Feed Your Spirit And Starve Your Alligators

Jim Blasingame

Small business owners know all about that metaphorical business reptile – the ubiquitous alligator. They slither in from everywhere, continuously chomping holes in your business, tearing apart projects, taking a bite out of performance, and eating away at momentum.

We know three things about these caustic crocodilians: 1) every small business has them; 2) they don’t go away on their own; 3) besides the operational intrusion, they take an emotional toll. And as good as we may get at minimizing the business damage alligators can cause, we’re too often not as good at dealing with that emotional thing.  

As the CEO of your business, if your enterprise is to survive, let alone flourish, you have to deal with each alligator that pops up. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, your business’s sustainability and organizational effectiveness depend on the ability to keep your head when all around, hungry alligators are trying to take it off.  

To keep your head and at least stay even with the alligators you must do three things. The first two we’ve talked about in the past and no one does it better than a small business owner: show up every day and practice proven operating fundamentals. 

The third is how you talk to yourself. Positive self-talk is important for your spirit; you know, the force that drives your protoplasm around. In order to handle the emotional toll of your alligators, you have to feed your spirit, because business alligators love a malnourished one. Feeding your spirit simultaneously starves your alligators.

Best-selling author and friend, Marc Allen, introduced me to how he handles this. When Marc has a difficult challenge, he finds a way to get very still and quiet and says to himself: “I will deal with this problem in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way.” 

Clear your mind of other issues except for the alligator at hand: negative cash flow, lost customer, etc. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and repeat after Marc with emphasis on the key words: easy, relaxed, healthy, positive. 

My experience is that saying it out loud – the physicality of speaking and hearing the words – seems to improve focus and make them sink in better. This affirmation is also a great way to just start the day and it fits right into a prayer. My favorite is the 23rd Psalm. Remember: Easy … Relaxed … Healthy … Positive. Very slowly. Out loud.

A strong spirit is a confident spirit, and alligators hate the taste of confidence. A well-nourished spirit = starved alligators = a greater chance of success. So, before you go best-two-falls-out-of-three with the next alligator, slay your alligators by showing up every day, practicing business fundamentals, and feeding your spirit with positive self-talk. 

Speaking of self-talk, sometimes you can get ambushed by an alligator. At that point, there won’t be anything that looks or seems easy or relaxed. When things get a little more, let’s say, urgently existential, and action must prime reflection, rise up on your hind legs and use this self-talk I learned from a mentor: “This is no hill for a climber – and I’m a climber.”

Write this on a rock … Repeat after Marc: Easy ... relaxed ... healthy ... positive. Feed your spirit and then climb that hill.

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

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