“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
I love this Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation because it’s all about the strength of your character and that no matter what you’re facing, you can push yourself through it and survive.
There are five things I believe you need to do when you are facing struggle: put things into perspective, take ownership, take stock of your resources, focus on what you can control, and finally, to think of it all as a big test. Believe me, I’ve been in that situation, so I’m speaking from experience!
Let’s take a look at each action in greater detail.
In November 1941, Coventry was bombed by the Luftwaffe. They flew 515 bombers over from Germany and obliterated the town. Why is that important to you? Because it’s something that can help you put things in perspective.
A lot of people, when faced with (for example) very severe financial difficulties, lose perspective and think that their entire world is coming to an end. But actually, it’s not. It’s just a blip, something you’ll overcome. Things get better on the other side – I promise!
So how can you get some perspective on the matter? When you’re facing a tough situation, ask yourself: does this impact my health or, even worse, does it impact the health of my children or my loved ones? Has anyone died?
Yes, it’s bad. Yes, it’s a terrible situation. Yes, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and do something about it, but check in with yourself – has the seriousness of this event skewed your perspective?
When it comes to acceptance and ownership, think about the mortgage time bomb currently ticking quietly in the UK (and I believe Ireland is facing something similar). Interest rates have risen very steeply over the last 12 months or so, and because of this, a lot of people are on fixed rate mortgages that are about to reset. So if your previous mortgage was at 1 or 2%, it’s suddenly going to reset to 5% – a very significant increase, perhaps doubling the amount of interest that you have to pay every month.
So naturally, this is devastating moment for a lot of people, and there’s speculation that it will cause the Tory party to be wiped out in the next election. It’s very similar to 2008, when the Lehman Brothers collapsed and the recession started: there was incredible anger towards bankers. They (and their greed) were considered responsible for the massive crash.
And this is where acceptance and ownership come in.
People love to blame anyone but themselves in a difficult situation. It’s the government’s fault, the bankers, such and such a person… Most people have a period of denial, when they refuse to accept any responsibility for the situation that they’re in.
I went through the same emotions myself. I spent quite a bit of time in denial. I thought that the banks were all to blame for my situation, and were stopping me getting myself out of the hole I was in. I spent a lot of time blaming them.
But when you’re blaming anybody and everybody else, you’re putting yourself in victim mode. You are not in (what I like to consider) the warrior mindset, which is when you realise that there’s nobody coming to rescue you: you just have to fight your way out of whatever situation you’re in.
No matter how unfair a situation may seem, you have to own it. Take responsibility and say, “You know what? I did this. Nobody else to blame. Nobody’s going to fix it except me.” And that is exactly what eventually helped me overcome my own situation.
Now, when I went through my banking issues back in 2008, there was an automatic assumption that all was lost because the banks had pulled the plug on my access to funds. If you don’t have access to money, you might have to say goodbye a certain lifestyle, one filled with treats and luxuries.
Often that’s very jarring situation to go through, and because it’s so jarring, you tend to think it’s much worse than it actually is. You might think that because you lack financial resources, you’ve got no resources available to you whatsoever.
But it’s wrong to think that money is the only resource available to you. The biggest problem in any kind of a crisis is rarely access to a resource itself. Typically, what it what is actually lacking is resourcefulness.
If you do a proper assessment of your available resources, you might find that you have an awful lot more to hand than you think. Yes, money is tight, but you still have your knowledge, you still have your expertise. You may still have a good network of people that you can pick up the phone and call.
You still have time on your side to turn things around. For me, once I’d finally emerged from the denial, I started to think, okay, no one’s coming to rescue me. How am I going to fix this situation? What do I still have? What can the banks not take from me?
Well, they couldn’t take away my years of experience. They couldn’t take away my knowledge of how to put deals together, how to do property transactions, how to originate a deal, bring together a property with a tenant, or to create a deal out of thin air.
Look for deals don’t necessarily need money. Just your knowledge and expertise is highly valuable and can be worked on in a way to create an opportunity that others may invest in.
Focus on what you can control. People spend a lot of time worrying about things they have no control or influence over, and really, what’s the point of that?
For example, you might be concerned about the economy, or with what’s going on in Ukraine? Or perhaps the rising interest rates are keeping you awake at night. Yes, it’s unpleasant, but none of it is in your control.
Focus instead on what you can have direct control over. It could be your mindset, or it could be your health. In my case, I became focused on my fitness: I started to do burpees and stopped reading the newspapers, because anything in there was outside of my control, and therefore irrelevant.
If you’re reading an article about what’s happening, for example, in US politics, ask yourself how it’s serving you. Will it help you turn around the situation that you’re in? Most of the time it won’t, whereas if you for a run, your health is going to improve (not to mention giving you a major endorphin rush)!
- It’s all a test
My final bit of resilience advice is: consider everything that you’re going through a test. Back in Spain in 2008, when everything was going tits up, the guy that I was dealing with used to say to me, “Gavin, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. At the time I remember wondering how on earth that advice was supposed to help me.
But actually, that is exactly it. I’m a stronger person today because of what I went through between 2008 and 2013. I’m wiser, more clued-in and more insightful.
Now of course it was a very difficult and unpleasant time for me, but never forget that humans evolved from thousands of years of survival. We grew up in the plains of Africa, living in caves, fighting off wild animals, living on berries and surviving freezing cold winters without having any kind of heating system.
We are the descendants of real survivors that lived through the most difficult conditions, and we carry their DNA, meaning we can take an awful lot more than we think.
One of the things I do is to tell myself that this is all a test. If I’m going through really difficult time, I’ll always ask myself, am I worthy of this test? Am I going to beat it? And of course, the answer is yes. You’ll get through it. As bad as it feels in the moment, you’ll get through it, and you’ll be stronger on the other side.
So – to recap on resilience: put things into perspective. Take full responsibility. Don’t blame other people. It might seem unfair, but if you take ownership for the situation you’re in and believe that only you can fix it, you will.
To solve a problem, take stock of the available resources that you have open to you. Your money might be gone, but money is just a resource. Energy is a resource. Expertise is a resource. Your contacts list and knowledge is a resource. Time is a resource. What of those do you have available to you? You may have an awful lot more than you think.
Focus on what you can directly control. In my humble opinion, I think what you should work on instead is your mindset and your health, because those two things have direct benefits. And ultimately consider it all a test: it may be tough now, but be safe in the knowledge you’ll come through the other side.