Recently I’ve read a few articles and posts about how life is meant to be in small business. Organic growth. Free-flowing sales. Steady cash flow. Nothing saying that work – and life – can be messy.

In a few clicks on the keyboard, saying that if these things aren’t happening, you’re not only unsuccessful – you’re letting the team and your family down whilst putting everything at risk. Life lessons and challenges thrown under the bus as bad things. Not the backbone of the story each of us – and each business – has as a part of the evolving story of how we got ‘here’. Wherever ‘here’ is.

My immediate response was to think of the downs and ups I’ve experienced since I started my first business in my mid-twenties. Focused on the downs more than the ups, I had a few moments where I had a stern chat with myself about when things didn’t quite ‘flow’.

Messy is Part of the Story

The narrative of what I’d read had almost drawn me in. Almost – except I know I wouldn’t change any of the experiences that have got me to where I am today. Because I wouldn’t be who – or where – I am today without each and every one of them. Triumphs, challenges and failures.

Of course, I’m happy for everyone who experiences the smooth flow of business, life and work. What I don’t know is how helpful it is to talk about it in a way that has the potential to come across as judging or shaming people experiencing life differently.

We all have a story – so do all businesses and workplaces.

It’s easy to take a snapshot of a moment from someone else’s story and feel anything from inadequate or superior to thankful it’s their story. In life. At work. In business.

What’s easy to forget is these snapshots are a moment in time. Like the one photograph in a roll that is ‘perfect’, it’s easy to take a few words in a conversation out of context and create a different picture. One that’s far from reality.

Context Matters

The challenge of keeping things in context is more significant today than ever before.

So how do we do it? Here are some tips:

  1. Stay Grounded
    If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What’s missing from the story? Most people – and businesses – are only a few decisions or situations away from some form of crisis.
  2. Listen to People You Trust
    Family, friends and business associates. Plus, the advisers, coaches and mentors you learn from.
  3. Embrace Change
    The only thing that never changes is that Change will always happen. Know that as night follows day, successes follow challenges – and vice versa.
  4. Lean into Setbacks
    Setbacks test our resolve and build resilience. Success is about failing more than we succeed. Even being well can come from facing a health challenge or injury.
  5. Manage Perceptions
    We view life through our lens. What we read, hear and see is perceived and interpreted through our expectations and experiences.
  6. Responding vs Reacting
    It’s not what happens to us that’s important – it’s how we respond to it. Empathy and understanding help us see things through other’s lenses and respond accordingly.
  7. Optimism
    Fluffy or a golden key? To me, it’s always a golden key that keeps you on track. You’ll know what I mean if you watch Ted Lasso or know of Simon Sinek.

Being in a Skid

One morning, it started raining when I drove a back road between Hobart and Launceston. It was raining for the first time in a while. I gently braked on a bend, and the combination of brakes, slippery road and rain put me in a 180-degree spin. Suddenly I was careering down the wrong side of the road towards my destination – backwards.

With a steep drop on one side only separated by a chain, I focused on where I wanted to be. Not where I was going. I kept going, and going, for what seemed an eternity – intent on staying upright and stopping. When I did stop, I was amazed I was parked perfectly in the middle of the lane facing in the opposite direction.

Instinct told me not to brake. To focus on where I wanted to be, stay calm and trust all would be OK. Thankfully, it was. The outcome could have been much worse!

Skids and Messy

I’ve often used the example of being in a skid when facing any life, health or work challenge. At that moment, all you can do is accept the situation and focus 110% on where you want to end up. A tunnel vision focus on what you want the outcome to be.

So, back to the articles that prompted this post. I’m confident they were written with the same intention as mine – to share knowledge and prompt thought and action. They did.

Keep reading, listening and staying informed – while keeping things in context. Your journey is your story, so be happy with the messy bits. The good bits will follow, and you will appreciate them so much more!

Until next time…


The founder and driving force behind livepresent is Anne Whatley-Dale. livepresent represents the evolution of Anne’s studies, work and career, starting with Science and Psychology. Then as a Health Consultant. Corporate Consultant, Trainer and Coach. Speaker. work-health-life Strategist.