Pages Navigation Menu

Use obstacles to strengthen

Use obstacles to strengthen

We have all experienced hardships in life and survived to tell the tales. But if we had to do it all over again, wouldn’t we find a way not to stress so much, or worry less, not to lose our cool; to let go of negative thoughts; and to be more relaxed?

As a young man, buying my second business should have been easier than the first, or so I thought. I had experience; a record of accomplishment with the banks of paying back my loans in 3 years instead of 5; and had proved that I could run and sell a successful company. I dreamed of starting my own Italian coffee shop restaurant, which back in my day, I knew my fellow South Africans would welcome with open wallets.

I found the perfect business for sale: The right location; the right price; and I saw numerous opportunities where I could make changes that would immediately improve profitability. I only had one small detail left to complete my dream. Write a business plan, submit to the banks, and get the loan approval. Easy peasy the second time, around right? Wrong!!

For the second time in my young life, even after proving myself, I kept getting the same answer Bank after Bank. The debt/risk ratio was not acceptable. I spent weeks hitting my head against the wall trying to solve the problem with the same level of thinking. I was young, hot headed and was not going to stop until I got what I wanted. I took this situation very personally! Had I not proved I was worthy of the loan? I remember it like it was yesterday, going through this pain and frustration. It changed my behavior; impacted my mood; and my health. I worried constantly and became highly stressed. Not a pleasant head space to be in. “Choose not to be harmed- and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed -and you haven’t been.” – Marcus Aurelius.

After weeks of putting myself through hell, I was sitting one day at the “Brazilian Coffee Shop,” the whole reason for me wanting my own Italian coffee shop, when I happen to see the Owner of the whole chain, 60 locations in all, about to sit down at a table next to mine. During my research for my business plan, I had used him as my inspiration and catalyst for my venture. I immediately saw an opportunity and introduced myself.

We hit it off, and to my delight I discovered he was in discussions to sell his entire business and was open to the possibility of me getting involved with him on his next venture, an Italian coffee chain, called Fego Cafe. He wanted to make a new and improved model based on his current operation. Yes, I got the opportunity to launch the first “Proof of Concept” Fego Cafe in Sun City- Wow!!!

To cut a long story short, we went on to open many more Fegos, in many other casinos and shopping malls. I worked crazy hours and faced many scary moments. One, was when we started looking for staff for the first time at the casino, which in those days was situated in rural areas. We put the word out to a few locals that we were hiring and when I drove into the casino the next day, about 5,000 people had shown up to interview! But that story we’ll keep for another time.

Through observation over the years I see that we tend to see obstacles as an excuse to blame others; our bosses; the economy; our politicians; our spouses; when in fact the only factors at fault are our attitude and our approach. Crisis destroys weak people, the strong survive them, and the exceptional find a way to improve and thrive.

Every day we face challenges and seemly insurmountable obstacles that can cause us to blame; be negative; be fearful and stop us from reaching our goals. I am here to remind you that there is a better way of thinking. Change your perspective! Emotions can be controlled and learned, so instead of seeing an obstacle in our path, see it as an opportunity to find a better solution. “The obstacle is the way. Use it to strengthen not weaken.”– Ryan Holiday.

So next time you face an obstacle that scares you, stop for moment, breathe deeply, take control of your emotions, and look to see if you can find more than one way to solve the issue: Look for the opportunity that may exist. Put things in perspective, remember endless “obstacles” enter our lives, sometimes even daily, it’s not the end of the world. Control the ones you can control and let the rest work themselves out. With practice, this will become easier. At the very least it will preserve your health and let you sleep at night. It did for me.

Till next month…

Ralph