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Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid

Why is it that we are so skilled at helping others through their problems?

When those we love turn to us in need, most of us become pillars of strength. We reach deep inside ourselves to find just the right words of comfort, we take action, we provide a voice and vision of clarity when they are unable to find it themselves.

Our loved ones’ problems and situations seem much more surmountable than our own. We are able to see the light at the end of their tunnels, even when they are in total darkness.

Yet when we are faced with a setback, we become paralyzed. We panic, we question our ability to find our solutions, we look for magic bullets. We rarely consider the guidance and strength we give to others.

I consider myself a fairly strong person. I’ve conquered a lot of personal and professional setbacks, and I’ve become adept at tapping into the resilience that resides deep inside of me to rebound.

Image: DB King, Creative Commons

But once in a while, a situation arises that blindsides me, knocks me off-balance, and shakes my foundation.

I’m usually able to access my spiritual strength to pull myself through my challenges. I believe a strong combination of faith and patience can help us navigate what’s happening around us. We often are unable to understand why something happens at the time it happens, but through patience and faith, perhaps we’re able to reflect back at some point in the future to understand why the dots connected in the manner they did, and extract valuable lessons for future situations.

Recently, I had a challenge, and initially, it paralyzed me.

I was so unnerved that my confidence crumbled. I internalized the challenge completely from an emotional place. I took it personally and applied no logic. I was too self-pitying to be able to look at it from anyone else’s viewpoint except my own, I felt betrayed and defeated and for a split-second, I wanted to run.

A friend compassionately pointed out that this was very honest but definitely not an option, and that we all want to hide at some point from our problems.

So after listening to his advice, and after telling him that I thought much of what he was saying was going in one ear and out the other because I just couldn’t process what he was saying at that exact moment, I paused.

I realized he was asking me to drink my own Kool-Aid.

He gave me great advice – the exact same advice I give to him and others I care about when they face challenges.

“Step away from it. Go work out. Do something to get rid of the stress. Don’t do anything about it now. Give yourself some time. Have patience. Have faith in the bigger plan. Don’t take it personally. We learn our greatest lessons from our biggest challenges. Connect with others you trust that can teach you and help you through your problems. You’ll get through it. Write about it.”

He also repeated advice (without saying “I told you so”) that he has been giving me for months, which I’ve ignored. Finaly, I conceded he was right.

Thanks to sound advice and a strong resilient streak, I’m in a much better place with my challenge. In the scheme of things, it’s a very typical business situation, and it’s nothing that many other businesses haven’t encountered in their lifecycles. In fact, if there was a Richter scale to measure business earthquakes, this event would rank low to moderate. In my 15 years of business ownership, I have weathered far-worse, and have overcome much more potentially damaging scenarios.

This one event doesn’t define me as a person, and it isn’t a reflection of my success as a leader or business owner.

I do have the strength, the patience, the faith, and the wisdom to address this. I am open to receiving help from others inside and outside of my organization to turn this negative into a positive, and I will learn from this experience.

I’ll use this experience to strengthen both my leadership and my organization, and we’ll all be stronger for it.

To not learn from the situation, and to not apply those lessons to my entire organization and to future actions & decisions, would be the truest setback.

And through this experience, I will be able to do what I love most: I will be able to help other business owners better navigate their experiences as they continue along their paths of growth, learning, leadership, and self-discovery.

Cross-posted with permission and minimal edits from Marissa Levin’s DC Women’s Entrepreneurship Examiner column.

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Guest contributor Marissa Levin is Founder and CEO of Information Experts. Marissa was named a 2008 BRAVO Award winner, and a Smart100 CEO for both 2009 and 2010, by SmartCEO Magazine (which honors the region’s 25 most influential women CEOs); recently she was listed in Washington’s 100 Technology Titans by Washingtonian Magazine. She is also the DC Women’s Entrepreneurship Examiner. Describing her true passion as “helping other business owners be successful with their own business growth,” Marissa can be reached through her blog Marissa Levin.


    1. Marissa, love that expression! We could all benefit from drinking our own Kool Aid, both in terms of the business advice we so generously offer others, and in terms of the services we provide to our clients. Imagine if we provided the same level of service to ourselves as we do for our clients!

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    2. So true Ann. In my company, I always strive to be our own best customer. Do I provide the same level of service ot my own employees as I do to my customers? Do we implement the best practices we sell and preach to our customers? It's the old story abut the cobbler's children having no shoes. We always put ourselves last – in business and in our personal lives.

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