How to gain strength from mental weakness?
This month has been a frantic one for me, and from what I gather from the people I network with in Sydney and Melbourne, things have stepped up a bit for most businesses which is great. In these 60, 80, 100 hour weeks that we all are putting in, it’s normal and expected to have moments when things get overwhelming or beyond our normal control. Many, even contemplate, taking a job, to get away from it all.
But what was most inspiring this month was reading an article written by my friend and client on how he tackled depression and mental illness to build a successful multi-million dollar award-winning business. It is ‘this grit and determination’ that I want you to focus on, along with the ‘infinite support of near and dear ones’.
In my past years, I have been affected by depression at different stages of my life. Firstly, when I got divorced at a young age, it was liberating to not continue in a toxic relationship, but difficult as it was hard to cope with. It was a decision that made me question myself about how I need to deal with relationships.
Then, during the recession, having to struggle with rejection in sales and then finding faults with self, in not being able to deliver consistently in my job. In hindsight, it wasn’t the right job for me, and it took more away from me, to deliver unrealistic targets. The only positive out of it was that I learnt to handle rejection better, and became a better salesperson in pushing myself further.
The negative effect of this, was that I broke up with my girlfriend at that time, and till today, I blame myself for screwing up a beautiful relationship, because I didn’t know how to handle the feeling in my stomach and the continuous headache I was experience from the stress of it all.
Started a business at a very young age, and learning on the go, it came with its challenges in both monetary and business. A business partner and a close friend, who cheated me out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, had me reduced to a few thousand dollars in net worth, after wiping off all my savings on whores, booze and drugs. All the gains of five years was wiped off in a matter of weeks, and I didn’t even have money to fund the legal action.
As a chain event from this, I ended up looking for jobs when there were little or no jobs. I got frustrated from meeting one recruiter to another, many of them interested in listing me as candidate # than a person they really wanted to help find a job. Going for jobs that I could with my hands tied behind my back, and being rejected was a tough few months in my life. It was, in this time, that I experienced days of deep uncertainty driven by fears of running out of savings, and not being able to survive.
The day that was my lowest, was when I had a credit card bill of $20,000 with a positive bank balance of $5 in my account. I didn’t ask for help from my family, I didn’t borrow money from friends, and I didn’t claim bankruptcy.
I looked at the statement, cried and cried, then had a shower, and went into prayer. And then made a resolve, I will turn this around within 1 month from now, with at least $5,000 in my bank account. For a guy, who was used to $10,000 to $25,000 net monthly income, it was a very sobering thought.
I did end up doing two more jobs over the next 5 years, with the mindset to rebuild my status by saving cash and investing it into my clothing factory to get it back to where it needed to be. The thought of never giving up was probably what stopped me from losing my mind, or committing harm to myself.
Taking blame for my own failure in these many years, I noticed my inability to maintain a balanced state of mind was a leading contributor to my fall. One bad decision followed another, and there was no clarity in thought, purpose or life. The real me wasn’t this sad, brooding, depressive, angry, mood-swinging guy, but I had been turned into this, because I stopped believing in myself. It really was a mess, and I wish I asked for help, but was too proud to reach out to anyone. I wouldn’t advise this to anyone reading this, and please seek help.
Help came to me from my family, from my parents who spoke to me regularly, and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. They offered my support, and listened to my silly comments, and never reacted to my anger or frustration. I read a lot of books on mindset, positivity and success, and it made me feel comfortable in my craziness. I became fearless, which was the best thing that could happen to me. My thought process was “what’s the worst that can happen? I have been through hell and back, and I can handle everything that life throws at me”.
This shift in mindset, along with the continued support of close family and friends, changed my outlook in life. I stopped worrying about paying bills, and survival, and sales, and everything else. I decided to focus on one core thing – selling happiness through clothes to people I love.
I flew back to my factory, changed my operations and business model, and decided to totally shift the way we do things. I will not compete with the shops out there, as they’re not my competition. I will build beautiful hand-crafted garments to the best benchmark set by Zegna, Brioni and Canali, and provide that at best-value to my clients. I didn’t do any marketing, but the business grew, through word-of-mouth and referrals. And till date, I haven’t lost any customer, who purchased and wore my garments.
What is most important in life is to look forward? Looking back, everything seems manageable and easy, but at that time, it’s beyond comprehension. This is even worse, for people, who set high goals and standards for their life, and it affects our relationships. The best years of my life, when I should’ve been dating and starting a family, I spent battling depression, anxiety and survival.
To take a word from my favourite entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson, it’s important to just do it, and go screw it. It’s easier said that done, but once it embodies someone, you can achieve everything you desire. Removing fear of poverty, failure, life was the best thing I did.
The best way to battle depression, anxiety, paranoia, bipolar or other forms mental illness is by engaging in activities you love and by being with people who make a positive difference in your life. For me, its my friends and family, their kids, and animals. It’s also eating well, exercising regularly and playing sport, like tennis, which has been a lifeline for me, to take out all my frustration on the court.
If and when I sense someone with anxiety or depression, I offer my time and self in help, knowing fully well, how bad it can be. And in cases for some people, fatal when they attempt suicide or even worse, kill someone else.
This article is dedicated to two of my friends Gary and Adam who speak openly about depression and anxiety, and to my family and close friends who stood by me. Please share this message through your profile, asking people to reach out, be it by a LIFELINE SUPPORT or BEYOND BLUE or SANE AUSTRALIA or any other program / organisation.