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Surviving the COVID-19 crisis as a founder

How to bring wellness and self-care into your mindset and weather through these turbulent times

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

How do you keep composure when nothing is certain?

We were holding onto our hats, riding fast into 2020. I celebrated my 40th birthday on January 2nd which I was fortunate to share with great friends. It was a new decade for me and the world — “the roaring 20s”, we called it. Our company Bizly had great momentum. We galloped into January and February, doubling our revenue and customer count in just a few weeks. Our product was ripening and excitement filled the air. My last flight in February was a trip to London where we competed at a major industry conference and earned the top prize. Flying high into the 2020s!

No one would have ever guessed how the next few weeks would unfold.

There is a lot to take in. Right now, our focus is on serving & protecting our families, our team, our customers, and the world at large. It is about survival and being strategic. It is also about empathy and love. It is about doing whatever we can to help and serve. But we must take care of ourselves first. 

But how do you do this in practice?

1. Find the middle path

What are some of the best practices you’ve found?
The first rule I have come to learn is, be good to yourself.

For me, it was first about stopping the harsh voices in my head. Not beating myself up about how I could be doing things better. Pacifying the “type A” inside me. Being gentle and caring to myself first and foremost.

After that, it was about establishing a middle road. Eating healthy, but also bringing on the pizza and comfort food when needed. Getting plenty of good sleep, disabling my alarm clock, and just taking that extra time for myself. Exercising at an enjoyable pace. This is not a time for extreme diets and training regimes. This is the time for true self-care. I also added some little things. A Balinese healer once taught me about forcing myself to smile each morning, as it would start a chain reaction inside myself. I adopted a another practice around carving out twenty minutes of morning meditation, gratitude and journaling. Watching old favorites that erupt belly laughter. Reading great books. Limiting screen time. Feeding my soul.

The science is clear: the “middle road” is good for your health. It improves your immunity, it makes you feel more positive, and it gives you strength. The greatest minds, from Einstein to Buddha, encouraged the middle path as the road to enlightenment.

2. Focus on service. Don’t worry about the results.

To me, equanimity means not being affected by the ups and downs. Equanimity is the goal of meditation. Equanimity brings out your best qualities. It enables you to perform thoughtfully and continue progress at a steady rate, regardless of pain, challenges, or even the rewards along the way.

How have you found equanimity during this time?
Here are some of the things I’ve tried:

Answer the question: how can I serve? We all have a role in helping the world during this crisis. Focus on what you can do to serve. Put others above your self-interest. Perhaps the best service you can offer to the world is not your day job. Perhaps it’s simply teaching your children, hopping on a Zoom call to bring cheer to friends, or simply gardening. It’s a great time to be open to all possibilities. You never know, your true calling may grow out of these circumstances.

Seek out the bright rays of sunshine. One great mantra to repeat is, “I’m ok today”. With your feet grounded in service, look ahead to the positive impact you can make on the world, taking it one day at a time. Your light at the end of the tunnel is your peaceful march, day by day, from this tough phase through the recovery. Through it all, you have yourself. And you aren’t too shabby 🙂

Forget the results. This is the hardest part, but also the most important for us founders. The more you can focus on service, and eliminate your secret desires for fame and fortune, the more you can release yourself from anxiety and stress. This is extremely hard as many of us founders were initially driven by fame and fortune, and so these desires are fairly hard-coded into our programming. Re-wiring yourself to focus on service and eliminating the desire for rewards is a big shift. But if you can do it, then you can enter into the most productive part of your life. Eliminating stress and anxiety about outcomes helps you to be more present for the people around you. It allows you to cherish your moments. It enables you to do your best work. It makes you free. I’m still trying to figure it all out and get on this path myself, so if anyone out there has tips, please do let me know!

Key question: how do you re-wire yourself around service when you have bills to pay and a family to support? I try to remember that focusing on service includes service to your family. Determine what your family needs to thrive and model those needs into the equation. Maybe they don’t need that summer house you’ve been dreaming about. Perhaps they just need more of your mindful presence. It’s time to re-craft your vision board around what really matters.

3. Accept the bitter truths and be transparent

Being a cheerleader for unrealistic probabilities does a major disservice to you and your team. It’s like when the President claimed the crisis would be over by Easter. This sort of unrealistic optimism hurts everyone around you.

A big part of serving and optimizing your performance at a time like this is your ability to accept the harsh, brutal, factual realities. When you study the greatest performing companies, they all excelled at accepting the realities of their circumstances before others, and planning their strategies accordingly. This was highlighted in the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

Is COVID-19 going to make your customers not purchase for the next 6 months? Accept this. Don’t assume that your marketing techniques can overpower a global pandemic. Accept the realities and how they will impact your cash position, employee behavior, and all the other things you previously assumed as status quo. This doesn’t mean you aren’t positive and optimistic. This simply means you are comfortable with accepting the realities, and you are creating strategies to maximize a successful outcome. Accepting truth in its most raw form enables you to communicate with others using a caring approach. Acceptance enables you to be positive about your plans while still “eyes wide open” about all possible outcomes.

Once you accept the harshest realities, you give the really exciting possibilities the chance to shine.

Wishing you safety & good health,

Ronak Shah
Founder and CEO, Bizly Inc.

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