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The Snowball Effect and how to deal with it.

Ever feel anxious? Worried? Fearful? Threatened? Embarrassed? Overwhelmed? If you have, you’re certainly not alone. With an increasingly demanding business world, these feelings are a major reality for many people. They can hamper your performance at home, in the community and at the office. And once they start, even routine day-to-day business can complicate things, making it seemingly impossible to move forward.

Many times the unraveling starts with one simple event: You were late for work; the company has been downsized; you weren’t let go but you’re required to complete the work of two; you quickly become overwhelmed. But like a snowball rolling down a hill, the momentum only increases. Before you know it, you have a bunch of “stuff” getting out of control or what I like to call: the Snowball Effect (SBE). So now you’re now not only overwhelmed, but you’re anxious. You start to question yourself and those around you. Are you next in the job cuts? How will you pay bills? The worries seem endless and as you can imagine these sensations can be paralyzing – if you let them.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of being involved in the corporate domain from business investments to developments, as well as leadership positions within not-for- profit organizations. I’ve spent time in many capacities (from the bottom to the top) and I’ve seen traces of the SBE all over the place. Let me tell you, I am not immune to snowstorms caused by SBE. And like a blustery Calgary winter storm, the snow is still fresh atop my most recent dealing with the SBE.

Several years ago, prior to the global economic melt down of 2009, I was involved in a massive investment and resort project. At the time it seemed like an absolute “no brainer”. The market was right; all the conditions were screaming, “good partners”, “huge demand”, “right location and “right price”. But these seemingly perfect investment conditions blinded me; I would even go as far to say that they overshadowed my own training and judgment.

But seven years later, the resort hasn’t happened – at least not yet. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect storm for potential SBE? Yep. Unfortunately, the project is still awaiting a resolution as our group of investors have exhausted every avenue we could to survive and maintain our position. What complicates things is that investors, who have financed a substantial venture, are at its mercy with no dividend. Now, compound that with routinely hearing the words “cash call”. Needless to say, during this time I’ve witnessed and experienced several elements of the SBE. But we’ve also learned many things; chief among them is that the recreational property industry is upside down. Another key piece is that our timeline and exit strategy aren’t currently in plain sight. So it’s been a quite an ordeal to say the least, but as the saying goes: “good does come from all experiences.” The silver lining in my case was the blunt reminder that I have no control over the market, but I can control the choices I make and my attitude when coping with the SBE. It also gave me a chance to formulate a strategy for early detection of the SBE: (1) how to avoid it; and if that fails, (2) how to overcome it.

*Remember the SBE is not the issue, but rather how you cope with the issues at large. Regardless of the scale or scope, the solutions and remedies are the same.

How to avoid SBE:

More important than how to get out is how to avoid the situation of having to deal with the detrimental emotions of the SBE. It’s simple. Start by living a life of simplicity both personally and professionally. This doesn’t mean giving up your dreams of whatever you’ve defined as your own success; but it means following some basic guidelines:

  1. Show up to every situation & become actively involved. Become the person who always acts and speaks with dignity in every situation, whether in business or life.
  2. Pay attention to everything by listening. And when you are not listening get information by asking thought provoking questions.
  3. Always tell the truth. To yourself and those around you. Recognize the situation you’re in; assess and then react. Consider the Golden Rule. Don’t you want others to be true with you?
  4. Remember there’s always something bigger than you at work. There is a reason for absolutely everything that happens in life and business. Have faith in that and you can’t go wrong.

How to recover from SBE:

Sometimes before we know it, we’re in the middle of an SBE storm. Relax; there’s still time to shovel out. You’re never alone; source out a confidante, a coach, a mentor; you never have to work your way out solo. But when we find ourselves in this predicament it’s time to take a lesson from scuba divers. Stop. Breath. Act. Your objective is to stay calm. You may find that you need a dive buddy – that’s OK. No matter how enormous the issue (and I have seen some doozies) there are always reasonable solutions. Stop. Breath. Act.

Remaining focused on the past will undoubtedly cause sadness, anger and depression; and depending on your current state, the future may even look bleak, so just focus on now and live in the moment. There are no major issues today, just things requiring your attention. Knock them off one-by-one.

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” — Edwin Louis Cole

© 2013-2014 R. Todd Millar. All rights reserved.

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