I had to watch as my hopes and dreams evaporated before my eyes. It wasn’t a slow dissolve. It was a fireworks show.
My Meniere’s disease diagnosis came in my early twenties, at a time when I still felt the invincible feeling of youth. And I didn’t have a framework to accept such radical new circumstances. I thought my life was over.
For a long time, the fear ruled my world and dictated my decisions. I was in my senior year at Florida Atlantic University, but I stopped going to class. It was too hard to focus and I was terrified of having a vertigo attack in the middle of a lecture.
Some days, it all felt so hopeless. I felt so powerless.
I also had a small business, but I had made the unfortunate mistake of partnering with the wrong person, and the business was facing catastrophe. I needed to act fast to save my fledgling enterprise.
But I just sat by, paralyzed with fear, and watched as the business I built slowly fell apart. My doctor’s voice would endlessly echo in my head, “You have Meniere’s disease, there is no cure. I’m sorry.”
I would look down at the person in the mirror and say, “Who are you to think you can run a business with Meniere’s disease?” In reality, it was just easier not to try.
But there was a growing disconnect inside of me. I was trying to get better, and occasionally, I would have a good day. But most days I felt so hopeless, lonely and afraid. I had essentially stopped participating in my own life. The fear was getting in my way. And I always had a long list of excuses of why everything I wanted wasn’t possible. The fear was winning.
I had to make the most of my situation.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie
I decided I could at least try to save the business. I fired up my computer and checked my work email for the first time in several days. The situation was bad.
My business partner, Brian, had been ignoring phone calls and emails from our customers. We had missed orders and lost business. But it wasn’t all gone. There was still time to save what was left.
As I kept reading through the emails, I saw a message from Brian’s assistant Joe. He had quit and wanted me to know what had actually been going on. He filled me in on all the missing details. Basically, Brian had gotten involved with a bad crowd and was out late partying every night. He had stopped showing up at the office and hadn’t done any real work for nearly two months.
I couldn’t believe it. How was it even possible that there was anything left to save? It turned out that Joe had stepped up and starting answering calls from our customers. He got every order out on time. The only reason we had lost business at all was because was because Joe had quit several days prior and I hadn’t checked my email.
By then, I knew Joe fairly well. He was a hard worker and a nice guy. I immediately called him and told him how grateful I was for his efforts, and I offered to partner with him instead. He accepted and we made a plan to turn it around. I hung up the phone, and for the first time in several weeks, I got to work.
“You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do. You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.” – Steve Case
Looking back over the last several years, I’ve realized something important.
Most of the time, the only thing that stands in my way of accomplishing anything is not Meniere’s disease…but fear, and an endless list of excuses.
And to be clear, many of my excuses are valid. Meniere’s disease offers a wide variety of very real and acceptable reasons to avoid taking action.
But it also comes with a heavy helping of fear and anxiety. The fear can create a whole new set of excuses, that may feel valid, but if you are ruthlessly honest with yourself, you’ll find that often they aren’t.
That doesn’t, however, make them feel any less real or uncomfortable. You can still accomplish almost everything, but not without stepping outside of your comfort zone.
As I watched my business fall apart, I had a whole list of reasons why I shouldn’t try to make it work. But each one was an excuse that only obscured my actual feelings:
- Excuse: I have Meniere’s disease; I can’t possibly run a business.
- Reality: It’s probably going to be hard. It’s easier not to try.
- Excuse: I can’t possibly fire my partner.
- Reality: I am a people pleaser and I hate confrontation. It’s easier to avoid confrontation.
- Excuse: I can’t run the business on my own.
- Reality: If I fail then I am the only person to blame. I don’t want to be a failure.
- Excuse: I’m not good enough to save my business.
- Reality: I don’t know if I’m good enough, but I’m afraid to find out for sure.
At some point along the way, I realized that if I could work through my fears, one at a time, I might actually have a chance at success.
In his most recent book, “The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth”, James Altucher explains it best: “The magic of excuses is that there is always a way to be creative around them. We all have obstacles. You can view the obstacle as an opportunity to grow or a reason to stop. You get to choose.”
It may take a while to work through your fears and at times it may seem hopeless. But if you are persistent, you will eventually come out on top.
“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” – Thomas Edison
When the day finally came to take action, I called Brian. Joe and I were ready to turn things back around, but all of our supplies and inventory were locked away at Brian’s office, and we needed to get them back. I told Brian I was going to swing by.
My heart was pounding in my chest on the drive over. At one point, my tinnitus flared up and I was sure I was going to have a vertigo attack. I had to pull over to calm down. But the vertigo never came. I collected myself and drove the rest of the way there.
As I walked in the door, I was so nervous that Brian immediately knew something was wrong. Before I could even say anything, he went on the defensive. But the confrontation didn’t last long. I recovered the supplies and inventory and told him that it was over. Somehow I held it together.
When I got back to the car, I could barely talk and my hands were shaking from all of the adrenaline. I drove around the corner to a shopping center and listened to music until I calmed down.
As I drove home, I felt a powerful feeling of accomplishment. I still had many fears to face, and I didn’t know if I had what it took to succeed in the long term, but it was a start. And it was a real reason to have hope.
So I ask you: What’s holding you back from the things you want the most?
Because if it’s only fear, then there is hope for you, too.