straight line. It’s a zig zag. It’s a maze. It’s a treasure hunt. We’re always lost with no GPS. I can’t use GPS to navigate my way out of sorrow or pain or fear.
When imprisoned in the solitary confinement of fear, the first challenge is to find the grace and honesty to see what is still fortunate in life. This is exactly the seed that will create future fortune.
I was grateful for the friends I was with that day. It’s hard to make friends when you are in your 40s and these were all new friends.
I was grateful for all the other opportunities I had in my life. I try to plant many seeds, so when one thing goes bad, I have other things I could turn to.
I was grateful my own writing was able to help me. I see so many people give advice and then don’t follow it. The genre of self-help BS.
I try to solve “hard gratitude problems”. What were the challenges in my life that I was grateful for. The gratitude that I earned through past tears.
This is what beats the fear. This is what turns a failure into future great success.
I went back and enjoyed the rest of the day.
Later on I told my friends that day what had happened.
They said, “What? We thought you were in the bathroom for an hour!”
The very first thing after failure is not about solutions. Or fear. Or exercise. Or calling a doctor.
It’s about gratitude. And gratitude crowds at fear. And without fear, I fell in love with my life again. And everything else started to blossom.
I fell in love.
[This post by James Altucher first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]