Originally published on Entrepreneur Magazine on May 20, 2016.
Who knew this nightmare was even possible. One phone call would change my life forever. The biggest deal of my life was falling apart, and there was nothing I could do to save it. If I said this experience was painful — I would be lying.
This was excruciating.
It was emasculating.
I lost millions. Everything I had worked for financially… was gone. And to make matters worse, I lost my confidence too.
In 2001, I started an international sports tour business. The business did millions in sales every year which generated a healthy profit. I had a team in place that I counted on. I had the trust of hundreds of my peers and thousands of customers.
By 2010, a partner and I had the biggest business deal in my life on the line. With one phone call, things fell apart, and the deal never happened. My contract became worthless. I lost $3 million dollars in 24 hours. This is how I lost millions in one day.
That old business was crushed from the legal pressure, and of course, not having any income (along with mounting legal bills) is a huge roadblock to success. I no longer had the trust of anyone in my industry. My only option at the time — was to get a job! It’s not what I wanted, but my back was against the wall.
Finding a job
I reached out to my network of friends, one of which was a former boss and mentor, Jim Flanagan, who knew me well. We had worked together for a few years before I started my company.
In our first conversation, I explained what happened, and he agreed to help me. Jim was gracious and understanding and told me to get my resume together — he first time I needed one in 12 years.
On the second call with Jim to review my resume and create a plan, we chatted a little about the job market, and then I launched into an update on the legal battle and the status of the ordeal. I rambled on for a few minutes about what was happening. But Jim stunned me by interrupting my diatribe when he said, “Gene, I won’t help you. I won’t help you get a job, because you are still wrapped up with this loss.”
I was not sure what to say, so I got defensive, “I just wanted to tell you what was going on.”
Jim explained how he wouldn’t help me until I was ready. He wouldn’t introduce me to anyone while I was still focused on the loss. This was hard to take, because I desperately needed to get a job and make money to put food on the table for my family.
I initially didn’t like what Jim said to me and couldn’t believe what a jerk he was about it.
Jim helped me realize that I had some internal work to handle before I could get a job. I had to let go of the pain of losing it all. Within a few days, my attitude shifted. I realized Jim was absolutely right. I was no good to anyone — until I dealt with what was going on inside me. I knew moving forward I wanted to help others, but I realized I had to help myself first.
I dove headfirst into a training program with Newfield Networks to be a professional leadership coach. The coaching program began with a deep exploration of our inner battles.
With my new coaching friends and mentors, we talked about letting go of the past to move forward. I watched as my friends dealt with their challenges and setbacks.
It was a powerful realization that my struggle was not completely unique. Yes, I was the only one who was dealing with a financial loss of this magnitude. But I could see some of the other issues that my friends were navigating, and it helped me see that my next step would be “forgiveness.”
Sure, I knew what forgiveness was. My mom taught me to say “I’m sorry,” because it was the polite thing to do.
However, I started to see forgiveness had many dimensions.
I realized something that might be obvious to you, but at the time, I couldn’t see it. I wasn’t seeking forgiveness for the partner who instigated the loss of millions. I needed forgiveness for myself. I was able to let go of the pain and accept responsibility for what happened. Forgiving myself was the most powerful lesson I learned in this journey.
Because of the inner work I was doing, I was a new person and was able to get a job quickly. I realized the immense power of coaching as I continued my training, which allowed me to deal with other issues that were dormant inside me.
As I grew, I helped others grow too. Coaching is a two-way experience that allows both the coachee and coach to grow through the journey together. I decided to dedicate my life to helping business owners understand their challenges and opportunities from new perspectives. This dedication has led to my comeback as an entrepreneur.
Over the last four years, I built a new business helping leaders deal with their inner battles that keep them from having their biggest goals and making their dreams come alive.
What’s holding you back?
Or are you harboring some unsettled issues that are holding you back?