Stress. Anxiety. Sleepless nights. Walls of worry. Unhappiness. Not positive things. Or so you would think.
I’ve been going through a period of stress in the new year. I sure don’t like it, but, strangely, I find myself benefiting from it. Yup. I suddenly find myself very clear headed, energized, and efficient. It is as if my current conundrums have gifted me with a jolt of crystal clarity and accessibility to my best qualities of instinct, logic, and centeredness. It may feel like a misery, but It seems to be just what I currently need as a businessman and a man. It’s getting me off the snide and spurring new thought and action.
Earlier in my life I chanted with the Buddhists for a while. One of my favorite Buddhist prayers thanks God for challenges and failures, not successes. The lotus flower is born out of the muck. And pain is often the cost of growth.
As a younger man I dealt with stress through several forms of addiction. These days I often think that my discovery of the joy of entrepreneurship is merely a continuation of my tendency to addiction, but now in a healthy way. Certainly there is a constant frisson of enlivening stress (similar to the heightened states offered by addiction) that goes with the entrepreneurial territory. It’s an awaking level of agitation innate in our crisis-prone entrepreneurial life choice–the excitement implicit in the necessary slaying of daily dragons.
In an article titled When Stress Is Good For You (WSJ, 1/24/12, Section D) Sue Shellenbarger says, “Stress can propel you into ‘the zone,’ spurring peak performance and well-being. Too much of it though, strains your heart, robs you of memory and mental clarity and raises your risk of chronic disease.” She cites Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine and a stress expert. He coaches executives and employees to use stress to hit “the optimal performance zone” with enough stress “to be stimulating, to focus you, to challenge you “without taking a physical toll.” He recommends a balance of biofeedback, yoga, meditation, and internal mindfulness to create a sort of Goldilocks stress balance.
In past postings I’ve often talked of how my own failures in life have been seminal to whatever success I have had as an entrepreneur. I think stress must be failure’s younger brother. And I believe natural entrepreneurs intuitively have an internal mechanism that absorbs and transforms failure and stress, turning them into steps to the next level.
So, before I go off to jog, breathe, do yoga, pray and meditate, let me share this brief insight from Viktor Frankl. In Man’s Search For Meaning (p. 87) he says, “What is to give life must endure burning.”
Thank you, Viktor.