I lost my stepfather to cancer last month. At the same time, I was in the eighth inning of the largest deal I have ever closed for my business--a make-or-break, multi-million dollar deal with one of the largest companies in the world. If I didn't close the deal, the company that I had been building for the last eight years would be gone.

My stepfather's death brought on great grief, and threw me out of my comfort zone. Not only did I have to deal with the emotional trauma of the situation, I had to make sure my mother, who didn't handle any of the bills or even own a computer, would be okay on her own. I had to quickly step up from the role of the child into the role of her caregiver.

Dealing with this loss, while running my company was extremely difficult, but it did teach me one of the single most important lessons for life, and for growing my business.

I gained clarity, and learned to place trust in my team.

As I navigated my way through planning a funeral, getting a grasp on life insurance claims, estate planning, and consoling my mother, I took a big step back from the business. For me, family comes first, no matter how hard the hustle is. Losing my stepfather forced me to back away from the day-to-day negotiation process of this massive deal. 

This was difficult because I had always feared that if I was not there to handle every aspect of a negotiation, the deal would fall apart. While steadfast in my family-first position, I also saw it as a sacrifice and a calculated risk, one that could ultimately end in failure for my company. I made my decision, though: family first. 

In the end, the company didn't crash and burn, and the deal didn't die. The sky did not fall and the ground beneath me was still there. In fact, I noticed that my separation from the deal gave me more insights into the deal points and the freedom to become a better delegator. 

I realized how important it was to surround myself with positive people and to give them space so their ideas could thrive--trusting and having confidence in the team I built to get the job done. The role of CEO was not to be a boss but to be a resource for my team, and my personal mandate changed from being a manager to a facilitator of vision and goal alignment. This drastically changed our company's culture in a positive way: I saw my second-in-command rise to the occasion, the team achieved its goals, and did it with a unified vision. They crushed all their meetings and became the most important piece of the puzzle in closing our big deal.

The ultimate lesson and power we derive from tragedy: it grounds us.

Tragedy puts everything into perspective by making it abundantly clear that our time is limited. It shifts our focus to the things that are most important, and that will inevitably propel us forward. The more I dealt with the aftermath of death, the more I was able to see and prioritize what mattered. Clarity put me in a much better mindset, and even had a positive effect on the way I now handle negotiations.

Before this insight, I was obsessing over every aspect of the negotiation and losing sleep at night, but after this tragedy, I gained a new perspective that allowed me to view the deal without being too attached. I was able to focus on the big picture and ask the right questions, like "what is the true value of this deal?" I learned that the most powerful tool you can take into a negotiation is seeing a deal from both sides.

The thing about clarity is that once you find it, it doesn't go away--not only does it guide you through the hardships of building a business, you can carry it with you and use it to deal with whatever life throws at you. It can open your third eye and let you cut through the noise to see what really matters, the value that you bring, and the deeper reasons behind everything. Clarity closes deals. Clarity is a superpower in business. Clarity is the silver lining I was able to find in tragedy.

So next time you're facing challenging times, like the loss of a loved one, just remember that you will inevitably walk away stronger. The experience will leave you with new tools and an extra layer of armor to carry into battle, whether that be in life or in business. Finding the strength to focus on this will not only help you through hardships, but will turn tragedy into a superpower that drives you towards success.

Published on: Sep 30, 2019
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