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I can attribute many of my entrepreneurial and managing skills to my father, Fernando, who ran many businesses throughout his life. From learning to oversee a team of people and deal with conflict to watching him charm prospective customers and nurture a network of trustworthy colleagues, he's responsible for many of my successes.
That's why my world was immediately turned upside down when he passed away unexpectedly at 54. You see, life doesn't wait for the “appropriate” moment. Sometimes it hits you right in the face in the middle of the busiest week of your career to remind you of what really matters and what does not.
Luckily for me, if you could say that, my father passed away right before Christmas, and, as anybody in entertainment can tell you, Hollywood goes quiet around that time of the year. It didn't catch me midst most-important-meeting of the year, but it was eventful enough to teach me some of the most important lessons I've learned to date.
Related: 4 Ways to Overcome Grief Without Neglecting Your Business
1. You can't do it all on your own
Most entrepreneurs would proudly tell you we're self-sufficient and self-reliant, which is great. But there will be times, both in life and in business, where you'll need to let somebody else take over, even if just for a moment. Asking for help, especially from people we don't want to let down, is perfectly okay. The first step is admitting you can't do it on your own. After all, if you've done a good job, the captain should be able to take a break and know the crew will keep the ship afloat.
2. Vulnerability can be a wonderful thing
When I think about some of the most successful marketing campaigns I can remember, the first to come to mind are always the ones with “heart”. From a business standpoint, it can seem scary to humanise our work, to let the public into our world. But from a customer and client standpoint, there's nothing that makes you feel closer to a company than knowing real people run it.
When Patagonia's founder recently shared he'd essentially be donating the company to fight climate change, it wasn't the numbers that sparked something in people. It was his heartfelt letter and the way he talked about his humble beginnings, his journey, his hopes and dreams for the company and the future of planet earth that really moved people to share, repost and admire.
Related: Being Vulnerable Is the Boldest Act of Business Leadership
3. Don't do it for the money
We've all heard this, but sometimes we need the reminder: you don't get to take the money with you. In all honesty, nobody knows what happens in the afterlife, but science tells us material things stay behind, including paper. So, don't let it be the motive. You can still live a good life and treat money like the much-needed bridge to help you get to your destination. Let your passions be the drive and know it feels way better to get rich doing something you genuinely believe in.
4. Return the favor
Something that surprised me when my father passed away was the number of people that came to the rescue. As the saying goes, “look for the helpers, there will always be helpers.” Helpers come from all corners of your life, and it's a humbling thing to experience. I had colleagues and clients show a level of kindness that I didn't know possible, and now they live on my “do-good” list forever. Whether it's facilitating a connection or putting in an exceptionally good word for them, I will happily oblige.
Related: How to Use Grief as an Inspiration
5. Have a plan
I'd heard every business plan should include a crisis or emergency rollout plan, but it completely flew over my head when I attempted to write mine up all those years ago. So let this be your sign to dust off yours and add in a page or two on what will happen if things go south. Although I had exceptional business partners like I mentioned above, having an action plan would've saved us all some moments of panic.
6. Take time off
Perhaps the most valuable thing I've learned from grief comes in the shape of… a vacation. No, really. Leave it to a loved one passing away unexpectedly to bring you back down and remind you life is unexpected and tomorrow isn't guaranteed.
Most of my father's life was spent working, and I often think about all the places he didn't get to visit and the things he didn't get to spend his money on because he was too busy making said money. When he was gone, it felt like something had clicked in my brain and suddenly allowed me to be a little more selfish and intentional with my time. I no longer feel guilty going on vacation whenever I have the chance to or taking a day off in the middle of the week when I need to prioritise my mental health, and I expect my clients and team to do the same. We don't know how long we're here, so if you're in a position that allows you to, I invite you to turn your back on hustle culture now and then and rewire your brain to embrace the art of working to live, not living to work.