I don’t care if you’re Pejman Ghadimi, Elon Musk, or a cashier at Walmart, we’re all susceptible to shitty days. It’s inevitable that some days are just going to feel more like running in mud than firing on all cylinders, but the way we handle those days has a significant effect on our long-term ambitions.
One thing I’ve learned from trading is everything has cycles, ups and downs, bull markets and bear markets… it’s natural, it’s expected, it’s necessary. Maybe it’s a sign of burnout, maybe Mercury is in retrograde… Depending on the circumstances and your options, there could be myriad of ways you can shift gears to turn your day around (or at least make it a not-so-shitty day), and I’ve found a handful that I keep in my arsenal when I find myself knee-deep.
- Go Home
Call it a day. Throw in the towel. If your head isn’t in the game, don’t waste energy forcing out a subpar performance, possibly mucking things up in the process. I learned this one from a good friend I used to work with who had a boss known for sending his mortgage brokers home if they were dragging ass. If you’re like most hungry hustlers, it should pain you and build guilt to be on the bench during a work day, but that’s the point.
Sometimes I’ll do the same thing when I feel unmotivated to workout, and after a week out of the gym, I’ll often feel like a fat-ass and return with a vengeance. Even if you just take an extended lunch hour to clear your head in a park, hit the beach, or meditate (check out my article on meditation), escaping the chaos can often be exactly what the doctor ordered. Come back feeling behind, eager to run through a to-do list and focused on making up for the self-imposed time in the penalty box.
- Keep It Simple, Stupid
If you don’t have the option to unplug for the day and restart, dumb it down. Swallow your pride, put on your dunce hat, sharpen your crayons, and stick to the basics. Organize your Google drive, clean up your workspace, write out your to-do list for the next day… anything that lets the circuits in your head cool off.
Think of it as sharpening your bayonet between battles… boring but still beneficial. I often enjoy working on my “Hit List,” which is a list people or businesses I plan to target for business. The key it to keep it unimportant, menial, and simple. If something comes to mind, add it to the list for when the more capable you returns, then get back to finger painting.
- Get a Victory Where You Can
Often times I’ll beat myself up about unproductive days, and negative thoughts can be dangerously infectious if you don’t use a little alchemy. Read a chapter in a book you’ve been neglecting. Run a mile. Hit a bag. Lift something heavy. I’ve written previously about the common void of measurable progress entrepreneurs and some careers have, as our efforts today may not reflect immediately or directly in measurable progress.
If I spent 8 hours working on building a kitchen, I’d be able to see what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day; I’d have a physical receipt of the effort I put in, even if the project isn’t complete. If you’re sending out 100 emails a day and or researching a new product, it’s not always as easy to feel the same sense of accomplishment, even though the effort is just as crucial. A “w” is still a “W”.
- Move Pieces
I like thinking of business and life in terms of chess. Not every move will be a capture, and most of the important moves were made silently several rounds before. My most satisfying captures are made with pawns.
Pawns are often seen as unimportant and disposable because they’re the most common piece and have the most restricted maneuvering options, making them seem as exciting as watching a tortoise on the battlefield.
But what makes pawn captures most satisfying is that you also can’t capture as the aggressor with pawns, meaning you usually have to strategically place your pawns in position several moves ahead of your opponent even being in the area. Hit LinkedIn and try connecting with people in that corporation you want to close, put a networking mixer in your calendar, make a lunch date with that client you want to pump for referrals…
You may not be able to make any captures from your position today, but you can always move some pawns to set up snares for the future. I assure you when you cross-off Tyco from the Hit List you made on one shitty day because of the LinkedIn connection you started on another shitty day, it will not be a shitty day.
Progress is paramount, but prolonged progress is gold. Efficiently using your time and energy is the most important skill you can master in your entrepreneurial endeavors, which means you need to recognize how to control your throttle, steering, AND brakes with finesse and patience.
Always remember that anyone who achieved anything did so despite adversities, setbacks, and shitty days and know that you have no excuse to not use it to fertilize your fields. Have a shitty day, but don’t let it have you.
Post script case in point: I wrote this article on a shitty day and was interrupted by a call from the Director of Business Development at JetSmarter.com regarding an email I sent (during a shitty day 3 weeks ago) to discuss offering FitFoodFresh.com to their 150 employees. He told me that they’re looking to offer us as a benefit to their (very affluent) member base as well as their employees (which are actually exceeding 350 people and growing)…
Pawn takes queen. Check.