It was also the best thing that ever happened to me. It helped me have the kind of life I imagined moving forward. But I had to reinvent myself.
As a result of my metamorphosis, these virtues became a template for doing business and living life as an entrepreneur. Every. Single. Day.
1. Choose to Live in Peace
This means peace with others, your current situation, and the path you're on.
My path was a vision, then a business concept, trial and error, investor pitches, trial and error, a startup launch, advice from mentors and sages, and an internal compass that said this is the path, even if it meant Raisin Bran and Top Ramen for dinner.
Choosing peace allows you to stick to the plan, even when the skeptics say you're crazy. Peace blocks distractions that try to derail you from the plan.
Peace means minding your own business, not comparing yourself with others, and being grateful every day for the place you find yourself.
2. Trust the Process
The trust I speak of is counterintuitive for type-A entrepreneurs like me. It means having to surrender. Sound weak? Think again.
Leadership thinker and author Mike Myatt brilliantly captured my thoughts about surrender in this article in Forbes, where he states:
"You'll rarely encounter the words leadership and surrender used together in complementary fashion. Society has labeled surrender as a sign of leadership weakness, when in fact, it can be among the greatest of leadership strengths. Let me be clear, I'm not encouraging giving in or giving up--I am suggesting you learn the ever so subtle art of letting go."
So surrender to the outcome, believe that things will work out according to your vision, and surround yourself with trusted advisers, friends, and family who will support you in your journey.
3. Live Happy
Another choice you must make every day. My wife and I have gone through the ringer financially getting two startups up and running, but we choose to not worry and be happy (thank you, Bobby McFerrin).
Kidding aside, the choice to be happy has long-term psychological benefits. Brain research by Dr. Wataru Sato of Kyoto University says that a person's happiness may depend on the size of a specific brain region called the precuneus.
The study suggests that when you choose positive behaviors (like meditation), you hold the key to rewiring the precuneus. By changing your daily habits, you'll be able to control your sense of well-being, purpose, and happiness. Brilliant.
If you're caught in a vicious circle of doubt, fear, and uncertainty, replace those emotions by consciously and intentionally choosing happiness, joy, and hope.
Use the tools of meditation, prayer, journaling, and mindfulness to aid you in the process. Check in with close friends and family after two weeks and ask if they have noticed a difference. I would wager a small bet that they have.
4. Choose to Have Great Relationships
I've learned to be picky over the years about whom I let into my inner circle of friends. Why? Because I believe close relationships are the key to sustaining your happiness and keeping you in great spirits.
But don't take my word for it. George Vaillant's profound longitudinal study -- The Harvard Study of Adult Development -- proves this. For 76 years, they have followed 724 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age.
When asked what he learned from this massive research, Vaillant's response?
"That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people."
His colleague Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and now the fourth director of the study, shared the lessons learned about how to build a fulfilling, long life in his popular TED Talk--now reaching close to 10 million views.
5. Choose to Give
The late Jim Rohn said,
"Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have."
Countercultural, yes, but I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to this success practice.
In the book The Go-Giver, the main character Joe learns that changing his focus from getting to giving--putting others' interests first and consistently adding value to their lives--ultimately leads to unexpected returns.
Science also says giving makes us feel happy, is good for our health, and evokes gratitude.
Giving isn't restricted to money. Give of your time, mentor others, volunteer at a shelter, support a cause, sponsor a child, fight injustice, and have a pay-it-forward mindset.
6. Choose Compassion and Kindness
I'll never forget how kindness was extended to me from the most unlikely of sources: a homeless man.
When I lived near the beach in Southern California, I often rode a bike on the strip between Santa Monica and Venice.
On one afternoon, a homeless man walked right in front of me, and I flipped over the handle bars and crashed hard against the pavement, scraping my knees and elbows. I lit into him, threw some f-bombs his way, and rode off fuming.
Less than 20 minutes later, my bike's chain came undone. I'm not the mechanical type to just fix it on a whim. Worse off, it was a rental, the bike shop was miles away, and closing time was approaching.
The next thing I knew, a shirtless homeless man with a leathery tan approached me and offered to fix it. I've never been that humbled. Ever. He had me back on the road and in time to return the bike before the rental shop closed.
This act of compassion from someone with nothing but a pair of dirty hands shook me to my core. I realized how far I still had to go in extending kindness to others, especially to the "least of these."
Compassion as a business value
Companies out to make a difference in the world understand the power of this value. Listen to Google's own "Jolly Good Fellow," Chade-Meng Tan, explain in this TED Talk how Google expresses compassion in everyday business.
7. Choose to Have Faith
I don't speak of religion, which has been abusive to so many. I speak of a faith--whatever your belief system--that comes from a deep spiritual connection with a power greater than yours. A power that extends you grace, forgiveness, love.
It's this faith that strengthens you and makes you endure your trials. A faith that helps you realize it's no longer about you.
8. Fight the Good Fight
I started this article talking about a divorce. Perhaps your story is 10 times worse--death in the family, bankruptcy, substance abuse. But don't quit. To live in awesomeness doesn't always mean a walk in the park. There will be trials through which you'll need to persevere.
So fight the good fight, keep your eye on the prize (what's the big picture?), and stay honest and transparent with your inner circle--the people who should have your back through the cycles of your life. You will feel awesome in the process.
9. Make Decisions in Full Integrity
I wrote an article about integrity being the most important leadership trait. Allow me to quote myself (a first):
"Living, working, and leading in integrity means that we don't question ourselves. When we listen to our hearts and do the right thing, life becomes simple, and we live in peace. Our actions are now open for everyone to see, and we don't have to worry about hiding anything."
Living the awesome life is knowing that your conscience is clear, your heart is whole and open for inspection, and your reputation is on solid ground.
10. Listen Selflessly
The first to state his case wins, right? Not so fast. I've seen many self-appointed "prosecutors" hastily argue for or against something until a more prudent person cross-examines and questions that person.
The talk around the water cooler the next morning is about how "talking without all the facts just made him look silly."
Living in awesomeness means knowing when to speak (or being slow to speak) and when to listen.
The best listeners, as I've written before, have uncanny ability to first listen intuitively to the other person's story before a rebuttal. Therefore, the response is never reactionary.
They listen by searching conversations for depth, meaning, and understanding with the other person's needs in mind. They listen with one modus operandi: How can I help the other person?
As you consider the choice to live an awesome life, which of these resonate with you? Let me know in the comments, and subscribe below for more articles such as these.